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posted by janrinok on Thursday May 12, @11:15AM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-let-the-changes-get-you-down dept.

Why our continued use of fossil fuels is creating a financial time bomb:

We know roughly how much more carbon dioxide we can put into the atmosphere before we exceed our climate goals—limiting warming to 1.5° to 2° C above pre-industrial temperatures. From that, we can figure out how much more fossil fuel we can burn before we emit that much carbon dioxide. But when you compare those numbers with our known fossil fuel reserves, things get jaw-dropping.

To reach our climate goals, we'll need to leave a third of the oil, half of the natural gas, and nearly all the coal we're aware of sitting in the ground, unused.

Yet we have—and are still building—infrastructure that is predicated on burning far more than that: mines, oil and gas wells, refineries, and the distribution networks that get all those products to market; power plants, cars, trains, boats, and airplanes that use the fuels. If we're to reach our climate goals, some of those things will have to be intentionally shut down and left to sit idle before they can deliver a return on the money they cost to produce.

But it's not just physical capital that will cause problems if we decide to get serious about addressing climate change. We have workers who are trained to use all of the idled hardware, companies that treat the fuel reserves and hardware as an asset on their balance sheets, and various contracts that dictate that the reserves can be exploited.

Collectively, you can think of all of these things as assets—assets that, if we were to get serious about climate change, would see their value drop to zero. At that point, they'd be termed "stranded assets," and their stranding has the potential to unleash economic chaos on the world.

Do you agree with this arguably pessimistic assessment of the situation, and have we already run out of time to take the action necessary to avoid exceeding climate goals? Criticism is easy, but what solutions do you have to the problem?


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  • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Thursday May 12, @04:40PM (4 children)

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday May 12, @04:40PM (#1244452) Journal

    Eventually, somebody comes along and turns them into planters or parks [seattle.gov].

    Gasworks is awesome! But it's not quite the panacea you would have us believe...

    What’s in the dirt at Seattle’s Gas Works Park? [king5.com]

    Overall, Graves says the water quality in Lake Union is “pretty good, but we don’t want people out there stirring up the sediment.” That is part of the reason why swimming, fishing, wading, or launching boats from the park into Lake Union is not allowed.

    As for health risks, Graves said it’s “like a long-term chronic exposure risk.” You won’t get blisters or burned if you come in contact with the sediment, “it’s not that kind of contamination, but you would want to wash it off.”

    I would recommend immediately washing your clothes once by themselves and taking a shower when you get home if you do much more than just walk your dog there...

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  • (Score: 2) by DeathMonkey on Thursday May 12, @04:43PM

    by DeathMonkey (1380) on Thursday May 12, @04:43PM (#1244453) Journal

    On a personal note I'm moving back to the Seattle area in about six months and I'm stoked to go home!

  • (Score: 2) by Phoenix666 on Thursday May 12, @07:31PM (2 children)

    by Phoenix666 (552) on Thursday May 12, @07:31PM (#1244513) Journal

    Gasworks is awesome! But it's not quite the panacea you would have us believe...

    It is if you go there to fly kites from the top of the hill, which is what we used to do.

    Anyway, it was a salient example of obsolete industry being repurposed as something else. Another example is the High Line in NYC, which was a rail spur that brought animals down to the meat packing district for slaughter, then sat abandoned for 60 years, and was repurposed as a public park that pegs the meter for awesomeness.

    --
    Washington DC delenda est.