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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: 4, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Thursday May 12, @06:22PM (9 children)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday May 12, @06:22PM (#1244481)

    I like to look at what the most powerful and 'in the know' actually do

    The most powerful and 'in the know' people I know (and have known throughout my life) have one thing in common: they are old. Generally the more powerful and 'in the know' they are, the older they are.

    There's also a well established link between highly successful leaders of large groups (company CEOs, army generals, portfolio managers, etc.) and psychopathy. They achieve their goals with an unusual degree of tunnel-vision, not caring about collateral damage that would concern "most people."

    What can you conclude from those incongruent actions? Are they idiots? Are they so arrogant they'd drill holes in the bottom of a sinking boat?

    The same thing we can conclude from studying the titans of industry who stalled the removal of asbestos from common use, lead from gasoline and paint, targeting of children with tobacco advertising...

    They're not idiots, they know what they're doing: they're achieving a goal - usually maximizing profits.

    Are they arrogant? You bet your ass they're arrogant, it's practically a pre-requisite for admission to the 1%ers club. There are always exceptions, but I'd swag that 99% of the 1%ers would be rated as arrogant by the majority of the 99%.

    Do they think it'll be fine so they don't have to worry? Some other thing?

    Try this on for size: they don't fucking care about you. Even my 1950 born DINK aunt and uncle who live in the Florida Keys where they're just about certain to be underwater in the coming decades had this to say in 2000: "Yeah, sea level is probably going to rise, but however fast that happens we'll almost certainly be dead before it hurts us." Aged 72, it looks like they're just about right, only a small portion of neighborhoods in the Keys are suffering from rising sea levels today, it will probably be at least 2050 before their driveway is underwater at high tide.

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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 14, @12:01AM (8 children)

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 14, @12:01AM (#1244840) Journal

    it will probably be at least 2050 before their driveway is underwater at high tide.

    At present rate of sea level rise that's a mere 10 cm. They'll probably get wiped out by a hurricane before normal high tides are an issue. Is their driveway really that close to the ocean?

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday May 14, @12:27PM (7 children)

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday May 14, @12:27PM (#1244957)

      Their house is on stilts, facing open water to the northwest. When the hurricanes have blown from the south or east it empties the bay. When the hurricanes have blown from the north or west they have had water several feet deep with waves up near the ceiling of their ground floor "storage" area.

      The low point of the road from their house to the highway isn't much more than 10cm above what is called a king tide.

      Sea levels are also not rising equally around the globe. Variations of several cm have been noted along the east coast of the US.

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      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 14, @11:17PM (6 children)

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 14, @11:17PM (#1245025) Journal

        Sea levels are also not rising equally around the globe. Variations of several cm have been noted along the east coast of the US.

        Variations would happen even in the absence of global warming.

        But having said that, I can see why your relatives don't care. Their house isn't going to be around all that long anyway. There's no point to a candle that can last centuries when it'll burn in a day.

        • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday May 15, @01:47PM (5 children)

          by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday May 15, @01:47PM (#1245109)

          My relatives don't care because their house is going to be around until they are dead, probably.

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          • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday May 15, @10:49PM (4 children)

            by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 15, @10:49PM (#1245198) Journal
            Well, even if they were going to live 50 years longer than expected, we still have the problem that the house wouldn't last all that long anyway. There remains no reason for them to get worked up over minor climate change.
            • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday May 16, @12:40AM (3 children)

              by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday May 16, @12:40AM (#1245212)

              >There remains no reason for them to get worked up over minor climate change

              Lacking children as they are, you are correct.

              If they should live another 50 years in good health, they will likely be forced to move, unless the county lets them live on a street that is regularly under salt water.

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              • (Score: 1) by khallow on Monday May 16, @01:33AM (2 children)

                by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Monday May 16, @01:33AM (#1245219) Journal

                If they should live another 50 years in good health, they will likely be forced to move

                So what? Even if there were no climate change or hurricanes, the house will wear down over the years and they'll be forced to move and/or rebuild anyway. Living that close to the sea is hard on houses even without the storms. Nor is that much different from your scenario.

                And this was all brought up because you have relatives that just don't have the right attitude concerning climate change. Well, if the threat is that they'd have to move, if they lived 50 years longer rather than 20 years longer. That's for a house so close to the ocean that it'd be floating, if it were any closer.

                Well, here's my question. How many billions of peoples' suffering is it worth to save a few people who live in boats on stilts? 50 years from now, no less? This has always been the problem with the climate change narrative. Once you get past the ludicrous narratives, there isn't much to it. And the price tag for the token efforts we've done so far are way more than the benefits.

                Going back to the thread, the point about the alleged hypocrisy of the powerful is that they get, just like your DINK aunt and uncle do, that sea level rise just doesn't matter over a human lifetime.

                For me, hypocrisy just isn't that interesting. Humans do it naturally, so of course, our leaders would do it just as naturally.

                What I think we really should be thinking about here are the important problems such as the huge poverty/overpopulation synergy. We've made vast progress dealing with that - at mild short term cost to the environment.

                • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Monday May 16, @11:57AM (1 child)

                  by JoeMerchant (3937) on Monday May 16, @11:57AM (#1245283)

                  >Even if there were no climate change or hurricanes, the house will wear down over the years and they'll be forced to move and/or rebuild anyway.

                  What in the hell are you smoking?

                  My first house, in Hurricane country, was built in 1935 and is as strong today as when I bought it 30 years ago. Their house is built similarly but better. And even if they need a refresh, we don't burn our houses, take the insurance and move around here, the bulk of the value is in location, not the structure.

                  Of course a great deal of the location value has been diminished over the past 10 years with the dying of the reef, but my uncle mostly fishes the back country....

                  >How many billions of peoples' suffering is it worth

                  You are referring now to the billions who live in coastal cities? The billions there who lack the economic means to relocate except as refugees?

                  >poverty/overpopulation synergy. We've made vast progress dealing with that - at mild short term cost to the environment.

                  Vast progress, like the population explosion in Africa? Like India approaching China's official population number at 1.4B? Like the Indians and Chinese that still mostly live in rural poverty, but are migrating to modern cities more polluted than anything the US ever "achieved" before we started outsourcing our heavy industry?

                  Take another toke and enjoy the view from your rose colored glasses.

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                  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Wednesday May 18, @02:20AM

                    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 18, @02:20AM (#1245849) Journal

                    > Even if there were no climate change or hurricanes, the house will wear down over the years and they'll be forced to move and/or rebuild anyway.

                    What in the hell are you smoking?

                    My first house, in Hurricane country, was built in 1935 and is as strong today as when I bought it 30 years ago. Their house is built similarly but better. And even if they need a refresh, we don't burn our houses, take the insurance and move around here, the bulk of the value is in location, not the structure.

                    If you're close enough to salt water that a mere 10 cm rise could shut you down, then you're getting sea spray - lots of salt on everything. I assure you that 85 years of that will wreck most houses, including yours.

                    >How many billions of peoples' suffering is it worth

                    You are referring now to the billions who live in coastal cities? The billions there who lack the economic means to relocate except as refugees?

                    I know a fix for that. But it requires treating bigger problems than climate change as bigger problems.

                    >poverty/overpopulation synergy. We've made vast progress dealing with that - at mild short term cost to the environment.

                    Vast progress, like the population explosion in Africa? Like India approaching China's official population number at 1.4B? Like the Indians and Chinese that still mostly live in rural poverty, but are migrating to modern cities more polluted than anything the US ever "achieved" before we started outsourcing our heavy industry?

                    Yes, actually. Here's a glaring example. in 1971, population growth rate was ~2.1% per year for a population of roughly 3.8 billion people. If we had continued at that growth rate to present day, we'd be looking at almost 11 billion people not almost 8 billion. That slowing in population growth rate that you continue to fail to acknowledge has already resulted in about a quarter less people than we could have had (assuming Population Bomb-style die-off predictions could be avoided). Even India and Africa have contributed to that slowing.

                    As to the pollution, they'd be polluted anyway. At least now, the developed world is an exit strategy that doesn't require die offs and/or ecological collapses.