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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 bzipitidoo on Friday May 13, @03:04AM

    by bzipitidoo (4388) on Friday May 13, @03:04AM (#1244657) Journal

    Let's unpack this.

    First, STOP WORSHIPPING THE RICH! Why, you might as well be a believer in the Prosperity Gospel. Seems over half of America thinks that way, and if that attitude doesn't change, it's going to get a lot of people dead. Do you have any idea what screwballs many of the rich are? They've let their wealth go to their heads. The worst are massively entitled, spoiled, sadistic brats whose main skill is appearances. Many of them didn't earn wealth and power, they inherited it. Like the Bobby Pellit character in Horrible Bosses.

    If you're thinking that's just a movie, I've got a representative anecdote for you. I attended the "management club" dinner at my employer, a manufacturer of heating and cooling systems, just once, and wow, was it educational. The CEO's speech went something like this. He said that if he'd sold the company and invested the proceeds in the stock market, he would be a lot richer. But then, we'd all be out of our jobs, he said, and he didn't want that to happen. When he finished patting himself on the back for that, he said that we should've done better. Should've worked harder, so he'd be richer and wouldn't regret so much that he didn't sell out and invest. He was disappointed in us. We'd let him down.

    That CEO had another whopper to say at that dinner, that just so happens to be pertinent to your question. He said that he didn't believe in all this Global Warming nonsense. But, if it was true, then GOOD! Because, the company would get to sell more air conditioners!

    If you really are unsure who to ask, try scientists. They're the ones most "in the know", as you put it.

    But in the name of humanity, don't sit on your tush waiting for the powerful and rich to reveal The Plan for the Future of Humanity. We already know what their plan is: Let the rest of us die while they ride out the calamity in their super secret and secure bunkers. Some are actually spending significant money on that. Once the world population has been reduced to the 1%, then go forth and multiply. And maybe write memoirs explaining how very stupid the rest of us were for getting ourselves into such a terrible fix, with ample mention that it really was all our fault and we deserved to die. If you think that's an exaggeration, I assure you it isn't. A frightfully large number of them really do think that way.

    Now, if there is no further idolizing of the rich with which to dispense, what are we going to do about this problem? I don't know. I fear that we're moving too slowly. I see personal conservation efforts, such as turning off the lights when you leave the room, as hopelessly insignificant. Buy an electric car? No good if only a handful of people do that. Put solar on your roof? Double or triple pane windows? The problem with a lot of those ideas is that while they are pitched as environmentally responsible things to do, their actual benefits are smaller than the costs of retrofitting. I've had many a door-to-door sales pitch about the windows, and they all wanted way more than it was worth. $10,000, to replace 10 windows and 2 patio doors? I ran the numbers and came up with an estimated annual savings of just $175. If they could do the job for $2000, I might chance it. But not for $10k, no way.

    The most significant moves so far are the switch from incandescent to LED lighting, the 80plus drive to make computer power supplies at least 80% efficient that concluded about a decade ago, the move from tube TVs and monitors to flat screens, pushing up automobile fuel economy, and the huge increase in A/C efficiencies. Nice, but it won't be enough. We need more. The pandemic had a huge silver lining, stopping a lot of wasteful commuting in favor of remote work and telecommuting. Meantime, there's been a huge growth in wind power. Windmills are all over the parts of the land where it's windy enough. I haven't seen as much solar, but it too is growing by leaps and bounds.

    Here's some ideas: Do laundry less often. It is okay to wear a shirt for 2, 3, or even more days between washes. There are even shirts designed for less frequent laundering. Shower less. Most especially if you have a typical tank water heater. Mow less. Bicycle more. Walk more. All these things are win-win. Not only does it save on energy and resources, it's healthier. Showering every day is bad for your skin. On the political front, let's discourage suburban sprawl. People in America especially think little to nothing of driving, don't appreciate how costly in both time and money it is to commute long distances, make house calls, and that sort of thing. More awareness and less willingness to sit in traffic jams in rush hour would be a big help.

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