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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 Thexalon on Friday May 13, @11:30AM

    by Thexalon (636) on Friday May 13, @11:30AM (#1244706)

    Our most powerful leaders have huge expensive oceanfront estates (Martha's Vinyard etc)

    First off, I wouldn't call those people "leaders". "Rulers", maybe, but true leaders act for the benefit of the people they're leading, whereas these folks pretty much all act solely in their own interests. Yes, even the allegedly-philanthropic ones who establish foundations that act as a very convenient tax dodge and allow them to take control over charitable efforts and steer those charitable efforts towards buying things from their own companies.

    Admittedly, I'm of the viewpoint that once you've reached around 7-8 figures of wealth, if you're spending most of your time trying to get even more money you aren't a leader, you aren't brilliant, you're a selfish jerk who simply refuses to be satisfied. At that level of cash, you and your family have everything you need to live comfortably without working for money anymore, so stop trying to come up with more cash and start doing something useful.

    Oh, and as for those beachfront properties: I think you may have a misunderstanding of scale here, because if you're like me having your home completely destroyed would be a major financial blow. But for a billionaire, losing a $10 million home, total loss, no insurance, is no more than 1% of their wealth and will take them at most around 2 months to completely recover, and odds are they have at least one other $10 million home to move to if they happened to actually be in the $10 million home they lost. It's the same scale of loss as somebody making $100K a year having to replace their smartphone - annoying, not completely unnoticed, but completely solvable.

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