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posted by janrinok on Thursday May 12 2022, @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 Thexalon on Friday May 13 2022, @11:48AM (1 child)

    by Thexalon (636) on Friday May 13 2022, @11:48AM (#1244708)

    I'm not too worried about a boom in the population of Africa. I know something about how average Africans live - I know a bunch of African immigrants and people who spent years in several different areas of the continent - and they on average use up far fewer resources than Americans do. If carbon footprint is a decent approximation of resource usage, than 1 American = 50-100 Africans (it of course depends a lot on where in Africa you're talking about, since Africa is huge and wildly varied politically and economically). Also, Africans have, on average, been able to skip over building lots of inefficient infrastructure that continues to cost Americans a lot of money to maintain without much benefit.

    For about 1/3 the wastefulness of Americans, Africans could live like people in western Europe. And they might even find a way to be more efficient than that, because there are some smart Africans who want that sort of thing. If you want to massively improve African quality-of-life without causing major environmental issues, the way you'd do it is to put an end to what could reasonably be called "corporate colonialism", where companies owned by Europeans or Americans like De Beers, Shell, and Nestle are in charge of extracting wealth from Africa's huge natural resources, rather than the governments of European countries, and of course without that wealth extraction you'd have less of a reason for countries and corporations to fund their favorite warlords and dictators.

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  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 14 2022, @11:25PM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 14 2022, @11:25PM (#1245026) Journal

    If you want to massively improve African quality-of-life without causing major environmental issues, the way you'd do it is to put an end to what could reasonably be called "corporate colonialism"

    My take is that Africa actually is doing better - quality-of-life and environmentally - because of that corporate colonialism. De Beers and Nestle might be nasty, but they're better (and better paying) than the local talent. And when the local business talent improves, those international businesses will have to offer more in order to remain competitive.