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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: 1) by khallow on Saturday May 14, @12:10AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday May 14, @12:10AM (#1244843) Journal

    But the birthrate is skyrocketing in other countries

    No it's not. For a glaring counterexample, the highest rate of absolute population growth was in 1988 [wikipedia.org]. Presently, we have about 50% more population than in 1988 and a 10% slower population growth rate. Somethings wrong with the narrative.

    The UN forecasts predict 11-12 billion humans by 2100, and 70% of that increase will occur in the African continent. And guess what, all of those 3-4B new people will want to be Americans. Not necessarily want to live in America, but like the rest of the world they will want an American lifestyle and be big consumers like Americans, eat like Americans, produce garbage like Americans, own cars and drive like Americans, live in the suburbs like Americans, and pollute like Americans.

    How about instead of treating this as a problem, we treat this as an enormous opportunity - getting the low fertility, prosperity, and incredible human benefits of the developed world for everyone, including those Africans.