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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: 1) by khallow on Wednesday May 18 2022, @02:20AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday May 18 2022, @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.