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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: 2) by Opportunist on Thursday May 12, @03:42PM (4 children)

    by Opportunist (5545) on Thursday May 12, @03:42PM (#1244436)

    How so? They pretty much purchase all their weapons from us and don't produce any themselves, so essentially all they can is starve to death because we sure won't deliver any anymore if they try to use them against us. What exactly seems to be the problem?

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  • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Thursday May 12, @06:06PM (3 children)

    by RamiK (1813) on Thursday May 12, @06:06PM (#1244477)

    What exactly seems to be the problem?

    Well, you tell me, what would happen to the US economy when its customers can't afford food, machinery, guns, medicine and/or entertainment since there's no capital flow? e.g. how will China pay for CNC machines when so many of their plastic crap customers can't afford paying them and they themselves don't need to save on labor when there's so many hands willing to be paid literally in peanuts?

    Besides, starving nations don't tend to keep to their carbon caps...

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    • (Score: 2) by Opportunist on Thursday May 12, @06:49PM (2 children)

      by Opportunist (5545) on Thursday May 12, @06:49PM (#1244492)

      Oh quite the opposite, nations where the people croak have a much lower carbon footprint... ok, after the corpses decomposed, but if you ponder the average carbon footprint of the average American... even the most obese one of them wouldn't cause more carbon burden decomposing than living another year.

      And hey, if you want to have a healthy economy, make sure your own population can afford your crap. That way you are independent of foreign whims, sell domestic!

      • (Score: 2) by RamiK on Thursday May 12, @07:22PM (1 child)

        by RamiK (1813) on Thursday May 12, @07:22PM (#1244508)

        make sure your own population can afford your crap. That way you are independent of foreign whims, sell domestic!

        The problem is that between self-sufficiency ideals and real world North Korea, you'll find trade blocks forming around members with nuclear arsenal Warsaw pact style that simply don't care about the carbon caps.

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        • (Score: 2) by Opportunist on Friday May 13, @10:07AM

          by Opportunist (5545) on Friday May 13, @10:07AM (#1244699)

          Starving nations: Do you expect me to care?
          Me: No, I expect you to die.

          Gert Fröbe was such a great actor...