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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: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @04:16PM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @04:16PM (#1244445)

    I'm not having kids and I'd probably be dead within 30+ years. So the climate change stuff probably won't affect me that much. The sea levels aren't going to change that much within the next 30 years - this is based on known science (the projections have the bigger increases much later than 30 years). If you look in the past there have also been lots of weather/climate problems Mini ice age, Krakatoa etc.

    So my environmental footprint is going to be a lot lower than those who have kids (especially those whose kids have more kids).

    My words to those who might care - the fossil fuels are like "savings" - stored energy accumulated over millions of years. Humans could use this savings wisely or just blow it away. Then once those savings are gone, the bunch that's left would have to actually live off the day to day "earnings".

    My suggestions on what wise use is from a big picture humanity view- development of space colony technology and related knowledge. Not those near useless expensive trips to Mars but actual space colony tech - like artificial gravity (could be via tethers counterweights etc) and knowledge like what's the minimum amount of gravity a human needs (this knowledge will remain useful for as long as humans remain somewhat human - this G number is important since the lower the G required the cheaper the space habitats can be).

    Developing such space tech will cost a fair bit of energy, time and resources. If humans burn away most of the fossil fuels then it will be harder and take longer.

    It's not as easy to get macroscopic living creatures into orbit using solar energy and other renewable energy sources.

    Also another thing to be careful of is the Kessler Syndrome ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kessler_syndrome [wikipedia.org] ).

     

  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday May 15, @12:41AM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 15, @12:41AM (#1245038) Journal

    My words to those who might care - the fossil fuels are like "savings" - stored energy accumulated over millions of years. Humans could use this savings wisely or just blow it away. Then once those savings are gone, the bunch that's left would have to actually live off the day to day "earnings".

    We could save wisely... or we could more wisely use it today. After all, when will we need to return to fossil fuels? If we're not going to use significant fossil fuels forever after, there's little value to those "savings".