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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: 4, Insightful) by istartedi on Thursday May 12, @05:31PM (3 children)

    by istartedi (123) on Thursday May 12, @05:31PM (#1244470) Journal

    Remember when the real concern was running out of oil? Way back when I was a kid in the 70s, "we will freeze in the dark" was a panic phrase. Then we realized the USA had a lot of coal. I used to count 300 hopper car freights going by at crossings. Natural gas fracking, efficiency, a bunch of stuff "saved the day" for fossil fuels but it has ALWAYS been a short term proposition.

    Fossil fuels will run out, climate change or not.

    That's the crisis that nobody denies, except the real hardcore whack jobs who actually believe in the "cornucopian theory" that oil is being continuously produced in the Earth from abiogenic sources.

    The proper use of fossil fuels should always have been to prime the pump towards sustainable energy. Fossil fuels enable an industrial society for a limited time. That society will either develop sustainable energy or not.

    So. Forget about climate change. Do you want to return to a pre-industrial society or move to sustainable energy? That's always been the real question, even before Al Gore was just the junior Senator from Tennessee.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @06:07PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @06:07PM (#1244478)

    Yes, conserving fuel, reducing pollution, and decentralizing energy production are all far better arguments. It is like the silly "climate change" was purposefully chosen because it is dumbest.

  • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Thursday May 12, @06:35PM (1 child)

    by JoeMerchant (3937) on Thursday May 12, @06:35PM (#1244486)

    real hardcore whack jobs

    You just made me remember the movie "the Aviator" about Howard Hughes. Most of the rich and powerful are seriously bent one way or another.

    Україна не входить до складу Росії.
    • (Score: 2) by istartedi on Thursday May 12, @10:48PM

      by istartedi (123) on Thursday May 12, @10:48PM (#1244606) Journal

      History really rhymes. Musk is plainly in that category, and I really do hope he ends up dying on Mars rather than out of his mind in a motel room. Gotta say though, he doesn't *look* like spaceflight material. I hope he's at least had some rides on the Vomit Comet and been OK with it before attempting something that even hardened Air Force test pilots would find stressful. Come on, dude. Do some cardio. Get that resting heart rate in to the 50s.