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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, @07:32PM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @07:32PM (#1244515)

    to "see" the effect of fossile fuel, especially the liquid and gaseous ones, we need to go back and look at the world pre-pencil-vain-ia oil discovery.
    before that we gotta look at the world before coal made steam made "stuff move".
    lots of stranded asset happened there too.

    anyways, everything that changed after pencil-vain-ia oil discovery was mostly due to it.
    looking back, it was not a very happy time to live in.

    oil and gas needs to be credited for alot of enablement but also brought new problems, like how manufacturing by ford made all the money spend end up in the "goo juice outlet owners" hands ... thus leading to the great depression.
    the solution was to just move from stationary value holder "gold" to dynamic "value holder", that is "create (or produce) it, assign value (remember it), destroy it".

    after that, whoever commanded the well in the ground, was the sugar-daddy of the economy. sugar dispensers and we're just ants hoping to get a morsel. like the moms at a birthday party dispensing cake and managing a hoard of kids that have no clue about making cakes. we hope never to be the outlier ...

    and then it happened that we used enough fossile fuel to get out of the hole -aka- shitlife but we didn't stop. because of above new economy, ways to use and abuse oil where found. all sanity be damned.
    "we got it, let's use it". 2 hours to work @ 1 or more gallon each way, 5 days a week?
    pre-pencil-vain-ia the same amount of energy would have lasted a family of five a 1 month thru winter or so?

    anyways, without oil, all whales would have joined doodoos in nirvana. we still have soem whales, so that's good.

    so everything mentioned in article about stranded assets is just stuff that was build around fossile and for fossile fuel and ways to use more of it. it must have changed a mind set.

    a stranded asset it is not, if it leads to doom.

    the question, now, can we work renewables to a level that allows to power a decent life style pre 1920s, that is, everybody spent money on a "iron horse" called ford and then having no way to every feed it so that its work would yield enough return money? ... we saw that a million ford owners could not entice mr. ford (and the people providing the goo-juice) to "make the money go around" and "come back". there's another kind of "stranded asset".

    ah, also, stranded assets will be fossile fuel aristocrats, that is people heavy involved in and around fossile fuels. see above, about "money".
    "just yesterday joe told me that the lawnmower doesn't run on real dollar bills stuffed into the tank ..."

    note: i think a certain country in the middle east and its singular leader are the only thing that has kept the world from going WW3; "the spice must flow".

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @08:58PM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @08:58PM (#1244576)

    the question, now, can we work renewables to a level that allows to power a decent life style pre 1920s, that is, everybody spent money on a "iron horse" called ford and then having no way to every feed it so that its work would yield enough return money?

    Good question, but incorrect exposition.

    Sure, moving things around has value. Logistics is important. But if you think that logistics is important, you'd better take a seat before I tell you how important primary industry inputs are. You know primary industries? Like logging, fishing, mining, agriculture?

    If we move to pure organic agriculture (i.e. no artificial fertilisers, no mined mineral fertilisers, all that jazz) we can expect our agricultural output to tumble by roughly (details depending) 50%. Of course, without the fuel to move it we'll have to pivot to much more shelf-stable outputs, but in your best case scenarios (massive returns of sewage to fields and so on - much of which depends upon heavy power usage by the way) we're losing around 30% of agricultural output simply because incorporation of such sources into the soil is less efficient than the concentrated, high availability forms that we currently use.

    Worldwide 30% drop in agricultural output leads directly to famine and war. On a global scale.

    I guess the good news is that malthusian factors would reduce the population ...

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @10:01PM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 12, @10:01PM (#1244599)

      geez, now even the plants are fossile fuel customers ...
      i kid. i do not know a solution to "get to" nitrogen in the atmosphere off the top of my hat.
      that is, haber-bosch is energy intensive and countries with access to "cheap" energy make fertilizer?
      i know the ants defend the "mimosa living plant" weed something fierce. not sure why but it's prolly got something to do with the white spheruals that seem to harbor nitrogen fixing "stuff" and the ant seem to prefer making their nests around those roots. i think in other places it's the clover plant that does nitrogen fixing. "clover feed cows" *shrug*

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @12:44AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 13, @12:44AM (#1244628)

        Nnnnnyeeeeesssss ....

        Congratulations, you found an incomplete (doesn't deliver as much per field, per season, as fossil fuel derived sources) solution to one part of one problem, that everybody already knew about.

        Your mama must be proud.

        Now, how are you planning to accelerate the potassium availability? Phosphorus? Calcium? Magnesium? Iron? Sulphur?

        Right, right, the magic bugs will capture them out of the atmosphere for direct delivery to the roots, right? Maybe? No? And in quantities that match the evil mines and industry (all driven by that evil energy!) that do this, right? And refine the various micronutrients such that farmers can treat their soil with precision, right? Using those big evil tractors that burn that evil gunk, right?

      • (Score: 1) by khallow on Sunday May 15, @12:59AM

        by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Sunday May 15, @12:59AM (#1245041) Journal

        that is, haber-bosch is energy intensive and countries with access to "cheap" energy make fertilizer?

        Indeed. That's the key: extremely cheap energy. I see an AC replier asked:

        Now, how are you planning to accelerate the potassium availability? Phosphorus? Calcium? Magnesium? Iron? Sulphur?

        That same extremely cheap energy.