Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, June 04, 2018


Yes, the U.S. has officially withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement, the ruling party in the country is the only major political party in the world to deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change, and policies established by the Obama administration to conserve fuel and promote renewable energy development are being reversed. This as drought and heat cause ever worse wildfires in the west and southwest, sea level rise is already pushing people away from the coast and reducing the price of coastal property (and just wait till major urban centers have to be abandoned), and agricultural pests are moving northward with warming temperatures, among other disastrous consequences too numerous to mention.

But maybe the focus on public policy mostly misses the point. An international group of researchers, reporting in Nature Climate Change, model future fossil fuel consumption in light of technological trends that are making renewable energy sources more and more competitive. Obviously, we can't really know what the future will bring, and we can only make assumptions about key technological developments -- large scale, economical energy storage is a particularly important parameter -- but their best estimate is that global fossil fuel production will decline starting pretty much today, and that ultimately something like $12 trillion in assets will disappear from the balance sheets of fossil fuel corporations as their in-ground assets become worthless.

They are interested in the financial consequences rather than the environmental consequences, and their simulations do not find that we necessarily avoid 2 degree centigrade in warming, in other words environmental catastrophe is still likely barring a vigorous policy response. Nevertheless there are clear economic implications for the U.S., which is a high cost producer. That means the oil industry here will be destroyed even as low-cost producers continue to prosper. They might even decide that the smart thing to do is cut their prices and get it while they can, further shrinking the U.S. fossil fuel industry. The result will be an economic catastrophe for the United States, as oil workers are unemployed and investors lose all of their wealth.

The only solution is to start getting out now, reap the benefits of investment in renewable technologies, and let the bubble in carbon-based assets deflate slowly. Exxon-Mobil knows this, but they aren't going to tell you.


Don Quixote said...

No, indeed, Exxon/Mobil won't tell us ... they also didn't tell us about anthropogenic climate change once they decided to use their science and scientists in the 80s to obfuscate the inevitable.

Anonymous said...

There's plenty of reasons why the public is not as sold as you think they should be.

Alarmists have been predicting cataclysmic events that didn't come to pass over and over and then there's the predictions of "peak oil" that have been telling us that we're going to run out of fossil fuels withing just a few years and they've been telling us that since the early twenties.

On top of that, the keepers of the global warming data either keep changing and revising to fit the narrative or they get caught fudging it as was the case with Britain's University of East Anglia.

None of that instills confidence that we're getting a straight story.

Don Quixote said...

The muddled thinking of "Anonymous" (comment, above) is evidenced by his problems with subject/verb agreement, as well as his paranoiac reference to the "keepers of the global warming data." As usual, this person's comments are irrational and idiotic. I don't know he can't learn to just shut up or go away. Very annoying. Perhaps that's the point.

Cervantes said...

Anon has been taken in by fake news. There aren't any "keepers of the global warming data," it's all publicly available. You might want to check out the web site maintained by NASA where everybody in the world can see it all for themselves. No, the data don't "keep changing." The Koch brothers actually funded a University of California researcher to try to prove that it did and he came back and said sorry, it's all legit.

The predicted catastrophes are already happening. Maybe you have missed the floods, droughts, hurricanes and wildfires.

Anonymous said...

For your review, Sir:

NOAA NCDC has for years produced a data set called the U.S. Historical Climate Network (USHCN) where they choose a subset of stations with a long period of record and hopefully good siting and exposure, then "adjust" the observations to remove known biases and inconsistencies. Some of the known problems are instrument changes and observation practices (including time of observation), station moves, siting problems, and influences of urbanization around the station. They adjust the past observations to be more in line with recent and current observations at each station.

These adjustment methods sound good in theory and are all defensible from peer-reviewed literature, but the problem lies in that it is all done automatically with programmed algorithms that detect, then adjust for these biases and break points. It is the ultimate "black box", where no one outside of NCDC would be able to reproduce their processing. That alone is one opening for the seeds of distrust.

Did you get that?

No one outside the NCDC can reproduce their findings. They're NOT transparent and I don't think they want to be.

Don Quixote said...

Anonymous is a conspiracy theorist, unable to listen to/hear anything other than his inner paranoiac ravings that he "backs up" with cherry-picked denialist ravings from the alternate-universe media. Anonymous (GBB?), you are SO tiresome.

There are none so blind as they who will not (cannot? refuse to?) see.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what was I thinking quoting the Florida State University Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies?

Fuckin' alternate-universe media!

Mark said...

What Anon said is a perfect example of how denialists argue. The link he cites in fact goes to the Florida State Climatologist, and the words he attributes to Florida State are, according to the link itself, "My (the climatologist) own editorial...."
So, yeah, according to one guy, no one outside NCDC can reproduce their data. Oh, he's the state climatologist? I suggest you figure out what being the state climatologist involves (hint: not original research).

However, I have worked with data from NCDC, and based on my experience, they very carefully and fully describe the data sets and how to use them. They also describe what they do to data. Unfortunately for the denialists, it takes some actual work to find out the facts about data sets; they would rather just spew denials lying points. They assume that since they don't bother to check facts, no one else will, either.

Anonymous said...

If Mr. Mark had carefully read the article, the fact that changes were made to the data is not an opinion of the writer and is not up for grabs.

And again, no one is arguing whether global warming and climate change is real or not.

What *was* argued was that those who wish to ring the bell and alert others to climate change have pretty much done a shit job on selling it to the public.

Anonymous said...

Another issue that makes the public nervous about blindly accepting all of this is the constant conflagration of the earth's warming, which is one issue, and the anthropogenic aspect of any warming. Correlation does not mean causation.

It's like the Seinfeld episode of "yada...yada...yada".

"The earth is warming's ALL caused by fossil fuel use."

When anyone dares to ask questions (which is what good science is all about) it's "Back off, man...I'm a scientist!"

And that's the problem with the global warming community. They're not open to any discussion. They should be out in front on this selling their ideas and backing them up with data and defending that data with discussions and explanations.

They're not.