Saturday, October 3, 2015

'Realists' Run Amok

You may think there is good news in the air: the pope has reset the climate discussion, even India has filed a modest plan to reduce emissions, and many are voicing optimism that at least a gradual improvement in the GHG emissions prognosis will emerge from the Paris conference. And Britain's top banker, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, issued a warning the other day--not his first--to financial corporations to begin accounting for all that 'stranded' fossil fuel they will never see brought to market. Lovely.

But here comes Jeremy Warner, veteran business correspondent for The Telegraph, throwing cold water of capitalist reality on all that happy talk. In his reply to Carney he says in effect, 'Come off it--we all know nothing will change, all available fossil fuel will be burnt, and more added to the pile. Temperatures will rise till we no longer have a civilization that runs on oil or anything else. Get used to it. There's no other way.' That's the position of 'realists' in this discussion. Mostly they go to their well-paying jobs and keep quiet in public. So thank you, Jeremy Warner, for making clear just how confident those 'realists' are, how determined to carry on--while there's anything left to carry. Here are some money quotes from Warner's article:

"It is no exaggeration to say that the whole of modernity is based on hydrocarbons. Without coal, oil and gas, we’d still be in an age of limited life expectancy, subsistence farming and riding to market on horse and cart. However much we might wish it, this dependence is not going to change for a long time to come.Thirty years of extraordinarily costly research and development has resulted in a renewables industry that today accounts for a stunning – wait for it – 1 per cent of global energy supply  [...]

"Mr Carney made much in his speech of the idea – hatched by the UN sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – that up to a third of the world’s proven oil, gas and coal reserves would have to be left in the ground, or “stranded”, if the rise in global temperatures is to be limited to the prescribed 2 degrees. What is he doing lending credence to such a tenuous concept? Even if the numerous assumptions – all questionable enough – behind the calculation turned out to be true, it is wholly unrealistic to think that once the limit has been reached, the world is suddenly going to stop burning hydrocarbons. Consider the facts. The world produces oil at the rate of roughly 93 million barrels a day. Just to meet this demand, the oil industry needs to be constantly investing in and developing its reserves. If it were to stop, production would naturally deplete at a very rapid rate, and in an age of still exponential demand growth, the price of hydrocarbons would go through the roof.."
So there's the challenge. Madmen are running our global economy, determined to heat up the atmosphere at all costs, certain there is no alternative, oblivious of all the longterm suffering and destruction they will cause. Renewable energy, more efficient use of existing energy, innovative new sources of energy--all these responses must be accelerated, supported, subsidized. Powerful men want to keep things as they are to the bitter end. They won't stop--thanks for the tip, Mr. Warner. They must be stopped. 

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