At what point does a new technology cause an existing industry to start losing significant value?

Writing in The New York Review of Books, Bill McKibben reviews two recent papers on climate change. The first is by Kingsmill Bond, a UK financial analyst. It is titled: “2020 Vision: Why You Should See the Fossil Fuel Peak Coming.

The central question Bond asks in his paper is this: “At what point does a new technology cause an existing industry to start losing significant value?”

McKibben says that “this may turn out to be the most important economic and political question of the first half of this century, and the answer might tell us much about our chances of getting through the climate crisis without completely destroying the planet. Based on earlier technological transitions—horses to cars, sails to steam, land lines to cell phones—it seems possible that the fossil fuel industry may begin to weaken much sooner than you’d think.”

He goes on to say: “Major technological transitions often take a while. . . . But the economic effect of those transitions can happen much earlier . . . as soon as it becomes clear to investors that a new technology is accounting for all the growth in a particular sector.”

As I consider the implications of this paper, I see the possibility that investors will be alert to all of this, and will bail out very quickly once the precipitous downward slope of the graph is definitive: they will cut their losses and run. This, along with other climate-related indicators will undermine the confidence of the super-wealthy, prompting them to protect their wealth in ways that create a destructive feedback-loop leading to unprecedented economic disruption and societal collapse. Read more . . .

Abstract Terms for Human Suffering: Migration, Displacement, Relocation.

No, this is not a list of criminals and rapists; these are suffering people, and they are members of my own family. It’s easy to forget that the terms listed below are abstract descriptions of real human lives, lives filled with disruption, chaos, grief, pain, separation and loss. Lives as valuable as my own.

Even the term “planned relocation” is a term filled with pain and suffering. Imagine yourself as part of a planned relocation project – with no insurance and no moving company!

Each of the terms in the following list can serve as an object of meditation, for each term implies an immense amount of human suffering. If nothing else, it may help us understand the complexity of human dislocation and mobility, and better appreciate what the future holds for the planet – a future that predicts, over the next 30 years, as many as 250 million people will be displaced by climate related factors. The list is derived from Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration.

Climate migrant/migration: Climate migrants are people who move within countries because of climate change-induced migration.

Displacement: Forced removal of people or people obliged to flee from their places of habitual residence.

Distress migration: Movements from the usual place of residence, undertaken when an individual and/or their family perceive that there are no options open to them to survive with dignity, except to migrate. This may be a result of a rapid-onset climate event, other disasters, or conflict event, or a succession of such events, that result in the loss of assets and coping capacities.

Environmental mobility: Temporary or permanent mobility as a result of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect living conditions, either within countries or across borders.

Forced migration: Migratory movement in which an element of coercion exists, including threats to life and livelihood, whether arising from natural or man-made causes (for example, movements of refugees and internally displaced persons as well as people displaced by natural or environmental disasters, chemical or nuclear disasters, famine, or development projects). Forced migration generally implies a lack of volition concerning the decision to move, though in reality motives may be mixed, and the decision to move may include some degree of personal agency or volition.

Immobility: Inability to move from a place of risk or not moving away from a place of risk due to choice.

Internal migration (migrant): Internal migration is migration that occurs within national borders.

International migration (migrant): Migration that occurs across national borders.

Labor mobility: The geographical and occupational movement of workers.

Migration: Movement that requires a change in the place of usual residence and that is longer term. In demographic research and official statistics, it involves crossing a recognized political/administrative border.

Mobility: Movement of people, including temporary or long-term, short- or long-distance, voluntary or forced, and seasonal or permanent movement as well as planned relocation (see also environmental mobility, labor mobility).

Planned relocation: People moved or assisted to move permanently away from areas of environmental risks.

Internal Climate Migration – Part One: The Mobile and the Trapped

Over the next few weeks, I will be highlighting some of the issues surrounding migration and climate change. Among other resources, I will be drawing on a special 256 page report from the World Bank: Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration. This report addresses development issues of people being forced to move under distress to escape the long-term impacts of climate change. I will begin with the following quote from the report:


“The impacts associated with climate change are already shifting patterns of mobility and will increasingly do so. Because mobility is complex, driven by multiple, interacting processes that vary greatly over space and time, there is no straight line of causation from environmental stress to the movement of people. But climate change–driven pressure can directly and indirectly alter mobility patterns. In some cases, people migrate in an attempt to adapt to climate change. In others, the impacts of climate change will lead to movements under distress, induce displacement, or require planned relocation. Favorable environments attract people who are moving; people do not only move away from places of environmental stress, they are equally likely to move to them. Millions of people will be unable or unwilling to move from areas of environmental stress, rendering them immobile or “trapped”.”

Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Climate Migration, p. 1-2

West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier could contribute to significant sea level rise.

According to a recent article in the Boulder Daily Camera and the Longmont Times-Call, “There’s no question that ice is flowing rapidly out of western Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier, threatening to contribute to dangerously rising sea levels in coming decades that could swamp cities and irrevocably upend the lives of people around the globe.

“The key uncertainties surrounding the dynamic now unfolding there and making the region something of a glaciology wild card, are simple; how much, and how fast?” Read more . . .

For more information, visit the The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration

Introducing an Important New Web Site: George Monbiot’s “Natural Climate Solutions”

An important new web site was launched by George Monbiot today. It is one of the most impressive and encouraging efforts I have seen. The Guardian published an excellent summary of it HERE. I have included links to all the Natural Climate Solutions Allies on the right-hand side bar of this blog. Please take some time to explore Natural Climate Solutions and its accompanying references. And don’t miss Monbiot’s Guardian Opinion piece HERE.

“Today, a small group of us is launching a campaign for natural climate solutions to receive the commitment and funding they deserve. At the moment, though their potential is huge, they have been marginalized in favour of projects that may be worse than useless, but which are profitable for corporations. Governments discuss the climate crisis and the ecological crisis in separate meetings when both disasters could be addressed together. We have set up a dedicated website, produced an animation and written a letter to governments and international bodies signed by prominent activists, scientists and artists.”

George Monbiot

“Our aim is simple: to catalyse global enthusiasm for drawing down carbon by restoring ecosystems,” said Monbiot, who has written a report for the website. “It is the single most undervalued and underfunded tool for climate mitigation.”

Damian Carrington


Can Soil Microbes Slow Climate Change?

“With global carbon emissions hitting an all-time high in 2018, the world is on a trajectory that climate experts believe will lead to catastrophic warming by 2100 or before. Some of those experts say that to combat the threat, it is now imperative for society to use carbon farming techniques that extract carbon dioxide from the air and store it in soils. Because so much exposed soil across the planet is used for farming, the critical question is whether scientists can find ways to store more carbon while also increasing agricultural yields.”


“Johnson asserts that if his approach were used across agriculture internationally, the entire world’s carbon output from 2016 could be stored on just 22 percent of the globe’s arable land. He says that would provide net benefits of $500 to $600 per acre rather than net costs, if credits are provided for carbon capture and related benefits are counted, such as reduced irrigation and increased soil fertility.” Read more . . .

REPORT: A New World: The Geopolitics of the Energy Transformation

A 94 page report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (January 2019)

Excerpts from the IRENA report:

“This ongoing transition to renewables is not just a shift from one set of fuels to another. It involves a much deeper transformation of the world’s energy systems that will have major social, economic and political implications which go well beyond the energy sector.

The global energy transformation will have a particularly pronounced impact on geopolitics. It is one of the undercurrents of change that will help to redraw the geopolitical map of the 21st century. The new geopolitical reality that is taking shape will be fundamentally different from the conventional map of energy geopolitics that has been dominant for more than one hundred years.

The majority of countries can hope to increase their energy independence significantly, and fewer economies will be at risk from vulnerable energy supply lines and volatile prices. Some countries that are heavily dependent on exports of oil, gas or coal will need to adapt to avoid serious economic consequences. Many developing economies will have the possibility to leapfrog fossil fuelbased systems and centralized grids. Renewables will also be a powerful vehicle of democratization because they make it possible to decentralize the energy supply, empowering citizens, local communities, and cities.

“Global power structures and arrangements will change in many ways and the dynamics of relationships within states will also be transformed. Power will become more decentralized and diffused. The influence of some states, such as China, will grow because they have invested heavily in renewable technologies and built up their capacity to take advantage of the opportunities they create.

“By contrast, states that rely heavily on fossil fuel exports and do not adapt to the energy transition will face risks and lose influence.

The supply of energy will no longer be the domain of a small number of states, since the majority of countries will have the potential to achieve energy independence, enhancing their development and security as a result.

“The transition will generate considerable benefits and opportunities. It will strengthen the energy security and energy independence of most countries; promote prosperity and job creation; improve food and water security; and enhance sustainability and equity. Some states will be able to leapfrog technologies based on fossil fuels. The number of energy-related conflicts is likely to fall.

“Countries must prepare for the changes ahead and develop strategies to enhance the prospects of a smooth transition. At the same time, the energy transformation will generate new challenges. Fossil fuel-exporting countries may face instability if they do not reinvent themselves for a new energy age; a rapid shift away from fossil fuels could create a financial shock with significant consequences for the global economy; workers and communities who depend on fossil fuels may be hit adversely; and risks may emerge with regard to cybersecurity and new dependencies on certain minerals.