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 . . .

Young Republicans are breaking with Trump on climate change

In the Guardian today: “Now, younger Republicans are breaking with Trump in an attempt to haul their party towards scientific reality.”

“There’s disagreement there with Donald Trump,” said Tex Fischer, a 22-year-old conservative Ohioan with a head of unruly hair. “I don’t personally know anyone involved in young, right-of-center politics that doesn’t believe climate change is an issue. Read more . . .

Donald Trump and Company: Incompetent, malignant and treacherous.

Climate Scientist Michael Mann and Bob Ward, writing in the Guardian:

“Americans should not be fooled by the Stalinist tactics being used by the White House to try to discredit the findings of mainstream climate science.

“The Trump administration has already purged information about climate change from government websites, gagged federal experts and attempted to end funding for climate change programs.

“Now a group of hardcore climate change deniers and contrarians linked to the administration is organising a petition in support of a new panel being set up by the National Security Council to promote an alternative official explanation for climate change.” Read more . . .

USA resists and obstructs global efforts

The Guardian Reports today that:

“The United States and Saudi Arabia have hamstrung global efforts to scrutinise climate geoengineering in order to benefit their fossil fuel industries, according to multiple sources at the United Nations environment assembly, taking place this week in Nairobi.

This was not the only agenda item in Nairobi that Trump administration diplomats were accused of watering down; they were also accused of undermining efforts to ensure strong environmental governance. “They are trying to remove all targets and timelines,” said one senior delegate.”

While a young whale washes onto shore with nearly 90 lbs. of plastic in its gut, “an ambitious Indian resolution to phase out single-use plastics by 2025 has been diluted to resolving to “significantly reduce” them by 2030, said another delegate. The US was supported by Brazil and at least four other countries in pushing back the deadline and making the language more vague.

“On marine waste, a Norwegian proposal to build an effective global strategy for dealing with plastics that enter the oceans has also met with resistance from the US. “They want to postpone measures so they can protect their industry,” said an ambassador from a large developing country. Read more . . .

Wealth, Poverty, and Global Carbon Justice

“One of the most contentious issue that complicated global efforts to address the problem of too much carbon has to do with the fact that it was precisely through carbon-intensive fossil-fueled growth that the global North was able to achieve its advanced levels of wealth and development. And, in so many instances, this wealth and development depended on colonizing nations and peoples around the world, devastating their populations and limiting their ability to replicate the carbon-intensive path pursued by the North. This history, within which the few have consumed and polluted far beyond their fair share, simultaneously leaves the world’s poor and marginalized, those least responsible for climate change, bearing the devastating brunt of its impacts.” – Kate Ervine, Carbon (Polity Press 2018), p6.

Kate Ervine is Associate Professor of International Development Studies and Faculty Associate of the School of the Environment at Saint Mary’s University

Some Questions: Who has a right to the carbon that remains in the global carbon budget? At this late stage of climate disruption, is there anything left in the global carbon budget? Are we already in the red? And, of equal importance, will our proposed solutions to climate change repeat previous injustices vis a vis wealth and poverty? If we treat carbon as a market, as a commodity to be traded, will this not ipso facto build in the same historic injustices? Are nation-states the best agencies to address climate change?

For an informative podcast in which Ervine discusses her book Carbon (50 min.), see the link below. Note that in this podcast she often says “We should do this or we should do that.” In each instance, ask yourself: Who is this ‘we’? If you do this, you will begin to see the real difficulty.

Podcast: Interview with Kate Ervine

On March 15, the Climate Kids Are Coming

I predict that our children will be the most powerful political force for climate action over the next few years. We would be foolish to underestimate them, for we do not yet know the power they may exert. I believe they will be a force to be reckoned with. Needless to say, there are any number of adults, individuals, groups and organizations, that will try to take advantage of them.

An article published in The Nation today, says:

“Beware the Ides of March, all you climate wreckers out there. The Climate Kids are coming, in massive and growing numbers, and they are not in the mood to negotiate. They know that you—whether you’re a fossil-fuel executive, a politician who takes fossil-fuel money, or a Fox News hack who recycles fossil-fuel lies—have put their future in grave danger, and they are rising up to take it back.

On March 15, tens of thousands of high-school and middle-school students in more than 30 countries plan to skip school to demand that politicians treat the global climate crisis as the emergency it is. Shakespeare made the Ides of March famous with his soothsayer’s warning in Julius Caesar, but . . . Read more . . .

Thanks to Nick Garland for pointing me to this article.