Sunday, August 07, 2016
Our Moment of Truth
Doctors do it a lot. They read the Riot Act to patients living seriously unhealthy lifestyles. "You either stop this, or you'll die." Sometimes it works. Sometimes the patient ignores it and brings on the predicted outcome.
The leaders of the world are about to have their own "You either stop this or else" moment in Geneva later this month when scientists gather to reveal the carbon diet they have to go on if we're to have any decent chance of saving human civilization.
How about this prescription? Shut down all coal-fired power plants and halt the use of combustion engines around the globe within 15-years. No more gas or diesel-powered cars or trucks or trains or ships by 2021. The internal combustion car you've got now may be your last because if world leaders commit to putting the survival of mankind ahead of the economy, manufacturers won't be building them much longer.
The magnitude of that challenge is almost impossible to comprehend. 15-years is the blink of an eye for something like a sweeping end to petroleum. That's not to say it can't be done. It will however be enormously dislocative for a society that George w. Bush lamented is "addicted to oil."
It would be an absolute bitch for the Petro-Pimps of Parliament Hill. Slick Justin, like his alter-ego Shifty Steve, is committed to the expansion of the Athabasca Tar Sands and is banking on a similar expansion of bitumen sales abroad. The remedy scientists are prescribing would be a real kick to Justin's political family jewels.
Then there's the economy to consider, the global economy, the stock markets. What the climate scientists are demanding would mean bursting the Carbon Bubble. Global stock markets are carrying an estimated 27 Trillion US dollars in proven fossil fuel reserves. Banks, pension funds and other institutional lenders are massively invested in those hydrocarbon assets. Imagine wiping out that much wealth almost overnight.
Athabasca? You're stranded.
It's not like we haven't been warned. The Bank of England, the Exchequer and the London Stock Exchange have, for years, been telling anyone who would listen that the markets are dangerously exposed to this massive Carbon Bubble.
At the Paris climate summit last December, the Potsdam Institute's Hans Joachim Schellnhuber warned that mankind's only hope for survival depended on governments triggering an "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry.
This sets the scene for a truly ugly battle of Herculean proportions that pits the fossil fuelers against mankind itself. The energy giants will fight back, hard. What remains to be seen is which side our political caste will join. Will they choose their people or their patrons?
My guess is that the politicos will side with the fossil fuelers while pretending to serve the people. You'll know they're about to betray you if they come out with "schemes." If they start talking carbon pricing or cap and trade measures what they're doing is buying time for the energy giants and foreclosing the final opportunity we have for a massive shift from carbon fuels. It's all a matter of time and the clock is running out.