What was "John" (as he's called by his Anglo-colleagues) on about? Over the din of the political backslapping, John added that mankind's only hope of reaching the political target of 2 degrees Celsius of warming or even 1.5C depended on the "induced implosion" of the fossil fuel industry. He was calling for nothing less than political intervention to close down the fossil energy giants. Padlock the gates, turn off the lights.
I've known, on a social basis, a couple of contemporaries who did astonishingly well in the corporate finance business since the early 80s. Both worked their way through the ranks before opening their own firms. These guys are not wealthy. They're rich.
While they're both now semi-retired, they both continue to hold large investments in fossil energy. These guys know how to spot a potential loser. They know to get while the going's good. They're standing pat on fossil fuels. Why, if alternative energy is about to sweep fossil fuel into the history books, haven't these guys dumped their energy portfolios?
The simple answer is they are confident that the political will doesn't exist, nor will it, to implement the "induced implosion" that is Schellnhuber's sine qua non. The fossil giants are secure enough to fend off any such threat. They know they can stare down feckless, timid governments as they keep extracting fossil energy.
But what if alternative energy becomes cheaper? Apparently it won't matter. They'll keep pushing fossil fuels. For starters, the executive management of those firms make huge money and they want to continue to enjoy those rewards. For another, there is the shareholder problem.
Imagine a CEO convening a shareholders meeting to announce that the board of directors has decided to close up shop. Imagine being told that your company's billions of dollars of fossil energy reserves, the assets on the strength of which you plonked down your retirement money, are suddenly worthless. You might have a few questions of that CEO. Why did the directors not see this coming? Why did they keep promoting fossil energy? Why didn't they move the company in a safer direction? Why did they allow catastrophe to overtake the shareholders?
If you're the CEO you don't want to kill the Golden Goose and you know you'll be happily on your way counting your ill-gotten gains in just a few years. All you have to do is keep this thing going until you're safely gone and far beyond the reach of angry shareholders. And so you screw up your face and stare down those wobbly politicians.
It's a safe bet and they know it. It's the only safe bet. CBC's Don Pittis looks at our all but useless political caste:
It's hard to imagine that as recently as 2009 we were all doing stories about peak oil, the moment when oil would go the way of wood, sending prices up toward a prohibitive $300 a barrel.
For environmentalists and oil producers, peak oil now seems like a bad joke. Another thing we also learned this week was that the glut of oil on world markets is growing. And there is plenty more in the pipeline. This week we heard that the Kashagan field in the Caspian Sea, one of the world's largest new discoveries, will go into production next month.
If oil and natural gas continue to be cheap, the only thing standing between us and a world damaged by climate change will be the resolve of politicians.
Energy has to be more expensive. Pipeline opponents must be given a voice, even if it hurts the established giants of the doomed fossil fuel economy. Carbon has to cost us more.
But in a democracy, politicians can't act alone. Without loud voices of political support, environmentally inclined governments quite rightly fear they will be pitched out and replaced by those willing to sacrifice the future to relieve short-term pain.
These are huge roadblocks in the path to a post-fossil society. The public support for the essential measures doesn't exist but what government is lifting a finger to properly inform the electorate of the real risks of fossil energy and what that could mean to our grandchildren? What government, federal or provincial, is moving to build that essential consensus? Are you hearing anything eye-opening from the Trudeau government? I'm not.