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Nations Approve Landmark Climate Accord in Paris (nytimes.com)
170 points by aaronbrethorst on Dec 12, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 110 comments



>The new deal will not, on its own, solve global warming. At best, scientists who have analyzed it say, it will cut global greenhouse gas emissions by about half what is necessary to stave off an increase in atmospheric temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. That is the point at which scientific studies have concluded the world will be locked into a future of devastating consequences, including rising sea levels, severe droughts and flooding, widespread food and water shortages, and more destructive storms.

>But the agreement could be an inflection point in human history: the moment at which, because of a huge shift in global economic policy, the inexorable rise in planet-warming carbon emissions that started during the Industrial Revolution began to level out and eventually decline.

So, is this really cause for celebration? This last paragraph reads as though there's no agency here. We agreed to half of what's necessary. Not to mention VW-type sleights of hand that mean we're not doing what we've said we would do in the past, when things were less dire.


I'm willing to remain optimistic on this front, because even if nothing meaningful is accomplished with this specific accord, it does not rule out more in the future. Getting all of these nations on board to do something about climate change (even if that simply means acknowledging its presence and their contributions to it) is a step in the right direction toward solving the problem meaningfully. The wheels of international politics turn slowly without economic or military consequences to fuel them, and sometimes (unfortunately) as the lowly ones we have to take what we can get.


I'm getting more optimistic too, but I remain worried that there seems to be a fundamental disconnect between scientists and the bureaucrats.

Science will find out that within some small error bar we need to do exactly X, but bureaucrats see everything as a negotiation and will negotiate some number smaller than X. Now we're still slowly getting boiled to death (bad) albeit at a slower rate (good).


> Now we're still slowly getting boiled to death

That's exaggerating. Science doesn't predict such a dire outcome.

http://climate.nasa.gov/effects/


Yeah, but the truth doesn't appear to be that much better. It doesn't seem likely that it will be 100% fatal, but with runaway climate problems, you're potentially looking at mass flooding, natural disasters, crop failures and starvation, and potentially the collapse of many societies in the ensuing unrest. It seems likely that it will result in large changes in the makeup of vegetation and wildlife, potentially to the point of mass extinction, if the food chains in the oceans and on land break down. Our social systems are not set up to deal with this kind of event, at all. The planet's ecology will rebound as it always does, but that happens on timescales not very compatible with human lives.

Then again, maybe it will happen slowly enough for us and the ecosystem to adapt. I hope that's the case.


I'm unconvinced that we have any idea what a temperature rise will do. We've already had mass flooding, natural disasters, crop failures, starvation, and societal collapses for thousands of years. People apparently survived during the Ice Age, which was quite a bit colder than 4 deg, so I'm guessing the +4 deg is handleable, too. The lush plant growth and large animals of past hot ages makes me think it must be pretty livable. I doubt the food chains in the ocean or land will break down; we've seen plenty of robust food chain in previous hot ages. If the ocean can support huge dinosaurs and giant ammonids in hotter ages, seems like the food chain will do just fine.

People might have to move and change their habits, though. And national borders might change or societies collapse if people don't move/change.


> People apparently survived during the Ice Age, which was quite a bit colder than 4 deg, so I'm guessing the +4 deg is handleable, too.

As far as I'm concerned, the point isn't about what temperature is objectively best, it's about the degree of change, and the cost of adaptation. Modern industrial civilization is built up progressively in certain geographical locations, with absolutely enormous sunk investments. If we had built our cities, our towns, our power plants, and ports during a climactic equivalent to the last ice-age, we would be absolutely fucked if the climate shifted in a short period of time to where it is now. During the last ice age there was a land mass which linked Britain to Norway, Denmark, France and the Netherlands, and sea levels were 100m lower than they are today. The northern ice cap covered everything north of London, and the Sahara was fertile. To go from that climate to the climate today would involve a level of cost that it is difficult to comprehend.


You have a good point, thanks


Cheers!


What I think most people miss, is most people don't live near the equator for a wide range of reasons and most infrastructure can't be moved. Also, there is less sunlight when you move further north so worm does not mean good farmland.

Yes, civilization will survive, but it might cost ~20% world GDP which is far more than swapping to non CO2 energy.

PS: Just stare at the read line on this map for a little while: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/f/f8/World_ma...


Well, warmer in the north means longer growing seasons than at present, so that makes the land capable of growing better crops. Plus, there is less sunlight in the winter, but a lot more sunlight in the summer, which happens to coincide with the growing season.

What is the cost of swapping to non-CO2 energy? I don't think that number exists. Also, I'm not entirely convinced that switching to completely non-CO2 energy is even practical at present. Could we provide our energy needs with full solar / wind, even if we were willing to pay the price, given current efficiency and availability of supply? What do we do when it is dark or not windy?

I totally don't understand your point about the red line on the map. I was already familiar with the location of the equator, which is what it seems to emphasize. The reason most people don't live at the equator is that most land is not at the equator. A lot of the land there is desert, but that is not the equator's fault. The people that are in the watered parts get all sorts of diverse plants and animals to live in, and yummy tropical fruits. I'll take more of that up north, thanks!


You get longer days, but less sunlight overall. It's an angle thing and even with 24 hours of sunlight it never gets hot at he poles. Also, there summers are much shorter.

As to swapping out from C02 energy wind is near parity with coal, and raw energy is not that large a chunk of the worlds economy.


That four degrees meant that during the last ice age Chicago was under a mile of ice. It's livable if you survive it.


> ... mass flooding, natural disasters, crop failures and starvation, and potentially the collapse of many societies in the ensuing unrest...

As I like to think of it, life as a whole and humans in particular have evolved to be amazingly good at not going extinct. But the way nature fixes problems can be exceedingly unpleasant. If 7 billion humans are too many, nuclear war and mass starvation both solve that, but current and future humans would probably prefer other solutions.


How much of that scenario are actual scientific predictions? Sources?


A great book on the impacts of climate change is Six Degrees by Mark Lynas, who read 3000 peer-reviewed papers on climate change effects and summarized them, with extensive references. A lot of it is based on what's happened in previous warming periods. The book has six chapters, one for each degree of warming.

Ericd's comment is a good description of the effects at three to four degrees, depending on how widespread a collapse he's talking about.

That alone underestimates the risk. Many scientists worry that somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 degrees, positive feedbacks will kick in and take the planet several degrees further even if we stop emissions entirely. Hansen's book Storms of My Grandchildren has a good account of the geological evidence for that.


>> It doesn't seem likely that it will be 100% fatal, but with runaway climate problems, you're potentially looking at mass flooding, natural disasters, crop failures and starvation, and potentially the collapse of many societies in the ensuing unrest. It seems likely that it will result in large changes in the makeup of vegetation and wildlife, potentially to the point of mass extinction, if the food chains in the oceans and on land break down. Our social systems are not set up to deal with this kind of event, at all.

> How much of that doomsday scenario are actual scientific predictions? Sources?

I believe there are a large number of studies looking at individual impacts. E.g. "flooding" / "crop yields in sub saharan Africa" / etc. For studies that look at the grim end of the spectrum (i.e. +4 degrees C global warming or higher), there was a conference in 2007 that considered the consequences of a +4 degrees C world - not a bad place to start reading: http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/events/4degrees/

Similarly, there are studies regarding mass extinction. Current estimates of species extinction rates are way above what the estimates of "normal" rates are-- this won't all be due to climate change - as a species we are changing a lot more than just the climate (e.g. destroying ecosystems to make way for agriculture, etc). Do a google scholar search for words like "current mass extinction event" and you'll no doubt find many things to read.

I am not sure if we are capable of making "actual scientific predictions" regarding the cumulative impact of all these different threads - e.g. "collapse of many societies" / "ensuing unrest". Personally I reckon such things would be fairly plausible and unsurprising consequences of +4 degrees global warming.

Pragmatically, we just have to make the best decisions we can now with what information we have available. Certainty is a luxury and is not necessary to make decisions or take action, particularly when we're time constrained, and it takes a while for the consequences of our actions to manifest.

Here's an analogy from one of the decks of slides from the 4degrees conference.

> We are walking in Florida. > You find you have just been bitten on the hand by a snake. > We did not see the snake. > If it was the deadly carbonblack snake, the bite will kill you in a painful way, unless you cut off your hand within 15 secs. > I have a hatchet. > You have 5 seconds left. > Did you cut off your hand? > > How would a society learn to make such decisions? > > Luckily with climate change we have more than 15 seconds. Without knowing exactly how much more...

http://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/events/4degrees/ppt/8-1smith.pdf


Sadly, the "bureaucrats", or politicians are the ones in the right, and the scientists are not.

In little scientific echo chambers like Hacker News, we generally put science and rationality above human emotion. Unfortunately the world at large is not a technocracy, a good majority of people see science as an equivalent worldview to religious dogma, most are not particularly educated, and they primarily live to create their own families and provide them with sufficient resources for evolutionary success.

With things like climate change, you are attempting to change a mass behavior of people that often do not see the change as being in their best interest. This requires both negotiation on a regulatory level, as well as a lot of new level-setting within those communities. It is extremely possible that the best we will ever get is to be slowly boiled to death until it's too late to fix it.


Yes I realize what it takes, but as Feynman quipped "nature cannot be fooled". At some point the piecemeal dilution of what we actually need to do will come back and bite us badly.

No amount of negotiation between the hypothetical scientist and the bureaucrats about not cutting down the last tree on Easter Island that doesn't 100% go in favor of the scientist will come out well. The trees will still be extinct.


There should really be something to change the old organisation scientists -> politicians -> population.

Education should double down on creative ways to make kids click on subtle abstractions in order for them to see issues and proactively discuss, seek and enjoy working toward solutions.


> a good majority of people see science as an equivalent worldview to religious dogma

Is this also common outside of the US?


I can only speak to this anecdotally, but in my observations, yes, especially so when you're in areas of far less socioeconomic success than that of Western Europe, financially-driven city-states like Singapore (or Hong Kong, if you can call it one still), or Japan. Whether it is organized religion or superstition, there is a lot of folk knowledge that people still hold as equivalent and valuable, probably due to confirmation bias or the pain of cognitive dissonance in recognizing that an old adage is incorrect.

Look at a good chunk of the Mideast as it exists today geopolitically; even wealthy areas like the UAE exist under pretty much strict Sharia interpretations.

I have also observed this appears to be the case for a large chunk of the Muslim world, a decent part of Africa, Central America, and the Philippines, from my interactions with people natively from those areas outside of a scientific or professional atmosphere. I have a strong tendency to talk to anyone and everyone I can about their cultures, whether I am in their native land or they are in mine.


It's more ridiculous. I've seen people claim that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the West to stunt economies of developing countries.

Now only if they could talk to global warming "skeptics" in "the West" and engage in some kind of verbal death match...


The two parties agree to a large extent, although they would emphasize different points.

Those who expect dire events should attempt to empathize with "the other" enough to imagine a convincing argument to e.g. forego the diesel generator that would allow children to do homework at night, rather than write off such concerns as "ridiculous". The other option, of course, is brutal occupation, which is why one sees the bloody fingerprints of the military-industrial complex all over much of the recent warming hullabaloo.


Reading it more closely, the nations are required to reconvene every 5 years to report on progress and discuss the next round of tightening. So it's a partial victory with a ratchet mechanism. The mechanism isn't guaranteed to work, but as the consequences of global warming become more impacting, urgency will increase.


Note that the ratchet won't start clicking until 2030. There is a real risk of countries postponing increases in emission cuts until then. Hopefully they won't.

Another interesting point is wrt. financial aid to developing nations. IIUC, developing nations will not be compensated for damage due to climate change, but they will receive funding for efforts to cut their emissions while continuing to develop.


The VW scam was actually better for climate.

Their engines released less CO2 and more NOx as a trade off. NOx is bad for humans and has slight cooling effect. CO2 is not dangerous and has heating effect.

"Less polluting" can mean several completely different things. People often don't get this.


NOx also contributes to acid rain. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_rain


Do you have a source for the "less CO2" part?


It's cause for celebration as better than many expected to happen, but for sure many reasons to still be both skeptical about implementation and the results even if targets are hit. It's progress, at least.


A coherent, baseline platform that ratchets up in intensity every 5 years and forces the hand of domestic politics (rather than simply allowing them to block intnl agreements) seems like a positive, I'm not sure why everybody is so entirely cynical.


  forces the hand of domestic politics
forces? Exactly what consequence will violators suffer (and who judges the violations)?

We've seen from Kyoto that promises, especially those not duly ratified, may not mean all that much. Most of these rulers have just pushed the issue beyond their tenure... or lifetimes.


5 years is way too low a frequency, IMO.

Edit: s/to/too


I think that's just about right personally. Any more and it would be too infrequent to be useful. Any less and it would get lost in the noise of the media cycle. It's important when these things happen that there's a sense that the whole world is watching, and international reputations can be impacted depending on how countries behave.


I agree somewhat with this point of yours:

>It's important when these things happen that there's a sense that the whole world is watching, and

but my reason for saying that every 5 years is too low a frequency, i.e. it should be more frequent, like once in 2 or 3 years, was because 1) a lot can be done in 2 or 3 years, and 2) more importantly, I'd think that reviewing progress (or regress) should not be left for as large a gap as 5 years - so as to be able to either hasten progress or slow/stop regress more often, if needed, considering the huge importance of the issue. Cf. recent live example - Chennai (and Tamil Nadu state) floods in India. Huge damage and loss.

I should mention that I am not a climate expert; saying the above as a layman.


Yeah, it is a bit difficult to say either way. You could well be right.


4 year reporting would have been good, with each country having to publish its report just before the Olympics.


> As a result, all language in the accord relating to the reduction of carbon emissions is essentially voluntary. The language assigns no concrete targets to any country for emissions reductions. Instead, each government has crafted a plan detailing how they would lower emissions at home, based on what each head of state believes is feasible given the country’s domestic political and economic situation.

I fail to see how this summit differs from previous summits without anything being legally binding.


This had to be added due to those in Congress paid off by Koch brothers to deny anthropogenic climate change. They are abhorrent to any effort to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/11/18/us/politics/senate-bloc...

Getting everyone on board is a huge win and setting targets of 1.5C (max 2C) will help humanity stand together against the threat of climate change.


Mitch McConnell is from Kentucky. That alone is enough to explain his actions. Because, you know, coal mining, Kentucky... likewise whatsisname...ah, Inhofe ... from Oklahoma.

You know that people from states with strong extractive industries have a conservative tendency because of the really large business cycles, right? Throw in that these climes also sport lots of farmers, and.... Not everybody can move to the large, overpriced urban areas.

If Congress/the Senate is bought off that cheaply... which is always a questionable thing ... http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/10/ten_thin...


Note that Kentucky has an Oil Extraction tax of 4.5%.

Meanwhile, solidly blue California has none.


For what it's worth, the joy from the attendance on the final verdict felt like this time it mattered.


The participants will add $100M yearly from 2020.

That doesn't seem insignificant, and I think part of the thing about the deal is that it puts a public focus on green development -- WORLDWIDE.


Just like international development money in Europe has been moved to pay for handling refugees from war locally and military action in Syria, it is a risk that this pledge just becomes recycled money from this previous pot of money. (International development funds were about $130BN in 2014.) And countries like the Netherlands and Finland have been cutting back their spending recently, quite dramatically, if they just spend what they used to spend they could claim they have done their part already, without actually adding anything.

(They will add $100 billion, not million.)


I think it is time that we as a species faced a few hard truths:

1) Nothing short of a dark age will reduce human emissions to a non factor in climate shift

2) Climate shift was always inevitable. It has happened before; it will happen again. The only thing we have done is hasten it... maybe.

3) All global efforts in regards to climate shift should be pointed at adapting to the changes, safeguarding threatened species (or collecting the requisite genetic data to one day rebuild them), and ensuring our specie's evolutionary March into the future.

We shouldn't be designing green houses; we should be learning how to live underwater and underground. We should be planning for the Great Inland Migration. We should be hardening and burying all infrastructure. We should be decreasing energy and material waste for efficiency reasons, not feel-good reasons.

This nascent cataclysm is not a fire, it is a flood. The metaphorical waters will rise and recede over thousands of years. No one in the future will give a flying fuck about Priuses or carbon credits. They will either praise us for building the tools and protocols byvwhich they survive, or curse us for thinking we could fight the inevitable.

Our kind showed up at the end of an ice age. Let's not circle jerk ourselves to extinction in the face of another. Assessing past faults is pointless. We must adapt our collective civilizations to a dynamic future for which we are biologically and technologically I'll equipped.


Even if you buy the hypothesis that climate change can't be stopped, the sea level rises would be something like 1 or 2m / century. More a case of get your grandkids to build their houses a quarter mile inland than a mad panic. Funnily enough global sea levels rose about 90m over the last 10,000 years and people hardly even noticed. You used to be able to walk from England to France where the channel now is.


You are seriously suggesting that a 7 billion plus population is going to just roll with a level of increase that quickly like it is nothing? So I guess you feel that all of this 'forestall global warming' is hullabaloo... Most of the world lives at or below sea level. If 2 million 'refugees' can cause an unprecedented crisis, what do you think will be the effect of entire islands, countries, and regions mass migrating Inland will be?


No, just that it wouldn't be as bad as classicsnoot was suggesting. Though I'd agree with him that our current efforts at reducing emissions are not having much effect. I'd lean towards not worrying two much for the next decade or two and then reducing emissions to less than zero when solar is seriously cheap and robots can cover the Sahara with it.


But... But... ye gods, man. Bangladesh is entirely at sea level. Southeast Asia, the entirety of the -nesias, every island and seaboard, damn near ~70% of the world's population will be under water in 200 years, and their mass migration is headed toward arod plains that can barely support 50 people per square mile. A decimation is 1 out of 10; we are looking at 9 out of 10. The psychological impact alone is enough to make the survivors believe in Allah. Climate Shift is real, and I get the feel that we are using it as a political set piece in the Game of Chairs.


  Bangladesh is entirely at sea level. 
One could argue that Bangladeshis aren't all that worried about it themselves, given their high population growth rate (higher than, for example, India or Mexico). [CIA World Fact Book 2014]


Areas with extreme violence, high poverty, and uncertain futures tend to have high birthrates according to this Swede [1] FWIW

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezVk1ahRF78


Actually first thing seems to be lots and lots of greenhouses.

Food production currently relies on relatively stable and predictable weather. The one certain thing climate change is going to do is make weather unpredictable. Bunker for you hardly matters, if you don't have anything to eat.


Fair point. I meant the industry that is selling geothermal water heaters and solar panels to consumers for the poorly made suburb houses.


Climate Action Tracker [1] provides a summary of all pledges, and per-country assessments. They have a recent post regarding the Paris agreement [2].

> As the CAT has previously noted, the national mitigation contributions, now associated with the Paris Agreement, would lead to a median warming of around 2.7°C by 2100 (a full range of 2.2-3.4°C, which means there is a likely chance of holding warming below 3°C, temperature would continue to rise after 2100).

> Compared to the 3.6°C by 2100 warming that is projected to result from current policies, the climate pledges submitted in the INDCs lower warming by about 0.9°C – but only if all governments fully implement their pledges.

[1] http://climateactiontracker.org/

[2] http://climateactiontracker.org/news/257/Paris-Agreement-sta...


As a canadian, I'm so glad that these discussions were held after the election.


I heard a bit about it in the news, the previous government was very much against this bill, is that it ?


Not at all. The previous government was against binding agreements that did not bind China or India or other developing nations (for reasons that we've seen as China has exploded into the most significant polluter), and which actually might have been negative to the actual cause. Kyoto, for instance, would have been devastating to the environment, however much it might have been illusory of progress.

So right now you see a lot of Canadians who villainized the previous government celebrating what sounds like it is effectively nothing. The new Canadian government sent 388 delegates to Paris, the vast bulk having nothing to do with negotiations and just enjoying the photo ops and a vacation junket, which was more than the United States, more than the UK, more than Australia. Indeed, it was more than all of those countries combined.

I don't mean to politicize this, but there is a detached "words versus action" argument that appears when Canada comes up and it is deeply disconcerting.


Another common opinion is that they used India/China as an excuse for not having to do anything. The saying goes "no one is responsible if everyone is responsible".


Politics these days. It's like politics before, but even more so.


Same.


Not encouraging.

“The current text is weaker than the final agreement that came out of [the failed] Copenhagen [summit in 2009]”

http://www.thenation.com/article/scientists-warn-paris-clima...

"James Hansen, father of climate change awareness, calls Paris talks 'a fraud'" http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/dec/12/james-han...


What is the shortest text available that takes raw data and first principles and deductively walks to the inevitable conclusion of anthropogenic global warming and its dire consequences? I absolutely need this to convince my conservative relatives. I would also be interested for my own edification since my current belief in global warming is mostly based on faith in the scientific community, and I'd rather understand it myself.


We'll see on monday when the stock exchanges open if this agreement actually matters.

If Oil/Coal companies tank: Yes

If not: No

Always follow the money.


While I agree with you that following the money is best practice, there should only be a movement in price if the final agreement is significantly different to what was expected on Friday.

In regards oil the big producers are already flooding the market to try and kill alternatives. If something scares the likes of OPEC more than anything else it is cheap renewable energy. Wind and solar are getting very close to knocking out everything else at an oil price above $60 a barrel.


Arguably, cheap oil might exactly what clean energy needs right now, since environmentalism is a tough sell in bad economic times. (Paraphrasing Stewart Brand here...)

Trouble is, right now cheap oil hasn't been boosting the economy the way it usually does.


The value of oil and coal companies would not necessarily be that effected by say banning coal and oil 20 years out. The depreciation, depletion etc on their wells is typically less than that so they could pump their oil, not bother with new wells and maybe try moving to renewables. The oil price falling in the short term due to everyone pumping too much has a much larger effect. (disclosure, oil investor).


Yes the present value of these assets 20 to 30 years in the future at fossil fuel industry capital cost is not that high. Given how cheap long term interest rates are right now, just issue a bunch of long dated zero coupon bonds and buy options to scrap all the fossil fuel assets in 30 years time from the current owners.


Wasn't an agreement well known in advance? Shouldn't this have already been baked into stock prices?


I don't think anybody doubted they would sign something in Paris, and that is baked in, but the actual content wasn't known until after market close on friday.

Professional traders will have diversified away from fossil stocks due to the uncertainty, but on monday they will either jump back in, or stay even further away, depending on their take on the agreement.


And since oil prices are near 10-year lows, I think it seems the market's reacting.


Yes, crude oil is at record lows.


Apparently not.

$12.45 in 2115 dollars in 1998 is the low.

http://inflationdata.com/Inflation/Inflation_Rate/Historical...


The stock market isn't magic, its traders will arrive at some sort of consensus position reflected in prices, through reading the global media like the rest of us, about how serious the intentions are around the deal, but that doesn't mean they know how the governments of, say, Brazil, the UK, Saudi Arabia, Poland, Indonesia, Spain, Ireland, or India are going to react to it over the next few years. A reality of concerted action could just as well emerge over five years as policies come into place. Following the money, i.e. stock prices of oil companies, will be an accurate way of judging how successful an agreement like this is in altering the global investment markets, but only after time. On Monday, you're not going to get much more than the immediate impression.


in local politics I hear about plans to buy out large polluters (here we have coal-powered electricity generation).

they're usually variations on:

1. a big pile of (typically public) money is given to the most polluting companies

2. in return those companies exit the industry

i don't think such policies are a great idea, but they might be an example of action that would (i) be actually progressive re: greenhouse emissions, and (ii) might make the share price of such a company go up, supposing the pay out were large enough.

this little thought experiment aside, the heuristic of following the change in the market is probably a reasonable one.


It is probably the most fair approach since why should the owners of fossil fuel assets pay most of the cost when the benefits flows to everyone. It would also remove the cause behind all the FUD being spread by the fossil fuel industry.

The way to do this on the cheap is to buy the rights to shut down the assets at some point in the future. Buying an option to shut down all fossil fuel production 30 years in the future is relatively cheap. Take for example Exxon. It has $252 billion is physical assets [1] and its cost of capital is 9.11% [2] The present value of these assets if we were to scrap the lot in 30 years time is only $18.4 billion (252 / 1.0911^30). We could pay them something above this level today and it would be financially rational for them to sell us the option.

1. https://finance.yahoo.com/q/bs?s=XOM+Balance+Sheet&annual

2. http://www.gurufocus.com/term/wacc/XOM/Weighted%2BAverage%2B...


Interesting. There's perhaps still the open question of exactly who should pay the owners of fossil fuel assets.

A few academics over here (in Australia) recently proposed that the most polluting energy generators be forced to exit the market, and that they would be paid compensation by their competitors, as their competitors stood to profit from the reduction in competition.

That was a pretty interesting argument. In the long run, I believe the public still ends up paying for everything (due to increased energy prices), but perhaps it would be a more politically acceptable way to wind down some of the more polluting companies.

Personally I think this kind of approach is far more complicated, and far less efficient than an appropriately priced carbon tax, but we don't have one of those.


The people who should pay are the people who are going to benefit - future generations including the people who are not even born yet. Luckily we have a magic mechanism for doing this - the long term zero coupon bond [1]. We just issue zero coupon bonds and use the money to buy up fossil fuel assets and build replacements. The cost gets shifted onto the people in the future who will benefit from not living in a world 5˚C hotter.

I actually gave a talk about this years ago - I will try and find my slides and put them up somewhere

Edit. I posted the slides to my blog [2].

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zero-coupon_bond

2. http://www.tillett.info/2015/12/13/preventing-global-climate...


Oil/coal companies could tank for any of a number of reasons.


Note in particular that the oil price reached a new low on Friday, after declining for a week following the no-action OPEC meeting on Dec. 4.


Nothing will change as long as Capitalism is the force leading the World. All these summits mean nothing when all that matters is the results for the next quarter then the next.


There's a big difference between Capitalism in general and completely free-market, unregulated Capitalism in particular. The market is an amazing instrument for technology development, if we had priced in the externalities of carbon twenty years ago, as originally planned at Kyoto, Capitalism would already be half way along to solving the problem in the same relentless way that it always pursues profit.


Yeah, CFCs got banned and the ozone hole went, you don't hear about acid rain any more, lead in petrol got banned, DDT got banned and so on in spite of Capitalism, so there's hope.


That's not comparable. When they got rid of CFCs they just replaced it with something else. Now we need to stop making stuff, stat.


This would be great if the big corporations couldn't lobby politicians.


I'm gonna claim that nothing would change if we would get rid of capitalism, but politics remained the cesspool it is today. Politicians like power, money is just a form of power. Greed will find a way.

On the other hand, with responsible, smart politicians and capitalism, anything is possible.

What I'm saying is that the system is broken, but everybody is concentrating on the one part that actually does work.


Isn't China communist?


In name only.


Then I'm the president of Gallifrey.


So for what is the $100B to be used? Does this amount to the buying of carbon indulgences?


Is this a treaty? If so 2/3rd of the U.S. Senate must concur.

Should be an interesting, spirited debate.


No, this isn't a treaty see my comment above on why it was worded the way it was to avoid Congress ratification. Our country will now join the world to fight climate change, with or without the Senate. This is huge because more of Senate is deeply indebted/paid by Koch brothers.


This is a big deal. Is it perfect? No, far from it. Politics is -- as the famous saying goes -- the art of the possible. This is what was possible today. If you've been following closely, then you know we almost had no deal.

My hope is that the emissions targets (low by what the scientific community wants to see) are tough enough that they will mandate significant investments in new technology. When clean tech becomes profitable (optimistically cheaper via subsidies), then it may become easier to sell the world on ratcheting-up the targets before we run out of time.

As others have mentioned, I will be watching the market reactions with cautious optimism.


Are there details about how this will affect regulations in the US?


It's indeed just a spectacle, political theater, but it is based on a wide-ranging acknowledgment of man-made climate change, which is of great importance.



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It says they die from burning wood or dung. When scientists say we need to move away from fossil fuels to renewables, they are not suggesting to move to wood and dung, so your argument is irrelevant.


How is this relevant?

At least also mention how many are hurt or killed by kerosene..


Read the link and find out, that's what the links are for.


No fossil fuels between 2050 and 2100? I am unimpressed.

I have a better plan. Here's how to reduce worldwide carbon emissions by 44% in 15-25 years.

Step 1) Replace all coal power plants with nuclear plants Step 2) There is no step 2


It almost seems like the most practical solution at this point in time. Even though "green" energy has come a long way over the past few decades, it's not going to power the industries that cater to our comfy lives.

There are certainly downsides and problems with nuclear power, waste is coming to mind and safety seems to be the other. I think that if we built nuclear power plants today they will be a lot safer and cleaner than the ones we used to built in the 60's and 70's.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EviEN0ScOwg


I fail to understand the ambivalence not to mention hostility towards nuclear power. If people really believed that climate change was as dangerous as they say they believe they would be fully on board. Even a Chernobyl type incident once a year over the next 30 years would be preferable to the consequences of unchecked global warming.


I guess if you are a green enthusiast you'd go for solar and batteries and if a skeptic you'd go for gas/coal. So there's a narrow group who like nuclear.

Another thing that surprises me is how few people actually cost up different options on reducing CO2. I've given some money to reforestation projects and the CO2 saved per dollar is about 1000 times as effective as getting solar panels but no one seems interested in running the numbers.


I think there was a mention in one of the ipcc reports where they actually ran the numbers and concluded that no amount of terraforming (be it forests, algae, and some other hypothetical "negative" emission approaches), even ignoring economical or technical feasibility, would be able to stop or reduce ghg concentrations.


People don't understand nuclear power, and there's been a hell of a lot of fear-mongering.

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/news/a40195/paris-clima...


The burning of coal spews more radioactive waste into the environment than all nuclear plants combined... and prevailing winds bring much of it to North America.


I ran numbers on your proposal and capital costs were surprisingly lower than what I thought. It looks like capital costs to replace all the plants would be on the order of $250B at current pricing. (obviously, if we tried such a quick replacement, fuel costs could spike up, meaning actual costs are a bit higher). I'm surprised this isn't brought up as an option more often.


I wish I could sit down with every person on this thread and devote as much time as required for me to hear out their position and me to make mine. But, since I can't and since the info is already out there, I'll just say, please, pleaseeeeee go educate yourself.

Humanity has just about built the infrastructure to lock in 2 degree temp increase. We are talking about a matter of years, not a decade. We are talking about locking in, not higher probability.

Yet, there is uninterrupted talk of growing our economies (but little talk of reducing the wealth gap). If our economies are to continue growing. If we continue to be an extraction oriented species. If we continue to spend tens of billions a year searching out new fossil fuel reserves when we can't use half of those we already know of without pushing the 4-6 degree threshold..?

Nature, will go on. Some portion of humanity, will go on. It's not the end of the world. Just the end of the world as we know it.

If today everyone ditched their cars and used public transit and bikes, we shut down the airlines, and became vegan we'd be most of the way there. Switch to organic farming and cradle-to-cradle manufacturing would almost surely get us the rest of the way there.

Yeah, I know, that's not going to happen and people don't want it to. My point is simply, the solution is not some black magic or future technology. The solution is simply a choice.

edit: for cradle-to-cradle, see... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cradle-to-cradle_design


>If today everyone ditched their cars and used public transit and bikes, we shut down the airlines, and became vegan we'd be most of the way there.

One of these things is not like the others: shutting down airlines is an actual regulatory action. The others are lifestyle choices (and for what it's worth, I overwhelmingly just use public transit and my bike).

>Switch to organic farming and cradle-to-cradle manufacturing would almost surely get us the rest of the way there.

I'd like it if you could explain "cradle-to-cradle manufacturing", but I'm very skeptical that organic farming would actually help. Last I heard, even when you account for the subsidies paid to make industrial farming cheap, organic farming is still more resource-intensive than industrial farming.

Further, again, last I heard, lifestyle changes on the part of individuals have far less impact on resource usage than policy changes in major industries.


Really the type of farming you need is permaculture and forest gardening, and implementing these literally everywhere that humans live. That is, in my opinion, the best type of farming that is also sustainable. "Organic" farming is still just as bad for the environment and soil as regular farming.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_gardening


So, is man-made climate change solved? If the whole world agrees that we will all collectively take steps to reach an agreed upon level of temperature rise in 100 years, what else is needed except to do it? The rational thing to do is stop funding more and more studies, stop having summits, and just do what we all said we would do: carry out the plan. The whole world has agreed they are satisfied with the future climate this deal will bring us.

If Congress legislated tomorrow that all gun sales and manufacturing were to be banned, and all existing guns should be collected and melted down, then should we still spend time and money researching gun violence and lobbying for stricter gun laws? I think everyone would agree that would be a waste of time because gun control is inevitable given the plan to ban them.

Why does it feel like funding additional climate studies and appointing more bureaucrats won't stop like it would for the gun control example?




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