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JP Morgan economists warn of 'catastrophic' climate change (bbc.com)
115 points by evo_9 39 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

Reminds me of the joke whose punchline is that if we transition to renewable energy and go carbon-neutral we'll have gotten ourselves off of oil and its related issues (spills, war, etc.) for nothing [1].

Even if you don't believe in climate change - which I do not think is a reasonable position at this point - I would hope we can all agree that not having to rely on oil any more is a good enough economic incentive for everyone.

[1] https://solar-power-now.com/what-if-we-create-a-better-world...

This totally ignores nuclear energy. If we are really in for "catastropic" climate change, then one of the things you can do is quickly build crappy, unsafe nuclear power plants. Even if you have a Chernobyl somewhere in the world every 5 years, you are still probably better off than with catastrophic climate change.

Basically, it is this thinking that makes a lot of people suspicious about climate change. If all things that you would do to combat climate change are things the progressives/environmentalists want to do anyway (increase taxes, more government regulation of industry, more urbanization, more public transportation, etc) and nothing that they would not want to do, people on the other side of the political spectrum have their bs detector go off.

There are a lot of people, like myself, who would love nothing more than having 100% nuclear power and understand climate change.

Unfortunately the left is as anti-science as the right when it comes to their sacred cows.

When one tries to analyze pros and contras of nuclear energy, he can get conflicting data. Some say "overall modern nuclear beats handily anything", other say "nuclear is good only if you omit externalities like problem of spent fuel". Both sides provide data which supports their point of view, without explaining the data of the other side. So it's hard to make a reasonable judgement.

> This totally ignores nuclear energy.

Yeah and it was a good comment without the us v them environmental bait. I say this as someone who supports nuclear but accepts the reality that building a new plant is essentially impossible to supply urban areas now. It has plenty of applications but we mostly live in democracies and even countries with strong nuclear support have been all cutting back after Fukushima, much to my dismay.

Small modular reactors should have a future for remote communities and a few other applications, space especially. The actual tech behind modern modular reactors is exciting[0]. Besides that the game is up for traditional nuclear plants that require decades to be built against horrendous public opposition in the face of a solar or wind farm that can be hooked up in a year for the same price. It's simply not viable anymore.

[0] https://www.nuscalepower.com/benefits/built-for-resilience

To continue what you're saying, why not put these plants in deserts and other uninhabited regions?

Russia is huge, China is 80% empty, America is sparse, Australia is 95% percent empty and India has a desert too. Power supply would be an issue but can be solved. (Numbers likely hyperbolic).

Instant solution of middle East problem. Perhaps that's why? Maybe Mideast is what stops nuclear plants, just like saudis, via Citibank, decided Obama cabinet?

Water is needed currently for nuclear power. https://nuclear.duke-energy.com/2014/01/22/importance-of-wat...

There is not enough uranium available to just switch to nuclear.

Bill Gates is trying to invent some slow wave something reactor needed to make that work but it is not working yet.

Is this a problem with the existence of ore, or a problem with the current supply chain?

It is the existence of it.

I don't see why this needs to be politicized this heavily. The facts are essentially indisputably in the side of climate disaster as likely. This shouldn't be the cause of 'progressives' (although maybe it should be the cause of 'environmentalists' -- even though I'm not sure who the heck should be an 'anti-environmentalist' in right mind), this should be just something we have to do as a species living on the planet. If 'progressives' picked it up and (some) 'conservatives' did not, I think it's an unfortunate failure of conservatives (and science communicators, and society as a whole, etc.).

I support Nuclear Energy too, but I can see it has difficulty gaining traction for a huge list of reasons, and this is across the political, social and economic spectrum. But basically the need for Nuclear is largely obsolete -- it was the only attractive option when Solar (and Wind to an extent) wasn't so cheap. Solar costs about the same or less, is available more or less everywhere, and has no contamination issues.

Also of very worthy note IMO is that the (electrical) energy supply isn't the whole picture. A good chunk of emissions are from transportation sector and some from industrial processes. There is also advocacy in those sectors (which comes off as 'progressive') simply because of consistency and necessity to achieve a reasonable climate plan. Note that nuclear energy, or solar energy, can't solely avoid incoming disasters.

Let me preface this by saying I believe in AGW, and that it's an existential risk.

> I don't see why this needs to be politicized this heavily

One huge reason is that the coincident ideologies of the left can't be taken seriously by those on the right. Or, put another way, they don't believe them.

Specifically, if one was truly serious about the urgency of solving climate change, they would not simultaneously advocate for raising the standard of living of non-Western populations to Western levels, before the carbon footprint required of said standard of living was dramatically reduced first.

Carbon emission reduction right now, with the urgency required to prevent collapse, is fundamentally incompatible with open borders. So when someone on the right sees an open-borders advocate clamoring for immediate carbon emissions reductions, the conclusion is not necessarily that they don't believe the science, it's that they don't believe you do. And the only valid conclusion is that you're motivated by politics, not by legitimate concern for the species.

Also, considering that the advocates don't seem to change their behaviors or lifestyles even marginally, the folks listening feel like the burden is being put on them. Why would I not take my family to Disneyland when I see private jets taking off ever more frequently from the private airport nearby? Cars are getting bigger, houses too, and apart from buying a Tesla, using LED lights, and a few other simple things, even the advocates don't seem to take global warming seriously. Why would average Joe panic when the celebrities, politicians, and even Gretta are traversing the world and attending fun events? Nobody seems to be sacrificing at all.

> things the progressives/environmentalists want to do anyway

Progressive/environmentalists are a smart bunch, and the movement has enough history. They figured already what's useful, why and how - now their predictions are getting more visible, have more support. To consider that bs just because somebody figured it earlier than you and now has even more arguments is sad.

That joke boils down to "just do what we say even if we're wrong". That message isn't going to fly with a lot of people, especially in the US, where many are deeply suspicious of the government. Reminds me of Steve Bannon telling some Republican congressman "look, you really have no choice, you have to support this proposal". To which the guy replied "last time someone told me I had to do something I was 18 and it was my daddy, and I didn't listen then either".

"Do what we say or we all die" is also not a great message...even if it's true (which, personally, I doubt).

How can you possibly doubt that? What have you seen to convince yourself that catastrophic climate change is not real?

Or perhaps you're taking the other rational position - that even if we did what they say, we'll still die...

Oh, and the joke boils down to no such thing. It is very explicitly 'even if we were somehow wrong about climate change, there are so many other huge advantages to getting rid of fossil fuels'.

My understanding is that "we're all going to die" is not a widely accepted view among climate scientists. I am skeptical of "catastrophic climate change leading to the end of life as we know it or the extinction of humanity" e.g. Wells' The Uninhabitable Earth.

Anyway, my point was simple. If you want to sell people on "huge advantages to getting rid of fossil fuels" then sell them on that. Don't use a stick when you could use a carrot. This stuff is political. It's about persuasion, personal relationships, talking to people like they're not idiots (even if they are), showing respect, and so on. It's not about being right.

Catastrophic climate change isn't expected to lead to extinction of humanity though, and very few people with any sense would characterize it that way (I'm sure you can find a few)

What is expected is: increasing, and increasingly damaging weather events yoy. Destruction of a bunch of viable agricultural land, and abrupt change in more. Destruction of a lot of low lying infrastructure close to water. Secondary effects include mass migrations and health crisis in some populations affected by previous. etc. Things get more expensive and painful all over.

Almost all of the policy making in this area so far, globally, has not been evidence based (or even evidence acknowledging). That's the real thing to change.

There isn't a clear cut answer to any of this, just risk management and mitigation. But the action so far has been almost entirely "delay, this is hard". And so the problem, and probable impacts, gets worse.

It's a little like a nation-state version of ignoring your credit card debt because you don't want to think about it. And then arguing around the dinner table about how bad it is without anyone having looked at a statement in years.

> What's wrong with selling people on "Use the best available data and expertice to make logical policy decisions" ? There hasn't been much of that in this area, to date.

Because it amounts to "you have no choice, look at these graphs, do as I say" and people don't like hearing that.

You have a scientist's bias against politics. Most people on HN have it. But we're stuck with politics and politics is about persuasion. You have to convince people and people are not rational automatons. You don't convince people by "showing them irrefutable evidence". First, because no evidence is actually irrefutable and second, because it frames the conversation in terms of "I am smart, I have knowledge, I have research, you are ignorant, you need my knowledge to choose correctly". That's not going to convince people even if it's true.

Finally, it's a good thing that politics is about persuasion. The only alternatives are worse.

> Because it amounts to "you have no choice, look at these graphs, do as I say"

It doesn't, though. I'm not saying you can take the politics out of something like this, or that you should. The last thing I am is a technocrat. But policy makers should be working from good information when they can.

What I am saying is that the politicians, for the most part, are choosing avoidance and the arguments being made for the most part are superficial and often naive, both for and against. It's up you and I (and everyone, at least in a democratic society) to insist they hold themselves to a higher standard and actually do the work.

The (actual, not media) science, for the most part is not contentious - but that doesn't actually mean that the scientists know what is best from a policy point of view.

However, the politicians are mostly operating in a way that avoids too much contact with what is known. It's the easier path, but incredibly unlikely to lead to anything useful.

"It's not about being right."

This is the best advice to all sides.

I have found in the past that the best way to convince people is not to try to "convince" them that my "view" is correct but to listen to their views.

I call this being a "Cardboard engineer". It does not work for everyone.

> I would hope we can all agree that not having to rely on oil any more is a good enough economic incentive for everyone.

It is an economic incentive, but whether it's "good enough" depends on the costs of the transition- which are certainly dependent on how quick it needs to be.

Just a quick nit, but we make a lot of plastics and things out of oil, and iirc it’s still the most dense and stable form of energy we have. Far more so than any battery technology even on the horizon. Even if renewables were 100% perfect tomorrow, there will still be people / groups / applications for that oil. It’ll just last much longer before we run out.

One more reason to not burn it.

Yea, I agree. But what about the FACT that it's so much denser of an energy source than any battery we have? The straight up truth is that right now, unless there is so amazing innovation, we are going to use every drop. In the short term at least the world's militaries will burn as much oil as they can. Regardless of what you hear in press releases, major industry, military, aerospace will not move from oil until there is a performance reason, not ethical not cost reason to do so.

Batteries aren’t an energy source, they’re an energy storage device.

Guess what? We use oil as an energy storage device. So are you making the argument that fuel/oil is a battery or are you just being pedantic and don’t have a counter the truth that we’re going to use it all - the only question is over what time period.

If we introduce a carbon tax, militaries would have an economic incentive to reduce carbon, just like everyone else.

You believe that? You don’t know that the first exemption would be military and national security?

Crude oil is distilled (refined), not generally burned. The result is several products, all of which are used for different purposes. Naptha is best suited for plastic production; gasoline is a different chemical makeup.

Also, a good chunk of plastic can be produced from natural gas, using ethylene instead of the naptha from crude oil.

One more reason to not refine then burn it!

Yep. Even more reason to conserve it for cases where we actually need it. Plastic is tremendously useful, though we could probably use a lot less of it, too. Particularly in the ocean.

Despite this being an extremely serious statement and should be considered as such, I feel this is also like stating the obvious. Like isn't this something everyone is fully aware of, despite the human race as a whole not doing anywhere near enough to combat it?

I'd like to hear less statements of "our house is on fire" and more "I'm getting a bucket of water". Let's concentrate on the doing...

I think you'd be surprised - I don't have any numbers off the top of my head, but at my work there are at least 1 or two people on my team who don't believe in climate change, don't believe it's caused by humans, or don't believe it'll do anything bad.

And I work with fairly educated people! My team is all engineering, ranging from undergrad to Ph.Ds

I too know a couple STEM PhD's who believe climate change is a hoax, possibly invented by the Chinese. To get the US to destroy their economy. Yes, these people are out there.

It’s sad how often it’s STEM people specifically who equate ”I know a lot about my field” to ”I know a lot about unrelated fields as well”.

It's the fuel on which Hacker News runs.


I’m not skeptical of climate change but I am skeptical that it 100% leads to disaster and the destruction of the earth / human race within 5 / 10 / 20 / 50 years. If the earth isn’t a hellscape within 15 years then scientists will lose whatever credibility they still have with the public - yet another institution that the public disregards. The shrill outrage and climate crisis news pounded at us week after week, month after month means that scientists better be right about this.

Australia has looked a bit like hell recently hasn't it. Artic ice is at record lows. Not sure about California droughts (I'm not American) but I'm under the impression that they've been quite out of the ordinary.

Climate change deniers would just attribute that to randomness.

How much "actual" proof would be needed to convince the public that we're there already?

All of these things have set snowball effects into motion already.

But isn't the short term pessimistic-view "hellscape vision" on the order of a 100 years, even though the more chaotic and painful weather events are already obvious today?

It's a human perspective problem. Those born in 2020 will not feel the climate as substantially worse in 2040, and even for those born in 1980, 20 years is a long time to adapt your expectations.

There are also probably one or two people who believe in some religion. There are also probably one or two people who believe in healing energy or homeopathy. Or antivax or whatever, it doesn't matter. It is a false standard to hold climate change to that we have to wait until we've convinced everyone. The problem right now is not convincing the last 20 odd percent of people its real, the problem is getting the 50 - 70% of people who believe its real to act. We already have a "belief" majority, we need an "action" one. Continuing to point to the non-believers as an excuse to accept or assume the status quo is even dumber than pointing at smokers and saying "we can't ban it from restaurants because they'll never change their minds".

Climate change "skeptics" and deniers do not get a veto on the future. "Centrists" who use them as an excuse are not fooling anyone anymore.

>Like isn't this something everyone is fully aware of, despite the human race as a whole not doing anywhere near enough to combat it?

No, at least not in the US. Until very recently the Republican Party and the business community at large denied it was even happening. The current President of the United States is on-record calling it a "Chinese hoax", and has spent his term in office tearing apart as many environmental regulations as he can. There is an entire segment of the US populace that follows this exact line, that either climate change is a lie or it's nothing to worry about.

That's a very large part of why "the human race as a whole not doing anywhere near enough to combat it", that a good chunk of the leadership and the rich in the world's largest economy and most influential nation are devoted to denying or downplaying the problem.

The fundamental problem with your logic is that people don't act to put out a fire until it has already become obviously imminent. Ice is melting, wildfires are ravaging vast swaths of land, rainfall is wanting....but individual people don't generally suffer the effects of these things as they go about their daily lives.

People won't get up and go get a bucket until you first convince them that their inaction will lead to catastrophic fire damage. Fire burns. Smoke suffocates. But climate change, despite being less reversible, is not so readily identifiable.

This kind of thing sadly becomes necessary because of comment sections full of contrarians and devil's advocates -- and their real life equivalents. This site is a breeding ground for this class of do-nothing discourse, but it faithfully reflects executive opinions on the matter.

> Like isn't this something everyone is fully aware of

The only way someone could not - is if the messaging was so over the top and such doomsday that it turned people off of taking it seriously. I hope we don’t get there!

We are already there. Look at the headline of this post. That's exactly what the doomsday fear mongering is.

At any step of our descent from now on and for between one to two centuries, any fully accurate predictions on the state of the climate system twenty year hence will be seen as doomsday fear mongering by many. However doom is never evenly distributed, unless you were in a few select Australian, Californian or African places this year, you missed it.

In order to confirm or deny the statements above you need to invest about ten hours of your time to get to the facts. The IPCC report's Working Group One output is a good start.

> you need to invest about ten hours of your time to get to the facts

Your comment seems condescending assuming I haven't researched this field. I have invested hundreds of hours. I have reviewed several IPCC report, have downloaded raw data and plotted it etc. A lot of the things being stated are blatant lies and easily disproven. It has been going on since 1970s.

Here's letters to the President back in 1972 claiming we are approaching an Ice Age, not warming:


The source of that letter is NOAA itself. They have since removed the page but internet never forgets:


After the wide consensus from scientists in 1972 of an "ice age" within 5 years in 1977, they suddenly started "global warming".


Since you state Australia, I will guess you are referring to the fired from last year which media reported as the worst on record and 60 minutes did a segment with the same. They even had Michael Mann on who declared it the worst bushfire on record. But that's easily disproven. The 1974-75 is the worst bushfire. Here are 3 different sources:



> In 1974-75, lush growth of grasses and forbs following exceptionally heavy rainfall in the previous two years provided continuous fuels through much of central Australia and in this season fires burnt over 117 million hectares or 15 per cent of the total land area of this continent.

As they state, 15% of the total land was on fire and 117 million hectares were burnt. The 2019 fire is only 18 hectares.


Timothy Wirth, President of UN for 15 years and the senator who brought in Dr James Hansen (Director of NASA Goddard Institute for 35 years) back in 1988 which led to the formation of the IPCC is on record on how he sabotaged the air-conditioner the night before the testimony and also called the Weather Network to know when the hottest day would be to setup the testimony on that day:


The same Timothy Wirth is also on record from Rio Climate Summit:

> “We have got to ride the global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic policy and environmental policy.”

Archived from The National Center for Public Policy Research: https://web.archive.org/web/20160304113733/https://nationalc...


If you dig a bit deep into the data and IPCC reports you will notice that their "2016 is the warmest year on record" is a blatant lie too.

Won't you be darling, and just

1. LINK the exact IPCC report you found blatant lies in

2. copy in your correspondence with the authors of the papers

3. copy in your own data that exposed the lies.

You won't, because you cannot.

I already pointed out the Australia bushfire being “the worst” is a lie.

Look up the temperature anomaly charts between the 1999 and 2000s reports and you will notice yourself what they did.

I have many more but clearly you are more interested in making condescending and ad hom attacks than debating. Not worth engaging in further debates.

For the love of all things rational, please, please show us where any scientist on the IPCC ever claimed the Australian fires were the worst.

I am begging now.

No, it's the truth, and if anything it's an understatement.

You wish.

I don't get it. Why would anyone wish that?

Here's a fun thought experiment.

Let's just say we shifted our demand for lots of the climate change contributors. From what I can gather the top contributors would be liquid fuels, solid fuels, and gaseous fuels. Right off the bat we know we can cut coal and shift to other technologies. But in the case where we want to shift our liquid fuel consumption, things get tricky. For example, we might be able to move our entire car fleet to electric, but we're still way far off from doing that for planes. So at some point in the future, we'll still need jet fuel, but we'll have reduced our demand for gasoline tremendously. They come from the same source and happen as part of the same process.

So what happens when gasoline costs negative dollars?

Your instincts are roughly correct, but in case you wanted a couple dozen graphs to flesh it out you'll like this link: https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emis...

Honestly its much less compliated than internet debate artists make it out to be. #1 coal, #2 oil, #3 gas. Cement and agriculture/land-use are marginal things we can worry about in 2040. For right now, its one two three. Coal, oil, gas. Anyone derailing into other things is failing to quantify and prioritize.

Also as you point out coal is basically already solved, its purely a combination of regulation and cost-curves of the alternatives. Oil can be 80% solved using electrification today, and hopefully over the course of the next 20 years that turns into a 95% solved thing via improved batteries or fuel cells or both.

The last 5% of oil is, as you point out, jet fuel. It is by far one of the hardest pieces of the puzzle to solve. I think the short version is that the price of air travel is going to have to double to both dramatically reduce demand for it and to fund carbon-offset measures for what remains. Of course you can never tell upper middle class people this, they lose their shit at the thought of not being entitled to vacation and be tourists anywhere they want as much as they want.

The third part, gas, is going to be harder than coal and oil because its so damn cheap right now. We can speculate a lot about what could replace 50% of it, but the other half is a lot tricker.

However, again, this is a prioritization and timeline constraint problem. Solve coal NOW. Solve oil over the course of the next decade. Gas we'll circle back and see what we can do in like 2035. We'll have our hands plenty full solving for coal and oil now.

Its already completely technologically and economically feasible to get rid of 95% of coal, 80% of oil, and 50% of gas over the next 10 years in america and 20 in the overall world. That will reduce us from ~40Gt/year down to around 5Gt/year. Then we figure out how to phase in negative-emissions tech.

> I think the short version is that the price of air travel is going to have to double to both dramatically reduce demand for it and to fund carbon-offset measures for what remains. Of course you can never tell upper middle class people this, they lose their shit at the thought of not being entitled to vacation and be tourists anywhere they want as much as they want.

In Europe at least, I think the working and aspiring middle classes would be harder hit. The low end of air travel has become ridiculously cheap really, with pan-continental flights with Ryanair or whatever costing less than a train across England.

Slap a flat-fee carbon tariff or even just higher duty on it and it'll be a different market.

It will still cost money to produce and transport even if demand is low so the price will not be negative. Who is going to pay you to take gasoline when they could just burn it themselves very cheaply to get rid of it? Presumably supply will also decrease, refineries will shut down. It may even become more expensive as economies of scale are lost.

In the short term as demand decreases I imagine governments will ramp up taxes to keep the price steady or climbing in order to avoid encouraging people to increase consumption.

Transportation is not the only thing that threatens the environment. In fact, the clothing industry and farming are harming the environment more than driving our cars is as far as I know.

Sorry not so. Here's a graph that breaks emissions down by economic sector: https://ourworldindata.org/co2-and-other-greenhouse-gas-emis...

Here's the breakdown within the US by economic sector, and then the Transportation sector broken down by vehicle type: https://www.epa.gov/greenvehicles/fast-facts-transportation-...

Clothing and red-meat are particularly acute impact activities of wealthy western lifestyles, but its very hard to top cars. The very thing they do is oxidize hydrocarbons.

Thanks, good to know when I am wrong.

> but its very hard to top cars

I haven't found cars specifically in your links and I doubt that private cars are one of the biggest pollutants.

Also, stressing that I am not countering your point, CO2 is not the only factor of course. The clothing industry, as well as the chemical industry, is responsible for pumping lots of toxins into the water, which is also bad.

> I haven't found cars specifically in your links and I doubt that private cars are one of the biggest pollutants.

If you click the second link there will be two large pie charts on your screen.

The first shows total US greenhouse gas emissions by sector, in which Transportation is 29% and Agriculture is 9%

The second shows a breakdown of Transportation by vehicle type. The largest part of which, at 59%, is "light duty vehicles", which is the term for everything from a moped to a pickup truck.

59% of 29% is about 17%, vs agriculture's 9%. Making cars roughly twice as "bad" as farming from a greenhouse gas perspective.

Plastic keeps it from going negative?

Shouldn't they make recommendations how to invest to reduce the economic fall-out of climate change?

Mitigating climate change (by replacing ACs, finding alternatives to concrete, adding a carbon tax) from the current +6° trajectory to +5° or +4° or +3° or +2° has benefits for human health, cooling, crops, political stability, energy production and many more, all associated with high costs in case of no mitigation.

Why don't very large financial institutions that plan out for the next 20-40 years speak up?

Lack of political will and discipline.

I know this area well and this group somewhat (no current affiliation with them anymore). I think we are entering the adaption phase where forecasts lose viability. Not because the science is wrong, but because the human element is unpredictable without defined geography.

Driving up fossil fuel prices would be a good way to kick the habit. Stop giving them easy capital in loans, investments, low interest rates, and cheap insurance to fund their growth. You know, a financial tourniquet.

I think this should be old news by now. Yes, climate change will cause economic damage. And well, quite a big number, because it is well, rather global in scale and this is economics, where numbers tend to be big anyways. No, there is no solution to be bought off the rack. Even measures to migitate economic damage will cause economic damage (and different actors will pay it). The damage caused will be on a lot of levels, hard to measure and there is nothing to be done about it. How much damage we dont know. will your business be affected? probably. how much? we dont know. should you care? possibly, we dont know. It is impossible to make decisions based on such vague assertions.

Maybe we could get some experts to quantify the costs and risks, then make a decision based on that?

In 20-30 years when we have fusion, and essentially unlimited energy that comes with it, all of the bickering here will look ridiculous.

In the meanwhile, here's what I think about this story specifically: https://dilbert.com/strip/2017-05-14

JP Morgan is out to make money... either someone paid them to write the report, or they’ve gone heavily into renewables in the past few months and this report is part of the pump.

You are right that this being a bank it is about money, but I think that you miss the liabilities angle: JPM is also out to not lose money, and investors that come back to them with newly worthless triple-A rated coal-industry bonds need to have a retort ready: "you did not read our report!"


They smell money to be made, so they are jumping on board.

I shall wait until banks start offering deep discounts for properties at ocean sides. This type of fear mongering is bad.

Well I don’t know about deep discounts but the housing market in Florida is already changing because of climate change concerns. Historically black neighborhoods on higher ground are gentrifying as developers see opportunity diminish at sea level.


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