Risky Business
June 24, 2014 1:49 PM   Subscribe

The Economic Risks of Climate Change in the United States (PDF); prospectus (PDF); press coverage (YT) - "The signature effects of human-induced climate change—rising seas, increased damage from storm surge, more frequent bouts of extreme heat—all have specific, measurable impacts on our nation's current assets and ongoing economic activity. [The report] uses a standard risk-assessment approach to determine the range of potential consequences for each region of the U.S.—as well as for selected sectors of the economy—if we continue on our current path..."

'Risky Business' Report Aims to Frame Climate Change as Economic Issue
Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, ex-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, a hedge-fund billionaire and major Democratic donor, are linking arms Tuesday to release a report, Risky Business, that argues U.S. companies should treat climate change as any other business threat. The report, which says climate change could cost the country billions of dollars over the next two decades, is the product of a bipartisan group of former cabinet officers, lawmakers, corporate leaders and scientists. In an interview, Mr. Paulson said the goal is to depoliticize the climate-change debate and instead focus on how it poses an economic risk to U.S. businesses...

The study concludes that within the next 15 years, higher sea levels, storm surges and hurricanes could raise the annual price tag for coastal damage along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico to $35 billion. Some Midwestern and Southern agricultural areas could see a decline in yields of more than 10% over the next five to 25 years due to increased drought and flooding, unless farmers adapt their crops, according to the study.
also btw...
  • Bipartisan US heavyweights back climate risk study - "The debate over the threat of global warming and even whether the climate is changing at all as a result of human activity has become highly partisan in the US. A Pew poll in January found that dealing with global warming was identified as a top priority by 42 per cent of Democrats and 14 per cent of Republicans... The leaders of Risky Business hope to bridge the political divide by bringing in Mr Paulson and Mr Shultz, who both served in Republican administrations, and by delivering an analysis they hope will be useful as a practical tool for businesses."
  • The Coming Climate Crash by Hank Paulson - "A tax on carbon emissions will unleash a wave of innovation to develop technologies, lower the costs of clean energy and create jobs as we and other nations develop new energy products and infrastructure."
  • How the insurance industry sees climate change - "If insurance companies are charging for risks due to climate change, how can it be a hoax?"
  • Hydrogen Fuel Finally Graduating From Lab to City Streets - "Once relegated to the realm of science projects, hydrogen fuel cells are starting to displace fossil fuels as a means of powering cars, homes and businesses. On June 10, in the latest addition to mainstream fuel-cell use, Hyundai Motor Co. will begin deliveries of a consumer SUV in Southern California. The technology is already producing electricity for the grid in Connecticut. AT&T Inc. is using fuel cells to power server farms, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. uses hydrogen-powered fork lifts. Later this summer, FedEx Corp. will begin using hydrogen cargo tractors at its Memphis air hub."
  • World Gets 22% of Electricity From Renewable Energy - "The Renewables 2014 Global Status Report released earlier this month has good news for the environment, namely that an estimated 22.1% of the world's electricity was generated from renewable sources in 2013. That percentage is expected to rise as countries across the globe pour money and resources into alternative, clean energy."
  • Europe Faces Green Power Curbs to Stop Grids Overloading - "Europe's drive toward a power system based on renewable energy has gone so far that output will probably need to be cut within months because of oversupply."
  • Europe Poised for Hot Weather as Solar May Be Record - "Europe faces hotter-than-usual weather through August as German solar-energy production is set to advance to a record, potentially driving power prices lower."
  • Germany produces half of energy with solar - "Germany produced a record 50 percent of its electricity needs through solar panel at the start of June, breaking a huge milestone on its march to renewable energy."
  • Solar at Scale - "SolarCity to build the world's largest advanced solar panel factory in upstate New York. Goal is for unsubsidized solar power to cost less than grid electricity from coal or fracked gas."
  • Obama Isn't Killing Power Plants, The Sun Is - "The U.S. has barely begun to deploy solar panels for electricity. Even California gets only 1.3 percent of its electrons from the sun. Yet that modest start has upended the fundamental driver of utility profits -- the demand curve... Bernstein noted that utilities had only three choices: suppress growth of cheap solar by refusing to buy the power, raise the costs of connecting to the grid or become rooftop solar developers themselves. 'We cannot think of a fourth option'. There is one... Becoming the financiers of electric services, rather than the generators and distributors of electrons."
  • Buffett's $26 Billion Power Bet in West Seen Paying Off - "Warren Buffett's $26 billion bet on western U.S. power plants, transmission lines and wind farms is poised to pay off. The energy unit of Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc., with the help of California's grid operator, is moving to unite the holdings under a single market capable of dispatching power across seven states every five minutes. The system, designed to handle sudden swings in supply and demand, would revolutionize the markets from Oregon to Nevada, where 38 transmission operators manually balance their territories on an hourly basis. The move would be a game-changer for the renewables that Berkshire Hathaway Energy Co. has accumulated over the past decade, including two of the world's largest solar farms, and for other clean-power producers, according to those who trade in the region's markets. Berkshire's plants stand to run for longer periods of time, and its NV Energy Inc. and PacifiCorp utilities will save as much as $63.9 million annually by 2017, Energy and Environmental Economics Inc. reports show."
  • A climate fix would ruin investors - "Humanity is making risky climate bets and ExxonMobil will probably be proved right."
  • Our Dirty Dependence - "We're losing the battle against climate change based on our addiction to fossil fuels."
  • Making the Modern World - "China used more cement in the last three years that the U.S. used in the entire 20th century."
  • Five More Ways to Fight Global Warming - "China's carbon pollution has soared in the last 15 years, and is now about double the U.S. level."
  • China Seeks to Cap Fossil Fuel Emissions for First Time - "The world's biggest producer of fossil fuel emissions has been studying for more than a year how and when it might be able to make its pollution levels peak and hopes to act as soon as possible, said Xie Zhenhua, China's lead envoy to the United Nations global warming talks... The comments are the clearest indication yet of China's willingness to join a global agreement that would for the first time limit emissions in all nations, both rich and poor alike... Xie's remarks are the first response China has made to President Barack Obama's decision on June 2 to restrict emissions from existing power plants in the U.S."
  • Why it's still not "game over" for global warming - "Climate change isn't an issue with a single point of 'success' or a single point of 'failure'. What we're facing are (literally) degrees of change. The world will get hotter as we load more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And the higher the temperatures, the greater the risks for human civilization. A 2°C rise in global average temperatures would be disruptive. A 4°C rise would be much more disruptive. And 6°C rise would be far, far more drastic still. At no point here does it make sense to say that we've 'failed' once and for all, or that it's (to use Ezra's phrase) 'game over'. Things can always get worse. And it's still very unclear where we'll end up on that spectrum."
  • Will Global Warming Defeat Us? - "The current uncertainties about the effects and intensity of future climate change suggest that countries are unlikely to follow the Obama administration's lead. Based on their experimental results, Barrett and Dannenberg hold out the hope that climate research that reduces threshold uncertainty might help spur countries into mutual cuts of their greenhouse gas emissions."
posted by kliuless (34 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
I guess this is a bit nit-picky, but the heat maps in the Bloomberg article seem to indicate that people born in 1981 start college around the age of 30, stay there for ten years, and live to the age of 100-120. That leads me to question the rest of the report that those maps came from.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 1:57 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

How would they even know how old people born in 1981 live to be... unless they are from the future?!
posted by Saxon Kane at 2:01 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Other than Obama himself, climate change is the most polarizing issue in American politics, more than abortion, gay marriage, drugs, whatever. That's saying a lot considering we are more polarized now than anytime in recent history. I think the politicians are on-board this is issue #1, the limelight, the great divide to play into. The next step is to start electing politicians on a global warming platform and that's already happened locally in Seattle. (BTW great post)
posted by stbalbach at 2:50 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

fwiw, here's a partial transcript from the press conference, which i found interesting at least...
Hank Paulson: "Taking a cautious approach, waiting for more information, a business as usual approach is actually radical risk taking because if you do this you give us no opportunity to avoid the very most adverse outcomes. All we can do is adapt to them. So it's very important that government and business act soon."

Michael Bloomberg: "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it and that's why every business periodically conducts a comprehensive risk analysis to assess their vulnerabilities whether they're financial or climate or anything else. But until today we've had no way to measure the serious risks to our national economy that it faces from climate change and business and investors have largely been kept in the dark about how climate change will impact specific industries or specific regions and that puts American businesses and the American economy in an extremely vulnerable position. This Risky Business report outlines climate risks by region and by industry and it puts a concrete dollar figure on those risks for the first time. And this is critical information for businesses and investors to have as they plan for the future and it makes the true cost of inaction on climate change frighteningly clear. Our report shows that the longer we wait to adapt to and mitigate climate change the more devastating the economic impacts will be... We just cannot afford to wait another minute because climate change is costing global governments and businesses billions of dollars and no competent executive is going to walk away from thinking about what could happen and taking appropriate actions if that were to occur... Our analysis shows that within just the next 15 years annual damages to states along the east coast and along the gulf coast could reach up to something like $35 billion dollars. Now in other parts of the country more frequent and severe heat waves have threatened public health and impacted labor productivity in some states with large agricultural industries it will literally be too hot and humid to safely work outside for many days of the year and that will drive food costs up and put our energy grid under tremendous stress. It's also true that some crops that we've grown here won't be able to grow when the climate changes and you can see that in the forests where insects that are destroying the forest used to get killed off in cold weather and now they're not... In considering the tremendous losses American businesses will suffer if we do nothing to slow climate change and how much of those losses can be avoided by smart, prudent, rapid action. American business we think should lead the charge and we hope this report will mobilize the business community and forge consensus for national action across the aisle."

Tom Steyer: "This study is basically about quantifying reality. The American business community has always been terrific at facing up to reality, at searching for sound data, analyzing it, and using it to inform decision making and making risk-reward decisions. Risky Business has tried to take that straight-forward American framework and apply it to the problem of climate change. What we've found is that the risks are significant and that some regions of the country and some business sectors face a disproportionate share of those risks. We believe that climate risk is something that should be taken into account by every business and every investor depending on their very specific situation. I think we all are confident that American businesspeople and entrepreneurs can find ways to mitigate and manage climate risk once they're fully aware of their circumstances. But more than that we really need the business community to be an advocate for a level playing field so we can address these risks. Climate risk is bigger than any one part of the country or any one business. When I think about what business does basically businesspeople do calculations to try and figure out what the impacts are going to be of future actions. To solve climate change we really need to change the spreadsheet for American business when they're doing those calculations. We need to reward people whose behavior reduces climate risk and penalize people who add to it. If we can get this right I think there is no doubt that our economy is going to continue to do really well and that American entrepreneurs and businesspeople are going to keep us on a steady path to a very healthy growing economy and a very sound natural environment."

Donna Shalala: "I live in one of those high risk areas in South Florida, and in fact the future prosperity of Florida is inextricably connected to the sun and the sea. We have a climate driven economy and for us this report is absolutely critical. We're on the front line; we're already feeling the effects of climate change: non-weather related flooding caused by sea level rises in our community, devastating storm surges on coast and inland flooding, salt water intrusion into fresh water areas and rising costs to develop and insure property..."

Robert Rubin: "I have come to believe that climate change is the existential issue of our age. I don't believe that we have a focus or an action in relation to it that is remotely commensurate with the risks that we face. I believe that if we don't effectively address climate change that the effects can not only be severe as pointed out in this report, and Tom referred to them as significant, but I believe they can be catastrophic. Greenhouse gasses have a decay rate in the atmosphere of centuries, hundreds of years, what we do today will affect us for centuries. The report as Tom said does show significant effects, but I think 'significant' vastly understates what we face because you look at that report what you see is possible negative [sic] feedback loops, possible vicious cycles, that are far from remote possibilities. I think they're very realistic possibilities that could lead to catastrophic effects. With that I'd like to make four specific comments. One, I believe that investors should insist that companies disclose their exposure to climate risk and that would include costs that may someday have to be absorbed in order to address carbon emissions, it includes the value of assets that could be stranded by future climate change measures and the actual impact that climate change could have. Then investors could make more fully informed decisions about risks and I think it also provides and incentive for businesses to act. Secondly, the investment and business communities can work to change the public conversation -- and I think that's critical if we're going to get political action -- and then also engage with the political sector in order to move forward on public policy and public policy is absolutely key. Thirdly, climate change is very likely to create substantial future fiscal costs that have not been included in any current budgetary projections. The federal government has historically provided for natural disasters and has provided emergency relief with respect to health care and agricultural crises; those are likely to be more frequent. Climate change, as I said, would increase very substantially fiscal costs and there is no accounting for them in current projection. And finally I believe that GDP as currently measured does not accurately reflect what's currently happening in the economy because it does not include externalities like greenhouse gas emissions and the tremendous costs they could have and a misguided measure of what's happening in our economy can lead to misguided policy."

Henry Cisneros: "No business sector is more likely to be impacted by climate change than the real estate sector. When you think of it real estate is anchored in physical geography, so it's tied to the physical reality of places, and it's driven by demand, which is to say where people want to live, where businesses grow... There are a number of specific ways in which climate change will impact real estate and real estate leaders and investors need to be thinking about this. One is the reality that coastal properties and infrastructure are at the risk of inundation from rising seas and storm surges that accompany hurricanes... Norfolk and our major naval facilities there; Houston, the world energy center that it is... Dry areas in the United States the science tells us will be drier, which means major implications for the Western United States and its major cities. These are some of the fastest growth areas in the country and they'll be faced with water shortages. We're already seeing permits being limited in particular states and for cities, which has implications then for where developers can build, where people can live, where growth will occur. California is allocation water from its state reservoirs for the first time in its history. Higher temperatures means higher energy costs, which means higher expenses for power generation. Again, economic development is shaped in part in our new economy by where power reserves are available. It means huge expenses for additional power given the need for massive air conditioning as temperatures rise in places that have not been that hot until now. Extreme temperatures also, as Mayor Bloomberg said, have productivity dimensions. That is to say you can't work in construction the same hours and the same ways with extreme heat... when Phoenix temperatures are mirrored in multiple states across the country for more than a few days a year but for months it has massive implications for business. So it's important to look at these things from an economic perspective, matters of insurance for example [...] changes the workings of our economy... Too often in American life, and I'll close with this point, people who do not think they're directly involved sit on the sidelines until it's too late. The real estate sector is accustomed to sort of the business cycle and waits out the cycle. This is not about a cycle, this is a long term game changer for the country and for an industry that if it isn't paying attention will be directly involved."

Greg Page: "Farmers have been on the frontlines of adapting to changing conditions for centuries. But all the things that are challenging about producing food for growing and more affluent populations become even more interdependent when faced with the range of possible impacts of a changing climate. If we face a period of accelerating climate change the question will quickly become whether the food system that we rely upon can adapt quickly enough. The work Risky Business is doing is contributing to an important discussion as it pertains to our ability to feed the world. This research shows the potential risks to agricultural production based on current farming practices and a range of projected changes in climate... The incredible productivity of US farmers and our ability to feed a growing human population is the result of investments and innovations that were undertaken 40 and 50 years ago. We have to be sure that we are not the generation that breaks that line. We don't want to be the people that underinvested in the practices and technology that not only make food reliable and available but very importantly affordable. A transition of this magnitude will have bumps in the road that are compounded by the uncertainties of a changing and evolving climate, so it is important that we start this conversation and our work now."

Al Sommer: "So there's an old joke that 'it's not the heat, it's the humidity' well for public health it's both the heat and the humidity because when its humid outside and hot your sweat can't evaporate and when it can't evaporate you can't regulate your core body temperature and that leads to a dramatic increase in heatstroke and therefore deaths. As people have been mentioning, it's going to get a lot hotter in the United States over the next 100 years and worse going forward. Montana summers will soon be the same as New Mexico today... there'll be ten to twenty times as many incremental deaths because of excess heat and humidity 100 years from now, but if you don't do something now you can't turn it off later... This is the average Risky Business, but as Bob Rubin has pointed out to repeatedly, you really have to think about the tails as well. This is the average. This is the most likely outcome and it's not good. The tails are the less likely horrendous outcomes, which will be much worse, and the reason we take out insurance against fires and floods and what have you is for those less likely events that eventually do happen and happen unexpectedly and it will be too late to take out insurance for the whole United States once this is entirely baked into the system."
Q&A on short-termism and accountability...
Paulson: "Perhaps the SEC should be requiring disclosures."

Rubin: "The SEC should include in its disclosure materiality requirements, disclosure of potential climate change effects [...] what are the emissions that you may be held accountable for someday, what are the assets that may be stranded someday and what are the effects of baseline, at the very least, if not tail risks of climate change set of effects on your business and if businesses have to disclose that would become an incentive for businesses to act." [Sustainability Accounting Standards Board]

Shalala: "The long-term investors, those of us that manage pension funds are going to have to sit up and take notice because we don't live in a world in which where we're looking for short term gains, we have to look for long term gains."

Cisneros: "There are two ways that businesses can interpret and respond. One is to say we should do something for our business about this, like set up reserves for insurance or set up reserves for power generation in the west or whatever. But assume the problem is going to occur and then prepare to mitigate. That's one response. But I think what this report is calling for is a broader response, which is what can we together as American business do about preventing some of the worst potential problems. How do we collectively respond so that some of what's projected can be staved off through the range of policy prescriptions that are being offered? So often it takes the American business community, the middle class, people who have heretofore been indirectly involved to say we have a big problem and we have to respond as a society. So I think there is a bigger call here than just businesses preparing for climate change."

Paulson: "What we ultimately need is not just investment in resiliency to adapt to the outcomes we know are coming or are very likely to come. We need strong policy action to prevent the very worst outcomes and I think that takes action by a national government. I don't think that can be done by business alone. So I think of the one things we're hoping is that business will unite and be more active in pressing for policy change from the federal government... One of the really fundamental objectives we had here was to get together a bipartisan group that strongly agreed on one thing: the nature of the problem. Too often, and I can go after problem after problem in our economy, people are busy arguing about tactics or fighting about what the solution is and they haven't come together to agree on the problem first. So what we have is republicans, democrats and people from different backgrounds that all understand the problem, are united on the problem; we have different view in terms of what the right policy response is and there’s a variety of policy responses that make sense, but I do think we are in agreement that this takes a strong policy response from the national government."

Rubin: "I think this continues to go to a whole different level where businesses -- leaders of large businesses and small businesses -- see this as an urgent issue, an immense danger to the economy that they're a part of and as a result form more of a coalescence if you will around the urgency of action and then engage with the federal government. And I don't think were in anything remotely like in that position right now where this is sort of foremost in their minds with respect to the future of our economy and therefore their businesses."

Bloomberg: "I own my company. I want to sleep at night. So we're doing some things so I can do that. One of things is for example we have a big computer room on Houston and Hudson, Lower Manhattan right on the Hudson River; we're moving it to upstate. I want to sleep at night. We're generating 70% of our own electricity. I want to sleep at night. We have more redundancy in our communications than anybody's ever put together probably ever. I want to sleep at night. And that's exactly what people have to do. They got to understand that it's their well being and they can do something and I couldn't agree more with Hank, the federal government has to do some things that cities and states can't, but there are people really making differences and leading the way and now we've got to get the federal government to act."
also btw, for the cynical, you could look at paulson and rubin in particular as spectacular failures (or at least having exercised colossal misjudgments wrt financial regulation and crisis management, leading to untold pain and suffering that they still haven't atoned for...) with this being their naked attempt at resuscitating their tarnished reputations and resurrecting their tainted legacies. so you could look at it that way (and i confess that it's crossed my mind!) but you could also say they're acting out of genuine concern (for protecting and preserving their elite status ;)
posted by kliuless at 2:56 PM on June 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

I genuinely appreciate their restraint in not printing this report on a fortune cookie-sized slip of paper that just says "yo, ALL HUMAN LIFE WILL BE DESTROYED AND MONEY WILL LIKE NOT EVEN BE A THING".
posted by threeants at 3:45 PM on June 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

All we can do is adapt to them.

Bingo. And adapting to them will be the major economic driving force of most of the next century. Preventing Climate Change? Fine if you want to shrink the economy, which nobody with any real power or influence wants. But if you want to grow the economy, reacting to the cataclysmic effects - that's where you can make real money. Doing it before the worst of what's coming may give some companies a leg up, but keeping the ones that don't from collapsing the economy will be the Bailout to End All Bailouts. And it will happen.

As for the providers of the carbon-based fuels that caused it all? While their official stand is a denial of what happening, they are actually preparing to profit mightily from it for as long as they can provide the fuel - we're not going to build new cities to replace the ones engulfed by the rising seas with solar-powered heavy equipment.

The upcoming years will bring unprecedented disaster and upheaval ... and with it, unprecedented profit.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:47 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, unfortunately I just don't think the truly wealthiest people really "need" to have the same level of investment in fighting climate change, because they'll be the very last to have to truly deal with it. They'll get richer and richer off the general populace's suffering, and certainly at some point the whole damn thing will fall in on itself, but until then they'll probably continue to live lives of excess.
posted by threeants at 3:54 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Remember when people on Metafilter worried about "Peak Oil" where oil would get too expensive to use for most things and it would be disastrous? Now it's pretty obvious that the real problem is that oil isn't expensive enough. Looks like the Peak Oil people had it exactly backwards.
posted by Justinian at 4:22 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

you could look at paulson and rubin in particular as spectacular failures (or at least having exercised colossal misjudgments wrt financial regulation and crisis management, leading to untold pain and suffering that they still haven't atoned for...) with this being their naked attempt at resuscitating their tarnished reputations and resurrecting their tainted legacies...but you could also say they're acting out of genuine concern (for protecting and preserving their elite status ;)

Or you could try to figure out of how they inevitably stand to profit from the cause they are now curiously grandstanding about...People like this generally have a dollar sign behind most everything they do...
posted by jnnla at 4:55 PM on June 24, 2014

"Remember when people on Metafilter worried about "Peak Oil" where oil would get too expensive to use for most things and it would be disastrous? Now it's pretty obvious that the real problem is that oil isn't expensive enough. Looks like the Peak Oil people had it exactly backwards."

"Peak Oil" is still probably going to happen (it was predicted for around 2020 as the consensus), and what worried people wasn't that oil would be too expensive, it's that we'd be unable to pivot quickly enough and it would have devastating effects on our economy. And globally, there's still no real replacement for oil/fossil fuels, which is a huge concern for the developing world. That, and there were plenty of us saying that we should start planning for more expensive oil as a new normal (and oil prices have roughly tripled in the last 15 years) and that this would complement planning for global warming.
posted by klangklangston at 5:23 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I genuinely appreciate their restraint in not printing this report on a fortune cookie-sized slip of paper that just says "yo, ALL HUMAN LIFE WILL BE DESTROYED AND MONEY WILL LIKE NOT EVEN BE A THING".

The problem is that this is false. All human life won't be destroyed. As you note in your next comment, a lot of people might be hurt, but largely poor people in poor countries. The rich countries, and especially the rich in them, can afford to adapt and even thrive.

I think presenting climate change as some sort of morality play where the wicked get what they deserve and the world ends is very unhelpful. Climate change is the wicked doing even better than before, because it's the people who hold all the cards that come out on top when things get bad.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:47 PM on June 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

Also Justinian, nobody inside or outside the industry predicted the unconventional gas boom. That's a major cause of delay in peak oil, which will still inevitably occur. though it's pretty irrelevant, the emission form coal, of which we have plenty, is more than enough to destroy us.

Nice post kliuless.
posted by wilful at 6:18 PM on June 24, 2014

By the way everyone, since I have an audience of climate interested people here, can I recommend the blog Climate Plus, which provides regular excellent and intelligible roundups of the latest climate science news.
posted by wilful at 6:23 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Also Justinian, nobody inside or outside the industry predicted the unconventional gas boom."

Wait, yeah, a lot of people did, both within the industry as a way of alleviating peak oil fears and outside, as people pointed out that higher crude prices mean that it becomes more economical to frack.
posted by klangklangston at 7:22 PM on June 24, 2014

Actually, what I remember of the peak oil conversations I was hearing was basically "really bad things like fracking will become economically reasonable, there will be giant awful pipelines and lots more pollution", not "we will suddenly have no oil". I know there was a sector of the peak oil conversation that was focused on the "we will have no oil and very soon" thing, but there was quite a lot of talk about all the really awful, polluting things that were going to happen in the process of replacing/supplementing oil. Which seems to be what is happening - all this fracking and tar sands stuff wasn't going on when I was growing up, because it wasn't economically reasonable.
posted by Frowner at 7:33 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I still disagree that adapting to a more sustainable energy based economy would necessarily shrink the economy. There'd be a lot of new opportunity in the beginning, in the subsidized rush to bring new methods of producing and conserving energy to mass market. Then, there'd still be opportunity for growth in intellectual and cultural capital. If the markets choose to value good ideas and cultural products that don't create any net increase in resource consumption, then we can still grow economically while stabilizing or even shrinking our energy diet.

Also, what Frowner said, and remember the Gulf Spill.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:42 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Actually, there is a hard physical limit to how much time people can spend reading/writing books, listening to/making music, etc., assuming we eventually reach a stable population level, but we could still continue to grow economically until automation reached an extent that allowed us near total free time to produce and consume culture. Then we'd stabilize in size economically, at a sustainable level, which is just about the ideal outcome.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:48 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

(Assuming productivity gain benefits could be shared equally across different levels of society, which might just be too big a stretch.)
posted by saulgoodman at 7:51 PM on June 24, 2014

People were not talking about "peak oil" and fracking at the same time. They may have been talking tar sands and other dirty oil sources, but during the peak oil discussions natural gas was seen as an environmental win.
posted by mikewebkist at 7:56 PM on June 24, 2014

Isn't the concept of peak oil a 1950s thing that was repeatedly verified before OPEC even existed, much less fracking? I am always confused when people talk about it as if it were a recent disproven internet conspiracy theory or something like that and I try to look it up and nothing I find looks recent or conspiracy theoryish.
posted by XMLicious at 10:23 PM on June 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Peak oil isn't talked about as much because the slack from sluggish growth in oil production since 2005 has largely been taken up by natural gas production, and it's also clear to anyone who cares about the future that we will be royally screwed by the effects of burning fossil fuels before we start running out of them.
posted by Zalzidrax at 11:00 PM on June 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

That was sort of my point, not that we can never run out of cheap fossil fuels but that the more serious problem is that we won't run out of them soon enough to stop massive climate change. We're actually likely to end up paying people not to pull fossil fuels out of the ground.
posted by Justinian at 12:34 AM on June 25, 2014

Meanwhile, the people at the Rocky Mountain Institute have been working on practical applications of these ideas for 30 years. How can we develop alternative energy sources and leverage efficiencies to build a sustainable society, while encouraging job creation?

Paulsen, Bloomberg and Steyer have just noticed there's a parade, and are pretending they're leading it.
posted by sneebler at 6:18 AM on June 25, 2014

If money goes into sustainable energy production, it should be similar to money going into oil production - a stimulus to the economy, then more stimulus as alternate energy comes online.

US corporations and government entities generally ignored the liability of pensions, then, whoops, it's a crisis. It seems likely they'll do the same with the costs of climate change.
posted by theora55 at 8:18 AM on June 25, 2014

Peak oil isn't talked about as much because since 2011 fracking (*) has generated so much oil the USA now produces more oil than it imports, (**) the first time since 1990, something few would have predicted even in 2008 when Peak Oil was all the rage. In fact there's good reason to believe the US could be oil-independent in the near future exceeding the peak of production in 1972. And there are many more fracking opportunities around the world not just the lower 48 states.

(*) - although fracking is most famous for natural gas it is also used for oil.

(**) - this graph is 2 years old but accurate how things turned out.
posted by stbalbach at 8:27 AM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

n fact there's good reason to believe the US could be oil-independent in the near future exceeding the peak of production in 1972.

Heh, maybe. Exactly one month after that article was posted, though, the EIA cut its estimates of recoverable oil from the Monterey shale by 96 percent.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 9:10 AM on June 25, 2014

That has always been the problem with the Peak Oil arguments though: "technically recoverable oil" has two components, technology and money. They cut estimates by 96% based on current technology and oil prices, but if technology improves (see Marcellus Shale) or if prices go up (see history), the estimates are going to change again.

All of which is a sideshow, though. The important question is, how rich will we be when carbon prices go up -- either because oil becomes more scarce or the externalities of burning it come back to bite us. If world-wide standards of living rise to the levels of the developed world before climate change becomes a practical problem, adaptation is realistic. If billions of people are still living on less than $2/day, then we're in trouble.
posted by mikewebkist at 9:34 AM on June 25, 2014

Exactly one month after that article was posted, though, the EIA cut its estimates of recoverable oil from the Monterey shale by 96 percent.

That article is from 2012. "U.S. crude production has jumped 45 percent since the start of 2012" and the US is relaxing its ban on exporting oil.
posted by stbalbach at 10:01 AM on June 25, 2014

"has generated so much oil the USA now produces more oil than it imports,"

That's actually oil products rather than oil itself.

And the shale isn't likely to live up to its billing.
posted by klangklangston at 10:04 AM on June 25, 2014

That article is from 2012.

Which article? It looks to me like both the one I posted and the one I posted it in response to are from 2014.
posted by Steely-eyed Missile Man at 10:12 AM on June 25, 2014

Which article

The first link I made has a graph from 2012 but I got it confused with the second link. Anyway, reading your link the last few paragraphs are optimistic how much oil will be extracted from that particular oil field.

klangklangston's link is part of a counter-revolution that the fracking boom will go bust. Is that true? Well who knows, there are always critics. Thus far the growth is going faster than anyone imaged and even better technology to extract it is being developed.
posted by stbalbach at 10:51 AM on June 25, 2014

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