At Davos we will tell world leaders to abandon the fossil fuel economy?

tour Greta Thunberg and others, in the Graun - where else? Time to update Skolstrejk för klimatet and see what the "No plan, let alone a plan B" looks like now.

But before that, my pic shows Cadel Evans (141, in red) on the Alp de Huez, on his way to winning the 2011 Tour de France. I thoroughly recommend it, if you like that kind of thing; that stage is here but it's worth stepping back a few to get into the flow.

But back to La Greta:
We demand that at this year’s forum, participants from all companies, banks, institutions and governments immediately halt all investments in fossil fuel exploration and extraction, immediately end all fossil fuel subsidies and immediately and completely divest from fossil fuels. We don’t want these things done by 2050, 2030 or even 2021, we want this done now – as in right now.
How to evaluate this? The idea that this can be done right now is of course absurd. I shall assume that it is but a rhetorical flourish and should not be criticised too harshly. end all fossil fuel subsidies sounds good, but without defining "subsidy" it is meaningless. Happily, GT implicitly defines "subsidy" with The IMF concluded that in 2017 alone, the world spent $5.2tn subsidising fossil fuels, because this can be recognised as IMF working paper 2019: Global Fossil Fuel Subsidies Remain Large: An Update Based on Country-Level Estimates. This means that GT doesn't know what a subsidy is, because that $5.2T represents all kind of things, mostly pollution - not CO2 - effects; which means that to talk of the world "spend"ing $5.2T is just wrong; and to think they could be ended - by just stopping paying out money - is also wrong. This is careless of GT because generally she is spoken of as someone who actually knows what she is talking about.

"Divesting" from FF generally means selling your shares: to someone else. That expresses your disgust quite neatly, but does mean that someone else now owns those shares. They don't just disappear. And, of course you've profited by the sale of a FF related asset, so are morally contaminated. Perhaps you should instead rip up your share certificate? That doesn't help either really: it's like ripping up a five pound note (in the days when notes were made of paper and were weak enough to tear); all that happens is a tiny amount of deflation. Lots of people selling shares will tend to decrease the price of those shares, and will signal to the markets to invest less in those companies; and that brings us naturally on to investment.

And, jolly good, I've managed to find a thread I was looking forHere's a THREAD about divestment (and why it's driven mostly by economics, not good citizenship), theories of change in climate / energy, and the power of tapping into self-interested economic motivations among corporates, banks, and investers. So that says, as I guess we all know, that coal is doomed; probably, it will collapse entirely quite soon. That will be good as it will remove a pile of people pushing for FF, as well as being good for the climate. GT says that since the 2015 Paris agreement, 33 major global banks have collectively poured $1.9tn (£1.5tn) into fossil fuels. That number may be correct, but again GT is making a mistake like she did with subsidies, and one I think Joe Public makes: that isn't the bank's money, cos they don't have money, they have deposits. It's clients money. Clients like, oh... pension funds. Sensibly, GT says it ought to be in every company and stakeholder’s interest to make sure the planet they live on will thrive. Alas, she cannot bring herself to add: and the correct way to do this is Carbon Taxes. I think because that would amount to compromise; and she cannot compromise.

Update: a more constructive view comes in From shtetl to Forum by Scott Aaronson.


David B. Benson said...

At just now 17 I doubt that Greta T. understands anything of economics.

William M. Connolley said...

But if you're excusing her errors because of her youth, isn't that something of a slippery slope? I see lots of people defending her against that sort of thing. OTOH, the people defending her are generally people who agree with what she is saying, so are somewhat biased.

J C Brookes said...

The future for fossil fuel companies will be interesting if ever any serious attempt to reduce our emissions happens. We've already seen gas producers trying to position coal producers as the "bad guys".
But until I see genuine fear in these markets I'll remain doubtful that meaningful action is being taken.