It’s a grim choice: either financial meltdown if we act decisively to halt climate change, or physical meltdown if we don’t. But there is, unfortunately, a third alternative. In fact, it’s the likeliest outcome by far.
First we go on growing our emissions at the current rate (3 percent per year) for the next couple of decades, and the fossil fuel industry thrives. Then, when it’s already too late and we have crossed the +2 degree limit, the actual warming (which always lags the growth in emissions by a decade or more) frightens us into taking action at last.
So we lurch into a crash programme to cut fossil fuel use – and suddenly the market wakes up to the fact that a lot of those reserves will have to stay in the ground forever. If you liked the sub-prime mortgage fiasco in 2008, you’ll positively love this one.
It’s not either Disaster A or Disaster B. It’s first one and then the other, interlocking and mutually reinforcing. And Disaster B will mean there’s no money left to do anything about Disaster A.