Welcome to the Great Inflation — Or, Why We Have to Pay for the Hidden Costs of the Industrial Age
@jazzfes
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62M

The argument for why energy prices should rise is totally incoherent to me:

Why? Because right about now, energy is vastly underpriced, like it has been since the beginning of the industrial age. When you buy a gallon of gas, who pays for the pollution, the carbon it emits, which heats the planet? Right about now, nobody does. But over the next few decades, someone’s going to have to. Because we are going to need to use that money to rebuild all the cities and towns and systems and factories wrecked by flood and fire and drought and plague.

Who’s that somebody going to be? Well, it’s probably not going to be energy companies. It’s probably going to be you, since they’re powerful, and you’re powerless.

So if the pollution has always been externalised and wasn’t paid for by the energy companies, and he expects the energy companies to continue to externalise the costs, why would the price of energy go up? They are externalising their costs, so they won’t materialise in the price of energy. That’s the point of externalising costs.

Am I missing something? And given that he hinges most of the rest of the article on increasing energy prices it sort of doesn’t really work out, from my perspective.

To me the whole thing reads more like a rant. I sympathise with some of it, but it doesn’t make much sense as an argument to me.

@yogthos
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32M

The argument the article makes is that we used to externalize the cost into the future. However, we’re now at the point of the climate breakdown when extreme weather is becoming a significant cost itself. This affects production of goods, their distribution, and so on. Therefore overall costs of production are necessarily becoming higher.

@jazzfes
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12M

I think that is a very generous summary and much more coherent than the article itself :)

While what you are saying makes some sense, the article really didn’t present any detail on this, which would have been important. The energy angle, as said, was presented in contradicting ways.

Further, I do think that any critique of the impacts of climate change should focus on the impact of people most affected by it, rather than abstract impacts on supply chains and production.

Capitalism has shown to have enormous resilience and a capacity to adapt to all sorts of situations. It does so often by making life worse for many people. And the latter part is where I believe the focus should be if you want to be convincing. Saying “capitalism will burn in its contradictions” and then having to explain rising stock prices and GDP increases simply isn’t a way to win hearts or minds.

I do believe that showing, repeatedly, the current impact of climate change on people across the globe would paint a much more impactful picture. Climate change is already causing significant impact on how people live, be it due to slow and persistent weather change or due to natural disasters or other ways.

A factory that is damaged by a storm will be rebuild. If need be relocated. Production can occur in any part of the world where business conditions are suitable. The impact will show up once in the quarterly statement, followed by continued stock growth because you “capitalise” on the next “emerging economy”.

On the other hand, you won’t relocate your family on a whim. You may not get funding tomorrow if you have to rebuild your local school that was damaged in a disaster. You won’t be able to get a quick fix to a broken water supply that might be poisonous until it is fixed.

Sorry, I think I did get carried away. In any case, I think calling doomsday has been tried for centuries and simply hasn’t worked ever. I feel the article falls in that trap.

poVoq
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32M

Further, I do think that any critique of the impacts of climate change should focus on the impact of people most affected by it, rather than abstract impacts on supply chains and production.

That kind of has the same problem as “calling doomsday”. Focusing on the impact on people has been long done by NGOs working in the global south to very little change in the minds of the people living in countries that do the most damage. Even now, when the impacts start hitting closer to these peoples’ homes, it seems like unless their own families or close friends are directly effected, very little change happens.

@yogthos
creator
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22M

I agree that impact on humans and nature is what ultimately matters, and I think most people understand that already. I disagree that the article falls into the trap of doomerism.

The problem is that people in the west are accustomed to their current lifestyle and aren’t willing to change it. The west consumes an order of magnitude more energy per capita than developing countries, and even around three times as much as China where the west outsourced most of its production. Consumption in the west must reduce drastically in order to avoid disaster going forward.

Unfortunate reality is that most people aren’t willing to change their habits as long as they don’t think there will be any personal impact. Explaining to people that the shortages they’re now seeing are a direct result of their lifestyle helps people understand that they’re personally affected by climate change. This is no longer a problem for other people that they can externalize.

@jazzfes
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Sorry for the late reply.

I just wanted to highlight where I believe we disagree, which is that climate change is caused by the decision of “societies” at large. According to this article, climate change is largely the result of the operations of 100 companies. The article is from 2017, and so perhaps is my argument.

According to this, the companies that cause climate change are basically the largest coal, oil and gas conglomerates, which makes sense. No level of individual behavioral change will cause these companies to stop operating. They are way too embedded in the overall economic system.

The solution to climate change is to wind down the operations of these companies. This will be impactful and the negotiations around it would be utterly complicated. However, as a goal this would be about as well defined as it gets.

I don’t believe that Meat free Mondays, Green Buildings and focusing on your individual climate footprint will do anything to curb global heating (even if those might still be good ideas for other reasons). The problem is way too intrinsic and the first step would be to engage directly with these companies to wind down their operations.

I don’t think that you as an individual can do anything to prevent climate change, unless you have the opportunity to negotiate the shut down of the operations of those companies. The way to wind them down is to mandate it and negotiate the associated interests. We are not doing that.

I feel that telling people (bottom 90%) that they are consuming too much or the wrong thing is like telling them they are sinners and must repent for virtually zero benefits. We should focus on people’s suffering and show compassion, not blame them for participating in a system they haven’t voted for, have limited insights in and from which they generally don’t reap any benefits.

@yogthos
creator
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12M

I agree that the problems are systemic and that we need to focus on heavy industry and energy production first and foremost. However, the only way that can happen is if there is public pressure to do that. So, I’m not advocating individual action in terms of reducing personal footprint, but mass action to force the governments to start acting and forcing these companies to start cleaning up.

What I was saying earlier is that 90% of the people at the bottom need to understand that unless their governments act, then they will be personally impacted. Right now this understand simply doesn’t exist, and without this understanding there is no pressure on the governments or the companies to act.

@PeterLinuxer
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22M

For me personally it doesn’t seem as a simple rant. And externalising the costs doesn’t mean no one finally has to pay them. They probably won’t be on the electricity bill but they will be there.

@jazzfes
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22M

Yes of course, externalised cost are still paid by someone else. That’s exactly what the term means.

However the point of the article was that deteriorating environmental conditions will increase energy prices, which in turn will drive inflation everywhere else. But the way the argument is presented is contradictory in my opinion (for the reasons shown above).

I got some general concerns with doomsday prediction like that. Irrespectively of whether they have factual grounding or not, I feel the doomsday angle prevents the development of counter strategies and has a tendency to polarise. It doesn’t foster alliances that can create change.

@yogthos
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32M

On the other hand, understating the problem removes the urgency for action and can lead to complacency. When people don’t appreciate the scope of the disaster or the fact that there is very little time left, they often end up choosing performative solutions like focusing on personal lifestyle choices. We need large scale systemic change, and that can only happen when people fully appreciate the scope of the disaster we’re facing.

@PeterLinuxer
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12M

True. But elsewhere you wrote that you think people know what’s the matter, they only try to ignore it or push it aside. But I think many people don’t understand it yet. I know several people personally which refuse the concept of climate change. They stick to “Let the market sort out things” and “Oh, driving car is becoming more expensive, what a pitty”.

@yogthos
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32M

Unfortunately, I think that most people will continue ignoring the problem until they start feeling the effects personally. That’s why I think connecting things like supply shortages to climate change is important. People need to understand that extreme weather induced by climate change is already having a negative impact on everyone, and that’s only going to get worse. The more people are able to make this connection the more likely some meaningful action is. All we can do is try to educate as many people as possible.

This article has some interesting points, but I think the conclusion is complete nonsense. Human civilization will not end because of climate change and inflation. If you see whats going on in warzones, like Yemen, Afghanistan or many other places, you will realize that humans are a lot tougher than the average westerner thinks. Sure there will be major changes in the near future, and live will get a lot less comfortable for westerners. I think it really proves that for many people, it is easier to imagine the end of the world, than imagining the end of our capitalist world order.

@yogthos
creator
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22M

Our global high tech civilization could certainly come to an end. Yes, people can obviously live without it, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t going to be a collapse of civilization. This analysis from KPMG that replicated a study done by MIT in the 70s is also suggesting precisely this kind of collapse.

https://www.vice.com/en/article/z3xw3x/new-research-vindicates-1972-mit-prediction-that-society-will-collapse-soon

Western civilization might collapse, but at the same time, countries in the global south are going to prosper as imperialism collapses.

@yogthos
creator
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22M

Not if climate change makes these countries unlivable due to extreme weather. Projections for that are incredibly grim going forward. We’ve already seen temperatures reach over 50c in India in the past couple of years. There was one incident when all the livestock died due to heat and there were huge crop losses due to droughts. Humans are also vulnerable to prolonged heat. Once you heat wet bulb temperatures the body can’t cool down through sweating and you die. This actually happened in Canada just recently where 800 people died from extreme heat in BC.

@LemonWedge
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42M

I have been wondering if we’re going to see some high inflation. The target rate of inflation (2%) is barely kept up with in the UK. Since 2008 we’ve seen awfully low interest rates. We’re all complaining of high property prices, perhaps this is where everything else rises and property prices will remain stagnant or lower than inflation and everything else “catches up” to property values?

Usually wages rise during inflation but I think we all know that the majority will come away with the least benefits.

@zksmk
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22M

Maybe I’m wrong but I don’t think the current price spiking has anything to do with global warming but with COVID-caused supply chain disruptions. And the hardware prices are mostly caused by crypto hoarding. I’m not saying climate change won’t cause price changes but I don’t think that’s the case with the current price trends.

@null_radix
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22M

The article calls it the great Inflation. And that makes sense, Inflation leads to higher prices. But he doesn’t go on to example on the negative effects of inflation.

@PeterLinuxer
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2M

I think that it’s true that we will have to pay for ecological damages of many kinds. But perhaps this won’t show up as rise of prices but rather as poverty rising? Just a thought, I’m not sure. I mean farmers, small companies etc. might loose their crop or their house etc.

@yogthos
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32M

Rising prices and rising poverty are related problems actually.

poVoq
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22M

The article makes some good points, but at least the chip shortage is also to a large extend made worse by hoarders and speculators that horde to increase prices. There is just too much cheap money looking for ways to extract value swapping around the globe to not jump on an opportunity like that to create a nice speculation bubble.

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