With climate change we often hear about tipping points in the negative sense; warming causes permafrost to melt releasing massive amounts of c02 and such. Of course not all tipping points are a bad thing, and this article got me thinking about positive tipping points.
The number I saw in there that blew my mind a little was that 40% of ocean shipping is just moving around fossil fuels.
And I thought about as that number comes down, which it must and will as more and more renewables are built out, the economies of scale that kept that amount of transport of fossil fuels cheap enough to justify start to fall apart, and it sort of causes a tipping point where moving oil and coal gets more and more expensive. Also at some threshold of demand reduction you hit a point where it multiplies in impact because not only do you not burn it, but you don’t move it, you don’t refine it, you don’t store it, you don’t go searching for more and build new deep ocean rigs, etc.
Then with rail transport in the US in particular, if all the trains moving coal – we see a lot of these crossing Iowa, so maybe that skews my perception of how many of those exist – if those are out of the way, does passenger rail suddenly have a new opportunity on those lines? could this function to reduce demand for air, car, and long haul semis and does this becomes a tipping point for demand for the fuels those transport would have used? Given general disdain for trains in the US this is probably overly optimistic, but doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility either.
The article has some great links at the end that are all climate related too. Go read!
A characteristic that natural tipping points like glaciers and permafrost have which economic tipping points do not is they cannot be artificially suspended. On this note it worth pointing out that it seems coal for power generation crossed a tipping point a while ago, but something is not letting it “tip”. Inertia? Political corruption? Lack of awareness? I don’t know. Maybe it is in this report but in any case this blurb in the summary is .
“99 percent of all U.S. coal plants (209 out of 210) are now more expensive to run than replacement by new local solar, wind, or energy storage.”