Making Sense of What we Read

How did you go with Friday’s Puzzle to make sense of the statement:

“The transition to a lower emissions economy is underway and cannot be reversed. Ensuring that the transition is smooth will require major investments in assets with long life spans.”

In this statement I think that there are two correct statements, another that requires a certain value proposition to be acceptable, and one that definitely shouldn’t be accepted without considerable further argument and evidence.  Why? Here goes:

  1. The transition to a lower emissions economy is underway.  I would consider this undisputable as we have a lot of global evidence as well as experience from home.
  2. Cannot be reversed’?   Well, it is highly unlikely given our international commitments to lower emissions in the Paris Agreement.
  3. Ensuring that the transition is smooth’?  Now it starts to get tricky.   Here the writer assumes that intervention to ensure a smooth transition is something that we must do, something that is innately desirable.  But is it?   We don’t intervene in all market adjustments.  ‘Free-market’ advocates usually argue vociferously that we shouldn’t!  It’s desirability and nature in this case needs to be carefully argued, not assumed.
  4.  ’will require major investments in assets with long life spans’ .    Although presented as if this is an obvious conclusion from the preceding statements, it isn’t.  Closing down large (coal burning) plants does not imply they need replacement with other large plants (which Chapter 3 assumes). Demand is decreasing, production is becoming more efficient and our options are rapidly increasing. We need to examine them. The need for large, long-living, plants is no longer obvious.

Any of us can be guilty of stating something as a ‘fact’ when we should be recognising it as a ‘proposition’ to be argued, and the more passionately we believe in what we are doing, the more likely this is to be the case.  So if you catch me doing the same – which is entirely likely – please call me on it, in the comments section below.

And I would love to see other examples. If we get enough we can have a special puzzle page!

2 Thoughts on “Making Sense of What we Read

  1. Patrick Whelan on February 21, 2017 at 3:18 pm said:

    This extract is riddled with hidden and overt assumptions. Several have been highlighted, but others have been ignored. With the so-called leader of the free world a commited nay sayer, is there genuine hope that the transition to a lower emissions economy will continue with anything like the pace it has been moving. It can, by political inaction, be reversed.

    Today I read that the coal lobby is promoting “clean coal”, or carbon sequestration, as a genuine alternative to renewables. Suddenly the idea of a lower emissions economy looks less certain, and the whole statement looks questionable.

    Mind you, looking from the West where distance makes it impossible to join the East Coast Electricity Market, but where there is masses of sunlight and oodles of wind to create renewable energy, the whole statement looks very reasonable.

    Unfortunately, being retired, I don’t have any other examples. Shame really. I like the idea of a puzzle page!

  2. Jeff Roorda on March 6, 2017 at 7:29 am said:

    Penny set out brilliantly why alternate scenarios in Strategic Asset Management Plans must pose the right questions to challenge assumptions, especially when disruptive technologies amplified by demographic changes are likely.

    1. Policy decisions must be informed by strategic asset management plans that have alternate scenarios for alternate futures.
    2. If this is not done, our decisions are based on only one scenario underpinned by a set of assumptions that try to the make future to be the same as the past, usually for self serving reasons.
    3. Unchallenged assumptions expressed as statements of fact supporting only one scenario are likely to be wrong. Our past is littered with these wrong assumptions and associated poor decisions.
    4. Infrastructure planning and strategy must considers all possible scenarios because history tells us being wrong has catastrophic consequences.

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