German Economist Hans-Werner Sinn identifies a ‘green paradox‘.

This is that the more we discuss lowering, and act to lower, CO2 emissions from fossil fuels to reduce climate turmoil, the more temptation there is for fossil fuel companies to excavate fossil fuels to sell them and make money out of them, before the assets become unsellable and worthless. I suspect that this is one of the reasons the Right in Australia is so keen on new coal mines, to protect mining giants and get support from them in turn.

We can add, that acting to reduce CO2 also increases the temptation the companies have to broadcast false information to delay action and keep the sales going as long as possible. Both selling to damage the market, and emitting misinformation to influence the market, are part of normal capitalist functioning.

Furthermore, if plenty of green power is available, then the price of fossil fuels may come down (especially given the pressure to sell them) so even more fossil fuels get burnt. If Countries have not committed to green energy, then they can freeload on the cheap fuel created by those who have rejected fossil fuel. This can then lead to further lock-in of fossil fuel technology in those countries.

Another way of phrasing this is “The more we need to go green, the harder it will become”.

Solutions are difficult, but apart from overthrowing capitalism which is not going to happen, we could have a worldwide carbon tax, which is also going to be hard (misinformation problems), we could reduce the massive subsidies that go to fossil fuels for historical reasons (we tried to make supply safe for social good), or we could simply buy, or nationalize the reserves (which is also going to be difficult).

What the green paradox tells us, is that we cannot solve the problem of greenhouse gases and energy without legislating, or finding some other ways, to keep coal in the ground. That has to be the aim