Oil Limits and Climate Change – How They Fit Together

We hear a lot about climate change, especially now that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently published another report. At the same time, oil is reaching limits, and this has an effect as well. How do the two issues fit together?

In simplest terms, what the situation means to me is that the “low scenario,” which the IPCC calls “RCP2.6,” is closest to what we can expect in terms of man-made carbon emissions. Thus, the most reasonable scenario, based on their modeling, would seem to be the purple bar that continues to rise for the next twenty years or so and then is close to horizontal.

Figure 1. Summary Climate Change Exhibit from new  IPCC Report.

Figure 1. Summary global average surface temperature change exhibit from new IPCC Report.

I come to this conclusion by looking at the tables of anthropogenic carbon emission shown in Annex II of the report. According to IPCC data, the four modeled scenarios have emissions indicated in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Total anthropogenic carbon emissions modeled for in the scenarios selected by the IPCC, based on data from Table All 2.a in Annex II.

Figure 2. Total anthropogenic carbon emissions modeled for in the scenarios selected by the IPCC, based on data from Table All 2.a in Annex II.

The Likely Effect of Oil Limits

The likely effect of oil limits–one way or the other–is to bring down the economy, and because of this bring an end to pretty much all carbon emissions (not just oil) very quickly. There are several ways this could happen:

  • High oil prices – we saw what these could do in 2008.  They nearly sank the financial system. If they return, central banks have already done most of what they can to “fix” the situation. They are likely to be short of ammunition the next time around.
  • Low oil prices – this is the current problem. Oil companies are cutting back on new expenditures because they cannot make money on a cash flow basis on shale plays and on other new oil drilling. Oil companies can’t just keep adding debt, so they are doing less investment. I talked about this in Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending. Less oil means either a rebound in prices or not enough oil produced to go around. Either way, we are likely to see massive recession and falling world GDP.
  • Huge credit problems, such as happened in 2008, only worse. Oil drilling would stop within a few years, because oil prices would drop too low, and stay too low, without lots of credit to prop up prices of commodities of all types.
  • Rapidly rising interest rates, as QE reaches its limits. (QE for the United States was put in place at the time of the 2008 crisis, and has been continued since then.) Rising interest rates lead to higher needed tax rates and high monthly payments for homes and cars. The current QE-induced bubble in stock, land, and home prices is also likely to break, sending prices down again.
  • End of globalization, as countries form new alliances, such as Russia-China-Iran. The US is making false claims that we can get along without some parts of the world, because we have so much natural gas and oil. This is nonsense. Once groups of countries start pulling in opposite directions, the countries that have been using a disproportionate share of oil (particularly Europe, the United States, and Japan) will find themselves in deep trouble.
  • Electric grid failures, because subsidies for renewables leave companies that sell fossil-fuel powered electricity with too little profit. The current payment system for renewables needs to be fixed to be fair to companies that generate electricity using fossil fuels. We cannot operate our economy on renewables alone, in part, because the quantity is far too small. Creation of new renewables and maintenance of such renewables is also fossil fuel dependent.

If any of these scenarios takes place and snowballs to a collapse of today’s economy, I expect that a rapid decline in fossil fuel consumption of all kinds will take place. This decline is likely to be more rapid than modeled in the RCP2.6 Scenario. The RCP2.6 Scenario assumes that anthropogenic carbon emissions will still be at 84% of 2010 levels in 2030. In comparison, my expectation (Figure 3, below) is that fossil fuel use (and thus anthropogenic carbon emissions) will be at a little less than 40% of 2010 levels in 2030.

Figure 3. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings.

Figure 3. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings.

After 2070, the RCP2.6 Scenario indicates negative carbon emissions, presumably from geo-engineering. In my view of the future, such an approach seems unlikely if oil limits are a major problem, because without fossil fuels, we will not have the ability to use engineering approaches. It is also doubtful that there would be as much need for these engineered carbon-take-downs at the end of the period. Population would likely be much lower by then, so current anthropogenic carbon emissions would be less of a problem.

The Climate Change Scenario Not Modeled

We really don’t know what future climate change will look like because no one has tried to model what a collapse situation would look like. Presumably there will be a lot of tree-cutting and burning of biomass for fuel. This will change land use besides adding emissions from the burned biomass to the atmosphere. At the same time, emissions associated with fossil fuels will likely drop very rapidly.

Clearly the climate has been changing and will continue to change. At least part of our problem is that we have assumed that it is possible to have an unchanging world and have made huge investments assuming that climate would go along with our plans. Unfortunately, the way nature “works” is by repeatedly replacing one system with another system. The new systems that survive tend to be better adapted to recent changes in conditions. If we think of humans, other animals, and plants as “systems,” this is true of them as well. No living being can expect to survive forever.

Unfortunately economies are not permanent either. Just as the Roman Empire failed, our economy cannot last forever. In physics, economies seem to be examples of dissipative structures, just as plants and animals and hurricanes are. Dissipative structures are formed in the presence of flows of energy and matter in open thermodynamic systems–that is, systems that are constantly receiving a new flow of energy, as we on earth do from the sun. Unfortunately, dissipative structures don’t last forever.

Dissipative structures temporarily dissipate energy that is available. At the same time, they affect their surroundings. In the case of an economy, the use of energy permits the extraction of the most accessible, easy-to-extract resources, such as fossil fuels, metals, and fresh water. At the same time, population tends to grow. The combination of growing extraction and rising population leads to economic stresses.

At some point the economy becomes overly stressed because of limits of various types. Some of these limits are pollution-related, such as climate change. Other limits present themselves as higher costs, such as the need for deeper wells or desalination to provide water for a growing population, and the need for greater food productivity per acre because of more mouths to feed. The extraction of oil and other fossil fuels also provides a cost limit, as resource extraction becomes more complex, requiring a larger share of the output of the economy. When limits hit, governments are especially likely to suffer from inadequate funding and excessive debt, because tax revenue suffers if wages and profits drop.

People who haven’t thought much about the situation often believe that we can simply get along without our current economy. If we think about the situation, we would lose a great deal if we lost the connections that our current economy, and the financial system underlying it, offers. We as humans cannot “do it alone”–pull out metals and refine them with our bare hands, dig deeper wells, or keep up fossil fuel extraction. Re-establishing needed connections in a totally new economy would be a massive undertaking. Such connections are normally built up over decades or longer, as new businesses are formed, governments make laws, and consumers adapt to changing situations. Without oil, we cannot easily go back to horse and buggy!

Unfortunately, much of the writing related to dissipative structures and the economy is in French. François Roddier wrote a book called Thermodynamique de l’évolution on topics related to this subject. Matthieu Auzanneau writes about the issue on his blog. Roddier has a presentation available in French. One paper on a related topic in English is Energy Rate Density as a Complexity Metric and Evolutionary Driver by E. Chaisson. Causal Entropic Forces by Wissner-Gross and Freer provides evidence regarding how  societies self-organize in ways that maximize entropy.

The IPCC’s Message Isn’t Really Right 

We are bumping up against limits in many ways not modeled in the IPCC report. The RCP2.6 Scenario comes closest of the scenarios shown in providing an indication of our future situation. Clearly the climate is changing and will continue to change in ways that our planners never considered when they built cities and took out long-term loans. This is a problem not easily solved.

One of the big issues is that energy supplies seem to be leaving us, indirectly through economic changes that we have little control over. The IPCC report is written from the opposite viewpoint:  we humans are in charge and need to decide to leave energy supplies. The view is that the economy, despite our energy problems, will return to robust growth. With this robust growth, our big problem will be climate change because of the huge amount of carbon emissions coming from fossil fuel burning.

Unfortunately, the real situation is that the laws of physics, rather than humans, are in charge. Basically, as economies grow, it takes increasing complexity to fix problems, as Joseph Tainter explained in his book, The Collapse of Complex Societies. Dissipative structures provide this ever-increasing complexity through higher “energy rate density” (explained in the Chaisson article linked above).

Now we are reaching limits in many ways, but we can’t–or dare not–model how all of these limits are hitting. We can, in theory, add more complexity to fix our problems–electric cars, renewable energy, higher city density, better education of women. These things would require more energy rate density. Ultimately, they seem to depend on the availability of more inexpensive energy–something that is increasingly unavailable.

The real issue is the danger that our economy will collapse in the near term. From the earth’s point of view, this is not a problem–it will create new dissipative structures in the future, and the best-adapted of these will survive. Climate will adapt to changing conditions, and different species will be favored as the climate changes. But from the point of view of those of us living on the planet earth, there is a distinct advantage to keeping business as usual going for as long as possible.  A collapsed economy cannot support 7.2 billion people.

We need to understand what are really up against, if we are to think rationally about the future. It would be helpful if more people tried to understand the physics of the situation, even if it is a difficult subject. While we can’t really expect to “fix” the situation, we can perhaps better understand what “solutions” are likely to make the situation worse. Such knowledge will also provide a better context for understanding how climate change fits in with other limits we are reaching. Climate change is certainly not the whole problem, but it may still play a significant role.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to inadequate supply.
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825 Responses to Oil Limits and Climate Change – How They Fit Together

  1. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail

    I would like to formulate a few tentative ideas about the decline in fossil fuel energy and what that implies in terms of how we live our lives. I’ll be stealing from Adrian Bejan and Constructal Theory and then speculating on my own.

    First, a little preamble. Chapter 3 in Bejan’s book reminds us of the question that Stephen Jay Gould famously posed ‘if we could rewind life’s tape, and let evolution work again, would the world look the same?’ Gould didn’t think it would look the same, reflecting the ‘randomness’ that is predominate in Darwinian thought.. But Bejan shows to my satisfaction that it would be very similar. Different in detail, but with some unifying factors.

    ‘In response to Stephen Jay Gould’s question, the constructal law proclaims that if the tape of evolution were rewound and if swimmers, runners, and fliers appeared again, their shapes and structures should produce the same types of speeds, stroke-stride frequencies, and force outputs of these forms of locomotion as exist today. Their circulatory systems would still have a tree-shaped design, their organs would still have characteristic sizes, and, when useful, they would follow movement and migration patterns. Because evolution has a single direction in time–to facilitate the movement of mass–the designs that accomplish this are predictable.

    Earlier we noted how observable differences in the three main types of animal locomotion have led to the prevailing view that they are fundamentally dissimilar. As we have just seen, the constructal law enables us to recognize that they are fundamentally the same. THEY ARE UNITED BY THE BASIC TENDENCY TO BALANCE THERMODYNAMIC IMBALANCES, TO GENERATE DESIGNS THAT BALANCE RESISTANCES AND REDUCE THEIR COMBINED EFFECT.’
    (my emphasis)

    Bejan is examining evolution with only two trends. First, Earth has become progressively more friendly to life, as is made clear by Lenton and Watson in Revolutions That Made the Earth. (Although there were severe trials such as ‘snowball Earths’ and oxygen poisoning.) Second, in terms of humans, forms of energy other than food and the ambient temperature, have become increasingly available to us. As we look forward, particularly in Gail’s scenario, we will see a reduction in energy other than food and ambient temperature available to humans. In fact, the reduction may be quite rapid, while the buildup occured over 250 years or so. And so the question becomes, ‘can humans evolve rapidly enough to adjust to the lower level of energy?’

    I’m not sure about the answer. First, consider the ‘small house’ phenomenon. A recent journalist who talked with several owners found that all had faced obstacles from local governments. Local governments just don’t want 2000 dollar houses built in their jurisdictions. Second, Charles Hugh Smith has started a personal list of ‘useful skills’. What started him thinking was meeting someone who had no idea how to change a bicycle tire. Asking around, he found that most people can’t remove a flat tire on their car and replace it with a spare. Charles estimates that a person who aspires to have everything done for them will need an income of around 150,000 dollars per year…way beyond what most people can expect to make. So Charles thinks that everyone should have a ‘list of essential skills’ and get about practicing them. Third, a friend of mine teaches cooking, including very inexpensive meals. She has started practicing with a solar cooker. Fourth, (of course you know I will come up with this one), is gardening for part of our food. I currently have a large surplus of leafy greens in my yard, so I offered some chinese cabbage to a Chinese neighbor. It happened that their daughter is visiting. The father, mother, and daughter came over while I cut a cabbage for them. The father said ‘this is a typical organic garden’. The daughter disagreed: ‘It’s not typical at all…it’s a high tech garden’. The daughter was very interested in the structure I had created to give some shade and the spun cloth that I tie to the structure. Now here is a case of ‘backward evolution’. The parents don’t know as much about gardening as their daughter. In a crunch, I’ll go with the daughter.

    It’s impossible for any single person to look at another person’s life and determine where the thermodynamic imbalances are, where the resistances are, minimizing the sum of the resistances, much less design remedial actions they should take in a world with steadily less fossil fuels.

    But I do find it useful to think along these lines. Probably keeping a list like Charles Smith is a good idea also.

    Don Stewart

    • GreenHick says:

      Don Stewart,
      Another thoughtful, informative post. Thank you. Not the first of yours that I’ve noticed on this site. Not at all my area, but if you haven’t read it, I imagine D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s (1917) _On Growth and Form_ would be of interest to you.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear GreenHick
        D’arcy was way ahead of his time. And a physically beautiful book. Bejan gives him credit.

        Don Stewart

    • xabier says:


      Life as an Art, not an industrial process.

  2. Christian says:

    Congratulations to Gail, who has the courage to address this issue. To me, atmosphere just happens to be beyond human comprehension. Its complexity gave even birth to the butterfly effect notion. And regarding global warming, I don’t get at all the greenhouse chemistry and found it very striking during a long time warming recently plateaued, contradicting greenhouse and thermal origins. Is it that anthropic action was, temporally or definitely (I don’t even know if warming has resumed), outset by another force? Or what?

    It is true geologists doesn’t like greenhouse theory, and Laherrère prevented me once against Pachauri as of a simple pirate in the sea of knowledge. Is he biased for oil? May be I’ll never know.

    Anyway, it is true CO2 emissions will fall soon and warming stuff is helping to hide limits to grow, this is very important as our Dutch friend reports. And it is true a proper management of wooden resources is not difficult to achieve if there is the will, and this can be cheap, efficient and clean. I suppose in Holland you know kacheloffen

    Not only emissions will decay but, as a result of falling industrial activity, all kinds of contaminants are likely to do it.

    Excepting one, which is the only I’m concerned: radioactivity. Most nuclear facilities being relied to water flows, it is easy to foresee Fukushima’s rads going to the ocean can multiply around the world, leading to changes in oceanic life and chemistry may be. Because we still don’t know how nor when facilities will be properly dismantled, do we? France installed 56 reactors in 15 years, can they dismantle them in the same timeframe?

    • Leo Smith says:

      read up on radioactivity – you have it the wrong way round. nuclear power actually reduces overall radioactivity in the world be fissioning what would otherwise decay naturally over a few million tears rather quicker in a place where it contains the radioactivity.

      There seems to be a naive conception that without nuclear power the world wont be radioactive. IN fact all man nuclear power activity contributes less than one percent of the total radiation dose everyone receives.


      1/ Name a place where people live where the average radiation level is higher than the Fukushima exclusion zone or Pripyat next to Chernobyl, and 30 times higher than the Japanese will clean it up to, and have lived for thousands of years?

      HINT there are many possible answers. give at least one and cite refernces.

      2/. Estimate how much uranium – that decays into radon which is quite radioactive and dangerous – is in the sea,
      Over a ton?
      Over a100 tonne (about the same as a reactor)
      over a thousand tonnes?
      Over a million tonnes?
      Over a billion tonnes?

      3/. Estimate how much nuclear waste of a medium and high level of actvity there is in the world due to nuclear power?
      Over a tonne?
      Over ten tonnes?
      Over 100 tonnes?
      Over one thousand tonnes?
      Over one million tonnes?

      4/. If all te nuclear wtse spent fule rids an recators were piced up and dumped at te bittonof emarain terchnch what would be the reult?

      A total melt down, a huge fireball, a tsunami of epic proportions and a nuclear winter?
      One or two fish would die?
      There would be no detectable effect whatsoever except on the faces of Greenpeace who would turn purple and die?

      5/. If every human were given at his death a piece of nuclear waste to be bureied with him corresponding to the total artificial energy footprint he has used during his (all nuclear) life would it be
      about the size of a house,
      about the size of a room?
      about the size of a refrigerator?
      about the size of a football?
      about the size of an orange?

      6/. If it were simply tossed into the grave under 6 foot of soil and left, how many people would it kill in the next 5 milion years?

      How many people died and will die as an indisputable result of Chernoblyl;?
      More than a million?
      More than a thousand?
      More than a hundred?
      Less than a hundred?

      How many people died as a result of Three Mile Island?
      More than a hundred?
      More than Ten?
      No one at all?

      How many people died as a result of radiation at Fukushima or will die?

      More than a million?
      More than a thousand?
      More than a hundred?
      More than ten?
      No one at all?

      Go and do some research, The answers will surprise you.

      • Too bad you don’t live in Montreal. I would gladly buy you a beer and have a great time listening about what you have to say.

        Unlike tim, who only write a reply with two sentences, you seems capable of organazing your thought.

      • ordinaryjoe says:

        Leo. Why is it that you never link to any peer reviewed sources with legitimate credentials to support your assertions. Yes the manner in which you ask these questions is a assertion. If you have a legitimate point to make simply make your point and site your source, Here is a published peer reviewed study by people with legitimate credentials that cite 14,000 dead in the USA from fukushima. If the fuel pools are exposed to atmosphere it will be much much more.

        How is the ballot initiative to ask the people if they want a whole bunch more reactors in kit form with no regulation, or to close all nuclear plants coming ? I thought that was a really good idea!

        • Leo Smith says:

          Well anyone can produce a study based on extrapolation from models that are inherently flawed and come up with numbers that are scary but meaningless.

          Thisd is what the UN has to say.

          “The major UN report on the health impacts of the Fukushima accident concluded that any radiation-induced effects would be too small to identify. People were well protected and received “low or very low” radiation doses.

          The latest report on the accident comes from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) – the independent international body set up in the 1950s to give impartial advice on the effects of radiation on people and the environment. In January 2012 UNSCEAR was asked by the UN General Assembly to undertake a “full assessment of the levels of exposure and radiation risks” attributable to Fukushima accident.

          Released today, the study concluded that the rates of cancer or hereditary diseases were unlikely to show any discernible rise in affected areas because the radiation doses people received were too low. People were promptly evacuated from the vicinity of the nuclear power plant, and later from a neighbouring area where radionuclides had accumulated. This action reduced their radiation exposure by a factor of ten, said UNSCEAR, to levels that were “low or very low.”

          Overall, people in Fukushima are expected on average to receive less than 10 mSv due to the accident over their whole lifetime, said UNSCEAR, comparing this to the 170 mSv lifetime dose from natural background radiation that people in Japan typically receive.

          Health issues from radiation only become apparent in people known to have received 100 mSv or more in a short space of time. This criteria does apply to a group of 160 plant workers, who are to be monitored in the long term.

          Despite the evacuation’s success in minimizing radiation exposure to a level where, “No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants,” the mass movement of people had repercussions of its own, including the deaths of some vulnerable people and social effects of the relocation. UNSCEAR said, “The most important health effect is on mental and social well-being, related to the enormous impact of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, and the fear and stigma related to the perceived risk of exposure to radiation.”

          Agneta Rising, head of the World Nuclear Association, said the UNSCEAR report was the “most detailed yet… and should greatly reassure those thinking of returning to evacuated areas.” She continued: “Experience has taught us that some measures to prevent radiation dose can be more damaging than the doses avoided. They also exacerbate fears that lead to social and economic suffering. We need practical measures for protecting people that also help them get on with their lives when the emergency is over.”

          UNSCEAR’s conclusions agree with those of its preliminary report from late 2012. The extra time was used in compiling the most detailed possible models to describe people’s individual radiation doses based on their age, their movements and the distribution of radionuclides. Another study from the World Health Organisation in early 2013 was based on broad theoretical risk calculations. Overall, WHO’s conclusions were the same as UNSCEAR’s – that any health effects from radiation were expected to be too small to identify.

          Thyroid screening

          Children are more vulnerable than adults to the effects of radiation and after a nuclear accident, the principal risk is for the youngest children to absorb iodine-131 which would accumulate in the thyroid gland, increasing the chance of thyroid cancer. This rare disease is treatable with a high success rate, but to guard against potential extra cases the thyroid glands of some 360,000 young people up to the age of 18 are being surveyed by ultrasound.

          UNSCEAR said, “Increased rates of detection of nodules, cysts and cancers have been observed during the first round of screening; however, these are to be expected in view of the high detection efficiency. Data from similar screening protocols in areas not affected by the accident imply that the apparent increased rate of detection among children in Fukushima prefecture are unrelated to radiation exposure.”

          Effects on wildlife and nearby ecosystems were similar in magnitude to the predicted human health impact. UNSCEAR said it expected no effects beyond the areas where highly radioactive water was released – i.e. the immediate environs of the plant itself. Even there the effects would be “transient” it said. In the wider area of the Pacific Ocean, “the potential for effects on biota is insignificant.”


          Yoi shoud resad te actual report thatarticle links to carefully.

          What is it saying?

          a statistically significant number of people died in the weeks after Fukushima than before it’.


          was it that time of year? What did they die of? it for sure wasn’t radiation poisoning.
          The paper doesnt go into any detail whatsoever, it says nothing more than ‘elevated levels of some radioactive elements were found’, and ‘slightly more people died in the weeks after it than were dying before it’ And yet what we know of radiation says that overwhelmingly, if you dont die of direct radiation poisoning the second highest risk is from thyroid cancer from very shirt lived radiodine, which is gone in a few weeks.

          That paper is a total disgrace and should never have been published. It has been carefully constructed to associate a random blip on death rates with an event thousands of miles away.
          They went looking for evidence to make a case, and the best they could cvome up with was a woolly association of two completely unconnected things, that they stick side by side and draw completely unwarranted conclusions from. They hope you wont read and study teh paer, that yiu wiull jhjust read te zerohege articale, and bilive that its true.

          I dont want to sy just how many times I have researched ‘stuff that everybody knows happened’; about nuclear matters to find that at the bottom, it actually never happened at all. Some PREDICTED it might. or say that it COULD, and it gets reported and people read the report, and think that it DID.

          Ltesd look at another possibilitry. Fukushiam popped in Marc 2011.

          Look at this


          Marc 2100 was cold, colder than average. Death rates rise in cold weather, especially after a long spell of cold weather.

          It is statistically significant.

          Does that report mention any other possible causes of an elevated death rate? Nope.

          It says.

          More people died in March/April than January and February
          There were elevated levels of an unbelievably rare and short live set of radioactive elements released from Fukushima and just detectable in the US.

          Those are the facts.

          The inference that the one caused the other, is not proven by elimination of every other possible cause and likewise the mechanism by which these two events are related is simply never shown. Or even referred to.

          Peer review should have thrown that out.

    • According to Leslie Corrice, there is 500.000 times more natural radioactivity in the oceans than was added by Fukushima Daiichi. Note picture. http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/is-there-fukushima-radiation-on-north-america-s-coast.html

      • ordinaryjoe says:

        This non peer reviewed assertion by MR Corrice cited a authorless article at Idaho state University- not far from one of the largest DOE sites- as its source material. The figures Mr Corrice provided did not match the authorless article- which cited a publication with no web access. Among Mr Corrices claims in the link you provided he claims it is totally safe to swim in the ocean next to the fukushima daichi site. Have at it Robert! Go for a swim next to Fukushima daichi, Leslie Corrice says its AOK.

        • joe, I enjoyed the discussions that I had with you and others on Gail’s previous natural gas post. I do not wish to repeat the information regarding my 50+ year career working with diagnostic, therapeutic, nuclear and experimental radiation. Having been retired for more than a decade, I enjoyed reviewing the physics of diagnostic, therapeutic, nuclear and experimental radiation. Had I an important reason to swim in the ocean near Fukushima , I would do so with relatively little fear.

          • ordinaryjoe says:

            The assertion – that the horrendous unprecedented nuclear waste being dumped in the sea is somehow comparable to normal background radiation of the sea. Seriously? If you are going to reference Mr Corrice Im going to take look. Did you not want me to look at the link? You made a assertion. The link you provided was to a opinion published by MR Corrice. I looked at the foundation of your and MR Corrices assertions. I think they are flawed. I do not think MR Corrice is impartial. I mean really Robert you called Arnie Gunderson a “quack” but you expect me to take Mr Corrice as a legitimate impartial source of information when he is saying its safe to swim next to Fukushima daichi. The people on the beach are wearing class B hazmat suits. You know the BQ counts from the fish taken from next to Fukushima Daichi. If you think my response is not factual based call me on it. Examine my assertions. I appreciate your polite responses. You obviously are sympathetic to Mr Corrices arguments. When I called you on your Arnie Gunderson “quack ” comment you had the integrity to say everthing he was saying about the incredibly hazardous situation at unit 3 was true. We have lethal radiation a couple hundred meters off the beach, three melted cores, nuclear waste being dumped in the sea and MR Corrice is saying its safe for a dip? Seriously? Why are they even messing around with Fukushima? Its all good everything is cool. Just bulldoze it all into the sea, reactor cores, fuel pools the lot- its all the same as the sea, right? Three meltdowns- its all the same as the ocean. Seriously? If the fuel pools are exposed to atmosphere its cool, same as the ocean. Same as bananas. Seriously? If I was walking down the street and I saw a child being beaten would you have me look at the sky and whistle?

      • Christian says:

        Good to know it. But it’s not over:

        “On 22 July 2013, more than two years after the incident, it was revealed that the plant is leaking radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. This had been denied by TEPCO.[38] The report prompted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe to order the government to step in.[39] On 20 August, in a further incident, it was announced that 300 metric tons of heavily radioisotope-contaminated water had leaked from a storage tank.[40] On 26 August, the government took charge of emergency measures to prevent further radioactive water leaks”.


        “There are no clear plans for decommissioning the plant, but the plant management estimate is thirty or forty years.[37]”

        From Wikipedia. Now:

        1) The point is not the problems we may have now with nuclear activity, but the ones we can have in a severely depressed economic context, which could easily deteriorate atomic managing quality. Do you realize in “thirty or forty years” Japan’s oil availability will be zero or so? And with this zero barrel they will be willing to do a lot of things, far very different from visiting Fukushima or whatever disastrous place?

        2) Is it so difficult to understand that our central problem is the lack of oil, not of electricity? And that without oil there is no mining, no copper, no line fixing trucks, well, no electricity neither?

        3) What’s the fun in fighting everybody?

        Gail (as if you were God), do we deserve this? You are a somewhat sadistic god, you enjoy looking at some turmoil among your sheep…

        • Sorry. It is hard to moderate comments on a controversial subject (even though my article was somewhat peripheral to that subject).

        • Stefeun says:

          I’d rather see it as if Gail has invited us for nice meal she has prepared herself, and most of us come, just take a pickle and then go next room besides to eat our own sandwich we brought, and speak loudly.
          I think the problem with this post is the word “climate” in the title (like the tree that hides the forest).

          • Christian says:

            Ha, good image.

            Gail, this one we got some wrestling, wich doesn’t usually happen to so much extent because… your main assertions are just not contested by anyone, excepting a couple of paragraphs not very fitted for survival here and there.

            By the way, it seems this one generated more comments per day too, plus non allowed

      • Christian says:

        Robert, the third was not intended for you, excuse me

  3. edpell says:

    What I love about Gail’s blog is that there is discussion that rises above the level of typical internet discussion. So much internet discussion is just name calling. Not far above four year olds calling each other “nya, nya, poop-poop-head.”

    We can disagree. We can explain how and why we see it differently but PLEASE leave out the name calling.

    • timl2k11 says:

      It would help if AGW (reality) deniers at least did there homework and could bring something to the table to discuss, but they can’t, all they can bring is ignorance, idiocy, and a total disregard for the scientific method when it doesn’t fit their political ideology. I have no tolerance for it. Legitimate informative discussion can only take place among people who aren’t in denial of reality.

      • VPK says:

        tim, don’t count on it and best to limit your effort with these hardcore deniers. This comment section can easily get out of hand with exchanges that will produce little meaningful discourse. You are on mark it largely centers of their political outlook.

        • Interguru says:

          Just ignore the deniers, don’t give them the honor of a reply. If you must reply make it a short one like “BS”

        • Stilgar Wilcox says:

          “You are on mark, it largely centers of their political outlook.” Yes, and most conservatives (R’s) watch Faux news which attacks AGW on a regular basis. Every single person I have met that watches Faux news, strongly disagrees with climate change and rejects the idea humans are the cause. Interestingly enough most of those same people do not know what faux means.

      • Leo Smith says:

        “It would help if AGW (reality) deniers at least did there homework and could bring something to the table to discuss, but they can’t, all they can bring is ignorance, idiocy, and a total disregard for the scientific method when it doesn’t fit their political ideology. I have no tolerance for it. Legitimate informative discussion can only take place among people who aren’t in denial of reality.”

        Exactly my point. The reality is no global warming of any statistical significance for a period that is beyond mere coincidence and random chance.

        WE all know what a denier looks like,. the problem is, that you dont see that is exactly what you are.

        IN denial. The irony is indeed perfect

        • VPK says:

          “Exactly my point. The reality is no global warming of any statistical significance for a period that is beyond mere coincidence and random chance.”
          and you claim to be a “scientist”! Actually there HAS been:


          “As one of the paper’s authors, professor Jeff Chanton of Florida State University, said in the press release, “The world is getting warmer, and the additional release of gas would only add to our problems.”

          Although average surface and atmospheric temperatures have stabilized in recent years after peaking in 1998 – a year that was affected by the record-setting El Niño of 1997-98 – they are still at a level above that of previous decades: the global average from 2000 through 2009 was higher than the average for 1990 through 1999, which was warmer than 1980 through 1989. The average for 2010 through 2012, by the way, was warmer than the average temperatures of 2000 through 2009.

          After the next muscular El Niño, it will be interesting for the international team of researchers to travel back to the Stordalen Mire to check on the mushiness of the methane-releasing not-so-permafrost”

          Now, Leo avoided mentioning air surface temperatures….which do NOT include the ocean waters. Also, the Arctic regions, which are warming much faster than other parts of the planet are not represented properly in the data. If so even the air surface temperatures would have shown a marked warming.

          • Leo Smith says:

            I am not sure that pare is even wirth responding to.

            Lte look at te suyummary

            “A team of researchers has discovered new evidence that as the permafrost layer that covers 24 per cent of the Northern Hemisphere continues to thaw as global temperatures increase, not only does it release more greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, but as time goes by the ratio of carbon dioxide (CO2) to methane (CH4) changes from 10:1 to 1:1 as more and more methane is released.”

            Ok ltes look at that logially. The world doid warm for 20 years and stuff di melt,. butte point its that it stopped warming 20 yeras ago.

            Nothing in that contradicts what I say, except that that pare ASSUMES warming will continue. The hardcrut series and every other data set shows that more or less warming has in fact stopped, which makes that paper, like any other paper that assumes warming will continue, utterly meaningless and irrelevant.

            I too could write a paper on ‘te impact of Urban Unicorn infestation increase ‘ and show how widespread increases in feral urban unicorns were likely to ;ead to increased tyre punctures too.

            Don’t you understand the difference between a paper that assumes something as its starting point, that isn’t actually happening, and a paper that looks at the facts to assert that it isnt happening in the first place?

            around 95% of all ‘climate change’ science is not about looking at whether climate change is happening, is or is not caused by CO2 or anything else, they are all about what the effects of climate change caused buy CO2 are going to be.

            If there is no real effect of climate change caused by CO2, they are all utterly meaningless.

            a warmer earth would release more CO2 from the oceans, more methane from permafrost, and alow us to farm more northerly regions than we currently do.

            So what? The earth isn’t actually getting any warmer any more. Global warming ahs stpped. Or if you are mealy nothed ‘oaused’ wich implicitly oimnplies it wil resume.

            But since the AGW models never predicted the ‘pause’ its hard to see that any prediction of a ‘resumption’ is justified beyond trying to save the model, the trillion dollar ‘green money machine’ and the hypothesis in the face of overwhelming evidence that its junk science.

            • VPK says:

              Actually, The IPCC makes “projections”. Dr. James Hansen did write in his book “Storms of My Grandchildren” and in an article I read his concern of such a “pause” and the reaction by such folks like you.. It has happened before and is largely due to the dynamic, vast climatic system. But I suppose you will ignore that too, since you are a scientist and engineer. See my link to Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon-Mobile, has been deleted.

      • Paul says:


    • It’s called intelligent debate. Something sorely lacking out there in our delusional world.

  4. Gail,
    I always enjoy your analysis of complex issues such as energy, climate, and economy. I do have one question that I hope you can answer. You seem to consistently hold that the 2008 economic crisis was really caused by rising energy costs not the housing bubble and the fraud that went with it. I can see how both played a critical role but how do you justify playing down the housing bubble? I’m sure you have explained this before but I probably missed it.

    • InAlaska says:

      Not to speak for Gail, but I would suggest that the proximal cause of the 2008 economic crisis was the housing bubble fraud, but the distal cause was rising energy prices. The housing bubble was able to expand as large as it did because cheap energy allowed for the credit shenanigans that enabled it. It was a house of cards and the wind that blew it over was the headwind of rising oil prices running up against supply limits.

    • Leo Smith says:

      Mmm. Im gong to chip in with a view on that because its actually a very interesting question, and I sort of agree with Gail, but not totally, so here goes….

      IN a world that is not resource limited, but limited by technology and human numbers the economic model that naturally develops is one of capital accumulation. then capital invested in deploying new means of resource extraction and better technology, and you get the sort or rapid debt fuelled by genuine growth in everything that marked the 20th century.

      you can write off today’s debt against the future expansion
      you can redistribute wealth to the workforce by consumerism and that turbo charges the economy.
      you can even extend a little private credit to further turbocharge the economy without it overheating. Think nitrous injection.

      BUT all this superstructure is built on an invisible and ignored platform of continuous access to cheap infinitely exploitable resources. Especially energy. Invest in a well, get oil or gas.

      What happens when you invest in a lot of wells and you don’t get a lot of oil or gas?

      You are spending more and more money on drilling for less and less returns. The invisible energy business starts to push inflation into the whole consumer economy. People start feeling poorer. When they start feeling poorer, their debts start to hurt, and when they cant justify borrowing to buy a house, they stop buying houses. So you lend em the money anyway on the dubious proposition that if you lend enough people enough money houses will get expensive and your assets will cover your loans, but that is like throwing a supercharger on top of the nitrous injected turbocharged engine, to try and get more revs when you are in fact running out of fuel…

      So what I am saying is that because the consumer economy was faltering because we were and are running into resource limits, the whole sub prime fiasco was necessary in the first place ..

      The problem is that when you have a highly mechanised society producing all the goods and you start running out of the basic stuff out of which the goods are made, its a complete game changer.

      Investment in more production wont produce more goods. Investment into consumer debt sort a works fora while, but all it does is create a huge debt that cant be paid back. And the losers are the people,. But investment in governments buys you access to tax revenues. Aha!

      So what you need to do is to say

      World limited by resources. Tick.
      Everyone gonna be poor. Tick
      I dont wanna be poor. Tick
      I wanna be rich. Tick! Tick!
      That means the rest are gonna be REAL poor. Tick
      So I dont need em anyway – the machines do it all anyway. Tick.
      But they wont take that lying down. Tick.
      So I need to have a gun on them to keep them in place. Tick Tick.
      So how to I get a gun to their heads with their full agreement? Ha ha WAR ON TERROR. GLOBAL WARMING! TICK TICK.
      l’ll scare the bejasus out of them that the world will end. Tick.
      They have to give me all their money to stop it. Tick! Tick!
      I will control their lifeblood – energy – with their TOTAL CONSENT. TICK! TICK! TICK!.
      There now, I’ve got political economic and physical control of energy. All their debts belong to me. And they are costing me a lot to keep alive. Tick.
      And they have nothing I want. Tick
      Gas chambers? Why not. Who needs the poor anyway? TICK.

      Coming to a fascist superstate near you, not to be missed.

      And in case you think people are not like that really, just make a couple of million, and you will meet people like that everywhere you go. Because you are now ONE OF THEM.

    • The crisis started around the world. Japan was one of the first areas. It didn’t have a housing bubble.

      The US housing bubble was part of the whole chain of events in the US, related to high oil prices and low interest rates to try to counteract these high oil prices. I don’t have time to discuss it all here. I think I talk more about it in Oil Supply Limits and the Continuing Financial Crisis.

      • Lizzy says:

        Hi Gail,

        Japan had a huge housing bubble. At one point the $ value of the imperial gardens in central Tokyo was more than the whole of Canada. What a load of muppets they all were.

  5. cassandraclub says:

    The Dutch governement spends huge amounts of taxmoney to counteract climate change. We build dykes, raise the beaches and dunes, widen riverbasins and improve drainage systems.
    In contrast the Dutch do little to nothing to prepare for a life without oil and gas.
    I think we should at least plant millions of trees and learn to grow our own food in a sustainable way.
    By the time the sea will rise above the dykes, the Dutch will all be starving and freezing.

    • Leo Smith says:

      “By the time the sea will rise above the dykes, the Dutch will all be starving and freezing.By the time the sea will rise above the dykes, the Dutch will all be starving and freezing.”

      Yes but not because of climate change, but because they forgot the lessons of history, that windmills are rotten at even pumping water, which is why they got rid of them, so spending all their income on stuffing in new one instead of repairing dykes means a flooded country and no electricity to stay warm with either.

      • the dutch relationship with energy has been an interesting and maybe unique phenomenon. I’ve no idea when use of large windmills (ie big enough to pump water on a large scale) started, but it gave them an advantage in the construction of sailing ships. Both were complex wooden structures. On both counts the Dutch got wealthy by converting wind energy into something physically tangible.
        Windmills provided more land, ships provided trade. So from the 16th c the Dutch increased their wealth through ships and farming. It was a self replicating cycle with wind as the motive power
        But they fell into the same trap as everybody else, thinking oilpower would replace windpower forever

        • Leo Smith says:

          Actually coal power replaced windpower.

          And they were right. Cos it has.

          There’s guy here who still has a pony and trap too. Its not going to repalce a 30 tonne diesel ever.

        • I think the peat moss industry played a bigger role. It produced huge amounts of heat energy, that could be used in industry in many ways. Windmills produced a much smaller amount of mechanical energy. Mechanical energy from wind and water have always played a much smaller role than heat energy. This is a chart by Tony Wrigley showing the relative role of different types of energy in England (not Holland) early on.

          Thomas Wrigley Industrial Revoluton energy

    • Maybe you should talk to the Dutch government. Climate change is a politically correct thing to talk about–sufficiently far off, not to be too scary. Oil and gas limits are not.

      • Stefeun says:

        Few months ago I watched a video showing our French peakoilers (Jancovici, Auzanneau, Thevard, …) making their presentations in a meeting with about 50 deputies (members of parliament).
        Although the presentations were very clear, the following questions from the audience showed a very poor understanding of the real situation.
        Most of the participants seemed interested in particular points of the presentations, but likely to miss the whole picture.

        • Christian says:

          …but likely to avoid the whole picture. Is this record available?

          • Stefeun says:

            “avoid”? OK, merci (mon Anglais est assez rudimentaire)
            The vidéo I referred to (in French):

            On this one is only Jancovici, but I’m pretty sure the two other Gus were attending this meeting.
            Another one, in English, with Benoît Thévard at the EU parliament:

          • Christian says:

            Not sure neither, ha, ils évitent plutôt qu’ils ne saisissent pas. They play the fools. WIll look at

          • Christian says:

            I found it very good instead! When was it held? Is it an ad hoc commission or a stable Assembly’s commission? It seems that parties’ chiefs talked first, and did say almost nothing relevant. Greens were happy with him, although he is pronuclear. 15 second range legislators are allowed a minute after that, and roughly half of them transcended energy and climate standard discourse, talking of land arrangement, exhibiting surprise and worry, asking for positive guidance, and… not arguing. There were just very minor objections: he is right, he has the leading voice.

            He did a good presentation, although incomplete because pronuclear. I get this is in line with his suggestions about investing in isolation, which I see may mislead from easing rural habitation (which was not addressed). Food was also not much addressed, nor was it the lack of plastics and petrochemicals. Was still energy stuff, but enough to hit people.

            • Stefeun says:

              as far as I know (i.e. not much), it was a “spot” meeting held by the energy commission of the Assembly. Here’s a link to the minutes of this meeting:
              (still in French, sorry for the other commenters…)
              NB: for those interested, you can find lots of interesting info on JM.Jancovici’s website; link to the English version:

              Yes, he thinks that nuclear energy is the only way to fix the problem in Europe, partly because he’s convinced that reducing CO2 emissions is a priority, and also pretends that the “peak-finance” isn’t a real issue: “for EU it’s a 5 to 10 trillions Euros, but there’s no reason that we couldn’t find them; we already found 1 trillion E overnight in 2008!”.
              His point of view is far from being stupid, but as you say, his conclusions might not be the best ones because not all parameters are taken into account as inputs.

              Regarding the audience, I keep thinking that “miss the whole picture” is the right word: they aren’t mind-turned in order to be able to understand the global situation, and you can notice that nowhere the continuing of BAU was questioned.
              The average comment was: “Good work, quite shocking indeed, but … what kind of profit do you think I could get from it?” (of course I caricature a little bit).

              Note as well that the conclusion of the meeting was “Mr XX will continue to be in charge of the project of law about eco-participation” (this tiny % we pay on top of household electrical equipment, for recycling it after use).
              I haven’t heard about any action implemented after the meeting; nuclear power is quite touchy in France, see e.g.:

              French govt is also talking about reactivation of the national project so-called Transition Energétique, which had resulted into nothing already in 2013.
              Like with the “Grenelle de l’Environnement”, I fear lots of discussions, lobbying and time-waste, leading to much too over-cautious and therefore totally unadequate action-plan, which will never be applied anyhow.
              BAU is never questioned, so it can’t work; people always find very good reasons to avoid changeing and fear of being cheated.
              I must also say that it’s quite difficult to find out who is really in charge: National govt, EU institutions (Parliament, Commission, ECB), Washington, global finance, ..unc’Scrooge ;)

            • Christian says:

              Lot of people in Sustainable Development and Land Management (the real name of your commission); we have just 10 in Energy, which is currently headed by the leader of petroleum workers. So, renewables are not doing their best.

              This meeting was held a year ago, within which we have seen not a single political change. We must say Jancovici was quite ambiguous about BAU continuation. He eluded all details of any possible future economy (just provided the broad trend of decarbonizing), and went even to say “it’s to decarbonize, now it’s up to you to decide if it is going to be trough market or state instruments, which blending”, etc, and as you say he’s not a financial peakist, so in some passages he somewhat allowed BAU continuation. While in other passages he did not, suggesting no growth budgeting for instance.

              To sum up, he was very clear about the fossil nature of the financial stress and the ending of the actual paradigm, and that scared some people while others were already in the knowledge. But, he was not really clear about the future (may be this ambiguity made possible he was speaking there). Politicians will never adopt a conclusion they are not really forced, that’s how resiliency looks for their job, and they must even be careful about his most obviously BAU suggestion, the pronuclear.

              I know people as Auzanneau are better informed on the kind of wall finances had crashed. I know he and some others met Mme. Batho once. I don’t know how the meeting developed, but she was fired four months later and nothing happened. As was pointed out by a Congresswoman, now it’s transition tout court. may be the Devil wish to let go the énérgétique emphasis.

            • Stefeun says:

              New post on Matthieu Auzanneau’s blog: interview of Gaël Giraud, economist.
              “The true role of energy will oblige the economists to change paradigms”
              In French, but there’s a presentation at the end of the article, where most of the slides are in English language.

              By the way, looks like JM.Jancovici now pleads for redefinition of the “wealth”, saying that quantitative metrics used by GDP aren’t valid any longer, and we should adopt much more qualitative measurements.
              NB: just a feeling, I must say I haven’t investigated by myself yet; have to dig into his shift project data portal http://www.tsp-data-portal.org/ (in English!)

              Seems to be in the line of works made by US physicist Robert Ayres (quotes from Wikipedia):
              “What is most wrong about the “growth syndrome” is not its tendency to consume material resources (as Barry Commoner, for instance, assumed). What is wrong with it is that growth of the kind now occurring in the US and Europe is no longer making people happier or improving their real standard of living. (…) The possibility of de-linking economic activity from energy and materials (“dematerialization”) has been one of the major themes of my professional career.”

            • Christian says:

              Salut Stéphane.

              Giraud was already quoted here, good job too, more acute and technical upon the financial side. Wonder what is he thinking about when talking on “energetic” transition. He is a Jesuit!

            • Stefeun says:

              Nobody’s perfect!
              I was actually quite surprised about the fact he’s a Jesuit (and quite troubled to agree with him on many points, as an atheist..).
              I however must recognize they’re very good at putting questions; likely much less at providing answers…

  6. mikkel says:

    There is enough energy/cost effective coal gasification (http://www.theoildrum.com/node/8184) and perhaps even methane hydrate mining to keep us going on the high emissions path for many more decades — at very similar prices to what we’re seeing now. If you let prices rise 30-50% then this is a certainty.

    The world can easily get rid of a bit of consumerism and increase energy efficiency to the point that these costs can be absorbed without systemic failure; and syngas can supply any hydrocarbon we would ever want.

    The CO2 intensity for these options is off the scale, since gasification is about twice as intense as coal and methane hydrates will certainly have massive methane leaks that make it even worse. It is climatological suicide.

    I do not think the world has cheap enough fossil fuels in any form to keep the economy healthy, but it also has plenty to cause immense ruin.

    • It depends on to what extent lack of cheap liquid fuels provides an insurmountable hurdle, and brings down the economy quickly. There are a lot of options “out there,” but without the connections we get from our current economy that allow building high tech devices, it is hard to see that these high-tech options will be pursued. Instead, we will only be able to pursue low-tech options that are available with local supply chains. This raises the chance of great deforestation, but decreases the likelihood of other effects.

      • xabier says:

        The ‘advanced’ economies have moved to a retail/services, mass-consumer model. This depends on the cheap, ample fossil fuels. Hardly anyone at all is involved in primary production, or even secondary, and even the non-service areas are dependant.

        Restrictions in fuel availabilty must surely lead to the collapse of this model. Financial jiggery-pokery – as seen over the last decades with immense credit expansion – can only counteract this for a while. The pronounced decline is already very evident. Poverty is spreading.

        Everything I have in my house today, every service I use, all my interactions with customers and suppliers, depend entirely on this fossil fuel bedrock. If it turns to sand as in the Biblical parable…..

  7. Robin Datta says:

    • Four decade lag between CO2 emissions and climate effects.
    • 60% of all Industrial Age CO2 emissions were in the last 29 years.
    • Per paleoclimate folks, 400 ppm atmospheric CO2 corresponds to 4°C temperature above pre-industrial and 23 metres (~69 feet) mean sea level rise above pre-industrial.
    • The latent heat of fusion of ice absorbs 80 calories to convert a gram of ice at 0°C to a gram of water at 0°C. The US Navy forecast is for an ice-free Arctic by the summer of 2016. When that happens, 80 calories will heat a gram of water from 0°C to 80°C.
    • Arctic methane clathrates are already destabilising with exponential release of CH4, which is more potent in the greenhouse effect than CO2 (~20 times over 100 years, ~100 times over 20 years).
    • A release of 5% of the sequestered Arctic CH4 clathrates will exceed the greenhouse effect of all the CO2 emitted since the start of the Industrial Age.
    • The IPCC report summary does not mention Arctic Ice or the methane feedback effect.

  8. Denis Frith says:

    The fundamental situation is that technological systems have irreversibly used limited natural material resources, including oil, out of the crustal store, to build, operate and maintain the vast aging infrastructure of industrial civilization. This process is producing intractable waste material and doing irrevocable harm to the environment. It is an unsustainable process as energy flow is always oppose by the force of friction. Any discussion that does not take these fundamentals into account leads to misunderstanding.

    • xabier says:

      On ageing infrastructure: a report has just been published on Spain’s vast and rather highways. It emphasises that the real problem has not only been irreversible resource consumption, but failure to consider the practicalities of maintenance. Spain has, due to cuts in the maintenence budget:

      330,000 signals to repair, 52,000 miles of lines to repaint, 82% of lights to recalibrate, and the metal safety barriers everywhere are in a dangerous state. In short, already the highways are increasingly unsafe and this is quite new infrastructure. The car fleet is also ageing due to poverty, and those cars have more accidents.

      The highways people estimate that 1 euro spent on timely maintenance becomes 5 euros in 3 years, and 25 euros of replacement in 5 years! A very brief time frame.

      Let’s just contemplate China for a moment…..

      • xabier says:

        Here in England, I would estimate that within 5 years (at the most) of no proper maintenance, the minor roads here would be almost unusable by cyclists, due to the damage caused by even average winters and by poor repairs to areas that have been dug up for utilities.

        Our civilization could crumble very quickly.

      • Or at some point, governments just stop repairing some smaller roads, because it is too expensive.

        • Interguru says:

          The point happened already in 2010.

          Roads to Ruin: Towns Rip Up the Pavement

          Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

          • xabier says:

            I saw a comment about Tennessee (I think) giving up on new road building, etc, and putting all their funds into road maintenance. They could see the stark choice that had to be made. The next stage down is prioritising essential roads and abandoning others.

            • MJ says:

              There was a paper I subscribed to “Auto Free Times”, which advocated the end of road building and car usage. Seems it may be coming true.

            • During the late 50’s I heard N J Berrill, the McGill biology professor and author, express opposition to the interstate highway system. He was concerned about the potential waste of energy and by possible isolation of wildlife.

            • It seems like James Howard Kunstler in The Long Emergency suggested just stopping building more cars, if oil supply is limited.

    • Stefeun says:

      your comment is the 50th or thereabouts, but the first -really- talking about “the physics of the situation”, so …. congratulations! ;)
      Gail’s post is actually based on strong theory, as well as most recent findings, about energy flows and self-organisation of dissipative structures.

      This thermodynamical interpretation is very helpful to understand the reactions and evolutions of almost any kind of system -inert or living- and thus realize that we humans are just a tiny part of the whole, and have much less control than we think we have.
      It should also help to avoid implementing of unefficient or unrealistic corrective actions.
      Unfortunately it doesn’t help to fix today’s problems, but at least we have better understanding of where we go, and why; sort deep trends out of the noise.
      Best Regards,

    • Because of the issues you mentioned, we keep needing more and more energy, just to stay in the same place. At the same time, extraction is getting more difficult. And as you say pollution is going into the environment. Ultimately, the system can’t last.

      • Burgundy says:

        Climate change is already impacting infrastructure quite badly and, as you say, requiring greater expenditure of energy to maintain. I believe energy demand will increase (whether it is available or affordable is another matter) as our habitat and infrastructure is destroyed piecemeal by increasingly hostile weather conditions. At some point we will need to artificially replace the services currently rendered by Nature and that will be extremely expensive in energy terms. For example growing all food in protected and controlled environments.

        What happens when it no longer takes 10 calories of energy to produce 1 calorie of food, but takes 100 or 1000 calories to produce it instead? The number of people allowed to participate in the current system will reduce. Something I believe is already happening in the form of wealth inequality.

  9. Leo Smith says:

    Amazing to see how the original purpose of AGW – to gain an advantage for gas over coal, by declaring CO2 to be a taxable ‘pollutant’ has now been taken up as a justification for centralised communist style government.

    I strongly suggest the committed warmists here google ‘Lysenkoism’ and ‘Agitprop’ to see how to achieve these wonderful ideological victories (at the expense of a few million dead) over teh forces of reactionary bourgeois thought.

  10. IPCC report have many flawsand are not reliable. The sun and the cosmos have a bigger effect on the planet climate than Co2. A lot of new research are starting to point in that direction. IPCC is a another organization taking tax payer money and producing dubious report. IPCC is full of people producing nothing of value, like almost all human. Humans are parasites feeding on each other for survival. Pathetic. Gourvement agencies are just good are producing lies.


    • VPK says:

      I knew these were bound to creep in here regarding the integrity of Climate Science. Please provide not just links of graphs, but the science research papers that have been peer reviewed and published in Science journals to support your claim that a lot of new research point to direction. Thank you. Please refrain with more links to websites like WUWT and such,

      • You must be lacking reading and scientific skill regarding magnetic fields. . Underneath each of this videos are provided links such at this one so you can reconstruction yourself the graphics.


        You are a good sheep believing everything you reads. I am proud of you and so is the government. Don’t try to look for answer yourself because it required efforts and perseverance. You are one of these guys that think that everything can be easily explain. Please refrain yourself next time and show more judgement skills.

        • Jeremy says:

          Just what I thought, nothing related to Global Warming and just a bunch mish mash.
          Magnetic fields! In another words, you have no such research.

          • justeunperdant says:

            Good boy. I am proud of you.

          • justeunperdant says:

            The amount of heat that reach earth from the sun depend on the configuration of the earth magnetic fields and strength. I am sure you knew that because I am sure you listen to the video carefully. Nobody cares how much heat comes out of the sun, it is how much heat reach the earth.

            • Jeremy says:

              Is that right? OK, and what HOLDS the heat so it does not escape from the atmosphere?

            • Interguru says:

              Sunspot numbers go through an 11 year cycle. At times of high sunspot activity the stronger solar wind magnetic field effects the Earth’s magnetic field and we get more particle bombardment from the solar wind. This is observationally related to climatic warming through a not well understood phenomena. Changes in solar radiance caused by the sunspot cycle are considered too small to effect our climate. Right now we should be at a solar maximum ( warming our climate ) but for some reason the do not have as many as sunspots as expected ( blame it on Obama! ) . The Earth should be slightly cooler than expected. For more see the Wikipedia.

            • timl2k11 says:

              “The amount of heat that reach earth from the sun depend on the configuration of the earth magnetic fields and strength.”
              Total bullshit. The magnetic field protects us from the solar wind, not from the Sun’s heat. If it goes away the earth turns into Mars, out atmosphere goes away along with all it’s ability to retain warmth.
              If you don’t understand physics, if you don’t understand science don’t be an ass and trash the hard work of the scientific community. It’s just plain rude, sociopathic even.

            • VPK says:

              Since I received no answer to my question, I will answer it myself. What retains the heat from the sun, regardless of the amount that reaches the planet, is Greenhouse gasses.
              It is simple physics, and if you increase the concentration of these, more heat is retained in the atmosphere and the planet warms.

        • timl2k11 says:

          “You are a good sheep believing everything you reads. I am proud of you and so is the government.” says the person who provides a link from a government agency to support his claim (which ironically the link does not support). Hypocrite much?
          Please avail yourself of the obvious and don’t come back until you do:

    • I will have to admit that the care with which the fossil fuel estimates were chosen doesn’t give much confidence in the overall quality of the report.

      • VPK says:

        I forgot to thank you for your latest piece. I have been involved for a number of years with 350.org and even went to Washington D.C. several times to lend a voice regarding this issue. That is a good question regarding fossil fuel estimates. The IPCC is a Intergovernmental body and may have been “obligated” to use government estimates.

        • My understanding was that in previous reports, the estimates were a quite a bit higher than IEA estimates. This made the situation strange, since IEA was talking about how terrible everything was, based on them. Or course, IEA reports didn’t forecast out as far.

  11. VPK says:

    I am not in total agreement with Gail on this topic. Wonder if she has read Bill McKibben’s Rolling Stone article that went viral; “Global Warmings Terrifying New Math”. Since being published in July 2012 it has recieved close to 12,000 comments!
    Science estimates that we can pour 565 more gigatons of CO2 in the atmosphere to keep the climate within a “safe zone” and yet nations and corporations have proven reserves five times that amount 2,795 gigatons lock away on their books ready to be extracted. Recently, Exxon-Mobile issued a public statement indicating that it deems it will not be hindered in any way to do so on the same day the latest IPCC report was made public!
    Even in the event of a contraction, the pieces are in place to erect a command economy to ensure the continuation of a reasonable state of affairs. Sorry to write a similar “system” of forced labor, such as Stalin’s gulag, can be put in place to have functional society with dysfunctional methods.
    With a “crisis” mentality, those in the high places of rule of government and industry have displayed rather brutal extremes to maintain the State.

    • Having “proven” reserves doesn’t prove much of anything. In the Middle East, these so-called proven reserves suggest that countries can continue producing something like 100 years. Actually, they can continue producing until civil unrest brings production to a halt. That could be later this year, or next year. Look at Libya recently. Oil prices too low will also bring production to a halt. Proven reserves are not much more than numbers on sheets of paper.

      There are all kinds of estimates regarding climate available. I was just looking at the IPCC report.

      I don’t how a person puts a system of forced labor into place that would work for oil extraction. You need large amounts of physical resources (steel, specialized drilling equipment, specialized equipment for scoping out exactly what oil is available where, fracking equipment, trucks carrying water, many spare parts, paving equipment for roads) besides the specially trained people to use this equipment. You need supply lines from around the world to make the high tech equipment and replacement parts for such equipment. It is not like digging ditches with forced labor.

      • VPK says:

        Gail, it’s fine you hold that view, but the point it all we need to do is burn 1/5th of those proven reserves to be in deep poo poo. That was my point. Also, considering feedback loops (i.e. methane), it’s a done deal.
        Stalin and his regime did not need all that, sent the folks out to Siberia with basically the cloths on their back and bare essentials, and that is being generous. Read a terrifying account of expatriate Americans that went to Soviet Russia during the Depression.
        In order to support his nation had the ‘”traitors” go to work camps in the wild cold forest with shovels and the to dig for gold. You even admit it may not be an abrupt decline here in the United States but one of stages. You claim you do not know how this would be done. Believe me there are those that will be more than willing and able to piece together a system to do so at the expense of humanity, One only need to look in recent History to have examples. I do not think I have to name them.

    • Planet Janet says:

      I have not read these references, but I would like to present to you a thermal theory of global warming.

      The planet is warming primarily due to the combustion effect of fossil fuels
      as opposed to the greenhouse effect.
      I request a venue for attention to this theory and would cherish some intellectual and constructive dialog from members of your blog. Blog contributors please be nice.

      We also clearly differentiate between global warming (static, boundary condition) and climate change (dynamic). Annual algebraic calculations prove three things: 1. Global warming is primarily the result of heat of combustion as opposed to the greenhouse theory. 2. This simple approach becomes significant when combined with classic atmospheric weather patterns because it shows why the arctic is melting and Antarctic not which has been the thorn in the side for the greenhouse theory. 3. Only 20 percent of the annual energy generated is sufficient to melt the arctic ice.
      Why is this theory critical to the planet? Simply reducing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in the short time frame is nearly impossible, thus the greenhouse theory identifies a problem that cannot be resolved in the time frame necessary. With the thermal theory, simply reducing fossil fuel consumption (thus it’s heating effect) might allow immediate results for global warming.

      First world myth: The World is Flat
      Second world myth: The Greenhouse Effect is Primary Cause of Global Warming.

      An incredible amount of International and individual progress has been made in awareness of environmental and atmospheric degradation due to fossil fuels, awareness of CO2 emissions. I applaud of all those who have participated to reach this level of awareness; more research institutions and individuals than I can name. The scientific work to date by the IPCC represents the most incredible and comprehensive environmental analysis of by a group of world class institutions.
      Awareness is the first step and this is a feather in our cap, Focus on CO2 concentration, however, does not direct our efforts in a manner to solve the problem.

      Identifying a problem is very different from solving a problem. First, we must understand that CO2 concentration is only one very detrimental environmental consequences of fossil fuel consumption; let us not forget oil spills on land and in oceans, transport spills, acid rain, fly ash pond failures, coal mine explosions, enormous water consumption in the many various stages of harvesting fossil fuels to power generation. Even the IPCC engages in analyzing the problem and has yet to create the platform for solution. Technology is not at all at the core of solutions, people and redefining energy using the concept of entropy or life force is paramount.

      The calculations are presented in a fun manner for children and young adults at quackhouse.net or thiscoldhouse.us

  12. Planet Janet says:

    I agree with Lindon that energy (oil depletion), the economy and climate change are all tied together. Furthermore, the solutions to the problems can be solved simultaneously. It requires a bit more in depth thinking than just about oil. I would like to outline a few key parameters to arrive at a solution. 1. We must reclassify energy because we have become so absorbed, dependent on technology and electricity that we have forgotten electricity is not necessary for survival; we do not have three prong electrical outlets at our belly button. Technology combined with reductionist thinking has left us completely vulnerable as a species and not capable of survival when the “lights go out.” 2. I have made some very simple annual calculations that pretty much prove that global warming (which is the boundary condition that drives climates change) is governed primarily by the thermal effect of burning fossil fuels, not necessarily the greenhouse effect. 3. This thermal theory is crucial to achieving solutions because we cannot effectively reduce CO2 emissions in the time frame necessary to avert total planetary disaster; reducing fossil fuels consumption, thus the heating effect can have the potential to stop the ‘irritation so to speak’. 4. Another simple thermal calculation I have perfomred, when combined with classic atmospheric weather patterns, proves (95% confidence level) why the arctic is melting and antarctic not. 5. It is essential to determine the infrastructure and energy combination that meets the environmental needs of the planet and immediately start this transition. This infrastructure transition is how we maintain the economy while we reduce CO2 emissions.7. I would cherish some review/discussion of my thermal theory. Climate change is so complex that I feel the annual average of data, keeping it simple can be much more powerful. Enjoy the presentation……….the designated audience is children or youth and a goose presents the theory..

    • I notice your website is quackhouse.net. Your ideas sound rather far-out to me. One thing I have discovered as I became aware of the energy situation is how different the various types of energy are. There is a common belief that we can substitute one type of energy for another, but in fact, there are many subtypes that must be kept separate. There is little substitution, and very often, lack of a particular oil product will take a machine or factory out of service altogether. For example, if lubricating oil is not available for a machine, it will not be able to run. If you or I do not have gasoline to drive to work, the fuel products that our work place would normally use may not be used (for example, if you work in a factory that operates using fossil fuels).

      • Planet Janet says:

        Gail, Thank you so much for your response! In some senses my ideas are out there but the intended audience at Quackhouse.net is for children and thiscoldhouse.us for young adults, our next generations. The presentation is intended to be light hearted and fun as the topic is so dire and I am an eternal optimist. In some sense my ideas are just simply naturalist; the two sites will develop a platform for solutions to climate change and go beyond problem identification and also put people in the solutions equation. Please direct me to anyone else who presents solutions and not just identification/modeling of the symptoms! I have yet to check out the thorough references in your blog.

        Simply stated, the thermal theory hypothesis:
        The planet is warming primarily due to the combustion effect of fossil fuels
        as opposed to the greenhouse effect.

        I request a venue for attention to this theory and would cherish some intellectual and constructive dialog from members of your blog. Blog contributors please be nice.

        We also clearly differentiate between global warming (static, boundary condition) and climate change (dynamic). Annual algebraic calculations prove three things: 1. Global warming is primarily the result of heat of combustion as opposed to the greenhouse theory. 2. This simple approach becomes significant when combined with classic atmospheric weather patterns because it shows why the arctic is melting and Antarctic not which has been the thorn in the side for the greenhouse theory. 3. Only 20 percent of the annual energy generated is sufficient to melt the arctic ice.

        Why is this theory critical to the planet? Simply reducing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere in the short time frame is nearly impossible, thus the greenhouse theory identifies a problem that cannot be resolved in the time frame necessary. With the thermal theory, simply reducing fossil fuel consumption (thus it’s heating effect) might allow immediate results for global warming.

        First world myth: The World is Flat
        Second world myth: The Greenhouse Effect is Primary Cause of Global Warming.

        An incredible amount of International and individual progress has been made in awareness of environmental and atmospheric degradation due to fossil fuels, awareness of CO2 emissions. I applaud of all those who have participated to reach this level of awareness; more research institutions and individuals than I can name. The scientific work to date by the IPCC represents the most incredible and comprehensive environmental analysis of by a group of world class institutions.
        Awareness is the first step and this is a feather in our cap, Focus on CO2 concentration, however, does not direct our efforts in a manner to solve the problem.

        Identifying a problem is very different from solving a problem. First, we must understand that CO2 concentration is only one very detrimental environmental consequences of fossil fuel consumption; let us not forget oil spills on land and in oceans, transport spills, acid rain, fly ash pond failures, coal mine explosions, enormous water consumption in the many various stages of harvesting fossil fuels to power generation. Even the IPCC engages in analyzing the problem and has yet to create the platform for solution. Technology is not at all at the core of solutions, people and redefining energy using the concept of entropy or life force is paramount.

      • Planet Janet says:

        Quackhouse…..because fossil fuels are no longer what they were quacked up to be…….

  13. GreenHick says:

    Always a pleasure and a learning opportunity, Gail. A couple of queries, though.

    I wonder that I never see you address scenarios–as at the top of your analysis–in which we respond to the ever more plausibly evident failure of profit-seeking energy market responses by abandoning these rather than ride them off the precipice.

    I’m far from confident either that large scale nationalization and rationing *will* happen, or that it would at this point prevent a steep energy descent, were it attempted. Perhaps more gradual, more tractable, or with other, conceivably more egalitarian outcomes–but nothing like the “energy solution” happy talk. Still, I don’t think I’ve seen you make the case at any length that this is not a scenario worth considering, or agitating for.

    Second, although your observations on the IPCC scenarios are insightful, it seems plausible that the IPCC in many if not the most fateful ways understates the gravity of our circumstances– the 0.8 degrees of atmospheric warming we’re seeing now were baked into the cake in the 1970s, apparently, and even zero human-sourced carbon-equivalent emissions as of tomorrow would, at best, take us to 2 degrees C. We’re blowing through projections for polar melt a half-century out that were made just a few years ago. Scientists are conservative. The IPCC just cannot seem, even with the new risk management approach, to address anything like the graver scenarios for self-reinforcing feedbacks–albedo loss ineluctably, and runaway methane release that may already be underway, to name two.

    If I were to hazard a “hopeful” guess, I would say we might aim at, agitate or “vote for” a semi-managed–nationalization, carbon tax/caps/rationing–hydrocarbon energy crash, strategic deployments of wind/solar at a scale far below that of the 15 EROEI that we currently depend on, a financial crash, hair cuts, debt jubilee, and something less than the abrupt near-term climate shift of up to 16 degrees C in a single decade that the paleoclimate record shows us is possible. Stabilizing at four degrees might leave half the planet habitable by a tenth the population, though perhaps as early as 2040, not the infinitely distant 2100.

    As you sagely note, eventual outcomes may well have much less to do with what we would choose to enact, or even imagine we can do, than on choices, options and forced actions that no one but the disaster capitalist island-owning sociopaths might wish for their heirs (and not for ours).

    • InAlaska says:

      Right On! There is still time to agitate. We can pull a part of this out of the fire, but not all, of course.

    • Paulo says:


      Your comment is excellent. But I wonder about all the wackos already frothing at the mouth about losing their guns and the right to bear arms? There are already cities with no-go zones, Chicago comes to mind. There are cities with open air drug bazaars, a total flaunting of the law. There are counties that decline to prosecute industrial dope growers, also heavily armed. When I see the dysfunction in Washington and the lack of trust, how on earth would any group of leaders push/pull/intimidate the doubting reluctant rebellious elephant? I think it is already falling apart and only the complacency of ‘connected’ and over fed amused citizens that have yet to wake up is hiding the problem.

      I also think it depends on where you live. I live in rural Canada and am not too afraid of the future, even a future that warms. I think New Zealand would be good to face the future from, and perhaps Australia. Maybe Russia. Urban USA, Europe, and over-populated Asia probably not. My point is this. The dire consequences of everything depends on where you are living, and while we are truly all in this together and will all suffer, some will be affected far worse than others, of course.

      Hopefully, there will be lots of private jet mishaps, and limosines vandalized….just to even out the playing field


      • GreenHick says:

        Thanks for giving my comment a close, critical reading. You make important points: about how variegated we might expect outcomes to be; that no set of outcomes in any one of these localities is necessarily uniformly negative; and, if I can infer this from your final comments, that the degree to which we actually perceive ourselves to be “all in this together” may have a great deal to do with whether we avoid the worst possible outcomes and accomplish some of the better ones.

        You also pose a good, challenging question with regard to whether this or any other set of prescriptions that I (or anyone else) might wish to offer are likely to succeed or to work out as intended. I think I can answer that 1) the likelihood of success is less than sufficient to *compel* your or anyone else’s assent or action, and that 2) these courses of action can already be anticipated to have outcomes other than or in addition to those intended–some positive and very possibly many others negative. (At which we can begin to ask about how we tend to not just the harms but the quality and fairness of particular distributions of benefits and harms.)

        What I would propose more generally is that courses of action warranted in likelihood or probability or even the condition of success should be re-evaluated for the quality, adequacy, or appropriateness of these warrants. Among the weaknesses of many of the posts and comments that Gail and others present (myself included) on this site is that even as present trends cannot continue (I don’t disagree), various alternatives or remedial courses of action face enormous obstacles (I don’t disagree). The resulting tenor of the discussion seems to be that if we don’t have any guaranteed alternatives (if we did, I suppose we might be hearing more about them), we’re pretty much hooped.

        We may be hooped, but waiting for guarantees or even judging our efforts solely (and often unwittingly) on their prospects for success serve to lock us into a kind of rationalized helplessness, abandoning the field to powerful actors and agendas already in play, and withdrawing into cynicism, into various takes on “kissing it all good-bye” and into dramas of private, family, or local survivalism. (I am not saying that this is your position, but it is hard to formulate alternatives to this against the grain of this sort of thinking.)

        In contrast we might agitate for–here and elsewhere–a “political cosmography” or “experimental metaphysics” (Latour, 2004) and a culture of design conversations (Nelson & Stolterman, 2003) in which increasing unpredictability, uncertainty, risk, limited agency, and unintended outcomes do not disqualify alternative propositions from consideration but rather are factored into all proposals–and their contraries stripped away from all counter-proposals, including for example, the IPCC or scientists in general and their capitalist / denialist adversaries–before the plausible prospect of radical destabilization of our conditions of life, local, civilizational and planetary.

    • There are three reasons I don’t talk about government interventions:

      (1) I remember at The Oil Drum, Nate Hagens posted some sort of rationing document that was put in place a long time ago–my recollection was 1979, but that is probably not right. It only related to gasoline, and it would assign a prorated amount per licensed driver. Because of concern about theft, ration coupons couldn’t be mailed out. People had to drive to a suitable place to pick them up. There were then many details to figure out and administer. When I got to the end of it, I realized it was terribly inequitable. Everyone who had a 90 year old grandma or a 16 year old son would get allocations for them, whether they needed them or not. Other versions–say based on number of cars owned–would be easy to “game” as well. The allocations would be the same if the person lived two miles from work in Hawaii or 50 miles from work in Wyoming. If there was a real shortage, and certain groups needed to get an allocation off the top (Police, military, ambulance, farmers) it looked quite possible that there would be nothing at all to allocate to individuals. Besides gasoline, there are many other oil products that are equally critical, but weren’t considered in the rationing scheme at all. After hearing about Healthcare.gov problems, I do not expect that a modern version would be any better. So in short–the practicalities seemed just too difficult to sort out well.

      2. I expect that governments will be in terrible shape themselves. They cannot take on new responsibilities. They will be breaking up and disbanding, to deal with inadequate funding. A big part of our problem will be lack of government leadership.

      3. The problems we have now relate to the fact that oil cannot be extracted profitably–the price would need to be higher than buyers can afford. Governments can “fix” that by reducing their tax loads–except that they badly need taxes, so it is hard to reduce taxes. Governments around the world are grappling with what to do with oil companies that are government-owned but not generating the revenue they need. Brazil and Mexico have made a big deal about trying to get private investors to try to come in and bail them out. This is going in precisely the opposite direction of what you are suggesting. With governments in poor financial shape, they aren’t in a position to bail out oil and gas companies, to keep the game going.

      • GreenHick says:

        Gail, thanks for taking the time, though I am hoping you might devote a post to developing your ideas along these lines at some length. I’d welcome your best thinking on this. Still, a comment or two on your 3 points.

        Point 1. I mentioned multiple modes of government intervention, not just rationing. Governments already intervene massively through the drafting of tax codes and regulations, for example. So massive intervention–albeit largely captured in support of perverse outcomes and bad actors–is already a feature of the landscape and has enormous agency to effect outcomes, perverse or less so.

        As for rationing, are those schemes perfect? Likely not. Are some better than others? Likely so. But are you really arguing based on a critical analysis of one rationing charter that this is beyond our capacity to achieve? Is it so much more complex than a set of tax codes, trade agreements, running the British Empire, or much of what the Chinese government has done by fiat in the past two decades? Has rationing never worked? Has it never accomplished outcomes better than those to which it seeks an alternative?

        The Automatic Earth offered an intriguing series of posts and posters reminding us of the US wartime effort of a command economy that used rationing and mandated factory refits that yielded immense outputs. There’s a great deal about this wartime mobilization that raises concerns. But if efficacy is the issue here:

        Point 2. Yes, governments will be in terrible shape. They are now. But if they are now it is that they have allowed their sources of revenues to be looted–through offshoring, corporate and plutocratic tax cuts, tax havens–and their balance sheets to be destroyed with zombie paper liabilities. Nationalize the banks, confiscate corporate and plutocratic offshore accounts, and convert as many of these as possible into real assets before wiping out all remaining debt, and issuing new local currencies. Governments might buy themselves back the decades we’ve recently lost to soften the slope of energy descent.

        Do I think governments will show this leadership, or that we will succeed in effecting these outcomes? I think the odds are long against it. But it is one thing to say that we may fail, and quite another to say there are no alternatives that are worth formulating and fighting for–because we cannot guarantee success, or the probability of success, or a problem-free, pain-free struggle. Yes, the ship is going down, but is that all we have to offer? Can we slow our rate of descent, stretch our fuel, get to a secondary landing site, effect a crash-landing in a field? Sub-optimal, yes. But arguably better than or a plausible complement to chanting multiple variations on we’re gonna crash.

        3. Energy industry profitability. The direct government support of hydrocarbon production that I have in mind is the nationalization of the industry. We ran PetroCanada as a profitable Crown corporation for decades. I think you make a very plausible case that this iteration will not be profitable, but in government hands it does not have to be, at least to wind the industry down over the next fifteen years instead of jumping through hoops to keep them afloat as private entities. It will be the entire tax base that subsidizes the wind-down costs of managing a steeply diminishing hydrocarbon output curve and overall energy descent. Exploration and capes development aside, a great deal of current production *does* generate a surplus–and potentially a much larger one without the bloated executive payouts, the dividends and share buybacks, and after bringing the overall salary structure back into line with the rest of the economy. Rising carbon tax and and share programs can further extend that surplus while diverting a great deal of it to renewables as fossil-fuel extenders, as you put it, and improving our resiliency during decarbonization and overall energy descent. (The EROEI problem strikes me as more intractable than the profitability problem.)

        Sometimes I wonder if your thinking about our current financial arrangements treats them as if they were immutable laws, and that no set of human arrangements radically different from these is possible, notwithstanding the thousands of cultures and years of history that might offer counter-examples. And since our arrangements no longer work either …. Game over. But I wonder if your thinking begins to trail off there, at game over.

        But it won’t be game over. It will play out in one way or another over decades. I think you are unnecessarily limiting what your formidable capacities might accomplish here. Predicting the end of this civilization–without even being able to predict when–is just the beginning. If we’re looking to offer certainty, or guarantees, or what works in terms of today’s economic logic, or to be delivered from unintended or sub-optimal outcomes, then we’re likely to have less to offer than we might otherwise contribute.

        A guaranteed optimal path is likely not on offer. But there are many worst-case outcomes that imperfect, uncertain courses of action might still avoid, and unexpected positive outcomes that various alternative visions might open the way to.

        • In the 1940s, there were lots of cheap hydrocarbons available, a lot of industry operating below capacity, and a lot of people either unemployed, or women who had never considered entering the workforce. All of the debt sold through bonds allowed a big ramp up in government spending. It was possible to do things that had not been done before–for example, transform factories from making cars to making armaments, and bring new people into the workforce. Those times are past. We are out of cheap energy, and are already in debt up to our ears. We are lacking a way to ramp up the economy in this way, or it would have been done long ago.

          On the EROEI vs profit question, I would argue that profit is the important consideration, not EROEI. EROEI is simply a metric that makes different assumptions than profitability in valuing inputs–not necessarily the right ones. For example, it assumes that a Btu of natural gas at the well head is worth the same as a Btu of oil at the well head, even though natural gas costs proportionately far more to distribute, and is much more limited in its uses. (The market says natural gas is worth a lot less than oil, which is why even with low EROEI, oil can be extracted from the oil sands profitably.) EROEI also leaves out the important role human labor plays, the time value of money, and the role of government taxes. Profitability has the ability to tie all of the important issues to together; EROEI just picks out some to look at on a different basis.

          Perhaps there are roles that the government can play. At this point, I don’t have good ideas as to what they might be. I will keep the idea in mind, though.

  14. i1 says:

    It’s really a question of when bond market participants recognize (or can no longer hide) what Gail is talking about that the true limits to growth will be reached. I would guess they’ll go down swinging.

    • I saw an interesting interview today: I see speculative bubbles like in 2007 with former chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS in Basel, Switzerland) in German Finanz ind Wirtschaft.

      BIS is often referred to as the central bank of the central banks.

    • Insurance companies and pension funds are a big part of the market for bonds.

      I am not sure how things will work out. I am thinking that banks will go down first. Or maybe it will be contagion from debt defaults starting somewhere like Japan.

  15. Eric says:

    Gail, I think it goes without saying, and you would admit, that you don’t have any special talent for predicting energy prices. I think your current position is that they could go up then down, or vice versa. Do I have that right? However, your entire current argument is that you CAN predict future levels of fossil fuel production (your graph and scarce capital story). So, please, can you tell us what level of fossil fuel production, at what date in the future, would induce you to admit that you were completely, totally, wrong. How about if coal+gas+oil combined are at today’s level or higher in 2020?

    • I am saying we are hitting a financial problem right now. So what would disprove what I am saying is rapidly rising US wages, leading to rising standards of living, and plenty of good-paying jobs for young people out of college. Also, governments lowering their tax rates, because wages are rising so rapidly that they are getting too much money to fund government programs.

      I really would like to be proved wrong, because I have adult children who would benefit from these things.

      Oil selling for $20 barrel in 2020, and gas selling for $2 MCF in 2020 (both available in adequate quantity–not just a bit put on the market at below the cost of extraction) would also be part of what would prove me wrong.

  16. levelektro says:

    c`MON ! You are kidding yourselves when you think that fossil fuel extraction and burning will diminish there is enough accessible coal and gas and tarsands still available to fry the planet 5 times over . C`mon you are kidding yourselves when there is no more oil they will resort to coal to liquid conversion and whatever outlandish and devastating process they just can think of to get fuels . What would be the other option?? lieing down and wait for dieing << I don`t think so . This article from Gail is a phantasie . This will go on until the atmosphere blows up or because some other natural or artificial event makes the extraction and conversion processes impossible and than !!!??? Kiss ass goodbye !

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      What economy will there be post collapse to support all that dirty fossil fuel burning? How is a post collapse population going to refine dirty FF? Where will they get the many parts needed for repairs that currently come from many places around the world? Sure, some FF will be burned but no where near the scale of what is burned today. Imagine 45 super tankers holding 2 million barrels each of oil every single day. Imagine a train carrying coal that is 115 miles long every day to supply coal powered E plants. I don’t know how to equate all the NG, but sure must be a lot every day. That’s a whole lot of CO2 emissions. Then once collapse occurs and the population descends thru a bottleneck, then how much do they burn when they do not have the complex systems like refineries or cars to burn it?

      • Paul says:

        That puts things nicely in perspective

      • levelektro says:

        As i have said it There will be no collapse Until ” there is enough accessible coal and gas and tarsands still available to fry the planet 5 times over ” and “when there is no more oil they will resort to coal to liquid conversion and whatever outlandish and devastating process they just can think of to get fuels” >>this will be done no matter what .. On the other hand .

        Ashen lady, Ashen lady
        Give up your vows, give up your vows
        Save our city, save our city
        Right now

        Well, I woke up this morning, I got myself a beer
        Well, I woke up this morning, and I got myself a beer
        The future’s uncertain, and the end is always near

        Let it roll, baby, roll
        Let it roll, baby, roll
        Let it roll, baby, roll
        Let it roll, all night long

        ……..so enjoy your good times while it lasts we had a pretty good run until now

    • The thing you are missing is the fact that it takes the current economy to support extraction of oil and gas, and to operate the system that allows widespread use of electricity, often using coal and nuclear. I have been writing about the fact that the current system is headed toward financial melt-down. Without the current system, we end up with a lot of “stranded” oil, gas, and coal. To get oil and gas out, you need equipment and replacement parts from around the world, people with specialized training from around the world, and an international financial system that will allow keep the price up high enough, to encourage companies to do the extraction. Right now, getting the price up high enough is a problem, despite governments forcing extremely low interest rates.

      Even coal is a problem. Much of the coal that is extracted uses modern equipment that needs oil to run it, and replacement parts from around the word. Even where coal can be dug out by hand, there is a problem with transportation without our current oil-based system.It is likely that the coal that can be pulled out by hand can only be used in a local area, because of lack of transport, if oil is a problem. Thus, coal extraction will be restricted to small amounts that cam be used locally, in the situations where such coal is available.

      My real worry is wood. Without oil, natural gas, and coal, people will turn to wood, and will cut down whatever forests are available. This could be a real problem.

      • levelektro says:

        It will be subsidized than . Government subsidy like everything else . Like farms or military . They will divert every resource to keep the system together . It is not even private capital holding it together anyway .It is all supported even now If it gets tight they will just put more resources to it and that`s it otherwise they would have to day their nice governments jobs goodbye so they have no other choice

        • Paul says:

          ‘Government resources’ will not exist

          Government resources = the ability to tax corporations and workers — such things will not exist.

          Debt markets will not exist so governments will not be able to issue bonds.

          Think about what this collapse means – picture the worst economic situation in the world – haiti? somalia? then imagine the entire world being that and worse – there will be nobody to help – no UN – no aid agencies – nothing

          Was speaking to a banker the other day and he get’s it — but on the food issue I mentioned 98% of all ag land is chemically farmed — he reckoned there were a lot of small plots around that could soften that blow a bit — that is true…

          However one problem — most people have not a clue how to farm sustainably if at all — and it would take months to produce a crop on these small pieces of land… By that time most people will have starved to death.

  17. Dana Visalli says:

    IT’s tough to be genetically programmed for abundance on a finite planet, and at the same time programmed for utterly irrational aggression, e.g. fighting impoverished ‘enemies’ 10,000 miles away who would have welcomed us as guests if we had dropped in for tea. It seems relevant to me that rising CO2 levels and modeled responses are not tracking together; i.e. almost no hurricanes last year (‘the future will be even worse’), record-setting low # of tornadoes, record global food production, a temperature plateau (arguable but factual), increased ice and multi-year ice in the Arctic this year (google ‘arctic ice’). Hubris rules. Dana

  18. Creedon says:

    I have heard that CO2 doesn’t actually create climate change, but that it is the oxygen combining with hydrogen to create water vapor that actually creates the green house effect. I wonder if more brilliant minds than mine could enlighten me on this.

    • Rowan says:

      You have heard wrongly.
      Try reading the primers found at http://www.SkepticalScience.com

    • mikkel says:

      CO2 creates warming directly but this extra warming increases water vapor which is a very powerful greenhouse gas. This fast feedback increases warming further.


      • Leo Smith says:

        …except that water vapour has this odd habit of rising way up to the top of the atmosphere and turning into ice radiating all its energy to space from well above any altitude that carbon dioxide can affect, and creating clouds that shield the sun, losing energy in the process, and falling as cold ice, rain and snow.

        Do try to be a little less moronic and simple minded when looking at a complex dynamic system.

        There is no glass lid on the earth’s so called ‘greenhouse’ to prevent convection. And carbon dioxide doesn’t put one there either.

        Applying simplistic science to complex dynamic systems gives wrong answers. And,trust me, there is nothing so simplistic as the IPCC et al.

        They have built a massive skyscraper on foundations of mud. Hoping you would be awed by the skyscraper,and not look at the foundations.

        It is no coincidence that a planet with a huge amount of water ends up being somewhere a little above the freezing point of water and well below its boiling point.

        • timl2k11 says:

          Why are you talking about that which you know nothing of Leo? There is a lid for water vapor, it’s called the tropopause. Were you home schooled or something? Why are you trashing a concept you for which you don’t even understand the most basic principles? How does the greenhouse effect work? At least study something before you trash it, don’t be so lazy. You are no better than those who want to teach creationism in the science classroom.

        • mikkel says:

          Increased water vapor still has an insulation effect as it rises. You are right that the IPCC models are simplistic because they are based on equilibrium models, but almost all feedbacks that are kicking in are positive, compared to a few negative ones. This will hold true until the planet shoots up to 4C or (if we don’t stop emissions) around 8C. At that point, the energy imbalance will put emphasis on negative feedbacks.

          This is still “a little above the freezing point of water and well below its boiling point” but is catastrophic for ecosystems on such a short time scale and therefore humans generally. The paleoclimatic evidence all points to these feedback loops.

    • I keep out of what are the real issues that lead to climate change. I know the report does have a history and future projection of water vapor, for what it is worth. A person would like to think that the Climate Scientists get some things right in their model.

      There are issues with the condition of the sun that some think are important in forecasting climate change. In my little bit of looking at the report, I didn’t see that the future condition of the sun (Maunder Minimum, etc) issue was addressed.

      • mikkel says:

        Gail, even if the sun enters a Maunder Minimum-esque period, it’ll still only impact warming marginally (https://www2.ucar.edu/atmosnews/research/10145/turning-down-heat)

        The primary problem with [climate] science is communication and segmentation. Regarding communication, almost all the effects we are seeing have been predicted but in fuzzy science speak. For instance, in 2008 there was a paper suggesting that due to being in the negative phase of the PDO, it was likely temperatures would remain “paused” until it ended around 2015. These dynamics are not caught in the IPCC model, which uses equilibrium modelling for computational and philosophical simplicity. However, after the PDO goes to the positive phase, then the warming quickly catches back up to IPCC projections.

        This insight was not widely disseminated throughout the community — let alone the public — even though the evidence (historical and instrumentational) was overwhelming. And so now we have to deal with “the models are wrong! There has been no warming for 15 years and they know nothing!” BS.

        Similarly, claims about solar output not being factored into the models are narrowly true as far as the IPCC is concerned, but dynamics are well understood.

  19. 666isMONEY says:

    The IPPC and others do not figure in the other greenhouse gasses like methane hence, real CO2ppm is more like 480ppm and temperature lags the ppm by 40-years quote:

    Unfortunately, the global CO2 measure doesn’t tell quite the entire story. For atmospheric levels of gasses like methane, nitrous oxide, and a host of less common industrial chemicals have also all been on the rise in Earth’s atmosphere due to human emissions. As a result, according to research by the Advanced Global Atmospheric Gasses Center at MIT, total heat forcing equal to CO2 when all the other gasses were added in was about 478 ppm CO2e during the spring of 2013. Adding in the high-velocity human greenhouse gas contributions since that time gets us to around 480 ppm CO2e value. In the context of past climates and of near and long term climate changes due to human interference, 480 ppm CO2e is a terrifyingly high level.

    The last time the world saw such a measure of comparable atmospheric greenhouse gas heat forcing was during the Miocene around 15-20 million years ago. At that time, global temperatures were 3-4 C warmer, the Antarctic ice sheet was even further diminished, and sea levels were 80-120 higher than today.

    Read more: http://robertscribbler.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/world-co2-averages-touch-402-2-ppm-daily-values-in-early-april-102-ppm-higher-than-at-any-time-in-last-800000-years/

    • yt75 says:

      “The IPPC and others do not figure in the other greenhouse gasses like methane hence”

      Of course they do, even though this can all be merged into some form of “CO2 forcing value equivalent” in some documents (like you can count coal in oil barrel equivalent for energy), and indeed methane is a key one, as having a much stronger forcing value (green house effect), but a shorter “life span” in the atmosphere.

    • The IPCC has separate estimates of a long list of greenhouse gasses. They combine them all into something called “Effective Radiative Forcing,” which isn’t a CO2 number per se. I am only going by what the IPCC estimates. They consider all of these green house gasses, and put in what they think are appropriate “forcings” for them, with appropriate time lags. I don’t know of any reason to assume that the IPCC is doing their analysis wrong.

  20. Leo Smith says:

    Just two points:
    1/. You are assuming that there is any realistic correlation between rising CO2 levels and global temperatures.
    2/. You are assuming a decline in nuclear power.
    I would challenge both of those assumptions.

    Already even the IPCC is moving away from ‘climate disaster! we must stop emitting’ to ‘this is how we deal with climate change.

    Japan has announced the restart of nearly all of its existing reactors. Having realised that a ‘disaster’ which has killed no one, and is not likely to show any statistically detectable ill health arising from the Fukushima incident, is simply a well handled industrial accident. From which lessons may be learnt, but not a reason to stop deploying nuclear power.

    Other nations are too eyeing the graphs that you have there, and realising that its all very well being king of a the dung heap, but a dung heap that is collapsing with a restless and potentially anarchistic population deprived of food and energy is unlikely to deal kindly with them.. Uneasy lies the head etc…

    And the only ace in the pack is nuclear power of one sort or another.

    All over Europe the powers that bee are quietly retreating from climate change and renewable energy, moves echoed in Australia and Canada. And tentative nuclear kites are being flown to judge public reaction.

    The massive commercial interests promulgating the climate change mythology of course wont simply go away, but bit by bit the gravy train riders will be eyeing a new gravy train.
    By 2035 the glitterati will be saying ‘ Darling, do you remember when we believed in Anthropogenic global warming and renewable energy,? well of course I never did, but you couldn’t SAY so could you?”.

    • Rowan says:

      @Leo Smith
      Your point 1 is demonstrably wrong – there is over 150 years of scientific evidence, proven over many thousands of experiments, that increasing CO2 levels will cause a net increase in trapped heat.
      Climate change is not a mythology.

      • Leo Smith says:

        “evidence…that will cause…”

        Really. the evidence of today and of a few million years is that they never have yet..

        I wonder of the two of us, who is better placed to actually assess scientific papers?

        Perhaps you would like to write down here, the general shape of the equation that lies behind the already refuted hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming?

        So I can show you what they left out, and what they put in, to make a scare story, out of nothing much really.

        By any science and statistics, the total failure to achieve any further significant warming in the last 17 years refutes the claims. Scientists who understand science and statistics understand what that means. The proposed correlation between anthropogenic CO2 and global warming is irretrievably broken. Ergo something else was in play. And still is.

        I have never read so many woolly ignorant and wholly qualitative Bandar Log type responses from what I assume is a dedicated band of trolls as here today.

        Gail has made some valid and interesting points, but they are based on premises that can and should be challenged.

        On the decline in fossil production, she is as far as as I can calculate broadly n the ball park.

        In terms of climate change she is off her area of expertise: I was merely pointing out that there is considerably more doubt about the accuracy of the AGW models than anyone here is prepared to admit. I AGW was a real normal scientific hyphothesis detached from political and commercial interest it would already have been rejected and shown to be inconsistent with the facts. World climate sensitivity to CO2 is so low as to be for the purposes of policy making totally irrelevant.

        That leaves a residual issue totally unconnected with climate: the end of an era of cheap fossil fuel, and severe impacts on a society built entirely on the assumption that it will always be there.

        I am again pointing out that just as when energy prices rose in the 70s unconventional extraction became economic enough to replace conventional extraction as pil prices rose, nuclear power of one sort or another is increasingly attractive, and is not limited by the cost of fuel or extraction methodologies yet, nor is likley to be for a few thousand years. Arguably longer than civilisation has existed.

        That doesn’t of and by itself solve all issues, but it solves the chief one under discussion here. access to cheap primary energy.
        WE stillhave a problem with exapnding populatins, food and lasnd resources and fresh water and s on. Bt with cheap nuclear energy we can partially adress thse.

        So whilst it may be the end of coivisatin as we know it, it wont be the end of civilsation altogether.

        No one here seems to understand the fundamental human factor: faced with nuclear power or death, people are going to chose nuclear power.

        All we are experiencing right now is the gradual dawning of the realisation that that is in fact the real choice facing us.

        With excess energy, we can tackle the probelms we have. Without excess energy, we can’t. Its that simple.

        • Interguru says:

          “No one here seems to understand the fundamental human factor: faced with nuclear power or death, people are going to chose nuclear power”

          At best nuclear power will be a niche solution

          For 2008, the average worldwide generated electric power is in the order of 5 TW. This is estimated to increase at the rate of 2.2 percent per year from 2010 to 2040 .
          This means will need to increase generation capacity by about 110 Gigawatts per year. If we generously assume that each nuclear power plant generates 1 GW, to supply all the increase from nuclear generation we will need to open a new plant about every three days. Given the immense cost, complexity and large delays associated with construction of new nuclear plants there is no way we will even get close to that number.

          • Leo Smith says:

            A typical modern nuclear plant starts at 3GW these days. Fukushima was 4.7GW.
            Look at France

            “The plan envisaged the construction of around 80 nuclear plants by 1985 and a total of 170 plants by 2000.[16] Work on the first three plants, at Tricastin, Gravelines, and Dampierre started the same year[14] and France installed 56 reactors over the next 15 years.”

            One country took just 15years to generate >80% of its electricity from nuclear sources. The bulk of the rest is hydroelectricity.

            Nuclear electricity is Frances third biggest export. It powers large parts of Belgium, iItaly and Spain.

            And generated power won’t increase much longer – as other factors will start to limit population growth sooner. Already in the West generated power has plateaued for many years.

            I accept that to replace fossil, would call for an increase in electricity however. betwen 2-3 times what is current production in the developed west.

            And a new nuclear plant rolling out every few days worldwide is not a huge problem. That’s when you start mass producing factory shipped almost ready to fuel units and assembling them into simple modular stacks on a pretty standard and basic platform.

            Or do you think that 10,000 windmills a day with gas backup powerstations every week is more realistic? Even if there was somewhere to put them?

            I would remind yo of what is possible

            Here is an excerpt on the WWII liberty ship

            “The first ships required about 230 days to build (Patrick Henry took 244 days), but the average eventually dropped to 42 days. The record was set by SS Robert E. Peary, which was launched 4 days and 15½ hours after the keel was laid, although this publicity stunt was not repeated: in fact much fitting-out and other work remained to be done after the Peary was launched. The ships were made assembly-line style, from prefabricated sections. In 1943, three Liberty ships were completed daily. They were usually named after famous Americans, starting with the signatories of the Declaration of Independence.”

            In 4 years between 1941 and 1945, 2700 Liberty ships were built. a rate of nearly two per day, average.

            And that was just one country doing it.

            There are no real technical problems to deploying as much nuclear power as is needed. What is the problem is to understand the urgent need to do it and have the political will to cut through the red tape that is deliberately designed to make them as expensive and slow to build as possible.

            I suggest you read this.

            Nuclear power could if the will was there, knock gas and coal completely off the grid at a price in the 5c/kWh mark, especially under a regime of low interest rates. It could be installed at a rate completely adequate to deal with the decline in those technologies, and to whatever level was required. And if it isn’t, then the countries that dont will collapse economically because the countries that do will out perform them in terms of exports.

            Your choice. Prejudice fear and ruin, or nuclear power..

            • timl2k11 says:

              You never address scalability. Sure a small economy (France) built out a large fleet of nuclear plants, but who has more? We do. America. Nuclear suffers the same problems as wind and solar. It’s simply not scalable.

            • Interguru says:

              “problems as wind and solar. It’s simply not scalable.”

              Why is it not scalable? As an extreme you could have solar panels on the roofs of houses?

            • Interguru says:

              Gail’s calculations tend to be broad. From http://www.postcarbon.org/new-site-files/Reports/Searching_for_a_Miracle_web10nov09.pdf p42 .

              We have a calculated EROEI of 3.75 to 10


              As both Gail and the authors of the above document acknowledge, the calculations are notoriously difficult to make.

              Solar PV is not a magic bullet, but it is the only alternative source that might pan out.

            • It unfortunately doesn’t fix our need for a cheap liquid fuel.

            • Paul says:

              Too Expensive

              It would cost at least $37,500 per home if you consider how much the latest facility cost. Abu Dhabi built a new 100-megawatt concentrated solar power plant for $750 million that can provide electricity to 20,000 homes (NPR). There are 132,419,000 housing units in the United States in 2011 (census.gov). It would cost 5 Trillion dollars to provide electricity to Americans using solar farms, and that doesn’t include the cost of upgrading the electric grid and many other costs.

              Solar One was so expensive that no costs were publicly revealed.

              Solar Two would have cost more than $14,000 per kilowatt if Solar One’s equipment hadn’t been used
              Negative EROEI (Energy Returned on Energy Invested)

              So much energy goes into and mining, materials, fabrication, delivery, maintenance and so on, that the energy returned from the solar plant is less than the energy that went into making it.

              Solar Plants require 1,000 times more material than a gas-fired power plant.

              A 1,000 MW solar plant needs:

              35,000 tons of aluminum
              2 million tons of concrete
              7,500 tons of copper
              600,000 tons of steel
              75,000 tons of glass
              1,500 tons of chromium and titanium
              And many other materials.

              The energy that goes into the construction of a solar thermal-electric plant is, in fact, so large that it raises serious questions of whether the energy will ever be paid back (Beckmann).

              From Day 1, the metals rust and the plant decays and grows brittle from harsh sunlight.
              Too Vulnerable

              Solar farms are vulnerable to damage and destruction from:

              High winds, tornadoes, & hurricanes
              Storms and hail
              Sand storms, which scour the mirrors.

              Where’s the water?

              They’re all located in deserts, which makes it hard to find the water needed to rinse off the mirrors.

              The Abu Dhabi plant will need 600 acre-feet of groundwater to wash off dust and cool auxiliary equipment. Desert groundwater is not renewable.
              Too much space required

              Central-station solar requires between five and 17 acres per megawatt (Beckmann).

              Solar Two took up quite a bit of land for the power being generated. There were 1,900 mirrored panels, each one over 100 square yards, and the results were only one megawatt per 17 acres of capacity. A natural gas facility taking up that much space would generate 150 times as much power (Bradley).

              Howard Hayden estimates Solar Two would need to take up 127 square miles to produce as much energy as a 1000-MWe power plant does in one year. (Hayden, p. 187).


            • Leo Smith says:

              Well that ISN’T scalable – a simple back of the envelope calculations shows there simply arent enough houses and they wont generate a single thing at night either…

              Germany’s already tried that and are in a complete mess.

            • Partly it is because it interferes with the operation of the rest of the grid, beyond a certain point. If the financial arrangements are wrong, it can lead the fossil fuel electricity makers to leave, creating a problem going forward for electricity supply.

            • Leo Smith says:

              You really are insane. Of course its scalable.

              I did the calculations. The UK would to replace fossil fuel entirely probably need around 150-250GW of nuclear power.

              That is between 50 and 75 large nuclear plants Similar to what France already has .. just bigger units.

              at a rate of say three plants a year for the next 25 years that’s less than the net cash contribution the UK makes to the EU for the privilege of being told what not to do.

              Any western economy is in a similar position. The UK has enough plutonium stockpiled to run em for ten years and with breeder technology enough fertile material for 50 years ALREADY STOCKPILED. Classed as ‘waste’ at the moment. And a fuel processing and reprocessing plant fully capable of being developed to supply them and deal wit the waste.

              There’s enough fissile and fertile material just lying around waiting to be scraped up at silly prices to run the word at current levels for several thousand years.

              Before we need to start filtering uranium out of sea water..

              That should be plenty of time to actually get a fusion power plant going and then about a million years to run out of seawater.

              Of course that removes primary energy as a problem completely, and your job as doomsayer goes, but relax there are plenty of other things we will run out first like clean water and antibiotics that work, so you can get all excited about those. And there is the issue of off grid power to address to. Nuclear powered cars are not yet a viable proposition, and batteries look like being a dead end mostly, so we will need to manufacture fuel from water and air, rather inefficiently to replace diesel and avjet, if we want to carry on with cars trucks and planes.

              What stands in the way of doing all that is stupid people of course. Which may be why smart people are busily separating stupid people from their money and keeping it all. AS long as there are stupid people objecting to all the things they actually need, and whose usefulness as wage slaves has been replaced by more reliable machines, stupid people are surplus to smart peoples requirements and will therefore be left to die in droves.

              Meanwhile keep em happy with renewable energy and takeaway pizzas (or lethal organic beansprouts*) and hope they don’t notice…

              So my message of the day is this:

              The more stupid you are, the more you are going to get taken for a ride, and the easiest person to take for a ride is a stupid person who thinks they are smart.

              Yes folks, beansprouts killed more people than Fukushima.

            • Interguru says:

              “And a new nuclear plant rolling out every few days worldwide is not a huge problem. That’s when you start mass producing factory shipped almost ready to fuel units and assembling them into simple modular stacks on a pretty standard and basic platform.”

              I will believe it when I see it. We, as a civilization, have lost our ability to do complex things. If Obama said we are going to the Moon, do you think we could do it in 7 years, under schedule and under budget, as we did in the 60s.

            • edpell says:

              Leo, factory built reactors still require an on-site built containment building. The concrete, rebar, labor, and capital of the massive container is the limiting factor. If you can come up with a reactor that does not use pressurized super heated water that does not require high pressure containment then it might work.

            • Leo Smith says:

              Good grief! 150 reactors represents about as much concrete and rebar as a couple of city office blocks and a few miles of road.

              Hardly a limiting factor!

              What exactly is your civil engineering background? you once watched them putting up a public toilet?

            • More than a decade ago while visiting my daughter in Pittsburgh I spent a Saturday morning in the late Dr, Cohen’s office. I had met him earlier at conferences. He was emeritus but was still provided an office. He had mostly published in venues associated with physics. I again suggested that he write an article for a radiology journal and supplied contact information for the two best. This culminated in #9 of the following. http://www.phyast.pitt.edu/~blc/

            • Mark Kent says:

              Thanks Robert for the link to the Bernard Cohen references. An excellent resource!

            • Leo Smith says:

              Yes. we now a lot more about cancer and radiation than we did when safety limits were first devised.

              A good summary is here.


              The only really proven risks I have found are from radon, which is associated with lung cancer, possibly as much from the fact that it decays into heavy poisonous metals as it is from the radiation aspect, and short term high doses of iodine 131, which represents the greatest threat from accidental exposure to reactor core contents at sub lethal doses.

              the evidence from oncology, is that the massive doses use to burn cancers can result in unrelated secondary cancers (about a 30% increase) some years later.

              But the evidence is piling up that modest increases in background radiation over a long period do next to nothing at all. IN general there is about a 10:1 variation in background radiation (mainly radon) between various parts of the world, that should show up statistically in terms of increased cancer rates, all other things being equal, abut the statistics simply dont show any correlation beyond a slight lung cancer increase mainly among smokers. And the rate increase does not correspond to the LNT model.

              Its in any case far more dangerous cancer wise to live in an urban environment on in an area of high sunlight, than in an area of high radioactivity for example.

              The problem was back in the 60-s we simply did not know what the effect of long term low level radiation might be: Wade Allison’s description of policy then as ‘ALARA’ – as low as reasonably achievable – and the LNT highly conservative assumption – gave rise to the myth that ‘there is no safe level of radiation’ and ‘the safety standards represent the borderline between unacceptable radiation and TOTALLY unacceptable radiation levels.’

              In short by bending over backwards to be ‘safer than safe’, the nuclear industry made a rod for its own back, in that anything less than ‘safer than safe’ was blown up to be ‘dangerous’

              And it provided the perfect excuse for ‘regulatory ratcheting;’ in which more and more safety restrictions and constant knee jerk responses to nuclear power pushed up the cost and time of construction to the point where its was – in the UK at least, especially in the then regime of high interest rates and abundant natural gas – totally uncompetitive.

              I wasn’t aware Prof Cohen had died. His on-line book is an immensely valuable overview of a rational evidence based approach to understanding and balancing the risks and benefits of nuclear power.

              It’s a sobering thought that the worst nuclear accident conceivable – a reactor not even shut down properly. on fire with no secondary containment worth speaking of spewing its entire guts into the atmosphere – Chernobyl, resulted in less than 100 deaths overall, and approximately 3000 survivable thyroid cancers that would never have happened if they had issued iodine pills immediately and evacuated the area promptly, as they did at Fukushima. And the actual radiation levels outside the reactor site are less than in many parts of the world naturally. It is in fact perfectly inhabitable, if the perception of danger didn’t prevent it.

              Compare and contrast the death rate at Bhopal or Banqiaou..a MINIMUM of 2500 at Bhopal and MINIMUM of 100,000 at Banqiaou. Renewable energy kills more people than nuclear ever has or ever will.. nobody says as result we should stop making chemicals or never build another dam again do they?

              Still the world is full of irrational response to almost everything that gets anywhere near the MSM. Or politics.

              Poor old David Nutt got the sack for saying ‘on the evidence, horse riding is more dangerous than heroin addiction’. Not something a government quango head is supposed to say, even if its true. Likewise dear Edwina Curry who also got sacked for telling the truth ‘all eggs are covered in salmonella’ after a nasty outbreak. Of course they are. Don’t eat raw eggs, especially from an organic farm…

              Sigh. Public Panic and Public Perception and a Pusillanimous Press and Pathetic Politicians. It’s a recipe for bad government which ever way you look at it.

              Disease after disease coming back because of scare stories about inoculations..

              And everybody gets rich promoting a Climate of Fear.

              “This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

            • Leo Smith says:

              Its AGW all over again!

              Faith in a given concept, eugenics, the scientific orthodoxy, ‘settled science’ and then along comes the data to say ‘er, no, actually…’

              And the reason it was wrong seems to be once again FEEDBACK. The ability of the body to self repair minor damage.

              Its a by like saying that of you hit someone with an axe at such and such a force, and it kills them 50% of the time, one in ten million will die shaving…if they cut themselves.

            • I will probably stir things up, but as I understand the issue, the current concern in Japan is about breathing or ingesting “hot particles,” not about low levels of background radiation. Low levels of background radiation, as the article you link shows, are much less of a problem. The problem is particles floating through the air and being breathed in or eaten with food. That is what makes explosions different from background radiation.

              The radioactive water that is let loose from Fukushima will have hot particles in it that fish in the area will eat or take in through their gills. If these fish are caught, they will make it into the human food chain. Or otherwise, the particles may lead to deaths and illness among fish.

              It is the flying through the air problem, and the mixing with water than will be drunk, that is a problem. Or are there “hot particles” in the food and water of people living in the areas where there is high background radiation? Or is the background radiation sufficiently settled in the ground that, say, the groundwater is not filled with hot particles?

            • Actually “hot particles” stirred things up during the discussion following your natural gas post of March 31, 2014. See the Leslie Corrice commentary of April 11, 2014.

          • edpell says:

            The KSA is building 16 nuclear reactors at a cost of 112 billion dollars.

            • Leo Smith says:

              They aren’t stupid. Its their only hope.
              a fair price in todays market. about what our health service costs us every year.

        • ordinaryjoe says:

          “No one here seems to understand the fundamental human factor: faced with nuclear power or death, people are going to chose nuclear power.”
          Well it will have to be by ballot initiative- you could be collecting signatures now! You could have the shape of power plant containment structure on one side and skull and bones on the other. I for one would relish the idea of voting whether nuclear power should be legal and would accept the outcome regardless. When will this vote occur?
          “No one here seems to understand the fundamental human factor: faced with nuclear power and death, people are not going to choose nuclear power.” Fixed it for you.

          • Leo Smith says:

            Dead people dont have a vote*, so nuclear power always wins in that scenario..too..

            *yet. I am sure that some liberal type organisation will propose that they should as well as all unborn children yet to come.

        • Paul says:

          You are cluttering up my inbox with this nonsense…

        • Ken Barrows says:

          Leo, in your 17 years comment, you are forgetting about the ocean. If you are going to take the “con” position, at least cover all of the bases.

    • GreenHick says:

      Leo Smith,
      Although the IPCC is a flawed human enterprise like any other and not above reproach–as for example, too conservative, too concerned about making mistakes, captive to the political process of getting lobbied politicians to round off the sharp edges of their conclusions–that you seem complacently to think that you can refute 150 years of scientific investigation with some back of the envelope calculation, and complacent thought experiments seems remarkably dismissive not only of the scientific enterprise but of the basic intelligence of the people conducting it.

      By all means, throw your hat in the ring and submit something to Nature or Climate Science, but I’d rather you didn’t waste our time with the self-celebratory debunking schtick.

      I’m sorry if this is a bit harsh, but it’s not too late to join the ranks of the uncertain and fallible.

      • edpell says:

        IPCC is a political enterprise. We are all free to participate in politics. We are also all free to participate in science.

        IPCC assumes without study, thought or analysis that oil use will grow on a exponential curve out to 2100. Gail and others point out this is unlikely. She explores the scenario of affordable oil ends and we do not use coal as a replacement. This should clearly be one of the IPCC scenarios.

        I knows Gail’s reasoning that there will not be available resources to substitute coal for declining oil. She may be right but it is not clear to me one way or the other. So I would like to see a second IPCC scenario added, oil declines and coal is substituted.

        For me it is clear that China, India, Brazil, and the ROW excluding US and EU will not give up a first world living standard just so the US and EU can maintain theirs. It will be burn baby burn unless the economy does crash worldwide. Here in New York State we are adapting. We are upgrading water drainage going from one foot pipes to two foot pipes, etc…

      • VPK says:

        Leo Smith claims “AGW is a model”. Right there shows the limitations of his view. AGW is based on the science of Physics and Chemistry, paleo-climatic research and data, documented historical records of the recent past and modern observations. Computer models are part of the science and provides useful projections with various confidence levels.

        • timl2k11 says:

          “SHOW ME THE FORMULA!!!” ;)

        • Leo Smith says:

          yadda yadda roll out the big words. That’s a bit like saying the tacoma bridge was based on steel and iron, asphalt and rock.

          Bloody thing still fell over.
          science fictions is based on science too.

          That doesn’t make it fact.
          I’ve showed you where the fundamental flaw is in AGW, and you never ever respond to it.
          I’ve showed you where all the evidence you need that makes it impossible resides, and you hand wave it away.

          you cant argue science with a religiuex.

        • VPK says:

          See, what did I tell you, Tim. No matter what is put forth there is a refusal to accept. This fellow is a prime example. Leo, you had your say, time to move on. bye.

      • Edmund Brown says:

        Arguing that the “green trolls” are hoggin the internet is losing argument as far as I’m concerned. One of my original go-to points regarding global warming denial was always “follow the money”. The oil/gas/coal crowd have more dollars and more influence in politics than the green crowd ever will, and can afford more internet trolls too. I used to think that much was obvious, but now I’ve heard the same from a number of online discussions, I suppose not.
        I do think there is bureaucratic inertia and grant money that drives some research and research findings, but that is far from the same thing as an organized and well funded greenwashing group. Greenpeace’s annual budget is a rounding error for the likes of ExxonMobil.

        • Leo Smith says:

          Precilsely gas companies are fuly behind AGW becaus it mean more gas.

          Coal is not a big money spinner.

          Oil is neutral. The world cant do without oil and they know it.

          at least a trillion dollars worldwide hinge on AGW.

    • timl2k11 says:

      It never ceases to amaze me how quickly people such as yourself, Leo, throw out the principles of the scientific method when the results don’t fit their worldview. You are in the same camp as creationists. At least global warming is something we can see before our very eyes rather than in some ways a thing we have to infer from the past. I think this is apropos: “Any sufficiently advanced troll is indistinguishable from a genuine kook.”

      • Edmund Brown says:

        I’m hesitant to post anything here since Leo is being trash talked but here goes –
        Two links for context of the following comments
        Skeptics handbook – http://jonova.s3.amazonaws.com/sh1/the_skeptics_handbook_2-3_lq.pdf
        IPCC summary for policy makers – http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/report/WG1AR5_SPM_FINAL.pdf

        I guess I bought the consensus line for most of my life without ever really looking closely at the evidence. When I watched a documentary about glaciers retreating and it showed a graph of CO2 and temperature plotted together it shook me because I easily picked out that CO2 lagged temperature by a few hundred years, yet the documentary made no mention of this fact. So then I dug around on the internet a little and found the explanations for why this is so. They seemed like curve fitting by intelligent people looking for explanations for something they’d decided “must be fact”.

        I’ve never had much confidence in the computer models used to tell us what will happen if CO2 keeps going up. I think this way even more since reading Gary Taubes’ book, “Good Calories, Bad Calories”. That book is about diet, fat, and scientific process. It blew my mind because I thought the evidence indicted animal fats and proteins was robust. He carefully shows that it is anything but robust and the perception that meat is unhealthy was created by just a few prominent and vocal scientists and policy makers. The number of papers published that “demonstrates harm” from saturated fats is in the many thousands. But only a few actually show possible harm. All the rest cite and extrapolate from those few. Most of the few have methodilogical flaws and so should be removed from the canon, but they have a citation momentum that makes it impossible. There were always dissenters to the fat-heart health hypothesis but they got shut out of the “debate” by other more skilled in ad hominem attacks and less scrupulous with their data. The largest bullet point on page 15 of the IPCC summary seems to admit they don’t have the computer models dialed in (that bullet point sounds to me like they’re trying to explain why the models showed warming during the last 10-15 years while reality did not).

        I also think we won’t be able to reach the IPCC’s worst case carbon scenarios even if we want to. I don’t think there is enough carbon in the ground, so as much as we would like to burn more fossil fuels, they just won’t be there to be burnt. Yes, we’re burning more and more carbon rich sources of fuel these days (brown coal, tar sands), but even trying to ramp these sources up will not be able to offset the huge volumes of oil that are going to disappear out of of the energy supply in the next 10-20 years.

        The primary reason I think there could be something to the AGW hypothesis is the dramatic changes in so many other parts of the world we’ve already effected. Species extinction, habitat destruction on such larch scale that it could almost be called habitat extinction, soil alterations on continental scales, ocean acidifiction, etc. The atmosphere is not a limitless sink, so it stands to reason it could change it’s properties when we add 200 million years worth of decayed plant materials in 2 or 3 centuries.

        I do blame anthropogenic CO2 emissions for ocean acidification. I can’t remember what pH is required for corals to build their shells, but I seem to remember reading somewhere that they could collapse at a fairly minor change in oceanic pH.

        I guess ultimately I have decided to not give AGW too much more thought – I’m in favor of carbon taxes whether CO2 causes warming or not. Taxes would incentivize energy conservation and push us to develop economic approaches that use less fossil fuel, the sooner we do that the better IMHO. Carbon taxes would also disproportionately affect coal and tar sands, which I think would be good because they are the fossil fuels most destructive of whole landscapes. And I decided to live somewhere cold and wet so that if it gets warmer and drier that will just mean better growing conditions for me.

        • timl2k11 says:

          “CO2 lagged temperature by a few hundred years,”
          Sure, if different processes are involved. The release of massive amounts of CO2 by mankind has never happened to the planet before, so if CO2 lags temperature in the climate record than all it tells us is a different process was going on. Or do you think that past increases in CO2 were caused by prior civilizations unknown to us releasing CO2 into the air from some source unknown to us?

          • Edmund Brown says:

            No, I do not believe that former civilizations released CO2 and precipitated warming.

            The skeptical science link you provided actually was one of the sources I read on the topic when I dug into it a little deeper. The cited papers that “show” major CO2 contributions to temperature rises rely on computer modeling of past climate behavior. I don’t believe they do a very good job of providing for all the various dynamics that drive climate change. My critique in the above comment about the new IPCC report goes to this point (page 15 biggest bullet point) – it uses veiled language, but says as much – the models are not yet reliably able to predict what the climate is going to do.

            The reason that CO2 lagging temperature makes me wonder is that we don’t have a good paleological example of CO2 driving temperature global temps higher. Many people say, “the last time CO2 was this high global temperatures were X degrees higher”. That can be true and CO2 could just be a coincident indicator, not a primary driver.

            Again, I don’t deny that humans could be causing warming. I’m just not convinced by computer models that “show” warming. And yes, I accept that the world is warmer today than it was 200 years ago.

            • timl2k11 says:

              That CO2 is a greenhouse gas that causes warmer temperatures in increased concentration is established fact. We don’t need to look at the paleologic record to know that or model it. What the paleologic record does is help us understand feedback cycles and determine more accurately climate sensitivity to CO2.
              The computer models cannot tell is exactly how much warming we are going to get, there are so many feedback cycles, what is alarming is things may be much worse then predicted due to multiple positive feedback cycles. Oh and by the way, as to your earlier comment that the earth has not been warming in the last 10-15 years, you can only conclude that if you believe in cherry picking data.

            • Leo Smith says:

              “That CO2 is a greenhouse gas that causes warmer temperatures in increased concentration is established fact. We don’t need to look at the paleologic record to know that or model it. ”

              But we do need to look at paleologic record toi understand HOW MUCH of an effect it has.

              “What the paleologic record does is help us understand feedback cycles and determine more accurately climate sensitivity to CO2.”

              Indeed, and it shows ‘Co2 alarmism is bunk’ mainly.

              “The computer models cannot tell is exactly how much warming we are going to get”

              Then what point is there in basing any policy on them?

              “there are so many feedback cycles, what is alarming is things may be much worse then predicted due to multiple positive feedback cycles.”

              Or indeed much much better. Due to multiple negative feedback cycles. That wouldn’t be cherry picking would it?

              “Oh and by the way, as to your earlier comment that the earth has not been warming in the last 10-15 years, you can only conclude that if you believe in cherry picking”

              No you can only believe that it hasn’t by EXTREME cherry picking when EVERY data set of ANY repute including those used by ALL climate modellers for serious use says the same thing.

              So to summarise., you assert the CO2 is the prime driver in all cliamte change which the data does not support.

              You assert that the climae change is amplified by positive feedback and could be much worse when all the evidence of the past is that in fact its dominated by negative feedback which is what has kept he global cliamte as stable as it has been.

              And you express deep uncertainty about model predictins whilst maintaining a poltically active stance that climate change can be predicted enough to have policy makers respond to it

              And the final bit of double think, you accuse people of cherry picking when you yourself have done nothing but cherry pick the worst possible alternatives to emphasise with no rational reason to pick them

              You really are a card.

              Give it up, no one is fooled anymore.

            • Patrice of Mtl says:

              The earth itself is a wonderful model of the CO2 action on the climate. The sun has become much brighter over the ages yet the temperature has stayed more or less the same. CO2 is at the center of this feedback mechanism. A suggested reading: How to Build an Habitable Planet, from the Princeton Press.

            • From the beginning of human habitation (before what we would even call civilizations), humans have burned down forests and killed off the major predators for food. Such action could be expected to cause at least local climate changes.

        • edpell says:

          Edmund, thank you. I still feel State of Fear by Michael Crichton (Oct 13, 2009) is one of the best books on AGW. Just as you cite the nonexistent science of “meat is bad, protein is evil” Crichton recalls the science of eugenics in the first half of the 20th century, it too was high science published in peer reviewed journals.

          I try to avoid AGW as both sides are so emotionally invested disagreement of any kind leads to… well … exactly what you see here.

      • Leo Smith says:

        The bIg Lie Strikes!

        I am not like you. I am a scientist first and the worldview is formed by the science.

        I was worried enough by potential climate change to sell a house at sea level and move to 300 feet above it. In 1990

        Then I started getting interested in the subject and using my scientific education to unpick it to reveal its fundamental assumptions,

        And right at the bottom I discovered not a crock of gold but steaming turd.

        You cant make the journey, because you have no scientific understanding, so you will have to simply take my word for it.

        I don’t have a preconceived worldview other than the one science gives me, and its certainly not something I will never change. I also study philosophy, especally metaphysics, and that shows you that all world-views are temporary and ad hoc simplifications of te facts as they are perceived. And in this case the facts are that the science never did show how CO2 could have the effects it was claimed to, and that an arbitrary correction was made to the theory with no justification whatsoever as to why that particular correction rather than another was in fact made.

        Being an old man with considerable experience in human affairs, I concluded that the most likley explanations was that in fact the AGW hypothesis was constructed for profit and to conform precisely to the world views of the scientifically illiterate such as yourself, and in that it has been spectacularly successful.

        They ready you like a book and played you like the organ you are.

        I will leave you with a thought.

        WE all know E=MC^2. Einstein relation between matter, energy and the speed of light

        Many of us know F=ma, newton’s equation for force mass and acceleration, or his gravitational theory


        How come we dont know the formula for simple CO2 induced climate change?

        Emperors new clothes…?

        Accusing me of the very thing you are guilty of is of course agitprop AGW 101 stuff. The Big Lie.

        Unlike you, I didnt start from here and construct specious arguments to justifiy being here (or cherry pick someone elses)

        I started from somewhere else altogether and arrived here by research logic and applying scientific and philosophic methodology.

        IF you dont like it, you are essentially denying the scientific method and all the work that philosophers of science and others have put into making it a reliable discipline that produces useful results.

        Something AGW never has, unless you count making obscene profits useful.

        But then of cpourse AGW is full of deniers like you, people who will not abandon their cherished beliefs in the face of ever mounting evidence they are based on little more than a mathematical trick and a huge amount of bullshit.

        I mean how could you admit that you have been supporting a theory whose fundamental equations you dont even know and whose ‘science’ you never actually understood, simply because it matched your bigotry?

        I must be getting tough being a climate denier, who ‘believes in AGW’

        • Edmund Brown says:

          It is really hard to hear the details of what a braggart is saying because the emotional response to somebody tooting their own horn is so viscerally difficult to ignore. Even if you are absolutely correct about every single detail you’ve written in this blog today you’ll convince precisely zero people of the veracity of your claims using bombast and self-importance.

          Belittling other peoples’ intelligence doesn’t make them want to come around to your point of view either. FWIW I am probably very similar to you politically. Only in the last year have I started delving deeply into the science behind the projections IPCC makes. Before that, I was the person you derided “for not doing my homework,” except that I generally accepted the IPCC “consensus”. It seems that pejorative is reserved for those who disagree? Now I am doing it, and you tell me I’m doing it wrong. I’m fine with being proven wrong, I’m not interested in being insulted (even if indirectly). Being courteous and friendly even when someone is driving you mad is going to get you a lot more followers than telling them they’re morons.

          • timl2k11 says:

            “It seems that pejorative is reserved for those who disagree?” No, just for those who don’t even bother trying to find out. I don’t think it is lack of intelligence I despise, it is lack of effort. I do have a very short temper when I run into people who can’t seem to think for themselves. I have to work on that. And today I’ve had the equivalent of a grade school food fight with some people on here. I’m not proud of that. I get worked up too easily. I don’t remember accusing you of doing your homework wrong though.

            • Edmund Brown says:

              Your comment about homework wasn’t directly targeted at me. It came across as a blast against anyone who disagreed with your assessment of the situation vis a vis AGW. Since I’m currently trying to wrap my brain around the topic it, and am writing/thinking “contrary thoughts” I took it to mean me too. I guess not your intention – the shortcomings of the internet forum…

    • I am only looking at what the IPCC report claims. One of their assertions is that emissions of CO2 and other global warming gases will tend to raise world temperatures.

      I agree that nuclear has been vastly more successful than the current batch of intermittent renewables. Unfortunately, there are still a bunch of questions about nuclear, including how we do decommissioning without fossil fuels, how we handle all the spent fuel, and what danger meltdowns pose to surrounding communities if we lose outside electricity coming into a plant. Nobody has good side-by-side studies of what the true health dangers of nuclear, coal, and natural gas (especially from shale gas, transported as LNG) really are. We are really choosing from a selection of bad actors–which one is least bad. If wind and solar are to be put in the lot, their deficiencies must be considered as well (high cost, pollution when they are made, need for balancing and grid upgrades that need to be paid by someone, need for beach sand, which is a depleting resource).

      • Leo Smith says:

        Look up their charter and you will see that questioning AGW is not in their remit.

        “The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.”

        The IPCC exists on the assumption that human induced cliamte change exists, and is a risk.

        They are not a science research institution. They are a policy body.

        Their task is to review scientific works relevant to assessing the risks posed by human induced climate change, not to review any science that says there is no risk.

        • VPK says:

          There task is to assess peer reviewed published research in science journals. They are also a consensus body of about 800 selected scientists selected because of their standing in their field. We all know how “consensus” works, in order to get “agreement” with 800 individuals, a very conservative standing is usually applied. The IPCC is NOT a policy body! They provide recommendations, not institute policy.
          Your last paragraph makes NO sense! The reason why is simply there is almost none in published peer reviewed science journals that claim there is no risk!
          It should be easy for you to provide the list, since you claim to be a scientist!

          • Leo Smith says:

            Id recommend the heartland institutes analysis but you would dismiss it as being a ‘denialist’ organisation.

            Nevertheless, their counter report cites (or as I am sure you would say , counter cherry picks ) THOUSANDS of papers all of which can as easily be shown to disprove as prove the hypothesis of AGW.

            It is very large, and it comes courtesy of a site that does receive external funding (just like the IPCC does) and it is a site that is so much of concern to those whose support for AGW is one off unsweeving loyalty, that the recieved wisdom is that if you even click on a link you will be damned for eternity to being cast into the hell fires of relentless upwards climate change till the flesh boils from your bones, and all your babies will be born with two heads, neither of which will be able to think. Nevertheless, I recommend you download ALL the chapters of the book on physical science, spend several DAYS reading it and follow up on ALL the links to ALL the papers it cites. Or enough to convince you that 97% of scientists do NOT support AGW and at best only about half do and are fairly lukewarm at that..

            I would say that to summarise the report there is best by done by saying ‘the NIPCC exeists to include all the data and research from all the papers that the IPCCV (deliberately) left out , so as to restore scientific balance and present the counter arguments, which the alarmists shout down and act to prevent being revealed’.

            e.g a sample from the executive summary. gives the tone.

            “Many studies reveal a large uncoupling of temperature and CO2 throughout portions of the
            historical record. Such findings contradict the IPCC’s theory that changes in atmospheric CO2
            drive changes in temperature.”


            From the first chapter o, global climate models

            “Canadian science writer Lawrence Solomon (2008) asked many of the world’s leading scientists active in fields relevant to climate change for their views on the reliability of computer models used by the IPCC to detect and forecast global warming. Their answers showed a high level of skepticism:

            • Prof. Freeman Dyson, professor of physics at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton
            University and one of the world’s most eminent physicists, said the models used to justify global warming alarmism are “full of fudge factors” and “do not begin to describe the real world.”

            • Dr. Zbigniew Jaworowski, chairman of the Scientific Council of the Central Laboratory for
            Radiological Protection in Warsaw and former chair of the United Nations Scientific Committee
            on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, a world-renowned expert on the use of ancient ice cores for
            climate research, said the U.N. “based its global-warming hypothesis on arbitrary assumptions and these assumptions, it is now clear, are false.”

            • Dr. Richard Lindzen, professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and member of the National Research Council Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate, said the IPCC is “trumpeting catastrophes that couldn’t happen even if the models were right.”

            • Prof. Hendrik Tennekes, director of research at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, said “there exists no sound theoretical framework for climate predictability studies” used for global warming forecasts.

            • Dr. Richard Tol, principal researcher at the Institute for Environmental Studies at Vrije
            Universiteit and adjunct professor at the Center for Integrated Study of the Human Dimensions of Global Change at Carnegie Mellon University, said the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report is
            “preposterous … alarmist and incompetent.”

            • Dr. Antonino Zichichi, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Bologna, former
            president of the European Physical Society, and one of the world’s foremost physicists, said global warming models are “incoherent and invalid.”

            That particular chapter is very good at summarizing why, despite being ‘based on simple science;’ the climate models used to make the predictions are in fact “incoherent and invalid.”


            All of the points made by that book, can be cross checked in the papers to which they refer.

            You may indeed question the motives for assembling such a counter review, but you should be wary of questioning the actual logical arguments and the actual scientific research that it refers to, for it is in many cases exactly the same research out of which the IPCC cherry picks out-of-context statements to build its case.

            I leave you with this thought, culled from that chapter.

            “If public policy to address global warming is to be made rationally, it must be based on scientific forecasts of :
            (1) substantial global warming, the effects of which are
            (2) on balance seriously harmful,and for which
            (3) cost-effective policies can be implemented.
            Armstrong, Green, and Soon (2011) refer to these logical requirements of policymaking as
            “the 3-legged stool” of global warming policy. A failure of any leg would invalidate policies.

            To date, there are *no evidence-based forecasts to support any of the legs.*”
            In short the real case is that we dont know if serious climate change is happening or not, we dont know it it will be harmful or beneficial and we dont know if we can stop it even at such a costs would render the attempt worse than dealing with it as and when and IF it arises.

            In short the IPCC has utterly failed to provide any clear guidelines that would help policymakers form policy. It is not fit for purpose.

            To put it another way, if we can completely ignored what the IPCC had to say we would arguably be better off. The global climate would be exactly as it is now, and we wouldn’t have spent trillions on trying with total lack of effect, to make it any different.

            • VPK says:

              You did cite Heartland Institute and you are on the mark. It is an organization that has deep ties with the fossil fuel industry. Again, I was referring to research papers. Of course, you can make reference to a number that support your view. None the less, the overwhelming majority don’t.

  21. Pingback: Oil Limits and Climate Change - How They Fit To...

  22. An excellent and devastatingly difficult to rebut opinion. I miss the Oil Drum. Anyway, I tend not to agree. Your primary assumption in my simplistic view is that access to capital, or rather, increasingly limited access to capital and debt will drive a collapse that takes energy use and CO2 emissions down with it. I believe you are missing the fac that there are plenty of instances in human history where monetary currency has been rendered irrelevant and instead governments have taken the reigns at times of crisis and attempted to continue business as usual for as long as possible so as to preserve their own heads from an angry or poor or hungry (or all three) population.

    That would not last forever certainly but I think it would last more than long enough and be of high enough co2 intensity to both completely fry the planet in line with the high IPCC estimate and ensure the inevitable fall is that much greater. As has already been said, we are only feeling the beginnings of the post War era of CO2 emissions now. We have a long way to go.

    So perhaps I’m more pessimistic than you… lol.

    Thanks for brightening my Friday, and for your invaluable opinion.


    • I think the world will stick on the RCP8.5 scenario until we’re well over the RCP2.6 line. Maybe RCP2.6 type reductions will kick in, at some stage, but as we’ll be over RCP2.6 by then, the future won’t, or can’t follow RCP2.6. However, there will be rapid reductions in emissions at some point, but I very much doubt it will be soon enough to avoid going over the dangerous line (1C, according to Hansen, 2C, according to politicians) and we don’t know enough about positive feedbacks (both fast and slow) to be able to tell just where we will ultimately end up.

    • mikkel says:

      I’ve been reading Gail for years and she has had the best analysis of how peak oil actually interacts with the economy to produce problems. However, I’ve always disagreed with her catastrophic conclusions because they rely heavily on the idea that monetary rules will remain in force even if it causes societal collapse.

      But money is just score keeping and as you point out, governments can nullify the score when needed. It might not lead to efficient outcomes over long periods, but it certainly can create immense structural changes on very short timescales.

      In the coming decade or two, governments will be forced to take over the economy and go to a command and control system. The only question will be whether it’s to push decentralization and decarbonization or increased centralization and exploitation.

      • Leo Smith says:

        Governments will try, but it wont save them. They wont be forced by the way, they are longing for the excuse.

        Having the power and the authority however, is no substitute for having the right idea.
        The societies that succeed will be free market ones where someone somewhere hits upon the right thing and is not utterly hamstring by government from trying it out.

        Good ideas whose time has come flourish. Dinosaur centralised command economies are bad ideas whose time was gone around 1900, and attempts to resurrect them are doomed to failure.

        Those who pin their faith in neo marxist and eco fascist systems are deemed to dissapointment.

        • ordinaryjoe says:

          I was pretty much in agreement with you until the last paragraph. Leo believe it or not I sit down and drink coffee with people who express doubts about global warming. I dont call them climate deniers and they dont call me an ecofacist. Its hard but we have respect for each other. We value our communication. It is from that sort of respect and communication that issues can be discussed and the truth sought. When denigrating terms are used that communication and respect is lost. I have had denigrating terms used by friends with different viewpoint also when I assert that wind and solar will not replace fossil fuels. You obviously have a strong viewpoint on this issue. Do you wish to bring your facts to the table and communicate them or is your intent emotional, polarization? You claim to be very informed, I would like to hear your viewpoint, but you havnt even stated it from a scientific basis even though you have numerous posts on this great article from Gail.. The left claims its the evil oligarchs keeping us from infinite growth. The right claims its the sandal wearing tree huggers keeping us from infinite growth. From my viewpoint the arguments and name calling are very similar and counter productive to discovering the truth of our situation.

          • GreenHick says:

            Ordinary Joe,
            I wanted to acknowledge your post as a helpful, constructive move towards a better quality of dialogue with Leo Smith, more helpful than my own comments in this regard. It was the tone of arrogant dismissal of an immense body of complex science drawn from multiple disciplines that I (mis)perceived and objected to (arrogance and complacency are not things I’m immune to either, as will be evident). Another commenter noted that science is or should be part of a democratic conversation in which we have a right to participate and a role to play. I agree.

            And to be fair, the prospects of incorporating science into a democratic conversation might be explored as poorly served by a standard of argument warranted in claims to certainty that are arguably no more tenable, or practically compelling, for predictions of complex nonlinear system outcomes than for their societal impacts. We might all be better served by a democratic dialogue in which uncertainty, unpredictability, lack of agency, unintended outcomes, and the quality of distribution of risks and harms are our warrants rather than certainty, guarantees of outcomes, success and reliance on any Truths that trump or transcend our right and obligation to question.

            • mikkel says:

              GreenHick: I completely agree with you in theory but unfortunately have lost confidence that such discussions will ever be possible. I find that people have way too much attachment, in the Buddhist sense, to deal with such issues as uncertainty, unpredictability and unintended consequences. Those who think they have agency often only have it by following the social rules and are terrified that those rules might change, while the majority simply seek to survive.

              Very few express agency as a core trait, or as Maslow put it, psychopathology is the norm as only a few percent of people are self actualized. In addition, very few can let go of power in areas they should, trusting others to provide even if it isn’t the predefined “optimal” way.

              This used to depress me greatly because it meant we couldn’t stop problems from happening and democratic consensus was completely flawed when it came to reacting to outside changes. Then I read some work talking about the nature of evolution and realized that evolution is not just a biological phenomenon. Similar to Kuhn’s work on scientific paradigm shifts, I came to accept that drastic new models can only happen at times of crisis and the ones that win out will be for a mixture of utility and happenstance. The only chance of success is to have the paradigm fairly mature when the crisis happens or it will not be a possible option.

              Unfortunately, due to the physics of global warming, by the time this occurs we may be in desperate shape. However, feedbacks — both social and physical — can occur at any time. In particular, the younger generations are instinctually primed to live in a way that makes solutions possible.

              So now instead of focusing on the impossibility of true democractic participation, I focus on helping to create real world frameworks that can provide physical and financial security to those who are open to it. These frameworks have systems theory at their very core and have the concepts of uncertainty and agency embedded into both the technology and operations.

              On the off chance that people like Leo Smith are correct, we can adapt. If we are right however, people like him will fail. This evolutionary perspective gives me guidance even though I do not know what the outcome will be.

              With this mindset switch, I changed my life and gained true agency. Quickly, a half dozen others followed the path. Now there are dozens, and we are in talks for hundreds — and soon thousands. A huge number of early 20-somethings come to me and my partner and explicitly ask for help in figuring out how they can live their lives without being forced to work for the destructive status quo.

              So in conclusion, there is very little to be gained from trying to find consensus with people like Leo Smith because he is seeking none. Effort is far better spent by working with others to make possibilities a reality and then see which ideas win out on the ground.

            • xabier says:

              Intelligent democratic dialogue simply doesn’t exist a part of the political process: in the West, we have an array of oligarchies of Left and Right engaged in propaganda and demagoguery and in the phrase of Kyle Bass, ‘Unicorns and Rainbows promises’.

              And the small cogs in the machine (for instance a petty local government lawyer I am currently wrangling with) are just as corrupt as our so-called leaders.

        • mikkel says:

          It’s not about what’s best, it’s about what is inevitable. You are contributing to the probability of authoritarian governments rising because of your spreading of disinformation and confusion in a belligerent manner.

          The massive preponderance of evidence is towards global warming — potentially catastrophic — and yet instead of playing it safe and working to figure out how to create a distributed generation system (with yes, nuclear as base load in many places) you would rather rile up the people trying to address it.

          If the fossil fuel companies were forced to incorporate externalities then they would not be competitive and many options would flourish on an open market. First and foremost energy efficiency, and then we could go from there.

          Yet as it stands, the system will collapse under peak oil and climate disruption. Every day I work to figure out where in a free market system we can alleviate the issues and I would greatly prefer that — not to get rich, but because I can’t stand bureaucracy and dithering. I know many people who are in the same boat.

          When it does collapse, the fallout will be immense as radicals will take power and implement incredibly stupid things.

          And it’s people like you who are making it harder and putting us closer to the edge, all because you are scared and proud, preferring to use your intelligence to obfuscate instead of create.

      • Stefeun says:

        I’m not sure that money plays such big role; most of it is fake, today.
        Today’s economy is much more interconnected than it’s ever been in the past; it depends on many supply chains running across the world and connected to each other.
        Some links can easily be by-passed if ever broken, but other ones migth have big negative impact over the whole structure.
        Now imagine this system is fed by depleting energy and resources, and we have to inflate financial bubbles in order to keep it up.

        Now I think you’re right saying that governments are preparing for hard times, but it’s not clear if they will be able to keep control in the long term, at least not over big countries.

      • Paul says:

        The command economy didn’t work out very well for Russia — and recall when Mao tried this — how many millions starved to death?

        Let’s say governments force march people to extract energy resources after the SHTF — how would that work?

        Would people use grunt labour to frack oil and gas — would people swim a few km under the ocean and attempt to pump oil up? Think of the technologies required to extract oil – grunt effort cannot supplement these.

        Would they use shovels and picks and tunnel deep underground — because the low hanging fruit is long gone — how would they get the coal to where it is needed — that requires a massive infrastructure — or would they use donkeys and carts?

        How does on support the very complex systems that use oil and gas to create and distribute pesticides and fertilizers so that the soil that we have killed using these inputs continues to produce crops?

        Plain and simply – this is NOT going to happen.

        98% of ag land is farmed using chemical inputs — it would take years to fix this dead soil with organic inputs.

        What will 7.2 billion people do for 3 years – go on a diet of grass and weeds?

        Gail is right — unfortunately there are no positive outcomes here — billions will starve – there is no way around that.

    • The issue of the IPCC using completely unrealistic fossil fuel estimates has been around since the 2001 version of the IPCC report. I know I wrote to Kjell Aleklett (head of ASPO-International) in 2007, asking why he felt the IPCC report issued in 2007 was so terrible. He said that the IPCC had repeated the mistake they made in their 2001 report, in spite of being told by the Peak Oil community that its estimates of future fossil fuel consumption were way too high in 2001. In the current (2014) report, the IPCC at least tried to compromise, by putting a “peak oil” estimate as the bottom end of their range.

      After people have heard enough of the IPCC pronouncements, and statements about the number of climate scientists who believe their reports (but really haven’t examined important things like their oil estimates), they assume that the reports must be correct. Unfortunately, the same rule holds for climate forecasts as other forecasts, “Garbage in, garbage out.” When funding for climate models depends on getting results that make people worry, climate scientist have a tendency to use high estimates of future fossil fuel use.

      As long as economists are saying economic growth can happen forever, and it is clear that one way or another fossil fuel use rises with economic growth, then the conclusion of climate scientists is that fossil fuel emissions will be a problem. The much more likely situation is that economic growth will end and turn to contraction, because the cheap fossil fuels needed to support economic growth really aren’t there.

  23. Excellent article, Gail. One of your most timely and important ones.

    It is an obvious thing to do to merge peaking and decline of hydrocarbon energy supply with climate change but, alas, both are compartmentalised in many people’s minds, not least in the minds of so many activists. This separation has been made more difficult owing to a pathological obsession we have with alternative electrical energy solutions, with disregard for the more complex ways that hydrocarbon energy is essential to the myriad of technologies and processes that underpin our economies and our civilisation.

    • cassandraclub says:

      I agree. Climate change activists in Holland believe in the BAU-model: we will never run out of fossil fuel. For them the IPCC-nightmare-scenario is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
      They won’t even consider the possibility that fossil fuelproduction will peak before 2050 and seem to think that peakoil is a conspiracy of the fossil fuel industry and climate skeptics,

    • You are right. Once people have latched on to “climate change is our problem,” the next step is trying to find ways to generate energy without using (as much) fossil fuel, and the solution tends to be intermittent electricity. Unfortunately, intermittent electricity does pretty close to nothing for our serious problem of a lack of cheap liquid fuel, namely oil. All it does is add a second problem–high priced electricity to go with our high priced oil problem.

      • Paul says:

        This would almost be funny if it weren’t sad — so solar is only just now returning more energy that is put into the manufacture of panels — and people think this is the technology that is going to save the world????

        Solar panels finally produce more energy than it takes to make them, study finds

        • Actually I think solar may not yet deliver net energy – when one considers that many solar systems are installed incorrectly and some are placed in inappropriate locations. Further, I think if the industry grows at the exponential rate that it would have to in order to make a significant dent in fossil fuel output it will be a long time that the solar industry delivers much.

          Having said that, it’s not logical to then argue that solar is not an important contributor to world energy. Once the solar manufacturing growth rate levels out then we’ll see a major catch up, as all the existing solar panels start to deliver long term yield. That’s still many years down the track.

          As such they are, as some analysts call them, fossil fuel extenders because they allow us, over time, to get greater energy value from fossil fuels. That is, using fossil fuels to manufacture solar cells delivers a greater energy return than is delivered by burning the same fossil fuels directly.

          This doesn’t solve other headaches, such as bitumen production and blast furnace coal production, nor all the hydrocarbons that are used to make synthetic clothes and building materials…. and so forth. In the electricity area there are ways to deliver reasonable amounts of energy. The much harder problems to solve are in non electrical areas.

          • Paul says:

            Chris — after reading this I think solar disappears with fossil fuels… it is a physical impossibility to maintain and distribute an energy system based on solar – or wind – without cheap fossil fuel inputs.


          • D Bruce says:

            Why is the only consideration of ‘solar’ energy that of electricity? Solar heating of space and water are far more useful but rarely part of a future equation for living within limits. And this heating, while not altogether appropriate for northern climes at -30F, can save a good deal of electrical energy used now for heating spaces and water. Just a thought!

            • Stefeun says:

              And what about passive solar architecture?
              Have a look at this one:

              The construction allows 100% of the sunrays inside the volume on winter solstice, and 0% on summer solstice.
              Can be made out of wood (see the small Helio-20) but the problem is that such architecture requires very big surface of insulating glass…

            • I expect that in Hawaii, Florida, and California, solar hot water is already being used. I am not sure though–zoning laws may not permit it, or it may not be fashionable. Not that many new homes are being built, either. I know I saw a lot of solar hot water in China.

            • Solar hot water heating became very popular in Southern California a half century ago, but was soon supplanted by natural gas.

            • Correction – substitute century for half century

  24. dolph says:

    Although I don’t necessarily agree with the estimates of future energy production, it looks worse than it is.

    Why? Because massive amounts of what we currently burn are completely wasteful. Everything in our society from finance, to healthcare, to industry, to transportation, entertainment, electricity, heating/cooling etc. is going to be scaled back, and it can definitely happen.

    It’s not going to be pleasant, and there is going to be much political and economic dysfunction. Two big problems are population and jobs. You have to move to a low immigrant, low growth society (not easy for the United States but others might have the culture to do it), and figure out how to employ people without using much energy.

    • acomfort says:

      You want more and better jobs using less energy, here’s a couple of ways.
      The tax code has changed incentives. Tax codes are social engineering they encourage some things and discourage other things.
      In many cases we raise taxes on things that we think are socially destructive (cigarettes and alcohol) and we remove taxes from things we think a good for society (churches and charitable organizations.) Jobs are good for society but we tax them heavily. We should try to remove all of the economic penalties (taxes) from labor.

      On the other hand:
      If a person does work, they pay several taxes. If a machine does the work it pays none. When a machine does the work of 10 people then it could be taxed at the same amount that 10 people would be taxed. That would be fair . . . right?
      With this system I don’t think we would be lacking for jobs and we would use less energy.
      A person working and paying taxes . . . not good.
      A machine working and paying taxes . . . good.

      This would be a minor improvement compared with what we need, but a step in the right direction.

    • I am afraid the way of employing people will be similar to what is done in North Korea–use lots of labor (and no fuels) in growing food. That can absorb a lot of the population. Of course, the amount of food these people grow ill not be very high either. We will be very poor.

      • xabier says:

        We can sum that up as below-subsistence agriculture, instead of a breadline existence in a dysfunctional capitalism, which is where many are heading now in the advanced economies.

        Neither would be worth enduring, although clearly a welfare/low-paid service existence under the status quo is far preferable.

  25. Ann says:

    While you are correct, Gail, that emissions will soon drop due to collapsing economies, there is a long lag between emissions and the resulting warming. Right now, we are experiencing the emissions from 1900-1950. The effects of the emissions after that have not even been recorded yet. I therefore believe that the higher IPCC prediction will (again) be too conservative. While I know the references for this are out there, it will take me a while to access them.

    • InAlaska says:

      Ann, I tend to agree with you, although I have heard that the lag between emissions and warming is roughly 40 years and we are currently seeing warming based on emissions from about 1970. Nevertheless, I think you are spot on that we will continue to see additional climate change beyond the 2030 drop off in the IPCC model, because most of the emissions (those since 1970) have yet to be felt. The situation is dire on all three fronts: economy, energy, environment. The trap has closed. Most of humanity just doesn’t know we’ve been trapped.

      • xabier says:

        Yes, we are still enjoying that juicy piece of apple in the trap. The shadow of the hunter approaches……

      • Russell says:

        If the lag time is 40 years, does anyone think that the sharp rise in oil prices and subsequent less use in the 70s may be reflected in the leveling out of rising temperatures seen over the last seven years?

        • InAlaska says:

          That is an interesting point. Perhaps the oil shock of 1970s caused a slight dip that is accounting for the pause in avg. global temp rise.

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      “…there is a long lag between emissions and the resulting warming.”

      Correct Ann, thermal inertia 30-40 years. From when the GHG’s are added to the atmosphere and the lag time till they warm the oceans that drive weather.

      • James says:

        Perhaps more importantly the warming seas will release the methane gas of frozen clathrates creating a positive feedback of more warming and methane release. Add to this the terrestrial methane release in the northern hemisphere and we suddenly have a rather dire situation without any more carbon burning at all. Of course, we will continue burning carbon to run our air conditioners while this is happening and when the electricity goes off we will denature.

        • Leo Smith says:

          ..yawn…oh do keep up there, that is so last decade that even the IPCC arent taking it seriously anymore.

        • Stefeun says:

          the situation is not clear to me reg. CH4 in IPCC report.
          As for my understanding, they seem to say that it might be important in the future, but they don’t really know and don’t have proper metrics, and anyway for the moment it’s a very small share; from the report, § p.508:
          “Of the natural sources of CH4, emissions from thawing permafrost and CH4 hydrates in the northern circumpolar region will become poten- tially important in the 21st century because they could increase dra- matically due to the rapid climate warming of the Arctic and the large carbon pools stored there (Tarnocai et al., 2009; Walter Anthony et al., 2012) (see Section Hydrates are, however, estimated to rep- resent only a very small emission, between 2 and 9 Tg(CH4) yr–1 under the current time period (Table 6.8).”

          and p.530:
          “FAQ 6.1 | Could Rapid Release of Methane and Carbon Dioxide from Thawing Permafrost or Ocean Warming Substantially Increase Warming?
          Permafrost is permanently frozen ground, mainly found in the high latitudes of the Arctic. Permafrost, including the sub-sea permafrost on the shallow shelves of the Arctic Ocean, contains old organic carbon deposits. Some are relicts from the last glaciation, and hold at least twice the amount of carbon currently present in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide (CO2). Should a sizeable fraction of this carbon be released as methane and CO2, it would increase atmospheric concentrations, which would lead to higher atmospheric temperatures. That in turn would cause yet more methane and CO2 to be released, creating a positive feedback, which would further amplify global warming.
          The Arctic domain presently represents a net sink of CO2—sequestering around 0.4 ± 0.4 PgC yr–1 in growing vegeta- tion representing about 10% of the current global land sink. It is also a modest source of methane (CH4): between 15 and 50 Tg(CH4) yr–1 are emitted mostly from seasonally unfrozen wetlands corresponding to about 10% of the global wetland methane source. There is no clear evidence yet that thawing contributes significantly to the current global budgets of these two greenhouse gases. However, under sustained Arctic warming, modelling studies and expert judgments indicate with medium agreement that a potential combined release totalling up to 350 PgC as CO2 equivalent could occur by the year 2100.”

          Link to whole chapter 6:

          Sam Carana, on his blog Arctic-News, is much more pessimistic, and speaks of “Methane Alert”, insisting on exponential effect of feedback loops ; see for example:

        • Lee Grove says:

          Take Ann’s lag time, put it in the context of Gail’s “sudden” collapse, which would lead to an “overnight” increase of 1C (rendering 2C achieved); then Jame’s methane release will compress Ann’s lag time, exponential-ize the methane release, and send the planet into the lofty heights of warming heaven: welcome to Venus.

          • Landbeyond says:

            I think you’ll find there’s no serious science supporting the “Venus” scenario. Not that it can’t be bad, just not “runaway warming” bad.

    • Rapha says:

      Ann, InAlaska, Gail, hi from Belgium! Yes, I heard about that too but I cannot find a peer-reviewed reference for it. Is it somewhere in the last IPCC group1 synthesis? Should you find it, please post it. Thx.

      Also, climate change seems to be extremely problematic in the arctic. An abrupt meltdown seems to be on its way. Some folks at http://artic-news.blogspot.be are monitoring this. We are going find out this September if the observed data still fit with their forecast of a summer free-ice arctic before 2020 (95% of confidence). I cannot even think about the consequences of it if it happens, it is far too painful for my heart…

      • Leo Smith says:

        I shouldn’t worry Rapha. There is evidence its been been ice free more or less in the historic past.

        And wasn’t when we got started exploring it in modern times because we were in the grip of the little ice age.

        An is within two sigma of the mean for the last 20 years right now.

        Having recovered from the high winds that pushed a lot of warm water up there a couple of years back.

    • I don’t know how good the model is, apart from its problem with using terribly aggressive estimates of future fossil fuel use. Perhaps it does miss some things–I don’t know. I do know that they have studied the lag issue pretty carefully, and have adjusted for that. So that should already be in the numbers we are looking at.

  26. Pingback: Looks like Guy McPherson was seriously wrong…. | Damn the Matrix

  27. Hello Gail
    Excellent post.

    As EROEI declines, and the ability to pay for discretionary uses of high density premium fuels declines, the simplistic view of supply and demand begins to fall apart. High demand for premium fuels and instead the price drops because of a declining ability to pay for their increasingly marginal energetic profit. Lack of the ability to pay triages out the very most expensive and complex sources of fuel, and the fuel supply system ratchets down one more notch of possible availablity that it can never return to. Those things just out of reach in the apparent short term stay out of reach forever.

    But there are many kinds of available low quality fuels still to be harvested and converted into CO2. Lignite and coal come to mind. Deforestation is, I believe, about 20% of current CO2 emissions load and will increase with global warming. I expect that in our species desperation as we enter peak global population we will burn everything that is easily at hand, clear every short term arable scrap of ground and so do not expect CO2 emissions to taper in proportion to the decline in premium fuel use.

    Your line “Without oil, we cannot easily go back to horse and buggy!” is on target. In fact our instinct to maintain the fossil carbon status quo complexity as long as possible (Tainter again) will decrease our ability to readily adapt to lower levels of technical complexity.

    “A collapsed economy cannot support 7.2 billion people.” and certainly not the 9 billion expected in 35 years. It will be a grim ride down the back-slope of peak complexity.

    I look forward to your presentation at The Age of Limits Conference.

    Orren Whiddon

    • Orren, thanks for your response. I agree with you with respect to what the collapse of fossil fuel extraction is likely to mean. Deforestation is likely to be a much worse problem than it is now. Over-hunting and over-fishing will be problems as well, I expect. The changes with respect to climate won’t necessarily be as much for the better as one would like.

      Edit I should point out that coal extraction and transport is dependent on our current economy. Without a good means of transport away, coal–even if easy to extract–can only be used by a small surrounding community. There was a huge amount of “stranded coal” in early days for this reason. Also, the easy to extract coal in well populated areas has already been extracted. There may be low quality coal that can be reached by simple approaches, but unless simple water transport is available, it likely will need to be consumed locally.

      • Stefeun says:

        I also see diminishing access to drinkable water as likely to cause huge damages in very short period of time, especially in urbanized areas.

      • Lindon says:

        Over-fishing will be tough in a true collapse scenario. No gas means that all those fishing boats will be stuck at the dock. If every one of the seven billion people on planet earth stood along the side of the nearest body of water in their locale with a fishing pole and a can of bait, they would probably catch a few fish, but not to the point of over-fishing. Over-fishing is due almost entirely to the commercialized fishing trawlers and mechanized net-spreaders. And again, if the river, lake or ocean is a few or more miles away as it will be for most people, good luck making that daily trek to catch your load of fish every day and return home safely with the catch for dinner. Just my pov…

        • Stilgar Wilcox says:

          “Over-fishing is due almost entirely to the commercialized fishing trawlers and mechanized net-spreaders.”

          When oil prices hit their highs in 08, commercial fishing slowed way down and I’m sure post collapse most of it would stop. The point another poster made earlier is also true, that deforestation requires fuel for chainsaws, so the forests will be safe if they aren’t burned down.

          What’s going to go fast is the food in the stores. Oh my!

          • witsendnj says:

            The entire eastern seaboard of the US was clear cut long before there were chainsaws, and those trees were much older and larger and more difficult to fell that the stands today. Overfishing won’t require fossil fuels. When whaling begain in Nantucket, they took them from the beaches first and then just offshore. By the time the whaling industry ended they were chasing the remaining whales all the way up to the north Pacific – in sailboats.

            It is sad, I don’t think people realize how depauparate today’s world is compared to that even before we had petroleum.

            • Lindon says:

              But those early settlers had a more or less stable economy with blacksmiths who knew how to make the wagons and all the attachments, along with the saws and all the other equipment required to clear cut trees. They had oxen and mules and horses, plenty of them, and were skilled in breeding and maintaining their livestock. They were experienced farmers, descended from a long history of farming and animal breeding. They were established. If we collapse tomorrow, ALL of those things will be lacking for whatever people decide they want to cut down more trees. Anyway, the easy to get forests have already been clear cut, what is left is up in the mountains — not so easy to get to. As for fishing, yes, people in the 1700-1800 timeframe had their sailing vessels and many sailors with the experience to navigate and handle those ships — today, there are about zero sailing vessels ready for fishing and whaling and about the same number of sailors and fishermen experienced enough to take a sailing ship out and return with a load of fish.

            • Paul says:

              Lindon — good points — I suspect the vast majority of people particularly in the developed world will be overwhelmed with the situation and simply lay down and die…

            • xabier says:

              The guys with stone axes caused themselves some deforestation problems, or so it seems….. The Vikings ran out of wood for their ships, the English and Spanish empires, and so on.

              Many people seem to think there is this rich and fertile thing called Nature out there beyond the city limits. But in all the heavily and long-settled regions, it’s barren and depleted, both the woods and the animal life they used to support. No wild boar or deer here in the wood here where the lords used to hunt! And we know what Don has been telling us about the soil…..

              I’ve been thinking about the timber here. Apart from the fact that if cut down for fuel it would be too green to be of any much use, there is so little that just a few families or community centres would use it up in one bad winter season if requiring warmth as well as cooking fuel. The whole town? Forget it!

              Cooking only, on stick fires gathered from careful pruning or fallen wood, would last much, much longer of course. A tiny number of people (compared to the total population now) could support themselves if they implemented a management regime, and could kill or drive away any others trying to clear-cut the woods and hedges. In fact, by using the regime the old lords used to protect their boar and deer.

            • Paul says:

              Easter Island…..

        • Fred Magyar says:

          I think over fishing in a post collapse world will be a moot issue anyways simply because we have already done the damage, mostly in the last 50 years…I have personally been diving on coral reef ecosystems for a little more than 35 years. I recently returned to a place in Brazil where I first learned to scuba dive. The reefs were unrecognizable and there were almost no big fish anywhere to be seen. BTW over fishing is just one issue. We also have to deal with ocean acidification, agricultural run off, pesticides, chemical fertilizers, plastics etc..etc..
          Hope you all like sun dried jellyfish strips!

          Jeremy Jackson: Ocean Apocalypse

    • ladrillez says:

      In my oppinion, 1,8 billlion people of increasing in 35 years is a very optimistic view about population. Now, population increases about 100 million people / year, so, we can expext 9 billion people about 18-20 years, not 35.

      Yes, I know: it doesn´t help…

    • xabier says:

      Basic peasant/slave agriculture was not abandoned by the Romans to build their towns and enhance their megacities like Rome: but we have thrown out everything to create our urban industrialized civilization – largely since 1945. There is no base to return to, or develop.

  28. Steve T says:

    There’s a very good report by David Hughes entitled “The Energy Sustainability Dilemma” which has some interesting graphs at the end of his presentation which Dave Rutledge at Cal Tech came up with relating to carbon emissions. His estimates of fossil fuel use are far below the IPCC’s estimates and therefore produce a much lower carbon emissions scenario.


    • I have heard Dave Rutledge speak, and some of his posts were published on The Oil Drum. Luis De Sousa and Euan Mearns of The Oil Drum did their own analysis as well, and came to a similar conclusion. Quite a few “peak oil people” have been skeptical of the climate change group, because they knew how inflated the fossil fuel numbers were that they were working off of.

      What I am saying is exactly the same thing as what many others have also said–except now the IPCC has published the funny numbers that they are using as a base, so a person can look directly at them. The first thing I did was go to the appendices, and figure out what carbon numbers they were assuming as a base.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        “The first thing I did was go to the appendices, and figure out what carbon numbers they were assuming as a base.”

        Now that’s some smart thinking.

  29. Interguru says:

    Another straw in the wind from Fortune.

    Chinese exports plunged by 6.6% over the last 12 months ending in March, and they were flat in the year ended in December. This was well below the 4% increase in exports many economists had expected. True, data from China can be volatile and difficult to interpret. Some are attributing the drop to a crackdown on Chinese companies using exports as a means to evade capital controls. Andrew Tilton, an economist at Goldman Sachs in Asia, called this the “main reason” for the plunge, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    • Thanks! I had thought that it was “just” the month of March, not the last 12 months ended in March. Either is pretty bad, in context with everything else we have heard and all of the debt.

  30. Lindon says:

    It should be obvious to all but the least informed and least critical thinking (and unfortunately that describes the majority) that oil depletion, climate change and global economic issues are all tied together. Economic collapse may not be the best thing for people living today, for people living in the future, they may look back at this time in history and wish that economic collapse had occurred earlier rather than later. Every day that the giant and wasteful machine called BAU trudges on, just about everything gets worse and worse, including most importantly damage to our atmosphere and to the precious gift called planet Earth. I hope that Gail is right — and I’m betting that she is — when she makes the point that climate change won’t be as bad as current predictions indicate because economic activity and therefore CO2 emissions will dramatically decrease (in the near future?).

    • Stilgar Wilcox says:

      “Economic collapse may not be the best thing for people living today, for people living in the future, they may look back at this time in history and wish that economic collapse had occurred earlier rather than later.”

      I agree Lindon, but would add they may look back and be grateful it didn’t take any longer to collapse, because I think there is still time to avoid the worst case climate change scenarios as Gail suggests. Even though my own demise will be all but guaranteed in a collapse, I welcome it for the future health of the planet for all species.

    • If you make a model of any one limit, and don’t adequately consider other limits, you are likely to come up with misleading results. There is huge belief that BAU will continue. In fact, your statement of about people looking back in the future seems to imply a belief in BAU as well. What advantage would earlier collapse have had? For example, once collapse begins in earnest, we can expect a great deal more deforestation, year after year, because of lack of other fuels and money to buy fuels. Wishing collapse had occurred sooner would be equivalent to wishing for more deforestation, wouldn’t it? Fossil fuels have allowed us to have our cake and eat is–nature can to some extent continue. I expect that wild animals will be killed off rapidly as well, as people lack food because of lack of fossil fuels. If we want to simply stay alive after the crash, we will have to vastly overuse “renewables.” Why would we want to wish that to start sooner? The left-over fossil fuels will simply stay in the ground–they don’t benefit anyone, but could be helpful from a pollution point of view.

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        “Why would we want to wish that to start sooner?” Because it’s going to be bad whenever it happens, but the sooner it happens the less damage we will do via the bottleneck. If the crash is quick and hard there may not be a lot of time to ravage the forests and other species. All we can really do is hope the biosphere replenishes.

        • Stefeun says:

          To achieve that (i.e. grateful future generations), I think that min.80% of the world population -humans only- would have to vanish in a snap.
          Except in case of global nuclear war, this won’t happen; instead, we -and all other species- will have to obey the Darwinian laws of Evolution, mainly struggle for survival, which of course will tend to fast depletion of the environment, given the high number of people on Earth.
          (hard to find right words to describe the unthinkable)

          Moreover, future generations would have to be grateful towards us only if we’d have made some special actions which allow them to enjoy better life than if we’d let natural trends play. (accessible plentiful resources, keys for sustainable management, etc…)
          I hardly see that could happen; we weren’t even able to do it for ourselves!.

          • Leo Smith says:

            They will never forgive you for believing in AGW and big state world government that’s for sure..

            I’ve never quite understood what happened to the Mayan Priests and that class, The Mayans are still there, but the priests and the leaders of that society have gone.

            I reckon the Mayans murdered them for believing in the wrong gods. And good riddance too.

            Coming to a government near you soon.

            • Leo Smith says:

              Me, insane?

              How could I tell ;-)

              As far as I am concerned I was told when they sent me to teh best university in the country to study science and engineering, with a scholarship as well, that I had an IQ above 160.

              Well since I had done nothing whatever to acquire it, I take no credit for it. I did work hard at understanding science though, helped by some of the best teachers I have ever met before or since.
              Perhaps its because I am too old to care, and employed by no one so cannot possibly lose anything by speaking out, and out of a sense of affection and duty forr those teachers, pook up the philosophy of science and metaphysics as a hobby.

              So from where I am standing, no I am not mad. Just about three levels beyond what you can achieve in terms of logical deconstruction of bullshit theory, and as an engineer, about three levels ahead of what you can understand in terms of the application of technology in real word societies. Upon which point being entirely correct in my appraisal of the impact of computer networking and the internet bought me early retirement and the chance to be here now writing this.

              My responsibility is entirely to society and to science. I dont need to make any career out of this or any money. I have no stake in any of it, just that sense of duty that someone who was born with the lightning quick ability to understand and penetrate things that take most people weeks to get to grips with, and many never will, should make the benefit of a tool I was gifted with (for which I take no credit whatsoever) a gift to the world that allowed him to exist.

              Perahps you can imagine being a person who appears to be and demonstrably is up tlll the age of 18 smarter than anyone he knows including his teachers, and the arriving at a place of learning realising that whilst not as smart as everybody he knows is still pretty much in there.

              t took me another 30 years to accept that burden and stop hoping someone would tell me the answer and to back my own judgement instead and I made a small fortune dong it. Not a biog one. I dont want a big one and I didn’t need a big one. Just enough is good enough, as engineers say..And I had to learn people too, what makes them tick, why they spend their lives lying to each other, and to themselves.

              How not being very smart is the issue most people have so they spend their lies pretending to be so much smarter than they are. And tat is the where the trouble begins.

              Instead of saying ‘hang on, I dont really understand what you are saying; they nod sagely as if they really understood, if some con artist makes out he is smarter than they are.

              And that my fired is what AGW is all about. a few very smart men with infinitely less scruples and sense of public duty making an absolute mint out of something designed and constructed to look smart.

              AGW is dead. Trust me. AS a scientist I can tell you it has failed the test. It will linger as a piece of propaganda for a decade, but the smart money has already left the room. That’s point one.

              Point two is that there is nowhere in any engineering that currently exists today or might conceivably be developed, a better technical solution to primary energy production than nuclear power. Eventually we will be forced to deploy it on a massive scale, or see anarchy and death on every street, that timescale is about two decades. A little longer for the USA which has abundant coal reserves. say 30-40 years.

              I am not going to justify those statements to people who are so constrained by a belief system they have been bright up in that they simply ware no prepared to understand why I say those things.

              You didn’t ask that question, you asked if I was mad, and my answer is ‘no, just way way ahead of the curve, where I have always been, and its often quite lonely, but I am nearly always right in the end’.

              Those few who are on the curve may just understand what I am saying. To those behind the curve, I will of course seem insane. That doesn’t bother me one bit, because they are the nebbishes anyway. Society has its pathfinders – and I am one, and its leaders, which I am not, and the rest of the sheep just follow.

              In short out of a sense of duty to the human race, I am filling a dull afternoon with trying to catch a few people who just possibly might cotton on to the points.

              The rest of you green sheep and go to hell as far as I am concerned – not because I dont feel sorry for you, because I do,. and you will suffer immensely for your stupidity in thinking you understand more than you really do, but because I accept that part of what it means to be ahead of the curve, is that you are doomed t be disregarded by those behind it who simply have not a single clue what you are dong or why you are doing it.

              In fact is is for your benefit, but I dont expect you to ever understand that, or thank me for it. Because it would never cross your mind to do such a thing yourself for no reward beyond the satisfaction of changing the world for someone else’s benefit.

            • Jarle B says:

              Leo, humble you are not.

              A lot of “I’m a scientist” and “I’m a engineer”-like statements in you comments, please list relevant parts of your CV.

            • Corinthian says:

              Science is evidence and logic. Sure, usually there is something to scientific consensus, but it has proven wrong enough times.

              He has given his opinion that [CO2] is a weak greenhouse gas but a lagging correlate of temperature, not a serious driver. I kind of doubt that position is true, but it wouldn’t shock me if it were true. Further info on it might be interesting, but its essence is clear. You can doubt it all you want — I do — but since I cannot explain clearly why it is wrong, I surely don’t know that it is wrong.

            • In Leo’s defense, I will say that I have seen a fair number of reasonable arguments saying that the IPCC models don’t consider the right variables. It is pretty clear that the way the models get to scary warming temperatures is by assuming unreasonable fossil fuels consumption. The IPCC climate change model certainly produced helpful results in 2001 and 2007, when the IEA was desperate for a reason to tell European people to conserve fossil fuels, but couldn’t point to the real problem of declining North Sea production and inadequate ability to pump world oil production up cheaply. Whether this was a just a coincidence, or a factor that pushed it along, is unclear.

              There is of course some truth to the fact that the climate is changing, and also the fact that human actions do contribute to this change.

            • I have never tended to debate climate change even though I lived at sea level for more than 40 years in a neighborhood that was partly below sea level. We actually took a small amount of ocean water during the late 60’s. It always appeared to me that we did not have the ability to change much. I now live in the same county at a slightly higher and warmer elevation. I was amused when Al Gore and his then wife bought a $10 million house in Santa Barbara, a town that would be devastated by riling water.

            • jeremy890 says:

              “A final nail in the coffin of scientific skepticism came in 2005, when a team compiled accurate long-term measurements of temperatures in all the world’s ocean basins. It was not in the air but the massive oceans, after all, that most of any heat added would soon wind up. Indeed natural fluctuations had kept air temperatures roughly the same since the late 1990s; the significant question was whether the oceans were continuing to warm. The team found that over many decades the planet’s content of heat-energy had been rising, and was rising still (this continued steadily after 2005 as well). There was only one remotely plausible source of the colossal addition of energy: the Earth must be taking in more energy from sunlight than it was radiating back into space. Simple physics calculated that to heat all that sea water required nearly an extra watt per square meter, averaged over the planet’s entire surface, year after year. The number was just what the elaborate greenhouse effect computations had been predicting for decades. James Hansen, leader of one of the studies, called the visible increase of the planet’s heat content a “smoking gun” proof of greenhouse effect warming (see graph below). Moreover, in each separate ocean basin there was a close match between the pattern of rising temperatures measured at each location and depth and detailed model calculations of where the greenhouse effect warming should appear. Warming from other sources, for example a change in the Sun’s output, could not produce these patterns. Evidently the modelers were on the right track”
              Quote from:

          • Theadore the great says:

            In case of nuclear war…this won’t happen?!!! Why won’t this happen….if we are talking about large populations dying than you better not discount nuclear war!!! You sound like the fat man on the hill thinking he is untouchable…Pakistan will not sit idly by why 10 million starve and neither will any other country for that matter!!!!!!!!

          • CTG says:

            Stefeun, I am working in the manufacturing line and all the countries in the world are tied to the hip. Our supply chain is long and our food is transported. If one part of the supply chain goes down, the whole system collapses.

            To me, it is not the peak resources thing that worries me. It is the financial system that will be problematic. We are too dependent on it. Any economic crisis in big countries China, Japan, US or EU (financial or banking crisis) is enough to bring down the whole financial system.

            Bank collapse, no money in the bank, no trust, no credit then factories cannot produce, shortage of parts or items and equipment cannot function, No spares, no electricity, pumps cannot work, no diesel, No diesel, no trucking, no food in the supermarket.

            40 years ago, this is not the case. Now, with just internet down, deliveries of food and goods may be delayed. Companies are cutting costs to boost profits and they rely on just in time delivery. Food in supermarkets cannot last more than 2-3 days and if there is panic buying (if they still have access to cash or if credit card still functions), it will be gone in a few hours.

            No cash in bank and credit card does not work – ask the Cypriots. That is small scale and they know it works everywhere in the world. Now, if it does not work everywhere in the world, then it will be a massive problem…

            I try to be optimistic but from my experience working in the supply chain, it isn’t looking good…

            • You understand the problem, exactly.

            • Stefeun says:

              I also used to work in industrial worldwide groups, and I fully agree with your points (as you will see in one of my further comments here).
              The above one was about “the years after” and likely harsh living conditions of our -few remaining- children.

            • xabier says:

              We can’t ask the Cypriots -there’s no reporting from there! Or Portugal, and not much from Greece…..interesting blindspots in the MSM.

          • D Bruce says:

            Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” We need not misunderstand Darwin’s “laws of evolution”. ‘Change’ is the parameter we need to understand, not merely ‘struggle for survival’ in the manner of our Western worldview of ‘red in tooth and claw’. There are other paradigms of ‘survival’ in human history, including co-operatives, that can be part of ‘adaptability’. We are too accustomed to making our Western capitalist competition paradigm the benchmark of all humanly conceived modes of survival.

            • Stefeun says:

              I agree, but in this phase of collapse, it won’t be much a matter of individual adaptation, but rather a big reduction in number, due to food and water shortages, mainly.
              Quite a lot of struggles and troubles are to be expected, eventually on very large scale.
              In my humble opinion, the change will be in terms of quantity, much more than quality, during this period of “contraction”.
              Then, once the new equilibrium is about to be reached (in a more or less stabilized environment), a more qualitative process can take place. And then of course, cooperatives a.s.o. will be highly suitable, to re-start some kind of development depending on available resource and knowledge..
              In my view it fits in with the r & K evolutional systems.

        • andyuk says:

          i dont think a crash would lead to worse damage to the environment. its oil slaves that allow us to do so much damage to forests and wild creatures. we destroy forests because we can build roads through them, make complex processing machinery and move timber about using massive amounts of energy. most of the forest cover has already gone in most lowland areas and whats left in remote areas is going to be even less accessible without oil slaves to help.

          similarly, most wild vertebrates have already been killed off and replaced by our domestic animals, and their habitats replaced by agricultural land. what remains in relative abundance is very good at exploiting humans, evading our already heavy persecution, lives in extreme or remote places, no interest to humans or survive because of very fast reproduction. so they are likely to be at no more risk under collapse than normal. another aspect is most people don’t have the skills to hunt wild animals, so even if they tried hunting what little there is left out there, 99% would die of starvation long before doing much damage, allowing most wild animals to survive.

          if our domestic animals wont feed us under collapse (considering we and our animals now make up 98% of terrestrial vertebrates anyway) , we wouldnt be able to survive on wild animals because we’d be all dead long before they were.

          • bruce the moose says:

            I wouldn’t count on humans not cutting all the trees and eating all the animals in a crisis. Some areas that are sparsely populated and depend on world trade may be spared, but those in populuted areas will get stripped bare. This is happening in Greece and Pakistan now.

            • Paul says:

              And I wouldn’t count on humans not eating all the other HUMANS (in addition to the animals…)

        • Earl Mardle says:

          More to the point, the vast majority of people do not have any access to those natural resources, (without fuel, how do they reach even the outskirts of our mega cities?) nor the tools to use them (how do you cook on a wood fire in an apartment for example) nor the knowledge to use those tools effectively (many would die of CO poisoning even trying, not to mention those who burn down their fireplace-free homes etc etc etc)

          If Gail is right, and I think she probably is, we will see a resurgence of cannibalism, especially of children, as happened at least twice during the gyrations of the Egyptian Kingdoms.

          I also expect that, as the crunch really bites, those who have been trying to get people to hear, understand and act on these interlocking existential catastrophes, will be blamed for “not trying harder” to get people to get their heads out of their asses. It will all be OUR fault, and some of us will pay a high price for that.

      • Lindon says:

        Gail, I may be wrong of course, but I’m fairly certain that in a true collapse scenario, deforestation will most definitely not be an issue. Why? No gas! Here where I live, surrounded by mountains and forests, you’d think that if there was no natural gas or electricity for heating and cooking, people would ravage those forests, chopping down every tree and chunking them up for firewood. But the reality is, for anybody who has ever manually cut down a tree with a saw or axe, that is hardcore physical labor. The majority of people in America at least, and probably in most other places, lack the physical strength and stamina to cut down even one tree, much less a whole forest of trees. Also, once you get that tree cut down, cutting it up into firewood-sized chunks is excessive physical labor. And finally, dragging that chunked-up firewood back down the mountain to the camp/bugout spot is a final barrier that will be almost impossible for most people to overcome — especially in a collapse scenario where food most likely will be scarce. I imagine that in a collapse, all the sticks and branches laying around or hanging low on trees will be used up rapidly, but after that, good luck with the forests. It takes a very tough man with a chainsaw to fell a tree and chunk it up — a fat boy with a hatchet would be better off not even wasting his time. And those deer and elk in the forests — they will retreat immediately to the most inaccessible places and hide once they hear the first gun shot as they always do — if people don’t have trucks and gas-powered offroad vehicles to chase them down or get to those inaccessible places, then the wildlife will be safe until the humans die off, which they surely will. Well, that’s my theory.

        • edpell says:

          The locals here (i.e. native Americans) cut the tree down and burned the whole thing from the end, feeding it into the fire as it burns.

        • JohnBrown says:

          Do we really have to talk about the Zombie collapse scenario!??!! It is very childish and you sound like a bunch of cowardly old men and women….If it comes to that so be it…it does not matter and you are a fool for wasting your time here if that is what you believe. …telling people how it is going to be…as if you really know is wrong and futile. Most of the times if not all the time the loud mouths are wrong. Be a “Man” not a feeble mouse. A quote from Robert Anton Wilson “If one can only see things according to one’s own belief system, one is destined to become virtually deaf, dumb, and blind.” There is some very good information at this site but the competition to become the most “doomer” of commenter really, really…degrades this site… A lot of people here remind me of these people http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_Universal_and_Triumphant
          And now they all seem like their brains have been scrambled….maybe you are next!!!! It is called CANCER.

          • Paul says:

            7.2 billion people – 98% of the word’s ag land has been ruined by being farmed with oil and gas based pesticides and fertilizers.

            It would take 3+ years to rejuvenate these lands with organic inputs.

            How do you spin that as anything but doom?

          • Why are YOU so fearful of collapse scenarios?

        • Peter S says:

          Good points. I wonder if it is that simple, but I have been wondering myself similar.

        • Burgundy says:

          Lindon, fossil fuels aren’t going to vanish entirely and it takes a pitiful amount of fuel to cut down a tree. I know because I use wood for heating, cooking and hot water and fell, cut, split and transport it all. Transporting the wood from the forest is the biggest cost fuel wise. But you are right, it takes a physically fit and work hardened individual to do it even with chainsaws. The majority of people living in cities aren’t capable of doing such work as their bodies simply aren’t robust enough and soon fail (usually the back goes even in the fittest). The same probably goes for farming too, so the vision of people streaming out of the cities to become farmers is not going to happen either.

          I think what would happen is rising prices of necessities (eg, wood, food, etc.) would redirect money and therefore resources to people such as myself. We would then cut down the forests in our own effort to survive by supplying wood and other necessities to the cities. Even primary production needs technology, resources and services that only cities can provide. As for the animals, they wouldn’t stand a chance against organised hunts that flush them out into the waiting guns.

          • Peter S says:

            It’s hard to predict what will happen. On the negative side, you’re right, we only need a small amount of energy supply to run a chainsaw. I suppose if the descent were relatively slow, some people could adapt to this slash & burn society, apparently the Greeks are cutting a lot of firewood recently. This could lead to deforestation and is very bad. But on a global scale, I’m not sure we would have a chance to ravage the whole planet’s food and natural resources… at least, not in this particular way.

            On the positive side:
            • Lack of knowledge: Very few, or almost no, people now have any knowledge of the skills needed to live outside our just-in-time, iphone, supermarket and internet culture. Any disruption and they’d simply have no idea how to deal with it. I consider myself fairly self-aware, and with a reasonable knowledge of how our system works. I have some knowledge of survival and sustainability. And even for me (I’m not the best by any stretch of the imagination) to suddenly go chop wood, haul water and hunt game would be an enormous challenge – I don’t know if I’d survive the transition. And 99% of the overweight people I see on the Metro, working in an office or factory, chatting about their Candy Crush app – what chance would you give them. Almost nobody is prepared, mentally, physically or educationally.
            • Distance: virtually everyone now lives far, far away from any raw, natural resources. You still need energy (in this case food, plus some organization) to get more energy (wood, animals or more food). If water supply in cities and urban centers became intermittent, you probably couldn’t even make it to the edge of your city, or you’d be in terrible shape when you got there.
            • Habit and lack of planning: when food and water get scarce, people would hunker down, and wait for the government or someone to bring more food and water. By the time it became obvious that wasn’t going to happen, you’d be too weak and it would be too late to move and find those trees and animals. The government may enforce controls to limit lawlessness and rioting.
            • Energy for machinery: if there is still some energy (oil etc.) for machinery, I think it would mostly go towards government and law and order. If that goes down, then there’d probably be no chain of supply, and fuel for your chainsaw or tractor, or manufacture of axes, would probably dry up too.
            • Tools: we don’t have many chainsaws or axes, many hunting rifles or animal traps, or much of anything to support living rough. Although weapons may be turned on eachother, because it’s easier to harm others for food, than go find it yourself.
            • Change: We are generations away from a society knowledgeable enough and with supply chains of the right tools, materials, resources and training to return to a way of life pre-fossil fuel.

            I may be wrong, and we could all be surprised (nobody can predict the future), but I have my doubts. But I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this.

            • Burgundy says:

              I think Britain during the second world war is the most likely scenario for what will happen. At least initially and under Gail’s scenario above. Basically an authoritarian regime that takes control of essential resources, production and workforce to meet a narrow goal of feeding, housing and protecting the population. Rationing was used to ensure resources went to where they where needed. They created a thing called the Women’s Land Army which took women from the cities and put them to work on farms, etc. The was a special section that did forestry work, where the women cut down trees using only hand tools.

              The trouble is Gail’s scenario above is too conservative regarding climate change. Due to Arctic amplification, numerous positive feedbacks have been activated, the result being climate change has transitioned from a linear to a non-linear progression. Meaning we’re likely to see 2°c increase by 2030 or even before. My best guess is that industrial agriculture will fail by about 2025 due to climate change alone, throw in economic collapse and reduced energy availability and it may well be sooner. We’re just not prepared for the speed and impact climate change is going to hit us with, but I would think by the end of this year people are going to better understand the reality of what’s happening.

            • Peter S says:

              I want to do more research and reading on this climate change / global warming (they’re not necessarily the same thing). And I know we’re poisoning our planet, but I’m not convinced by a simple consensus (which is only a very broad consensus, not specific) that it is as bad as you say. Maybe we’re wrong, again I want to read more. I don’t trust celebrities or celebrity scientists who make Hollywood films with Harrison Ford flying a fighter jet, because it’s suddenly cool to be “global warming aware”. But I also know there are a lot of sincere scientists who are very scared.

              That aside, I have also been considering the UK a lot. I’m scared we could easily slip into some fascistic, authoritarian state. The UK does seem to be moving right-wing, blaming Europe and immigrants, and I do not like it. Instead of taking collective responsibility for our actions – our complete mismanagement of the planet – they will just find a scapegoat. Many people do it: blame immigrants, blame Muslims, blame the liberals, blame the climate change deniers, blame a secret cabal of world leaders in a grand conspiracy. Everyone has that tendency. Anything except take collective responsibility, which we should all do.

              But I would like to add that I don’t know if that is so possible. The WW2 situation happened going up the societal development mountain. We had all our previous industry, energy, oil, resources, economy, culture and society to build on. This time we will be going over a developmental cliff. I don’t know if such a change could take place going down (or off a cliff).

              (This interests me a lot, from an anthropological and sociological point of view.)

            • Burgundy says:

              If the forecast strong el Nino arrives this year, I think we will get a good glimpse of our reasonably near future. Regarding Britain, I think it will be a basket case; small land mass stuck out into the Atlantic, massively overpopulated, unable to feed itself with declining energy resources and an economy over reliant on economic bubbles. I sold my business, home, everything and left. This winter’s storms and flooding will be regarded as trivial compared to what’s coming when the Arctic looses its summer sea ice (possibly as early as 2016).

              Regarding authoritarian regimes, I believe we’re leaving the Brave New World as push becomes pull and entering into the world of 1984. Everything is turning hostile to our global system and anything that is not under direct control is becoming a potential threat. As governments have to deal swiftly with the many emerging crises, they’re not going to have time to pussyfoot around pretending to be democratic, fair, caring or anything else. The gloves will come off (by all party agreement of course).

              As they say, the future is already here, its just not widely distributed yet. Although I think increasing numbers of people are going to feel the shock of reality and a rising sense of panic this year as the future becomes clearer.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              “I believe we’re leaving the Brave New World as push becomes pull and entering into the world of 1984.”

              It is not clear to me that governments (whether authoritarian or democratic) will have the energy needed to enforce laws. Where will Big Brother get the energy to run all the cameras and microphones needed to be Watching You? How will it compensate all the employees needed to actually do the watching? Will they still have the huge data centres needed today to collect and track this sort of information?

              I think a return to feudalism is much more likely. But much depends on the downslope. A gentle downslope could further institutionalize governments, whereas a sharp one would tend to knock them off their feet, forcing local alternatives (feudal lords) to mobilize.

            • Burgundy says:

              According to Snowden we’re already there (1984). But as you say, things may change radically as we slide down the slope of depletion. I wouldn’t right off the state so soon though, history has shown its willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to maintain itself. Just look at WW1 or Russia and Germany in WW2, when populations were much smaller than today, they died in their millions. There’s is a never ending supply of evidence (eg. Syria today) that shows the State will not flinch from any action to control the situation and survive when things get desperate. Germany fought on even with restricted access to oil to the bitter end and Richard I, managed to invade the Middle East with the Medieval equivalent of NATO without fossil fuels. I think their will be plenty of energy available for the State to do whatever it feels necessary, even if it is reduced to manpower alone.

              What will make the State vanish though is irrelevance.

            • InAlaska says:

              Well, speaking from experience, I regularly hunt game, fish, haul water and farm. I can tell you certainly that the back goes first. Then the chainsaw breaks. Without parts to repair it, its a big paperweight. Bullets run out quickly, too. Steel axe bits last forever, but unless you know how to shape and fit a new handle, they don’t work so well. If you manage to get your precious wood out of the forest, somebody bigger than you is going to take it from you. If you defend your wood, how do you transport this heavy commodity to market? The 20 gallons of gas in the tank of your truck would be worth more than all the wood in the back!

            • Paul says:

              Totally agree – unless you have a large storage tank for petrol – a chainsaw will have limited use.

              I have stockpiled dozens of shovels, picks, axes, hoes, handles, saws, chisels, hammers and heavy duty machetes and knives. I think these would be useful barter items

            • Jan Steinman says:

              “unless you have a large storage tank for petrol – a chainsaw will have limited use.”

              I’ve done a few experiments using ethanol and biodiesel, with vegoil for the chain.

              Sure, ethanol is corrosive to aluminum, and biodiesel lacks whatever additives are in two-cycle oil, but I imagine I could keep chain saws running for a tad longer.

            • Interguru says:

              Earlier on I suggested stockpiling razors, toilet paper and cigarettes for sale/barter. I now realize that these are bulky and/or expensive. In lieu of these I suggest rolling papers ( we can grow your own tobacco ) and a Razorpit blade sharpener (about US$20). You can get the latter online, You can resharpen razor blades as service. Some people claim that one blade can be sharpened and used forever. I myself sharpen my blades daily and throw them out after 3 months but they still work well.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              “I suggested stockpiling razors, toilet paper and cigarettes for sale/barter.”

              No thanks. I’ll stick with moonshine. Eleven pear trees supply the raw materials.

              “I myself sharpen my blades daily…”

              But you can sell likker to a bearded man, or a woman — Bearded or not!

              Joking aside, I think the profession of “tinker” will return. People who can fix, sharpen, re-build, and re-purpose things are going to be valuable. At least, that’s my plan for out-living my years of useful manual labour…

          • JohnBrown says:

            First if you believe we are going to have this complete Zombie collapse where there is lots of killing and death and you are older than 50 years old; you really are wasting what little time you have left on this planet. It is like a terminal cancer patient spending their last days watching soap operas. All your charts, papers essays, talks won’t mean a thing they will disappear just as quickly as the wind. From what I gather most of the people on here and other similar sites tend to be older than 50 and highly educated, liberal—or former liberal and pretty much disgusted with society in general. I know I fit that last bit, and I have been disappointed when there was a new energy discovery….I would frantically look to disprove such discovery, what a bloody waste of time!!!
            No one here knows how the future is going to play out and this constant beating of the doom and gloom drum, chases off some really good writers like Steve Kopits….
            And Stepen I am not afraid of collapse scenarios I just think they are waste of time and cowardly. I prefer the ” Today is a good day to die” approach to “Oh my god!!!! we are are going to die!!!!” Where is my bunker!!!!!! Approach.

            • Peter S says:

              I agree with the “constant beating of the doom and gloom drum”, that chases off really good writers. But it is hard finding the line between being honest and facing reality, and siding along partisan lines (or already-existing beliefs, religious, political etc.).

              For my part, I see it as: prepare for the worst, and hope for the best. It is a potentially very very dangerous situation. I hate to see inaction, or even worse, disbelief. I only get glassy eyed stares when I tell a few select people, and dismissal from most (“I prefer to be optimistic, we have to trust human ingenuity” etc.). The few who do accept the situation, either play it down, or return to business-as-usual after the conversation. Some will only accept because it already fits their world-view (one case specifically: he is already a born again Christian, and already expects some “end times” collapse). I know it is difficult to change and make plans for such a situation, but I for one will try and do what I can.

              By the way, I’m well under 50.

            • Stefeun says:

              Talking about Steve Kopits, please have a look at:

              What I appreciate on this blog is actually that Gail is making cold-blooded highly valuable analysis, and the commenters are also trying to keep cool and have constructive discussions (at least until this one with unfortunate word “climate” in its title…).

            • Steve has a lot of interesting things to say, but he tends to use a lot of abbreviations and language that is hard to understand. I try to pick out the most important things, and write them in a little simple language.

            • Peter S says:

              Thanks, I already read that post and watched the presentation. It’s very interesting. And his views and research are very interesting and useful. I don’t know if I’m as optimistic as him though. The situation is potentially extremely dangerous for our globalized society. But I do wish less people would be so gleeful about the doom and gloom. It’s very possible, but it’s impossible to predict the future.

        • I understand cutting down trees in Greece is a problem. (Greeks raid forests in search of wood to heat homes> It does’t have to be a high percentage of the population that has the strength to chop down trees with existing axes. A few can work on it, and sell/trade the wood to others.

        • Earl Mardle says:

          Exactly. Which is why I am using a fair bit of fossil fuel on my 10 acres to top, trim and coppice my trees so that when I NEED to cut firewood by hand the biggest pieces will be around 10mm in diameter, perfect for the fire, easy to cut with the good blades we are buying and light enough to carry back to the barn to dry out while we buirn the wood cut last year, and the year before and the year before if needed.

          The big stuff, as you say, will be pretty damned safe for a very long time.

          • Paul says:

            You may be correct on that Earl — when the SHTF there will be very little food available — so assume the majority — most of whom would have heart attacks if they had to swing an axe — would be too weak to chop much of anything down.

            The best outcome is that most of the population simply gives up very quickly and dies.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            “the biggest pieces will be around 10mm in diameter”

            That wouldn’t be much of a fire!

            I assume you meant 10 cm in diameter.

            • InAlaska says:

              Sorry, but I don’t buy it. Two teenage boys and a good two-man crosscut saw can cut down and buck up a whole lot of trees in short order. Sure, its hard work, but that’s what teenage boys are good at. If you feed them, they will cut…When people face death by freezing or starvation or the the annihilation of their families- they will rise to whatever challenge presents itself. Even those soft-bodied city folk that we all collectively stereotype and scoff at are going to fight like hell to live, and some of them are not so soft-bodied. Survival at all costs is the fundamental in the human genome. There will be forces and counterforces. There will mass violence, but others will band together into mutual defense groups to protect each other and the weak. None of this changes the end game, of course.

      • Geowatcher says:

        The sooner the collapse, the fewer humans that will be alive when it begins. Have a look at the “population clock”. Every day means more people on the planet. Everyone has to have food and water, and in most climates, shelter to survive. The longer we continue going on more or less as usual, the worse we will ravage the planet when economies collapse.

        • How about working on the population issue instead?

          • Stefeun says:

            Proactive policies to limit the natality rate are working for a while, but imbalance the ratio young/old, and thus accelerate rising of problems due to number of improductive growing faster than number of productive people.

            Ageing population is likely to be a global trend in next decades (if not energy supply…), although situations are very different from each other countries (and even within big countries).
            Northern countries are already on the decline, China is in accelerated ageing phase, while other parts of the world (India, Africa, mainly) are expected to reach their max much later.
            Still not to mention our energy problems, this altogether woud be expected to stabilize between 9 and 10 billions during 2nd half of this century.

            Le Monde Diplomatique made a very interesting dossier about that in 2011:
            (sorry for it’s in French; maybe Google translate works on it?… the maps and graphs are worthwile to look at, however)

          • Geowatcher says:

            That (“working on the population issue”, i.e., reducing the world’s population, and I presume you mean lowering the birth rates rather than increasing the death rates) hasn’t slowed the growth of our numbers very much. True, birth rates did drop as countries became industrialized. But, even now, birth control is not readily available or too expensive for most of the world’s population. And, as you have pointed out in this blog, economic conditions are likely to become much worse soon for almost all of us.

            There were fewer than 3 billion of us when I was young; now there are more than 7 billion. Our numbers are increasing exponentially, supported by the use of fossil fuels (FF). As that energy source becomes limited, our numbers will stop increasing, then drop along with the amount of FF available for use.

            Could we have prevented this dire predicament? I, for one, have my doubts, as it would have required our intellect to override some of our deepest biological imperatives.

            • Humans are like every other species–we reproduce in larger numbers than needed to maintain the species. For most species, through natural selection, the survivors gradually get better and better adapted to local conditions. In the case of humans, we do our best to thwart this tendency. We help people live to maturity who could not have made it, without today’s medicines and medical devices. So I am afraid you are right.

          • MG says:

            I have a friend who is a biologist. I have spotted a significant population increase of wild boars in our area in Slovakia. This biologist told me that this is due to the fact that when the old wild boar males, who are the leaders, are hunted by the hunters, the young boars start to increase the population without control.

            Isnt the same with the people? Isnt the same with the population of Japan, where the respect for the elders keeps the population from the devastating overshoot, also contributing to preserving quite a high standard of living while the resources are depleted, so the population starts to decline before the big shortages come? That is the very root of the true conservativism.

            It is interesting that, in the past, people in our area had their fields without fences and there was not so much damage caused by the game. It leads me to the conclusion that when the animal population is not managed well, i. e. the strong leaders, who protect from overpopulation are killed, the population overshoot comes. And I would say that this lack of respect to the elders, who behave responsibly, as regards the management of resources and population, also contributes to the fast devastation of the humankind.

            Some of the last words of Jesus on the Calvary (and I would say these words are the key to understanding the life and death of Jesus, to understanding of the idea of Fall of Man, sin etc.) were:

            27And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him. 28But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. 29″For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’…

            • Stefeun says:

              I’m not sure that any kind of voluntary control could be the main explanation for variations of populations.

              In France as well, we have increases in boar population, but it’s not evenly distributed: 75% of the problems occurring on 10% of the territory, and mainly on “black-spots”.
              Mistakes in management of the populations (such as the one you describe) can be part of the problem, but they say such booms are occurring only where food is largely available (mainly large corn fields), of course together with many other conditions (the latters not being sufficient by themselves).

              In the wild life, as well as for us humans before industrial revolution, I think that birth rates are always as big as possible, and limitations are made by high death rates for both the babies and the elderly.

              With industrial revolution (vaccination, antibiotics, better food, hygiene,…), we’ve been able to reduce drastically the death rates, but we also kept going on with high natality.
              That was good for the nations, because it increased their power with larger working (and fighting) force, as long as the economy could grow along with it, fed with lots of cheap energy (fossil fuels).

              IMHO, the natality (birth rate) starts to decrease much later in the process, once health conditions and GDP per capita have reached a certain value:
              1) a baby has much bigger chance to become adult,
              2) a new born child represents a sort of investment for the parents, as his working force will be used by society, mostly, instead of by themselves as it used to be (family, clan,…).
              I believe that in our occidental societies (+ Japan), the parents can simply not afford to have lots of “competitive” children; except in special configurations in which it’s a priority (e.g. religious traditionalist communities).

              The time-gap between reduction of death-rate and birth-rate results in that today we’re finding ourselves to face:
              – overshoot in global population,
              – ageing population (globally and in average: already started in developing countries, within next decades in developing countries), i.e. decreasing ratio productive/improductive.
              This is combined with diminishing returns (“peak-everything”) and will probably bring us to hit the limits very strongly.

              Unfortunately, I don’t see any voluntary policy having any chance to be implemented, so our future is likely to resemble the destiny of the caribous on St-Matthews island, or any colony of bacteria; the only difference being that we humans have not only food scarcity as mean to reduce the population, we also have lots of WMDs…

            • Thanks for your comment. I know that humans have historically tried to hunt the top predator species, very often wiping these out. This leads to an imbalance. It can also lead to loss of fertility, because waste in not recycled as in the past. I suppose losing the oldest males can present a problem too.

              Population growth has been viewed as good by many–a sign of growing wealth, and helpful in pumping up the need for goods and services. Actuaries have cheered for population growth, because it makes funding for retired population easier. But now it is not good at all, something people have not realized.

      • Fred Magyar says:

        Hi Gail,

        “For example, once collapse begins in earnest, we can expect a great deal more deforestation, year after year, because of lack of other fuels and money to buy fuels. Wishing collapse had occurred sooner would be equivalent to wishing for more deforestation, wouldn’t it?”

        Having spent a lot of time in Brazil last year including trips to the Amazon region I have a hunch that this will not happen, at least in large swaths of the rain forest. I don’t have any data to back up my gut feeling but here goes: I have seen first hand the results of deforestation but in every case that I witnessed it was a direct result of incentives to expand growth and in all cases was very expensive in terms of energy use,.I strongly suspect that if BAU collapses because of limited access to energy in the form of fossil fuels you are more likely to see die offs and a reduction in this kind of activity in these remote regions. I think that very large areas will be spared as ecological islands. To be clear even after all the enroachment that has happened over the last few decades the Amazonian rain forest is still a very huge area with a minimal population density. The ecosystems will be damaged and they will change but I’m pretty sure they will evolve and new systems will grow out of what remains. I just don’t see large numbers of city dwellers suddenly flocking to the remote areas without the benefit of fossil fuel powered machines. Try cutting down a big tree in the rain forest by hand. Even if you want to burn it down you still have to get there and without machines that is not an easy task…. I guess we’ll see if my hunch is correct.

        • Jan Steinman says:

          “Wishing collapse had occurred sooner would be equivalent to wishing for more deforestation, wouldn’t it?”

          I’m fascinated by “fast crash versus slow crash” scenarios.

          I think in a slow crash, you may be right, that we’ll cut down all the trees. At some point, there won’t be fuel to get the forests to the cities, but that may not matter if the people leave the cities and come to the forests.

          In a fast crash, it may be that population will rapidly reduce to the extent that rural forests will be spared.

          My crystal ball is no better than anyone else’s, though. I just keep planting trees…

          • Don Stewart says:

            Dear Jan and Other Foresters
            Permaculture Voices has a recent interview with Ben Falk and guy from Iowa whose name I forget.

            Falk, who lives in the mountains of Vermont, talks about the value of a chainsaw in a collapse scenario. Falk compares a couple of days to cut up a big oak tree with a chainsaw versus a couple of months with a hand saw. Falk is hanging onto his grandfather’s hand saw, but he has also made himself the local ‘chain’ guy. He buys large rolls of chain and has the right tools to make chain of the appropriate length for different saws.

            He also talks about the desirability of having chain saws that run on alcohol. They speculate a little about the modifications which would be required.

            Don Stewart

        • Don Stewart says:

          Dear Fred and Jan
          There is a good discussion of deforestation and coppicing and the opportunities for passive solar concentrators by a guest writer and several commenters in the current edition of Dmitry Orlov’s blog.

          Don Stewart

    • IPCC 2014, Chapter 12, p 1106
      The AR4 showed that if concentration of greenhouse gases were held constant at present day level, the Earth surface would still continue to warm by about 0.6°C over the 21st century relative to the year 2000

      Even if anthropogenic greenhouses gas emissions were halted now, the radiative forcing due to these longlived greenhouse gases concentrations would only slowly decrease in the future, at a rate determined by the lifetime of the gas. Moreover, the climate response of the Earth System to that radiative forcing would be even slower. Global temperature would
      not respond quickly to the greenhouse gas concentration changes. Eliminating CO2 emissions only would lead to near constant temperature for many centuries. Eliminating short-lived negative forcings from sulphate aerosols at the same time (e.g., by air pollution reduction measures) would cause a temporary warming of a few tenths of a
      degree, as shown in blue in FAQ 12.3, Figure 1. Setting all emissions to zero would therefore, after a short warming, lead to a near stabilization of the climate for multiple centuries. This is called the commitment from past emissions (or zero future emission commitment). The concentration of GHG would decrease and hence the radiative forcing
      as well, but the inertia of the climate system would delay the temperature response.

      p 1033
      To limit the warming caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions alone to be likely less than 2°C relative to the period 1861-1880, total CO2 emissions from all anthropogenic sources would need to be limited to a cumulative budget of about 1000 PgC since that period. About half [445 to 585 PgC] of this budget was already emitted by 2011.

      James Hansen seems to be much stricter (1 PgC = 1 GtC)

      “Science has exposed the fact that we cannot burn all fossil fuels without enormous growing costs that would be borne most heavily by young people. So far we have burned about 380 GtC (gigatons of carbon), the purple areas in Fig. 1. Preserving creation, a planet that continues to look like the one civilization developed on, requires that we limit total fossil fuel emissions to something close to 500 GtC.”

      So what does this mean for using oil? The remaining total fossil fuel balance is 500 GtC – 380 GtC = 120 GtC = 440 GtCO2. The Stockholm Environment Institute has been using a similar figure.

      The carbon budget for burning oil in the period 2000-2050 to keep global warming to 2 degrees (at 25% probability of exceeding) is 280 Gt CO2. In the first 12 years of that period, the world has already used up half of that budget. Oil use would need to decrease by 6% pa after 2012 and later to 9% pa to fulfill the carbon budget boundary condition. Graph is in my post:

      Half of oil burnable in 2000-2050 to keep us within 2 degrees warming has been used up as we hit 400 ppm

      • Stilgar Wilcox says:

        That is if the carbon boundary is correct. I don’t care how many institutions adhere to it, it may be wrong. We may be giving ourselves way too much wiggle room.

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