The climate change story is half true

The climate change story is true in some respects: The climate is indeed changing. And CO2 emissions do seem to affect climate. Burning fossil fuels does indeed make a difference in CO2 levels.

The problem I have with the climate change story is that it paints a totally inaccurate story of the predicament the world is facing. The world’s predicament arises primarily from too little affordable resources, especially energy resources; climate change models tend to give the illusion that our problem is one of a superabundance of fossil fuels.

Furthermore, the world economy has no real option of using significantly less energy, because the economy tends to collapse when there is not enough energy. Economists have not studied the physics of how a networked economy really works; they rely on an overly simple supply and demand model that seems to suggest that prices can rise endlessly.

Figure 1. Supply and Demand model from Wikipedia.
Attribution: SilverStar at English Wikipedia CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The quantity of energy supply affects both the supply and demand of finished goods and services. History shows that the result of inadequate energy supplies is often collapse or a resource war, in an attempt to obtain more of the necessary resources.

Climate scientists aren’t expected to be economists, but have inadvertently picked up the wrong views of economists and allowed them to affect the climate models they produce. This results in an over-focus on climate issues and an under-focus on the real issues at hand.

Let’s look at a few issues related to the climate change story.

[1] Growth in energy consumption and in world GDP are very closely linked. In fact, energy consumption seems to be the cause of GDP growth.

If we look at the relationship between World GDP and energy consumption growth, we see a close correlation, with energy consumption increases and decreases often preceding GDP growth changes. This implies a causal relationship.

Figure 2. World GDP Growth versus Energy Consumption Growth, based on data of 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy and GDP data in 2010$ amounts, from the World Bank.

The reason why this close relationship exists is because it takes the “magic” of energy consumption to make the physical changes we associate with GDP growth. It takes energy to transport goods. It takes energy to heat goods, whether to refine metals or to cook foods. Refrigeration is similar to heating, except that heat is moved out of the space that is to be cooled. Electricity, of course, depends on energy consumption.

We cannot expect the relationship to be as close at an individual country level as at the world level, because service economies tend to require less energy per capita than manufacturing economies. If a government sees that energy supplies are running short, it can direct the economy to become more services-oriented. This workaround can keep the local economy operating fairly close to normally, at least for a time.

Longer-term, an economy that has been hollowed out by a lack of energy supplies is likely to find that a substantial share of workers are earning only very low wages. With this reduced buying power, many citizens cannot afford to buy expensive goods like homes and cars. This lack of purchasing power tends to hold down commodity prices of all kinds, since finished goods are made with commodities. It is this lack of purchasing power that tends to hold down oil prices and other energy prices.

[2] There are two very different views of our energy future, depending upon whether an analyst believes that oil and other energy prices can rise endlessly, or not.

Figure 3. Two Views of Our Energy Future

There is substantial evidence that the second view is the correct view. Nearly every time the price of oil rises very much, the US economy has tended to head into recession. And forecasters tell us that while some countries (oil exporters) would be winners with higher prices, on average the world economy will tend to shrink. Oil importers, especially, would shrink back in recession. Figure 4 shows a recent chart by Oxford Economics with the conclusion that oil prices cannot rise very much without adversely affecting the world economy.

Figure 4. Chart by Oxford Economics on their view of the impact of oil prices reaching $100 per barrel. Chart shown on WSJ Daily Shot, April 25, 2019.

Climate change modeling has inadvertently incorporated the opposite view: the view that prices can be expected to rise endlessly, allowing a large quantity of fossil fuels to be extracted. Of course, if fossil fuel prices are expected to rise endlessly, then expensive renewables such as wind and solar can become competitive in the future.

[3] To date economists and their policies have had pretty close to zero success in reducing world CO2 fossil fuel emissions.

Figure 5. World Carbon Dioxide Emissions for selected groupings of countries, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data. Growing Asia is my grouping. It is BP’s Asia Pacific grouping, excluding Japan, Australia, and New Zealand. It includes China and India, among other countries.

A popular view of economists is, “If every country limits its own CO2 emissions, certainly world emissions will be reduced.” In practice, this does not work. It simply moves emissions around and, in the process, raises total world emissions. A carbon tax sends high-carbon industries to Emerging Market nations, helping ramp up their economies. The country with the carbon tax on its own citizens then imports manufactured items from the Emerging Market nations with no carbon tax, aiding the Emerging Market countries without a carbon tax at the expense of its own citizens. How reasonable is this approach?

When Advanced Economies transferred a significant share of their industrial production to the Growing Asian nations, the growth rate of industrial production soared in these countries, at the same time that it stagnated in Advanced Economies. (Sorry, data are not available before 2000.)

Figure 6. Percentage increase over prior year for Industrial Production, based on data of CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis. Advanced Economies is as defined by CPB. My Growing Asia grouping seems to be very similar to what it shows as “Emerging Asia.”

This soaring production in the Growing Asian nations led to a need for new roads and new homes for workers, in addition to new factories and new means of transportation for workers. The net result was much more CO2 for the world as a whole–not considerably less.

If we calculate the savings in CO2 between the date of the Kyoto Protocol (1997) and 2017 for the US, EU, and Japan (the bottom grouping on Figure 5), we find that there has indeed been a savings close to 1.0 billion tons of carbon dioxide over this 20-year period. Unfortunately, Figure 5 shows:

  • Growing Asia added 9.0 billion tons of CO2 between 1997 and 2017
  • Middle Eastern oil producing nations added 1.1 billion tons of CO2 in the same period, and
  • The Rest of the World added 1.5 billion tons of CO2.

So, what little CO2 savings took place in the US, EU, and Japan during the 20 year period between 1997 and 2017 were dwarfed by the impact of the ramp up of industrial growth outside the US, EU, and Japan.

[4] Probably the single most stupid thing world leaders could have done, if they were at all concerned about CO2 emissions, was to add China to the World Trade Organization in December 2001.

In looking at world CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, we can see a distinct bend occurring in 2002, the year after China was added to the World Trade Organization.

Figure 7. World CO2 Emissions with Trend Line fitted to 1990-2001 data, based on data from 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

The fitted trend line shows that emissions were growing at about 1.1% per year in the 1990 to 2001 period. Once China, with its huge unused coal reserves, was added to the World Trade Organization, both China’s coal production (Figure 8) and its coal consumption (Figure 9) soared.

Figure 8. China energy production by fuel, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2018 data.

Figure 9. China’s energy consumption by fuel, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

With the extra “demand” from China for roads, homes, airports, and new factories, oil and other energy prices soared in the 2002 to 2007 period. Energy prices were again high in the 2011 to 2014 period, after the Great Recession was over. These higher energy prices (see Figure 10 below) encouraged drilling for new oil and gas, such as that from shale formations in the United States. This further helped raise world fossil fuel consumption and thus world CO2 emissions.

Figure 10. Historical inflation-adjusted oil prices, based on inflation adjusted Brent-equivalent oil prices shown in BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

[5] One way of seeing the truth of the close tie between the growth in energy consumption and economic growth is to observe the dip in world CO2 emissions at the time of the Great Recession of 2008-2009.

If a person looks at any of Figures 5, 6, 7, or 8, it is easy to see a clear dip in CO2 emissions at the time of the Great Recession. What seems to happen is that high prices lead to recessions in oil importing nations. These recessions lead to lower oil prices. (Note the dip in prices in Figure 10.) It is the fact that high prices lead to recessions in oil importing countries that makes the belief that energy prices can rise endlessly seem absurd.

[6] The European Union is an example of a major area that is fighting declines in nearly all of its major types of energy supplies. In practice, energy prices do not rise high enough, and technology does not help sufficiently to provide the energy supplies needed.

Figure 11. European Union energy production versus total energy consumption, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

In the chart above, the colored amounts in the lower part are the amount of energy produced within the European Union, shown in layers, based on BP’s evaluation. The black line at the top is the amount of energy consumed by the European union. The difference between the black line and the colored part is the amount that must be imported from somewhere else.

The problem that the European Union has had is that nearly all of the energy types that the EU has been producing have been declining in spite of higher prices and improving technology. Coal is the EU’s largest source of energy, but it has been declining since before 1965. Oil, natural gas, and nuclear are also declining. Hydroelectric isn’t very significant, but its supply is staying more or less level.

The only category that is rising is “Other Renewables.” This category includes biofuels, wind and solar, and wood and trash burned for fuel. Except for the wood burned as fuel, these are what I would call “fossil fuel extenders.” They are only possible because we have fossil fuels. They help reduce the size of the gap between what is produced and what is required by the economy, but they come nowhere close to filling the gap.

There is controversy regarding how wind and solar should be counted in equivalence to fossil fuels. BP data treats the output of wind and solar as if they replace somewhat less than the price of wholesale electricity (worth about 3 to 5 cents per kWh). The International Energy Agency treats wind and solar as if they only replace the fuel that operates power plants (worth about 2 to 3 cents per kWh).* In practice, the IEA gives less than half as much credit for wind and solar as does BP. In exceptionally sunny places, solar auction prices can be low enough to match its value to grids.

It would make sense to treat wind and solar as replacing electricity, if the systems were set up to include substantial storage capacity. Without at least several days of storage capacity (the situation today), the BP method of counting wind and solar overstates the benefit of wind and solar. Thus, the value of Other Renewables to the EU tends to be overstated by the BP methodology used in Figure 11.

[7] There are huge differences in CO2 growth patterns between (a) countries whose governments have recently collapsed and (b) countries that are growing rapidly.

Government Collapse Related Countries.  Russia, Lithuania, and Ukraine are all countries whose central government (the Soviet Union) collapsed in 1991. Romania was “only” a country that was dependent on the Soviet Union for imported oil and other trade. These countries all saw a major fall in industrialization after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has been especially hard hit because it has never been able to replace the industry it lost with new industry.

Figure 12. Selected countries with falling CO2 emissions since 1990, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

As I see the situation, the Central Government of the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 because the Soviet Union was an oil exporter, and the price of oil had fallen too low for an extended period of time, leaving inadequate funding for investment in new productive capacity. Russia was able to recover better than the other countries shown because once the price of oil rose again, it was able to again ramp up its oil production and exports, supporting its economy.

Examples of Rapidly Growing Countries. If we consider the CO2 patterns of a few  growing Asian nations, we see very different patterns than those of the countries attempting to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union’s central government. The CO2 emissions of the Growing Asian Countries have been rising rapidly, relative to 1990 levels.

Figure 13. CO2 Emissions of Selected Asian Countries, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

China’s flattening CO2 emissions since 2013 are an indication that much of its cheap-to-extract coal has been mined out. It has been difficult for China to maintain its level of coal production (see Figure 8, above), given the low level of coal prices in recent years. This problem of low coal prices seems to be parallel to the problem of inadequate prices for oil producers.

[8] Unfortunately, the real story about economies is that they are governed by the laws of physics. Like plants and animals, and like hurricanes, they are dissipative structures that grow for a time and eventually come to an end. 

We know that over the ages, many, many economies have grown for a time and then collapsed. But the study of how and why this has happened has been divided among many fields of study, including physicists and historians. Economists, who tend to be hired by politicians, seem to be among the last to understand collapse. They simply model the future as if it will reflect a continuation of past patterns. With such models, economic growth will continue forever.

But growth forever isn’t what really happens. Eventually, growth in population outstrips growth in resources. Various workarounds are tried, often requiring growing specialization, bigger businesses and governments, improved technology and more international trade. This additional complexity tends to lead to too much wage disparity. The problem with wage disparity is that it tends to lead to a large number of workers with very low wages.

The low wages caused by increased wage disparity tend to harm the economy. These low-paid workers cut back on their purchases of discretionary goods–for example, they delay buying a new car or visiting restaurants. These cutbacks lead to what look like “gluts” of commodities such as oil and metals used in making finished goods. Commodity prices tend to fall instead of rise, in order to clear the gluts.

As wage disparity grows, low-wage workers become very unhappy. They may elect radical leaders, or they may try to overthrow a king. With the many low-wage workers, it becomes difficult to collect enough tax revenue. Governments may collapse for lack of tax revenue. Sometimes, governments will attack other economies to try to solve their low-resource problem in this way.

[9] Climate change modelers have not understood that one of the things that they should be concerned about is near-term collapse. The rising wealth disparity in recent years is a major indicator that the world economy may be headed toward collapse. 

Economists and politicians model the world as if business as usual will continue forever, but this is not the way the real situation works.

Meteorologists and other climate scientists have closely examined historical climate situations, but when it comes to future patterns of energy consumption, they are far outside of their field. They miss the likelihood of near-term collapse. With the assumption of economic growth forever, it is easy to arrive at projections of growth in fossil fuel consumption almost forever. This, of course, leads to growth in CO2 pollution and a very concerning rise in temperature.

In fact, with the story of economic growth forever, climate change becomes the most serious problem the world is facing. People believe that 100 or 500 years from now, the economy can be expected to operate as in the past. One of our biggest problems will be rising oceans and the need to move our cities back from them. Also, weather changes will be of huge concern.

[10] If the world economy is headed toward near-term collapse, climate change shrinks back in the list of things we should be worried about.

Most of us remember what happened in the Great Recession of 2008 and 2009. Collapse of the world economy would likely be far, far worse than this recession. It would involve debt defaults as the economy stops growing fast enough to repay debt with interest. It could perhaps involve collapses of governments, similar to the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union in 1991. If low oil prices are again a problem, collapses could especially affect oil exporting nations. In some cases, the use of fossil fuels could fall as quickly as the decline in CO2 emissions for Ukraine (Figure 12).

I often think that the concern about climate change comes from the fact that it can be modeled as if nothing else changes in the future. Surely, if researchers were modeling the overfishing in the sea, they would come to a correspondingly bleak view of how the sea might operate 50 to 100 or 1000 years from now. Similarly, if researchers were modeling our problems with soil erosion, they would come to a correspondingly bleak view about soil conditions, 50 or 100 or 1000 years from now.

One of the problems with the climate change model is that it overlooks the huge number of limits we are reaching simultaneously. These issues will surely change how the economy functions in the future, in ways that are not reflected in today’s climate models.

[11] The great draw of wind and solar is that they seem to solve problems of any type: either too much fossil fuels or too little.

Very few dare talk about the real problem we are facing–a huge number of limits coming at us from many directions at once. World population has risen too much relative to resources. Wage disparity is too great. Aquifer levels are being drawn down, far more quickly than they are being replaced. Pollution of many types (not just CO2) is becoming a problem. Microbes are mutating more quickly than we can find new antibiotics to fight them.

There seem to be plenty of fossil fuels in the ground, but there is a mismatch between the prices consumers can afford and the prices producers need in order to be profitable. It is not just the price of gasoline used at the pump that is important; the prices of finished goods made with energy products (such as homes and automobiles) are just as important. Young people are especially being squeezed with all of their educational loans.

If our problem can be framed as a problem of “too much,” rather than “too little,” we have a situation that is much more salable to the average consumer. People can easily believe that prices will rise endlessly, and that the economy will continue to grow forever. If economists have faith that this can happen, why not believe them? In this context, potential solutions such as wind and solar seem to make sense, even though, with adequate storage, they tend to be high-cost.

[12] Wind and solar, when analyzed without the need for energy storage, seem to help reduce CO2 emissions. But if substantial electricity storage needs to be included, this CO2 benefit tends to disappear.

Most analysts (such as those doing Energy Returned on Energy Investments calculations) have overlooked the need for electricity storage, if penetration is to ramp up. If the direct and indirect energy costs of storage are considered, the expected climate benefit of wind and solar tends to disappear.

Figure 14. Slide by author referencing Graham Palmer’s chart of Dynamic Energy Returned on Energy Invested from “Energy in Australia.”

This is only one estimate. More extensive calculations are needed, but the indications of this example are concerning.

Conclusion: Ultimately, the climate story, as it tends to be quoted in the news media, is misleading.

The climate story we hear tends to give the impression that climate change is a huge problem compared to all the other resource and environmental problems we are encountering. Furthermore, a person gets the impression that simple solutions, such as wind, solar, carbon taxes and voluntary cutbacks in fossil fuel use, are available.

This is a false picture of the situation at hand. Climate change is one of many problems the world economy is facing, and the solutions we have for climate change at this time are totally inadequate. Because an increase in energy consumption is required for GDP growth worldwide, even voluntary cutbacks in fossil fuel usage tend to harm the economies making the reductions. If climate change is to be addressed, totally different approaches are needed. We may even need to talk about adapting to climate change that is largely out of our ability to control.

The benefits of wind and solar have been greatly exaggerated. Partly, this may be because politicians have needed a solution to the energy and climate problems. It may also be partly because “renewable” sounds like it is a synonym for “sustainable,” even though it is not. Adding electricity storage looks like it would be a solution to the intermittency of wind and solar, but it tends to add costs and to defeat the CO2 benefit of these devices.

Finally, IPCC modelers need to develop their models more in the context of the wider range of limits that the world is facing. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to model the expected impact of all limits combined, rather than limiting the analysis to climate change. In particular, there is a need to consider the physics of how an economy really operates: Energy consumption cannot be reduced significantly at the world level without increasing the probability of collapse or a major war.

Footnote:

*Island economies and other remote economies sometimes burn oil to produce electricity. In this case, the cost of fuel consumption for electricity generation will be much higher than the $0.02 to $.03 cents per kWh quoted in the text, so the economics will be different. For example, if diesel is selling for $3.00 per gallon, the cost per kWh of fuel for electricity from diesel will be $0.24 per kWh, based on EIA efficiency estimates. With this high cost of fuel, substituting wind or solar for part of the diesel generally makes economic sense.

The “catch” is that whether the remote economy powers its electricity with oil or with oil plus wind/solar, the price of electricity will remain high. If the remote economy is primarily operating a tourist trade, high electricity prices may not be a major issue. But if the remote economy wants to sell goods in the world economy, its cost of finished goods can be expected to be high compared to the cost of goods made elsewhere, because of its high electricity cost. The high cost of electricity is one of the reasons for the economic problems of Puerto Rico, for example.

 

 

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 financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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1,529 Responses to The climate change story is half true

  1. MG says:

    An unusual snow on May 14th, 2019 in some mountaineous parts of Slovakia:

    https://www.aktuality.sk/clanok/691711/foto-cast-slovakov-sa-zobudila-do-zasnezeneho-majoveho-rana/

  2. SuperTramp says:

    The Art Of the Deal…
    Opinion: Washington and Wall Street wake up to the reality that Beijing is happy to walk away
    As Wall Street reels from the shock of a trade war exploding to new heights in the form of tariffs and counter tariffs, there’s another reality that is setting in — that China seems happy to walk away from trade talks
    Until a week ago, it looked likely that a far-reaching trade deal would be struck between the U.S. and China within a matter of weeks. But negotiations hit a severe impasse, as the U.S. side accused the Chinese side of having reneged on key concessions,” said Stephen Gallagher, U.S. chief economist at Societe Generale, in a note to clients.
    Whether Beijing has miscalculated or not, China’s policy makers are betting that they can absorb a blow to the nearly $400 billion of exports that the country, on net, sells to the U.S. each year.
    “Between loose credit and loose fiscal policy, China did rebalance away from exports,” said Brad Setser, senior fellow for international economics at the Council on Foreign Relations.
    China has stepped up its stimulus measures aggressively since the start of the year, which suggests mature policy appreciation of the risks,” added Lena Komileva, chief economist at G-Plus Economics, in a note to clients.
    That’s not to say China would escape unscathed from a full-fledged war. SocGen, for instance, says the drag from the trade war for China can be as high as 1.2% of its GDP. And that’s without modeling the greater impact on global confidence as well as China’s relations with key counterparts like the European Union and Japan
    From MarketWatch

    • If China doesn’t have the coal to make the exports that it would otherwise make, perhaps the tariffs come as a relief. China is clearly facing Peak Coal. Just today I read something from the IEA that said,

      There has to be a cut somewhere. Perhaps this way, more of the available coal can be used to benefit the Chinese people. Just today the Financial Times reported the following regarding China’s coal:

      [According to the IEA] China remained the largest market for total energy spending and accounted for more than half the investment into coal mining, followed by India and Australia. But the IEA said its spending almost all went on sustaining production levels rather than opening new mines.

      Needing to do a lot of spending just to sustain production levels is a sign of peak coal.

  3. SuperTramp says:

    Struggling Houston helicopter co. files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection
    The Oil Business ain’t what it used to be…so sorry
    Houston-based Bristow Group Inc. (NYSE: BRS) and seven affiliated entities filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 11.
    The struggling Houston-based helicopter company previously had acknowledged that a Chapter 11 filing was a possibility as part of its strategic financial review process
    Bristow’s stock price has been falling in recent years from highs around $80 per share in late 2013 and mid-2014 — when oil prices were at their peak. Much of Bristow’s work involves the offshore oil and gas industry. More recently, the company’s 52-week high was $18.91 per share, which it hit last May. After falling somewhat over the year, the stock price dropped significantly late last year to the $2 range in conjunction with a decline in oil prices and the announcement of the $560 million Columbia Helicopters deal. Bristow’s stock hit a 2019 high of $4.88 per share in late January, but several financial-related announcements so far this year sent the price below $1 per share by mid-April. From Houston Business Journal
    Lession is it’s hard to make money without fossil fuels!

    • I suppose helicopters are another part of the air transport system that is sensitive to a rise in prices. This could cause helicopter companies to fail if oil prices rise.

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      They could always use the Donald Trumpet’s business model: Buy an asset using debt: Gut it for salary and when there is nothing left, declare bankruptcy leaving the investors\bank as the bag holders.
      As stated before , he has been bankrupt 6 times.

      • try telling that to the folks who think he’s god’s gift to the economy and humankind in general

        now he’s got his hands on the biggest bank in the world

      • TIm Groves says:

        Of course we are all overflowing with sympathy for the banking an investment class, Duncan, but you have to understand that real estate development is a highly leveraged business. 🙂

  4. SUPERTRAMP says:

    Third US jury finds Roundup weed killer likely caused cancer, awarding couple $2 billion originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

    In a bombshell verdict, a couple in California have been awarded more than $2 billion in punitive damages in their civil case against Monsanto, after accusing the maker of Roundup weed killer of causing their cancer.

    Alva Pilliod and wife Alberta of Livermore, both in their 70s, were diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2011 and 2015, respectively. The couple, married for close to 50 years, claimed that they’d sprayed Roundup on their various properties for decades.

    The Oakland jury, which awarded each spouse $1 billion in punitive damages in addition to other damages, found that the active ingredient in Roundup — glyphosate — had likely caused the couple’s cancer.

    This is the third verdict against Monsanto in Roundup cases and the biggest so far. The company is facing thousands of lawsuits

    FE will be unhappy about this! His quackgrass loves to drink this stuff Roundup…goes down smooth. Maybe companion gardening and a mulch will control the quackgrass?
    Sheet mulching…sure we can do that, no problem…sarcasm.
    We will continue to spray because we have NO CHOICE.

    • I am not sure what “Plan B” we have besides using something essentially equivalent to Roundup, with perhaps slightly different side effects. Even without the jury award, mutations of prlant species would probably have caused Roundup to become less useful over time, necessitating a change to something else.

      I am sure that it would be possible to show that antibiotics have done a lot of harm to the organisms in the the biomes of US citizens. In theory, their manufacturers could be sued as well.

      Costs and benefits are things that are very hard to sort out. At this point, we seem to depend on it to maintain our food supply. We don’t necessarily have substitutes that are any better.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        … we seem to depend on it [RoundUp] to maintain our food supply. We don’t necessarily have substitutes that are any better.

        Human labour. Empty the cities every Friday, and everyone spend the day pulling weeds — problem solved! 🙂

        And then there’s Planting Saturday, and Mulching Sunday, and Harvesting Tuesday… pretty soon, the cities will stand empty in order for people to simply eat!

        Seriously, herbicides are a tiny thing compared to nitrogen fertilizer. Now that’s something to be worried about! We aren’t about to empty the cities every Thursday, and have people break the covalent triple bond of atmospheric nitrogen so they can eat. Mr. Haber and Mr. Bosch (with the help of natgas) managed to pull some six billion people out of thin air!

        • Xabier says:

          Messrs Haber und Bosch are, in a way, our creator-gods; in the Ancient world, statues would have been put up to them in temples, incense offered, oxen sacrificed…..

          Gosh, aren’t we ungrateful, taking it all for granted!

      • You could try a mix of water, salt, a little detergent & some viniger in place of toxic round-up.That did a splendid job of killing blackberry vines. Or you could just sweat it out with a hoe.
        Too bad it can’t do in Trump, Pompao, McConnel & Bolton!

      • DJ says:

        Eat the weeds?

        Or eat/milk what eats the weeds.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      We will continue to spray because we have NO CHOICE.

      Speak for yourself!

      There is no RoundUp™ use within miles of here. We will certainly feed ourselves without it, if it comes to that.

      • SUPERTRAMP says:

        I agree you and a few others less 99% less people….no Haber & Bosch nitrogen…
        Boy, are we in for a rude awakening!
        Boy, like in the book, ” The Last Straw Revolution”, we are going to empty the discriminating mind….that’s right Jan, I’ve read many of sustainable permaculture books.
        We’ll see how many pass the bottleneck…..

        • Jan Steinman says:

          We’ll see how many pass the bottleneck…..

          There are no guarantees.

          But there is a lot you can do to improve the odds! 🙂

          • Sheila chambers says:

            That depends upon your age, gender, physical conditioning, location & the LOCALS!
            I rather hope all those extreme fundamentalist believers will stay on their knees while the rest of us try to figure out how to squeeze through that bottleneck.
            A while back ago, a “true believer” got stuck in the snow up a isolated dirt, mountain road near me. He decided to pray & stay where he was while keeping a diary, after a few weeks, he died of the cold & hunger, his “savior” never showed up. He should have at least tried to walk out, it was only a few miles by road to the nearest house.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              A while back ago, a “true believer” got stuck in the snow up a isolated dirt, mountain road near me. He decided to pray & stay where he was

              There were flood warnings on the radio and TV: “Evacuate NOW! Everything will be flooded!”

              But the old man said, “The LORD will save me!”

              The water started coming up his street. Rescue workers in a bus stopped at his house, and tried to get him to leave.

              But the old man said, “The LORD will save me!”

              The water was up to the second floor, and rescue workers in a boat tried to get the old man to get into the boat through a second-floor window.

              But the old man said, “The LORD will save me!”

              At long last, he was clinging to the chimney, on top of the roof, the water was so high! A helicopter came over and dropped a line with a rescue worker. “Come with us! It’s your last chance!”

              But the old man said, “The LORD will save me!”

              The water engulfed the chimney, and the house and old man were swept away.

              He went to heaven, and angrily accosted God. “Why did you forsake me?”

              God said, “FORSAKE YOU? I warned you on radio and TV, and sent a bus, a boat, and a helicopter to save you!”

              For a large part, we make our own luck.

            • Sheila chambers says:

              I’ve also seen that story before, but what I thought after reading it was that “god” is ALMIGHTY & it wouldn’t be a problem for “Him” to just reach down from “heaven” & lift him to safety.
              The old man should have accepted the help offered him by humans & he would have been rescued. Your free to believe that those people were sent by a “god” to aid him of course & he should have accepted that aid.
              “God” also sends cancer, genetic defects & paracites to small innocent children as well.

              We can’t always make our own “luck”, it has to be AVAILABLE to us. A starving person will still starve if their is no food available to him or her. We can only work with what we have not what we wish we had.
              That’s why those who are ABLE should be preparing for the downturn in our economy, to teach themselves a different way of living & to be less dependent upon the grid, imported food & water & to make their own tools, save organic seeds etc.
              Most of us will be unable to do these things due to overpopulation, too old, too sick, no land, & lack of opportunity to become more self sufficient, most of us are doomed after this civilization has collapsed.
              They will be in the same situation as those people in the sinking Titanic, too many people & not enough lifeboats.
              You seem to know how to support yourself without this high energy, high consumption civilization, if so, good luck & I hope your one of the few who does make it.
              Humans are tough, we survived in many environments long before civilization make us soft, lazy & IGNORANT.
              We need to relearn what was lost.

            • i1 says:

              In 1933, Lemaître and Einstein gave a series of lectures in California. Recanting his earlier objections, Einstein now called Lemaître’s theory “the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened.”

              https://www.decodedscience.org/georges-lemaitre-discovered-the-expansion-of-the-universe/5588

            • Davidin100millionbilliontrillionzillionyears says:

              within a mere few decades, all of us will have entered the nothingness of eternal death…

              oh wait… maybe we should DO something… you know… increase our odds…

              wow… maybe survive a few more years…

              oh well… as the Wise Man on the mountaintop said:

              do whatever…

            • TIm Groves says:

              Why blame God for cancer? It just lets Roundup, Marlboro, Jack Daniels, fast food and couch potatoism off the hook.

              As for the old man who died of the cold & hunger, how do you know his “savior” never showed up? For all we know he may be seated at the right hand off his savior right now.

            • Sheila chambers says:

              “Why blame God for cancer? It just lets Roundup, Marlboro, Jack Daniels, fast food and couch potatoism off the hook.”
              Of course a “god” didn’t cause cancer because the gods don’t exist but many people do believe they exist & created everything so that was so, it would also have to include cancer. Those toxic chemicals couldn’t cause some cancers if the potential didn’t exist first.
              As for where that old man went after he died, all we do know is that he died & was buried & decayed, there is no evidence that our “essence” survives death, when the brain dies, we cease to exist.
              Billions of people believe something different & we are free to believe what ever we want but that doesn’t necessarily make it true.
              We can only know the physical world if anything exists beyond our reality, there is no way to verify it’s existance so it may as well not exist as it has no affect on our reality..

            • TIm Groves says:

              Well, God or no God, surely this is the best of all possible worlds?
              After all, you are in it, and you have the time and opportunity to enjoy the swallows.
              The world is round, so you can’t fall off the edge.
              The gravity pulls you down, so you can’t drift off into outer space.
              The “building blocks” nature uses are much neater than bricks or lego blocks. They also facilitate life and consciousness . Not even Daniel Dennet really knows how they do that.

              Imagine if gravity were just a tad stronger or the weak nuclear force was a tad weaker?
              Actually, I have trouble imaging these things for myself, so I generally read the answers on Quora.

            • It is the best possible world for us carbon based bipeds, we evolved to exist on this planet & nowhere else.

              We don’t really know WHY the universe is the way it is, it just IS & that’s the reality we have to cope with.
              If the paremeters of the universe had been different, something else would have evolved to exist in it, probably something very different from us.

              I think given the evidence I have seen & felt that this civilization is headed for a painful collapse. We can try to save what we can in our own little corner of the planet as I have & has many others are doing in their own way.

              Unfortunately we are vastly outnumbered by the unaware, the uncaring, the stupid, the ignorant & the greedy.
              As we go down, we should go down FIGHTING for all life on this planet not just human life.

              The endless RAIN we have had in the last week has not been good for “my” swallows, what few flying insects there are left don’t like flying in the rain.

              My grass is tall & growing seed heads, good food for wild things.
              The large tree out back looks like it died, it split in two last year, I suppose I’ll have to have it cut down denying nest sites for some birds.I think there are birds nesting in the thick thatch of vines in it’s dead branches so I’ll wait for the end of summer.

            • TIm Groves says:

              I hope your endless rain ends soon and I hope some of it falls here in Kyoto. The topsoil is getting dry and I’ve started saving the bathwater to help with the watering.

              We have had a beautiful sunny May and I couldn’t wish for better gardening weather. A pair of great tits (I know what you’re thinking, but no!) nested in a box I put up on a tree a few yards from the kitchen window, and we have been watching them train the little ones who can barely fly as yet.

              If the parameters of the universe had been different, something else would have evolved to exist in it, probably something very different from us.

              Yes, but it depends on the parameters. If certain things had been just a tiny bit different, stars couldn’t have formed, or they would have gone supernova in an instant, or nuclear fusion couldn’t have combined three helium nuclei to form one of carbon and so no elements larger than carbon would exist….. When I was a young nerd into astronomy, chess and SF, I used to read a lot of popular accounts of physics and cosmology, and came across a lot of this kind of speculation in them. And like the pop music, the novels and almost everything else, the quality of published science writing and speculation was much higher back in the sixties, seventies and eighties than it is these days 🙂

            • you have to say chickadees to avoid an extradition request by the Alabama morality police, so they can put you in the slammer for 99 years

        • hkeithhenson says:

          “no Haber & Bosch nitrogen…”

          Some months ago there was a report on finding a variety of maize in Mexico that fixes its own nitrogen. Strange stuff, it exudes slime at the joints which support nitrogen-fixing bacteria. But I am sure it will produce less grain because it has to energize the nitrogen fixing.

          About the same time, there was a report of a large improvement in photosynthesis efficiency due to some gene work that improved chemical processing in the chloroplasts.

          Wildcards keep turning up.

          • SUPERTRAMP says:

            Nice, now a agribiz corporation will collect these samples from the folk peasant village.
            Patent the gene and splice it into their gmo corn Roundup tolerant seed and reap zillions in profits and not one red cent will be sent to the villagers that preserved the variety for generations.
            BAU Capitalism…free Enterprise, private Enterprise….
            Thus, Vavilov theorized that the world’s crops had originated in eight definable centers of origin. It was in these centers–all located in Third World countries–that agriculture had originated, he suggested, and that the greatest genetic diversity was to be found. The eight centers were listed as follows: China; India, with a related center in Indo- Malaya; Central Asia; the Near East; the Mediterranean; Abyssinia (Ethopia); southern Mexico and Central America; and South America (Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia), with two lesser centers–the island of Chiloe off the coast of southern Chile, and an eastern secondary center in Brazil and Paraguay. ”

            “The beauty, simplicity, and utility of Vavilov’s theory of centers remain despite the enlargements and modifications that have been made by Harlan and others, If it does not always make sense to speak of centers of origin as Vavilov did, it is still essential to understand that crops have centers of diversity. (And for the crop evolutionist, this diversity remains a crucial clue in delving into the crop’s origin.)
            “It is crucial to understand that plant diversity is not spread evenly around the globe
            Shattering
            Food, Politics, and the Loss of Genetic Diversity
            by Cary Fowler and Pat Mooney
            278 pages, paperback, University of Arizona Press,

          • Tsubion says:

            If BAU even catches a sneeze… no more fancy lab projects and gene therapy and solar panels.

            End. Of. Story.

  5. Very Far Frank says:

    Trump hasn’t been bankrupt 6 times Duncan, I don’t know how many times you’ll have to be corrected on that point:

    He has filed chapter 11 for 6 BUSINESSES out of something like 500 he has controlled in his career. No matter how many times you try to present it as such, corporate chapter 11 is not synonymous with personal bankruptcy.

    • when someone has to pay out $25m to settle fraud claims on one business, I’d say all his businesses are suspect

      • TIm Groves says:

        Never mind that, let’s audit the Clinton Foundation, and the Fed!

        • even here in the uk, we are still affected by the don’s insanity, (as is the rest of the world at the moment)
          war on Iran seems next on the list
          Yes—I know most politicians are crazy to some degree, but this is a different league altogether.

          for that reason I find it difficult not to keep poking my stick into the festering hole of the current White House

          Given the established facts of his life (to date), I find it incomprehensible that anyone (other than those of similar outlook) would want to offer him any kind of credibility.

          unless of course, the whole thing is a windup–which would seem to be the only thing that would make sense.

        • TIm Groves says:

          Norman, it would be much better for you to lighten up about the Don, because he’s not going anywhere in a hurry, and at your age you deserve to relax and enjoy yourself.

          The last US president I felt comfortable with was Jimmy Carter. He faced a crisis with the Iranians and decided not to go to war with them, and that was probably the main reason he didn’t get a second term—unless we count the Iran–Iraq War, which started two month’s before the US presidential election, in September 1980, when Iraq invaded Iran, possibly at the US’s behes, as a US covert war on Iran.

          Reagan went to war with Grenada and beat ’em ten bloody nil!

          Bush I went to war against Old Pineapple Face in Panama and then against Iraq, forcing Saddam to retreat from Kuwait and creating “the Highway of Death.”

          Clinton bombed Serbia into submission in order to force it to give up Kosovo. He also lobbed a cruise missile at a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, killing the night watchman and possibly causing tens to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths due to drug shortages. And he kept Iraq under such a tight economic squeeze that Maddy Albright was asked if it was worth the deaths of half a million Iraqi kids…..

          Bush 2 invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. Nobody should misunderestimate Dubya,, or the Iraqis and Afghans.

          Obama basically did for Libya and tried to do for Syria what Clinton did for Serbia and what you fear Trump may try to do for Venezuela and Iran. Lybia was a functioning and rather well off oil state that Obama turned into a medieval hell hole complete with slave markets and run by religious fundamentalists and gunmen.

          But although Trump may have rattled his sabre, apart from a sorté of cruise missiles fired into Syria to appease critics who accused him of being weak, he hasn’t made his mark as a warmonger yet.

          So if you measure Trump against his predecessors, I can’t see what all the fuss is about.

          So in all seriousness, i think it’s just that Trump’s personality and his style of oratory and body language that irritates you and rubs you up the wrong way, as he understandably does to a lot of people.

          The other factor is the media, which is 97% against him and has been ever since he became a serious contender. If I listened to and read the mass media about trump, I might well be influenced to view him in a more negative light. But I haven’t engaged with the media for many years. I believe they are THE ENEMY of all decent people, and that as the enemy of the media, there is a good chance that Trump is at least my FRENEMY.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      corporate chapter 11 is not synonymous with personal bankruptcy

      And so he gets a pass if he bankrupts the most prosperous country in the world? After all, it isn’t personal bankruptcy, is it? 🙂

      • TIm Groves says:

        Between you and me, it was bankrupt well before he took office.
        Those promises aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.
        But let’s keep that too ourselves. We don’t want to panic the sheep, do we?

    • It looks like this is an exhibit related to the oil and gas industry outside OPEC, showing Free Cash Flow vs. Cap. Expenditure. It would have been nice if the chart had gone back a few more years. Free cash flow was already very low in 2014. I wrote an article in February 2014 called Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending This post was a write-up of a talk given by Steve Kopits. The talk described the low level of profitability that oil companies were facing, even in 2012 and 2013. With this low level of profits they didn’t really want to add more productive capacity. They were spending more and more, but getting less and less out for the amount spent.

      Cash flow is a different measure. The one year that it rose substantially was 2018. The year 2018 had two things going for it (1) Higher average oil prices and (2) The Trump tax cuts. The Trump tax cuts led to refunds of taxes for quite a few oil companies. I saw an exhibit on this today. This would help cash flow, at least for one year. I would describe the 2019 and 2020 amounts as speculative.

      I don’t think that we know that the non-OPEC industry is really making money yet, however. The average spot price for 2018 was $65. The WTI oil price now a little below that. There is a lot of wishful thinking going on.

      • Yoshua says:

        I don’t know how to really read a financial statement, but I see that the oil industry started to add a lot of debt after 2012. The debt levels are still high even if they have managed to pay down some of that debt.

        Exxon until 2016

        https://tradingeconomics.com/xom:us:net-debt

        • Right. Back before 2012, the oil and gas industry had been able to do most of its own financing from cash flow. In fact, its dividends were so high on its stock that the stock of oil companies was the favorite of pension plans. The need to keep borrowing more may have stopped (with the higher prices and the 2018 tax cuts) but the problem isn’t really solved.

  6. Jan Steinman says:

    That did a splendid job of killing blackberry vines.

    Why would you want to kill a basic ingredient of goat milk? 🙂

    • Duncan Idaho says:

      It’s those Himalayan Blackberries that have the serious thorns, but the best berries.
      Living on 20 acres in Sonoma, it was a battle, but yum!

    • Sheila chambers says:

      Don’t worry Jan, I still have lots of blackberries! I have HUGE MOUNDS of blackberries.
      The birds love to hide in the blackberry mounds, I also have salmon berries, raspberries & thornless blackberries
      I just killed a few that were strangling my rhododendrons! I have both native blackberries & a few of those awful Himalayans but their berries are so sweet & tasty!
      You would love my wild “weedy” front yard, no grass except for a narrow strip by the driveway that I scythe.

  7. MG says:

    Why we should not fight the climate change? Because lower crops caused by the extreme weather make us deplete the resources slower. When the crops stop to grow, the population growth stops, too.

    It is the failing crops and lowering quality of the food that limit the population size. Limiting the fossil fuels use when we already have some populations that need electricity, transportation and heating fuels etc. is not possible.

    • I was just reading an article in the Economist about quite a few populations (including sub-Saharan Africa and India) wanting to eat more meat. As people eat more meat, it leads to a need for more domesticated animals, including cows that belch methane gas. Feeding the animals, and then eating them, takes a huge amount more of harvested crops than just eating the plant food directly (at least the way the US grows crops and animals). This big increase in meat eating is expected to be a major cause of global warming gases.

      Someone needs to start a campaign to reduce meat-eating around the world. This is one of the few ways we can reduce fossil fuel use. Reducing the number of meat-eating animals that are kept as pets would help as well.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        “cows that belch methane gas.”

        Methane in the atmosphere is something we can fix. Ten years ago I heard Dr. Stuart Strand talk about inserting 5 genes from methane eaters into maize. The US corn crop filters the whole atmosphere a couple of times a year. A few years of this will almost eliminate the methane,

        • Chrome Mags says:

          Hk, you believe that?

          • hkeithhenson says:

            “Hk, you believe that?”

            Dr. Strand is a well-known scientist. Why should I not take his proposal to deal with methane seriously? Of course, he might be wrong, but the logic of his proposal seems reasonable.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            Hk, you believe that?

            Techno-cornucopians will believe anything that furthers their irrational view that human exceptionalism will triumph!

            While that corn is filtering out methane, Musk and Bezos will be importing it from Titan! Anything is possible, to those who “believe!”

            “Belief” is the hallmark of a religion. I prefer evidence.

            • TIm Groves says:

              Methane is natural, Jan. I thought you permaculturists loved everything natural.

              And as for preferring evidence, no you don’t, Jan. You readily accept evidence that supports your beliefs. You readily reject evidence that goes against your beliefs. Your intellect is totally subservient to these beliefs, which control your thinking and your emotions. All this is is transparent to discerning readers from the totality of the comments you make.

              And as you said, “Belief” is the hallmark of a religion. Which makes you a very religious man, Jan. Even the goat milking and the weed pulling. I expect you do that religiously.

            • Perhaps we all look for evidence that supports our beliefs.

              If we can’t find evidence that supports our beliefs, we create “models” of how the system works, and show that our beliefs are consistent with the models we have created. (Big surprise!)

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Word Press really needs a “ignore user” button.

      • Jason says:

        Every population wants to eat more meat. It taste good.

        • TIm Groves says:

          Not the Jains. And they look like a population to me.
          They don’t want to eat any meat at all. Taste matters not!

      • DJ says:

        It is interesting how you realize (much better than me) how we can’t just decide to conserve resources.

        But write “start a campaign against meat eating” like you believe it would make any difference.

        • I wrote about the campaign against meat eating to point out that when it comes to making real changes in real people’s lives, the project is very difficult.

          The article in the Economist talking about low meat eating in some parts of the world, either in the past or now, kept coming to a figure of 4 kilograms of meat per person per year. This seems to be about the meat eating in sub-Saharan Africa today. Also, the same 4 kg was mentioned as the current amount of meat per person in India, and the amount back in the early 1960s for China. 4kg per year averages out to 2.7 ounces (or 76.7 grams) per week. Even if people in rich nations would cut back to even twice this amount (5.4 ounces per week or 153 grams per week), it would reduce the need for industrial scale farming and land clearing to grow grain by a great deal. There might even be enough land to have primarily grass fed beef.

          Another area for change is air conditioning. One big need for growth in energy consumption seems to be more air conditioning for India and Africa. How about thinking about a change the other way: Getting rid of air conditioning in rich countries? I am sure businesses would be less than pleased.

      • artleads says:

        It would be a lot cheaper to go this route in the Tropics, where can grow food all year.

      • Yorchichan says:

        As people eat more meat, it leads to a need for more domesticated animals, including cows that belch methane gas. Feeding the animals, and then eating them, takes a huge amount more of harvested crops than just eating the plant food directly (at least the way the US grows crops and animals). This big increase in meat eating is expected to be a major cause of global warming gases.

        Don’t blame it on the cows. They just become part of the carbon cycle and the carbon is removed from the atmosphere when crops are grown to feed the cows. It is the initial deforestation that is the ultimate cause of increased CO2 in the atmosphere. I think this is what you are alluding to.

        As civilization continues, it is only a matter of time until all the trees on the planet are toast. Eating more meat just ensures the end point is reached more quickly and with a smaller population of people.

        • DJ says:

          … extrapolate to all resource use.

          • Tsubion says:

            Exactly!

            Rapid devouring of every single resource within human reach until it’s all gone. Then we stand around and look at each other asking what’s next.

  8. richard b says:

    The Chinese have read Trump’s book, the Art of the Deal.

    • I discovered when I visited China that they were reading the same nonsense from standard business publications as leaders in other parts of the world were reading.

  9. Harry McGibbs says:

    “China’s economy looked to have had its growth slow sharply in April, the last month before new US trade war tariffs take effect, with both industrial production and retail sales growth posting significant declines.

    “The big picture to be gleaned from Wednesday’s data dump is that China’s economy is losing the momentum it gained in the first quarter, at a time when it is being sucked into an ever-intensifying trade war with the US. Over the past week, the world’s two largest economies have exchanged tit-for-tat tariffs, as it looked like chances of a near-term trade deal – which had appeared to be growing only two weeks ago – have dwindled.

    “The weak data are also likely to rekindle the debate over whether the Chinese government needs to enact more fiscal and monetary stimulus to prop up the economy.”

    https://www.scmp.com/economy/china-economy/article/3010245/china-economy-slows-sharply-april-even-higher-us-trade

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