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At the end of this post is a paper being worked on by Roger Blanchard Ph.D.[rblanchard@LSSU.edu]. He is a chemistry instructor at Lake Superior State University as well as author of several books, among them ‘The Future of Global Oil Production‘. This paper, which I assume is still in progress, is important for several reasons, one of which is the discussion on the lag time of CO2 and methane (CH4) greenhouse effects in the atmosphere as well as thermal inertia which, in this case, refers to the slow rate at which the stored heat in the ocean is transferred to the atmosphere in order to reach thermal equilibrium. The author remarks that “Few people appreciate thermal inertia and its consequences. I expect future generations to suffer the consequences for that lack of appreciation or caring.” The oceans have absorbed about 90% of the additional heat created from greenhouse gases caused by human activity. Thermal equilibrium between the ocean and atmosphere will take decades to occur:

Global warming hasn’t paused, it’s accelerating, especially in the oceans, according to a new study published online in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (GRL)

…The scientists found that over the past decade, while surface air temperatures have not risen very much, there has been a warming of the deep oceans that is unprecedented over the past 50 years.  They also found acceleration in the overall warming of the Earth.  Consistent with previous research, they concluded, “In the last decade, about 30 percent of the warming has occurred below 700  meters, contributing significantly to an acceleration of the warming trend.” [Surprising Depth to Global Warming’s Effects]…

…The authors suggest that more heat is being transferred to the deep ocean layers, due to changes in wind patterns associated with an ocean cycle called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.  However, as Kevin Trenberth explained, this process is only temporary.  Sooner or later the warming at the surface will accelerate once again, he said, adding, “…it contributes to the overall warming of the deep ocean that has to occur for the system to equilibrate. It speeds that process up. It means less short-term warming at the surface, but at the expense of a greater, earlier, long-term warming, and faster sea-level rise.”…

When the ocean cycles change state again, these models tell us that we can expect to see a rapid warming of temperatures at the surface.  Another study published just this month in the journal Nature Climate Change has concluded that accelerated ocean warming can explain the slowed surface-air warming in recent years.  Lead author Virginie Guemas noted, “If it is only related to natural variability then the rate of warming will increase soon.”

Contrary to claims that global warming has paused, the overall warming of the Earth has accelerated over the past decade. While we have experienced a respite in warming at the surface, it is a temporary one which will eventually be replaced by a rapid warming of surface air temperatures…

When we combine the temperature increase of a future loss in global dimming or the aerosol effect as well as the thermal equilibrium being eventually reached between the oceans and atmosphere, a large amount of global warming is in the pipeline to further strengthen current positive feedback loops and deepen the environmental collapse. Blanchard’s paper goes on to discusses the reasons behind the U.S. natural gas bubble which also apply to fracked oil wells.

– financial problems related to the recent glut in drilling which will affect future gas extraction projects

– the most productive shale gas deposits are peaking already

– the most productive shale gas deposits are being exploited first, leaving lower quality reservoirs as the remaining untapped places (low EROEI or EROI)

In 2007,roughly 9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) was spent to purchase the energy used by the U.S. economy to produce the goods and services that comprised the GDP. Over recent decades that ratio has varied between 5 and 14 percent. The abrupt rise and subsequent decline in the proportion of the GDP spent for energy was seen during the “oil shocks” of the 1970s, in mid-2008, and again in 2011. Each of these increases in the price of oil relative to GDP had large impacts on discretionary spending—that is, on the amount of income that people can spend on what they want versus what they need. An increase in energy cost from 5 to 10 or even 14 percent of GDP would come mainly out of the 25 percent or so of the economy that usually goes to discretionary spending. Thus changes in the amount we spend on energy (much of which goes overseas) have very large impacts on the U.S. economy since most discretionary spending is domestic. This is why each significant increase in the price of oil (and of energy generally) has been associated with an economic recession, and it suggests that declining EROI will take an increasing economic toll in the future. – source

So I’m wondering what energy and finance resources our children and grandchildren will have left to fix the ecological wasteland we are leaving behind, if such a clean-up were even possible. There will be no clean-up, let alone mining of asteroids. The Skagit River bridge collapse, one of 69,000 structurally deficient bridges which haven’t been updated in decades, is just the latest sign of America’s neglected and crumbling infrastructure. Money printing cannot go on forever in a world of depleting energy.

Modern economic growth is based on systematically carrying out all three of the following:

  • Using up renewable resources faster than they can be replenished.
  • Generating wastes faster than the environment can absorb them.
  • Exhausting non-renewable resources.

Any system predicated on these actions will not survive indefinitely.

The short term profit-seeking, Darwinian paradigm of capitalism will abdicate to nature the responsibility of dealing with pollution and ecocide and resource depletion; nature will exact its revenge by culling the human population through wars, famine, disease, and eco-collapse. According to the tenants of capitalism, only the fittest will survive. This fear in the unwashed masses of a coming societal collapse and nature’s retribution is based on reality and is a primary source for the obsession with future dystopian societies and post-apocalyptic stories in American pop culture.