Arctic Amplification, Canfield Ocean, Capitalism, Climate Change, Climate Tipping Points, CO2 Emissions, Collapse of Industrial Civilization, Corporate State, Dr. Mary Ellen Harte, Eco-Apocalypse, Environmental Collapse, Extinction of Man, Global Famine, Green Washing, James Lovelock, Mass Die Off, Methane, Nuclear Meltdown, Overpopulation, Peak Oil, Peak Water, Police State, Runaway Climate Change, Social Unrest, The Elite 1%, The Vanishing Face of Gaia
In a small way the plight of the British in 1940 resembles the state of the civilised world now. At that time we had had nearly a decade of the well-intentioned, but quite wrong belief that peace was all that mattered. The followers of the peace lobbies of the 1930s resembled the green lobbies now, their intentions were more than good, but wholly inappropriate for the war that was about to start.”
~ James Lovelock, The Vanishing face of Gaia
(quoted in ‘the end of more’)
In the early years of the twenty-first century, reports from the global scientific community started to take on a more dire tone as Arctic amplification melted the ice sheets and glaciers of the North Pole, deformed the jet stream, and altered oceanic currents. The Arctic treeline marched northward gaining footholds in land now unlocked from its frozen slumber. Animals, insects, viruses, and pathogens, which were driven by the warming planet to migrate northward, wreaked havoc on native species. Heatwaves also became more common in the lower latitudes where the bulk of humanity lived. Seasonal transitions became less gradual and more abrupt. Extremes of weather, flood and drought, started to occur more frequently and with greater destructive force. Perhaps the only business of Homo economicus to speak candidly about the reality of climate change was the insurance industry only because its business model could not hide or externalize the high costs of climate chaos. Humans had built their entire global civilization and profligate lifestyle upon the burning of rich, energy-dense fossil fuels. To change the course of this behemoth ship was well beyond the scope of any one nation or group of people. Talk of modern civilization running on so-called renewable energy ignored the fact that such alternative sources were only extenders of the faltering fossil fuel age, and such a transition was too late anyway. The seeds of our downfall had been sown over a century ago when man accepted the Faustian bargain of exploiting carbon-based energy whose power came with the price of a wrecked planet. The marketing ploys of “green” and “organic” were no fix for the unstoppable wave of eco-destruction unleashed by disaster capitalism. The leaders of all countries knew there was no politically viable way to stem the human population explosion which was also at the root of the ecological crisis.
We have become Vishnu and Shiva, the ancient Hindu gods of creation and destruction: As we create more of us, far more than we now understand the planet can sustain, we are creating our own destruction, both terrible and beautiful. Our scientists, exploring the frontiers of our knowledge of the world, have gathered enough data for us to understand that our consumption and proliferation have set in motion a planetary change in our relatively comfortable envelope of climate.
~ Mary Ellen Harte
In the last few decades the climate of the Earth had defied all the overly conservative, human-centric estimates that were designed to maintain the suicidal path of business-as-usual. Of course most scientists were shocked at the rapidity with which the climate had spiraled out of control. Nations which were the major producers of the world’s food soon halted exports in order to feed their own frightened and hungry populations and stave off revolt. Those countries heavily reliant on imports for their sustenance quickly devolved into anarchy and killing fields. Politicians were the first to be done away with, drawn and quartered with their heads placed on spikes. The thin veneer of civilization dissolved under the brutal reality of power outages, food riots, and climate chaos. Some countries with nuclear plants suffered Fukushima-like meltdowns due to the loss of their power grid while others, who were able to keep a lid on the disaster by maintaining electrical power under a state of marshal law, carried out accelerated decommissioning of their reactors. Nevertheless, with the collapse of the electric grid large swaths of the Earth were rendered uninhabitable by leaking radiation and toxic rain. The sudden downward spiral of civilization was also punctuated by the detonation of a few nuclear bombs in countries like Pakistan where arsenals had fallen into the hands of radical groups. In the eyes of the believers, Armageddon had finally arrived.
For hundreds of miles north and south of the equator a death zone of searing heat, barren land, dry riverbeds, and lifeless ocean encircled the Earth, but a few places at the poles still held small pockets of human communities who practiced subsistence farming and fishing as well as the art of scavenging technology from the past. Even though the rusted steal hulks of factories, cars, airliners, ships, and other relics of CO2-spewing industrialization now lay motionless in fields of tall grass or at the bottom of the ocean, the effects of the CO2/methane bomb unleashed by modern man would last for millennia. Sea level rise and the chaotic weather of the planet had displaced all the elaborate infrastructure that had been built to take advantage of once predictable growing seasons, fertile soils, and river systems. Gaia had pulled the rug out from under man leaving him scampering for cover like bugs from beneath an overturned rock, and there was nowhere to run. The few humans who presently eked out an existence at the poles were simply the flotsam and jetsam of the great collapse. The coddled elite who had actually planned for this eco-apocalypse committed suicide long ago when their stash of fine wine ran out and their gold had no value to anyone.
The sound of human voices no longer filled the air. As a matter of fact, the sound of any living thing had vanished. Nearly all the monuments of human achievement and ingenuity had crumbled away like sand castles before a rising tide. Only a few ancient relics still stood like the pyramids in Egypt and long segments of the Great Wall of China. Not much remained of the “disposable society” of modern times except for a few large construction projects such as Hoover Dam. Repossession on the humans was the only option Gaia had for a species that had built up mountains of environmental damage with no intention of ever changing its omnicidal ways. The slate had to be wiped clean before the slow, million year process of remediation could begin…
Vast, flat expanses of viscous ooze, unbroken by waves, covered all of what once were vibrant oceans. Great belches of toxic hydrogen sulfide would occasionally break the calm of these oily, purple-colored plains stretching far into the horizon. The deadness of the these poisonous waters was mirrored by the stillness on the land which now was exposed to the full forces of UV radiation through a destroyed ozone layer. High overhead, thin wisps of clouds slowly moved along a pale green sky. A fetid, noxious smell filled the air and the silence of extinction was everywhere.
Ben Pennings said:
Very very much appreciated. Just posted on Generation Alpha (www.facebook.com/GenerationAlpha) with different artwork and keen to see the response. Love your work.
Paul F Getty said:
Very plausible scenario, yet I could hand this to a hundred people and probably not one would take it seriously.
If there is any solution, it will come suddenly and without announcement and will take most of the “elites” by surprise. Their heads will be put on pikes, only to be roasted over open fires of repurposed scrip. Commoners will simply be roasted. But this does not enter the minds of society’s most privileged, as their minds cannot entertain such dystopian drama.
It seems that with self-awareness and awareness of death, the brain had to develop a defense mechanism for obscuring much of the most unpalatable reality with feel good stories and myths. As a result, even as we destroy ourselves, we create technological myths and hopes that paper over the reality. Even as our universities churn out millions of graduates to tinker with the technological evolution and administration of cancerous growth, very, very few are trained to shred the obscuring bullshit and come eye to eye with reality. Activities and beliefs that make us feel good will continue; points of view that fail to release dopamine or ones that create permanent states of anxiety will not be entertained.
A cancer will grow as long as it can obtain glucose and oxygen and is not impeded by an effective immunity and will expand its system of arteries and cells into surrounding tissues to obtain nutrition for growth. A mature organism is a disciplined collection of cells that must follow a plan in order to survive and reproduce. Any adverse variance is quickly culled from the population. Humans, in evolving into the use of “new” information and associated tools, have unleashed a spreading cancer, something that cannot and has no desire to fit within the ecological parameters, but which strives to “live forever” and “grow forever” without ever achieving a mature form that does not disrupt the ecosystem.
So all the technological cancer thinks it needs to do is build some more roads into the surrounding tissues, mix in a little human ingenuity, and wealth and growth will come, and it did, in the past. We believe that we can build the roads (arteries) into the surrounding tissue and a surfeit of wealth will magically come to pay the capital costs of the infrastructure, the cars that move the bounty, the homes and food and medical care for the humans……….. Meanwhile our melanoma-in-chief delivers hellfire to tribal Muslims while stealthily exploiting the black techno-glucose beneath their desert sands.
I don’t think there is anything that can stop us, just like an aggressive Stage IV cancer in humans. We’ve sucked up the ecosystem and fossil fuel glucose and advanced our complexity to the point where we can recognize our cancerous identity. How ironic that the “pinnacle” of evolution, the entity that processed the most energy and developed the greatest complexity is a destroying neoplasm. Most people favor the comfortable fantasy promoted by the limbic system and eschew the cold hard facts of the prefrontal cortex. We will continue upon this damaging path until we can’t.
End_of_More (@End_of_More) said:
it is an interesting situation in which we find ourselves, that at the very moment in time when we discover that we are in fact controlled by our genetic codes, those same genetic forces are driving us to compete with each other for survival in its most basic sense.
Currently we compete for bigger houses, more money, faster cars, a better job, but the underlying factor in all of that is the competition to see who can acquire the best facilities for fuelburning.
That represents the current delusion of wealth.
This by definition is finite, no matter what fuel source we use or which political dogma we follow.
When the portable fuel has all been used up, or cannot be accessed, then the final struggle begins as we try to supply ourselves with food and water.
The sting in the tail there of course is that 200 years of free energy has taken away our ability to produce food for ourselves. We no longer know how to do it. Some do of course, having heeded warnings and started self sufficiency projects out in the countryside.
some of us may have the means to plant a first crop, but not many will survive to reap a second harvest.
Those who do survive will be functioning strictly as nature intends, raw survival.
Right now our situation is little different to hamsters in a cage, our food is delivered, our wastes are removed, most of us are warm and well fed and we enjoy occasional sex and pointless employment in a spinning wheel. Unfortunately when it finally dawns on we hamsters/city dwellers that trucks have stopped arriving to restock supermarket shelves, and our crap is backing up our toilets, those mini farms on the city outskirts are going to need some very large ‘keep off the grass’ signs.
I’m loving your book! I’m a slow reader, and I’m highlighting passages as I go. I may read it twice before writing my review.
Mike, I’m just becoming familiar with your site, and I want to say that I very much appreciate your work. The subject, of course, is unbearable. And it is difficult to move beyond it to evaluate anything else.
Our judgments have failed us, and it is difficult to exercise yet another, but . . . The combination of the text content and the art work I find to be . . . I search for the right words. They fit, they work, they work on multiple levels that enhance the effect of each.
This piece is something I think a lot of people want to see. It is a nice summary to the larger question as to what it means. This is what it means. And I live with the heavy dread that it is where we are going.
This is a link to the work of Perry House. http://www.dmallisonart.com/PerryHouse.html
Perry’s work has always been about separation and modern life and soullessness and its manifestations. His evolution as an unconscious social critic has produced some interesting paintings.
the virgin terry said:
Ah yes, the anoxic catastrophe. Not a high risk potential at this time. We’ll bake before we suffocate.
Just to clarify the steps you need to hit before you reach this point:
1. Massive methane hydrate release
2. Warming of 20 degrees C+
3. Melting of all the world’s ice
4. Near complete stagnation of air and ocean currents
All ice melt, even under the worst circumstances of human emissions and rapid feedbacks will take at the least 300 years and probably around 900 years (Ward estimates). After that, it will still take hundreds to thousands of years for the ocean and atmospheric currents to spin down. And the kind of weather that would occur during such times would make Noah’s flood look like a Sunday shower.
Most likely event is equal to the PETM with oxygen poor oceans and temps maxing out around 10-14 C greater than now. The total impacts of such an event would take about 10,000 to 100,000 years to emerge. Hydrogen sulfide gas release in such an event would be limited and a tail end occurrence. Weathering, which is still happening rapidly because of Earth’s geology, would likely start to cool the Earth again on the 100,000 to million year time scale.
Getting to a Paleocene type extinction, as you describe, would be more difficult and assumes that human civilization is resilient and stupid enough to keep emitting CO2 well into the 22nd Century and beyond. Even then, the period of time it takes to get to that kind of event is on the many hundreds of years scale at the fastest.
So hitting a green sky/purple (Canfield) ocean scenario by the 22nd Century or even the third millennium is implausible.
Lastly, the assumption that all other energy sources are dependent upon fossil fuels is complete bunk… 😉
Kevin Moore said:
‘Lastly, the assumption that all other energy sources are dependent upon fossil fuels is complete bunk’
You are right. Not all other energy sources are dependent upon fossil fuels. The energy received from the Sun and geothermal are not dependent on fossil fuels. I can sit in the sun and get warm without going near a fossil fuel. Or I can take a long walk to a geothermal pool to warm my bones. And if it is hot enough, I may be able to cook some food.
However, HARNESSING any form of energy and utilising it IS dependent on fossil fuels.
Without coal/coke there can be no steel, since the carbon of the coal/coke is required to remove the oxygen from the ore.
Without coal/natural gas there can be no concrete, since a very high temperature is required to expel CO2 from limestone.
Without natural gas there can be no refining of silicon to make semiconductors, or refining of silica to make glass.
And without oil and other fossil fuels there can be no mining of mineral and refining to make doping agents needed to make semiconductors.
Without fossil fuels there can be no mining of bauxite, there can be no refining, and there can be no electrolysis to make aluminium; there can be no copper, or zinc or tin or anything else. All the high-quality readily accessible ores were used up decades ago. And all processing is dependent on fossil fuels.
And don’t forget that all modern electrical insulators are made from oil or made using oil.
So a world without fossil fuels is a world without plastics and a world without metals. It is a world without glass.
Therefore, industrial humans will keep using fossil fuels until they can’t.
Please do not suggest that we will be able to return to 17th century arrangements based on wood in order to complex industrial systems running. There is already a worldwide shortage of timber -they are actually using steel (made in China using coal of course) as a framing material here in New Zealand, which has more trees per capita than most places on Earth! (Of course, the reason is price, rather than availability at this stage; China does not place a true value on anything.)
When the shortage of fossil fuels becomes more critical, humans being what they are, people will almost certainly chop down the last trees to cook food or keep warm.
Again, bunk. You have a fossil-fuel centric mindset. Unfortunately, a common affliction among doomers. 🙂
Can you give an explanation or link that describes in detail how you would run today’s capitalist industrial economy on “renewables”? How’s the U.S. military doing on that front?
Start at the bottom since we are running out of space.
Kevin Moore said:
I have an Honours Degree in Chemistry and a post-graduate diploma in Industrial technology.
Like all denialists,, you say ‘bunk’ as a knee=jerk response, but do not address any of the points raised, presumably because you cannot.
I believe you are suffering from constant overdoses of hopium, founded on ignorance of how the world actually works. Hint: It’s all chemistry and physics.
Please explain how you propose to make polyolefins (necessary for electrical insulation) without oil.
Please explain how you propose to make concrete (necessary for any significant structure) without CaO.
Please explain how you propose to make Fe (necessary for any significant item or structure) from Fe2O3 without using C.
I don’t know which planet you are living on, but it’s not the same one I’m living on. On the planet I live on practically everything is determined by electron orbital interaction, bond energy, enthalpy and entropy considerations.
I don’t care how many degrees you have or if your IQ is 300. You’re clearly not equipped with the knowledge to understand that base energy sources are fungible.
Thanks for the technicals; so it’s well within the realm of a “million year process” for Gaia to cleanse itself of man’s deeds. Remediation takes time and it ain’t quick and clean, but extinction will happen well before a Canfield Ocean.
I don’t think human systems could handle the shock of moving to 10-15 C temps over two centuries, which is possible if we keep burning at the rate we’re going.
Perhaps we’re more adaptable than that. But our food sources aren’t. So, at best, we’re a much smaller population living in almost completely artificial environments by that point. I suppose a pure optimist would say we put millions of square miles worth of agriculture in vertical farms indoors. But if we can cooperate enough to do that, we can cooperate enough to prevent the climate problem in the first place.
In any case, even Ward, who proposed the Green Skies/Purple Ocean scenario (Canfield) assumed it would take at least 900 years and enough human forcing to push most of the methane hydrates and other carbon stocks out.
The Paleocene Extinction event took about 165,000 years to unfold, but the forcings were much slower than what we’re applying now and there were other, smaller events that occurred as part of the larger extinction.
A PETM analogue would create some anoxic crisis, perhaps resulting in some hydrogen sulfide belching and certainly resulting in enough ocean saturation of that gas to kill off a lot of sea creatures, but not on the scale of the Paleocene event.
Your very creatively and artfully depicted scenario is good science fiction and plausible on longer scales if we really, really screw things up. Maybe, at worst, starting about 900 years from now as Ward suggests. But we would have to survive through a thousand other terrible events to get there. The speed and violence of Earth changes just to reach that point would probably be just as bad, at least for humans, as the end result.
Your anoxic catastrophe is, however, a very interesting scenario when you’re sitting comfortably at your computer enjoying dinner. So I’m delighted you wrote it. I’m imagining all the ice sheets dramatically collapsing over the course of 90 years and then most of the wind and ocean currents stopping and all the oceans going anoxic over the next 80 as the microbes go nuts over the next 20 and belch hydrogen sulfide into first the lower ocean layers, then the mid ocean, then the surface and finally into the atmosphere.
Spectacularly terrible but probably not possible in even the worst nightmare scenario.
Have you read Ward? It’s probably worth a look if you haven’t.
I always find your comments interesting and educational. My intention was to imply that the Canfield Ocean scenario happened sometime(within a million years) after humans had already gone extinct in the 22nd century which, as you point out, could happen for many reasons. And you indicated the real problem here – our food production system which is very sensitive to weather and temperature. A few degrees change, drought, and floods could very easily cause mass starvation even in the developed nations within a short time span:
“Competition from China for more imports would force other buyers, such as Egypt, to pay more for grains, in a new blow for the Middle East country after two years of political turmoil has left it struggling for funds to pay for food imports.”
One of the root problems is overpopulation and there is no politically viable solution for this in anything other than a totalitarian country.
As far as the “alternative” or “renewable energy”, I don’t have a problem with it, but it’s not going to run the current system the way it operates now under an infinite growth paradigm. Period. And the fossil fuel industry is tied in with the money system as well as the foreign petro-states and their stability(Read UAE and the Middle East), so good luck changing that, but I won’t fault anyone for trying.
I’ve written a book about this. And I don’t think I can adequately address all the needed points in it, much less a comment on a blog.
We have far more tools to deal with it than you might think. The primary growth pressure is in agrarian based economies. The advanced economies are mostly population growth negative. The more available birth control, the longer the delay in employment, the longer the time spent in education, and the more liberated women become, the more populations go net negative. All without totalitarianism.
US population growth, for example, is net negative without immigration. Those aid organizations pushing educating women, liberalizing social policies, providing birth control and reducing pressure in agrarian societies — they’re doing the right thing, but we need an international convention to rapidly expand such policies.
In societies that need to slow population growth further incentives could be given to couples who have one or zero children with no tax benefits for the second child and tax penalties for the third.
That’s not fun, but it’s not totalitarian.
2. Middle Eastern countries will benefit by diversifying their economies. Being a petrostate is as much a curse as a blessing. It’s like standing on a one legged stool. For this reason, the countries have essentially been unstable once they came to rely on oil money.
Now they will face serious and severe challenges and I’m not sure they’ll make it. But the thing that will bring them down is lack of water, not oil. They have other energy options. But water is a human systems requirement.
3. As for renewables…
Like I said. If you allow me to establish reasonable criteria for discussion, I’ll proceed. But I will not tolerate energy systems upon which nations and states now rely on in portions exceeding 60% to in some cases 80% to be described as mere ‘hopium’ regardless of the number of letters attached to the name of the person making such assertions.
Kevin Moore said:
The point of discussion was not population. The point of discussion was how you propose to acquire substances needed for ‘techno-fixes’ and how you propose to carry out chemical processes without using fossil fuels..
You clearly have no answers, which is why you changed the subject..
On the matter of population, Britain had a sustainable population of around 6 million prior to the Industrial Revolution. it is now around 60 million, i.e. tenfold overshoot. The same applies globally, i.e. there are 7 billion on a plane that can sustain maybe 700 million. I should say, could have sustained, because even 700 million is starting to look too high bearing in mind what is on the horizon..
Now you are clearly being a prick.
I stayed on the subject of energy and population, which was the subject I originally proposed. Chemical processes is yet one more diversion from the original subject matter.
You’ve babbled on about chemical processes before and I saliently pointed out that if you keep burning your chemically valuable substances for energy when you have other sources, then you’re stupid.
Kevin Moore said:
The silence of extinction I am looking forward to is the silence that corresponds to extinction of:
aircraft towing banners across the sky
helicopters on sight-seeing trips
motor racing [round circuits]
drive-through fast food outlets
and all the other completely idiotic forms of fossil fuel use that accelerate our march towards mayhem.
Unfortunately, they keep doing it till they can’t.
You know I thought the monkey trap was just a figure of speech…
Fossil fuels = monkey trap for humans
Kevin Moore said:
Nice video. Largely unappreciated.
The smarter amongst humans have always looked for the easy way.
Hitting someone over the head with a rock is easier than trying to strangle him.
Riding a horse is easier than walking a long distance.
Using a steam engine is easier than lifting buckets of water out of a flooded mine.
Pulling a cart is easier than dragging a load across the ground.
Getting in a lift (elevator) is easier than climbing stairs.
Driving a tractor is easier than working horses.
Using a chainsaw is easier than using an axe [to fell a tree].
That was one of the major themes of my most recent book.
The other aspect worth noting is speed, of course. A horse can convert chemical energy into movement at about 15 times the rate a human can. A jet engine can convert chemical energy into motion at a million times the rate a human can.
My local council decided to upgrade the riverside walkway near my home, to make it easier for cyclists and parents with pushchairs etc. I won’t go into the politics of it all, but the outcome was a decision to build two bridges across the river to bypass a difficult section of the walkway.
I have watched with great interest:
Steel piles rammed into the ground by a diesel-powered rig.
Boulders put into position by a diesel-powered front-end loader.
Concrete put in place by diesel-powered mixer and pump system.
Steel spans put in place by a diesel-powered crane.
Concrete slabs put in place by a diesel-powered crane.
Railings put in place by a diesel-powered crane.
I spoke with a council official a few days ago; they awaiting the completion of the bridges before attempting to upgrade a section of the track so that diesel-powered machinery can cross the bridges and be used to haul gravel etc.
Few people appreciate how totally dependent on refined petroleum products our current way of life is, and how hard it is going to be to do anything when liquid fuels become scarce or unaffordable for most people.
I kept suggesting to people that they should learn about it all the easy way, by reading and watching DVDs. I have pretty much given up now.
There is the great irony: most people would rather learn the hard way. They would prefer lose everything, perhaps even their lives in the medium term, rather than become informed.
Having used the Titanic analogy in the past, I sometimes describe them as hanging on tightly to the handrails of the Titanic as it goes under.
Oh, fossil fuels are definitely a Monkey Trap.
Before I respond to the above, let me first settle on a few definitions.
1. Since I don’t believe it is necessary to retain all of an industrial economy to succeed in a transition, the definition of industrial changes to hybrid industrial/living systems economy.
2. Since I don’t think capitalism is needed for an advanced economy, I suggest that particular definition is moot, unless you want to extend exploitative systems and hyper wealth concentration. Since most current systems aren’t pure capitalist, but are hybrid capitalist – socialist, then I consider this definition not even to be current.
3. Since I believe the US military is a poor analogy of a sustainable system (in fact, the act of war fighting is probably the first and best example of a pure exploitative system and, in general, is not something I’m aiming my brainpower at sustaining), why would I consider them to be a good example of how an advanced energy/economic system could work?
Until I settle these definitions, I’m not going to wade back into the particular mire of false assumptions including:
A. You need fossil fuels to run heavy industry.
B. The only viable energy sources involve those that burn or split atoms when considering and advanced energy economy.
C. Electricity is nonfungible.
D. Economic systems cannot be changed to confront new realities presented by advanced energy systems.
E. Beneficial technologies and economies can’t be sustained and advanced while harmful technologies and economic systems are jettisoned.
So, if you wish for me to proceed, you’ll have to allow me to establish basic assumptions that, for the sake of this discussion, we will consider valid.
Otherwise, no more pearls…
This subject would probably be a very good post on your blog if you have not already done it. If you write it, I’ll re-blog it here and we can then have a good discussion on it. Deal?
OK. Fair enough.
Kevin Moore said:
Robert, I don’t wish to be rude but I’m afraid your assumptions are totally wrong.
All I see is a set of pie-in-the -sky assertions which are completely detached from all chemical reality.
Please give one example of ANY industry that is not totally dependent on fossil fuels.
Well, that’s easy. Apple runs its data centers on 100% or near 100% renewables:
Clearly Apple, a member of the computer industry, isn’t totally dependent on fossil fuels.
Kevin Moore said:
Robert, your level of thinking is approximately that of a 12-year-old.
I cannot give you a definite figure for the amount of fossil fuel used to construction of the solar array in the photo of the Apple centre but it would certainly be measured in the hundreds, if not the thousands of tonnes.
Fossil fuels were utilised in:
the mining of all the minerals (Sio2, Fe2O3, Al2O3, CaCO3 etc.) used in the construction
the transport of those mineral to processing plants
the conversion of those minerals into desired useable substances (silicon, steel, aluminium, calcium oxide, polymers etc.)
the transport of the processed mineral to factories when actual products used in construction were made
the transport from those factories to the assembly site
the installation process.
I note that Apple claims to be running partly on wind. Of course, there would have been massive inputs of fossil fuels to make the wind turbines. and, as you should be aware, the life expectancy of wind systems was seriously overestimated. Many are giving lots of trouble after just 15 years. Maintenance and replacement of wind systems (or any other systems) requires massive inputs of fossil fuels, and results in substantial releases of CO2.
Okay, so the building itself and the array has a huge amount of embedded fossil fuels (fossil fuel debt}.
Now we have to deal with that terrible reality that ions in thin films migrate, so that over a period of time the efficiency of solar [electro-voltaic] panels declines. Eventually the efficiency drops to such a low level the panels have to be replaced. so we go though the whole cycle of fossil-fuel dependency again, form sourcing the minerals to installation.
Then we come to the matter of the people who work there. What’s the betting that 80+% of them drive to work, or use some other form of transport which is totally dependent on fossil fuels. And then there is the fossil fuels the workers ‘eat’. The story goes that it takes 10 calories of oil to put one calorie of food energy on an American table. Even if the real figure were only half that, every worker at Apple utilises 50,000 Joules of fossil fuel energy every DAY just to stay alive. Plus whatever they use in transport and running their own homes.
All this stuff about ‘renewables’ and being independent of fossil fuels is just bullshit, promulgated by the scientifically illiterate (or those who deliberately choose to ignore the science), so that someone somewhere can make a profit, Robert.
So you are saying it would be impossible convert industrial processes, which currently use fossil fuels as a power source, to electricity as a power source?
And you are accusing the OP with having the mind of a 12 year old? You seem to have very little imagination.
Kevin Moore said:
I’m saying you cannot make steel from iron ore without using carbon and emitting carbon dioxide. I’m saying you cannot make concrete without emitting massive amounts of CO2. I’m saying you cannot make olefinic plastics without fossil fuels.
Most people are scientifically illiterate, especially when it comes to chemistry, and have too much imagination..
I completely get your point, Kevin. I fear that “renewable” and “recyclable” are inadequate at this point. I try to explain this to people, too, and even the brightest among my more environmentally aware friends will not quickly grasp the entire infrastructure required to run renewables and recyclables.
I looked at Robert’s link and it concerns power. What it does not address is the plastics (oil) necessary for computers. Nor the wiring, nor the other raw materials required that are based in mining and oil production. Mining requires machines, which is additional mining. They all run on fossil fuels.
How about the roads needed to transport all the plastics and the solar panels and the shipping and the mining and the infrastructure for those things? The distributorships, the wholesaling.
What about the building at Apple, itself. That’s from mining and logging and an entire infrastructure within the construction and mining fields required to transport the materials to manufacture, not to mention all the processing in between. The lighting – that’s not renewable or recyclable.
There is a HUGE amount of devastation required to build something like that to make its POWER renewable.
As for population, the way we do it, we couldn’t have 300 million people. In the 1973 we had almost 100 million fewer people than we have now and we were already killing the entire planet living like we live. We were consuming almost half of the world’s resources then, and disgorging almost half of its pollution and we were already in deep, deep doo-doo. That was the time to change and change big. Some people knew it. People did not change. On the contrary.
We’re not going to make it to some renewable-recyclable rescue of anything, I don’t think.
Kevin Moore said:
You posted your response while I was typing mine (above). Your comment matches mine.
We live in a society of superficiality, in which there is NO in-depth analysis of anything (other than on websites like this).
And since practically everyone is scientifically illiterate, utter nonsense gets promulgated without question.
Those of us who can see through the lies are few and far between, which is why there is little (no?) hope.
The time for change was 40 years ago. Vested interest groups did not want change, and were prepared to lie continuously to prevent change. It’s even worse now.
They are worse! OMG! I never dreamed that such Orwellian insanity really could come about, but it has.
This show is so over.
I want to clarify because I had typos: In 1973, when the U.S. had 100 million fewer people than it does now, the United States all by itself was consuming resources and disgorging pollutants and destroying habitats sufficient to destroy life on earth. All by itself. At 200 million people. If it had been just us instead of us and Europe and the rest of the western world the consumption and the disgorging would have been slower, but it would have eventually resulted in the same results.
We cannot live like we live burning fossil fuels with even 100 million people. It’s a death march. And that small a number of people never would have been able to invent the things we have now, nor will that small a number of people survive them. So, the answer is that we can’t live that way at all. Ever. Not with any number of people. Because it is a way of separation and false reality.
” What it does not address is the plastics (oil) necessary for computers. Nor the wiring, nor the other raw materials required that are based in mining and oil production. Mining requires machines, which is additional mining. They all run on fossil fuels. ”
Good grief. Buses used to run on fossil fuels only. now they can run on many different fuels, including electricity. Buses replaced street cars. Which used to run on electricity.
Do you have so little imagination that you can not foresee how almost any industrial process or machinery could not be converted to electrical or battery power?
And that once we do that, we would have titanic supplies of fossil oils to be used as an industrial chemical. (As if we could not replace fossil fuel oils with vegetable-derived oils, anyway)
A rapid conversion to 100% renewable energy is not difficult from a technical standpoint. It is the political will which is difficult to achieve. And viewpoints like yours, which claim the conversion is technically impossible, are the LAST thing we need to generate that political will. You are not helping anyone except the fossil fuel industry with your shallow analysis.
“Providing all global energy with wind,water,and solar power,Part I:
Technologies,energy resources,quantities and areas of infrastructure,
Mark Z.Jacobson a,n, Mark A.Delucchi
Have done a very good job demonstrating that 100% conversion to renewable energy is quite feasible and can be done rapidly.
Furthermore, I think you may have a great imagination. You should put it to genuinely analyzing every single material thing in your life in a more realistic light, because you seem to be unaware of the extent of the dependence on fossil fuels for everything we do in the entire world. Nor do you appear to understand the current levels of collapse that are already occurring nor the degree of damage done.
No one is going to put the arctic ice cap back together, nor are they going to stop the over population, the energy crisis, nor the sociopathic and predatory devastation of industry and the collapse of the biosphere.
Except in your imagination. Have fun with that.
Give me one fracking example of an industrial process that uses heat from burning fossil fuels that could not be retrofitted to using electricity to generate that heat. One.
When we switch to all electricity, then we won’t be using fossil fuels for everything. Is that too difficult a concept for you to grasp? Or would you rather just ignore the obvious and continue whining about how there is no future?
See my response here.
Well, good grief!! Let’s make certain we make discussions about other posters with personal attacks and aggression, instead of providing any substantive information or real discussion.
Here in your communications the information is secondary to your approach. You know what? I defer here to the misanthropy thread. There is a reason we are in the predicament we are, and it is that our destructiveness so far surpasses our innate decency. And all of it is over worlds we create in our minds.
**!! You go to war now with people in front of you for a world you believe in that does not exist! Talk about the story of the human condition, that’s it. !!**
We continually sacrifice living reality for our abstractions. It makes us very nasty, wicked little pieces of energy. And we have done it to the entire living biosphere.
And yeah, you’re gonna live with the consequences. You. Coming right back at you because the earth and all else in creation moves in a circle.
I think the other people here gave you some realistic explanations. Let’s try this from a different angle. There is no such thing as renewable energy:
“…Renewable energy sounds so much more natural and believable than a perpetual-motion machine, but there’s one big problem: Unless you’re planning to live without electricity and motorized transportation, you need more than just wind, water, sunlight, and plants for energy. You need raw materials, real estate, and other things that will run out one day. You need stuff that has to be mined, drilled, transported, and bulldozed — not simply harvested or farmed. You need non-renewable resources:
• Solar power. While sunlight is renewable — for at least another four billion years — photovoltaic panels are not. Nor is desert groundwater, used in steam turbines at some solar-thermal installations. Even after being redesigned to use air-cooled condensers that will reduce its water consumption by 90 percent, California’s Blythe Solar Power Project, which will be the world’s largest when it opens in 2013, will require an estimated 600 acre-feet of groundwater annually for washing mirrors, replenishing feedwater, and cooling auxiliary equipment.
• Geothermal power. These projects also depend on groundwater — replenished by rain, yes, but not as quickly as it boils off in turbines. At the world’s largest geothermal power plant, the Geysers in California, for example, production peaked in the late 1980s and then the project literally began running out of steam.
• Wind power. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the 5,700 turbines installed in the United States in 2009 required approximately 36,000 miles of steel rebar and 1.7 million cubic yards of concrete (enough to pave a four-foot-wide, 7,630-mile-long sidewalk). The gearbox of a two-megawatt wind turbine contains about 800 pounds of neodymium and 130 pounds of dysprosium — rare earth metals that are rare because they’re found in scattered deposits, rather than in concentrated ores, and are difficult to extract.
• Biomass. In developed countries, biomass is envisioned as a win-win way to produce energy while thinning wildfire-prone forests or anchoring soil with perennial switchgrass plantings. But expanding energy crops will mean less land for food production, recreation, and wildlife habitat. In many parts of the world where biomass is already used extensively to heat homes and cook meals, this renewable energy is responsible for severe deforestation and air pollution.
• Hydropower. Using currents, waves, and tidal energy to produce electricity is still experimental, but hydroelectric power from dams is a proved technology. It already supplies about 16 percent of the world’s electricity, far more than all other renewable sources combined. Maybe that’s why some states with renewable portfolio standards don’t count hydropower as a renewable energy source; it’s so common now, it just doesn’t fit the category formerly known as “alternative” energy. Still, that’s not to say that hydropower is more renewable than solar or wind power. The amount of concrete and steel in a wind-tower foundation is nothing compared with Grand Coulee or Three Gorges, and dams have an unfortunate habit of hoarding sediment and making fish, well, non-renewable.
All of these technologies also require electricity transmission from rural areas to population centers. Wilderness is not renewable once roads and power-line corridors fragment it. And while proponents would have you believe that a renewable energy project churns out free electricity forever, the life expectancy of a solar panel or wind turbine is actually shorter than that of a conventional power plant. Even dams are typically designed to last only about 50 years. So what, exactly, makes renewable energy different from coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power?
Renewable technologies are often less damaging to the climate and create fewer toxic wastes than conventional energy sources. But meeting the world’s total energy demands in 2030 with renewable energy alone would take an estimated 3.8 million wind turbines (each with twice the capacity of today’s largest machines), 720,000 wave devices, 5,350 geothermal plants, 900 hydroelectric plants, 490,000 tidal turbines, 1.7 billion rooftop photovoltaic systems, 40,000 solar photovoltaic plants, and 49,000 concentrated solar power systems. That’s a heckuva lot of neodymium.
Unfortunately, “renewable energy” is a meaningless term with no established standards. Like an emperor parading around without clothes, it gets a free pass, because nobody dares to confront an inconvenient truth: None of our current energy technologies are truly renewable, at least not in the way they are currently being deployed. We haven’t discovered any form of energy that is completely clean and recyclable, and the notion that such an energy source can ever be found is a mirage…” – link
A quote from the book(The End of More) I’m currently reading when I get the time…
“It has been estimated that to meet the world’s total energy demands 20 years from now with renewable energy alone would require almost 4 million wind turbines (each twice as big today’s largest machines), more than 700,000 wave action generators, 5,000 geothermal plants, around 1,000 new hydroelectric plants , 500,000 tidal turbines, 1.5 billion rooftop photovoltaic systems, 40,000 solar photovoltaic plants, and around 50,000 concentrated solar power systems. Or any permutation of those numbers. Building that lot would soak up a colossal amount of ‘conventional’ energy because ‘alternative energy systems’ cannot provide sufficient power to ‘build’ themselves. This exposes the fallacy of attempts to reduce carbon emissions; concrete, steel, glass and plastics and the range of materials necessary to develop alternative energy technologies can only be produced with fossil fuel energy over the very period of time when global warming is accelerating and carbon emissions have to be reduced.”
As the authors so accurately say, if you were to take away everything you lay your hands on throughout the day that is directly or indirectly dependent on fossil fuels for its production and delivery, you’d be sitting bare-assed on the ground.
Might as well hitch yourself to that horse and buggy on the way to work, then Mike…
Americans are a captive audience to the Big Oil-transport-military complex.
Goodnight all. I’ve got to get up at 5am to work.
And I can see you’ve taken to deleting my responses to Kevin. Sad to see, because I would have walked him through each step to show him how he was wrong. But clearly spoon feeding people facts is worthless to people who have both ears and eyes closed.
Wait a second. I didn’t delete your responses. Last week Kevin told me some of his comments vanished into the ether as well and I knew nothing about it. So I gave him this advice:
Date: Sat, Jul 20, 2013 at 2:06 AM
“Hey Kevin. Thanks. What were the comments that disappeared? If that is happening, then select and copy them before hitting the post button. Then if they disappear, past them into an email and send them to me.”
If you want my email, I’ll send it to ya.
Kevin Moore said:
That’s absolutely correct.
I didn’t send comments to Mike because I was subsequently able to post what I wanted to say on the site, However, there could well be an intermittent glitch in the system.
Robert, I really cannot imagine Mike deliberately deleting/censoring comments -unless they were offensive or outrageous, And I have to say you have pushed it to the limit several times, presumably because you cannot accept the truth and feel the need to lash out.
As pointed out above, the example of a ‘renewable system not dependent on fossil fuels’ that you gave us does not stand up to proper analysis. It’s all superficial nonsense which ignores the basics.
I’d love someone to prove me wrong.
That’s the really scary thing. Nobody ever does.
You know, Kevin, a person does not even need science. I recently watched Woodstock again, and I was a bit young for something like Woodstock and I was on the west coast anyway, but I remember the time well and we knew then that things were doomed if people did not change right then. We knew it. And we didn’t even know about global warming. We could see it in the environmental destruction, in the toxins and the pollution and in the over-population. That was the beginning of ZPG – zero population growth. Rachel Carson had been published about five years earlier.
All a person has to do is be able to think and reason a little to see it for themselves. All you need to do is look at something you possess, and use your mind and the knowledge you have and consider that thing’s origins and components, and what it took to get the thing from its origins to you. We used to call this “thinking.” It is actually an ancient art and was used by philosophers to arrive at remarkable conclusions and understandings that are still greatly respected today. In fact, “contemplatives,” people who devoted themselves to reflection and philosophy were, at one time, rather respectable.
I figured it out decades ago. Most people like me got off or away from the grid long ago – I did in 1990. I have two utilities – electricity and my phone. Otherwise I am on 2 acres with my own well and septic and lots of trees. One entire acre has never been cut, not since the dawn of time. The other is about 70% cleared for the house, outbuildings and yard. There are a lot of undeveloped acres around me. I have a wood stove.
The only thing a person needs to “know” to see it is to know the difference between alive and dead. You don’t go around killing living things to replace them with non-living things. Period. If you do, you wind up with a lot of dead and nothing else, exactly like we are doing. It is not complicated.
I’m not being argumentative, so please excuse me if my initial approach above appeared to be so. Something about us is so far gone that it leaves me genuinely gasping.
I’ve come to see most human beings as raving lunatics. The less I have to pretend otherwise, the better I feel. Today I had to pretend to someone who thinks pushing legislation through to enforce nonsmoking ordinances in town is pivotal to the well-being of the society, and we need to change society’s patterns regarding smoking.
Right. If a young person starts smoking today either the collapse of civilization or natural disaster will likely kill them long before the smoking. If cigarettes were free, I’d say smoke whatever the heck you want.
But I couldn’t tell this person that.
Kevin Moore said:
‘I’ve come to see most human beings as raving lunatics.’
It’s amazing what the combination of energy slaves and cheap energy has done to industrial humans. it was not so during my childhood.
The sad thing is, most people under the age of 30 living in industrial societies have never known anything other than perpetual insanity.
If the net energy Hubbert Curve is correct, we begin the rapid descent in 2014 and we are going to see massive economic dislocation within two years.
They won’t know what hit them.
Just to put to rest this idea that I delete comments, Here is a screen shot of your message to me:
I’ve had this happen to me when commenting on other people’s blogs as well, so it is some sort of glitch of the internet and not that one’s comments are intentionally being blocked or deleted.
Old Growth Forest said: ‘I’ve come to see most human beings as raving lunatics.’
What is going to happen when all these domesticated humans stop getting fed and taken care of as the net energy cliff really kicks in? Their lunacy will come out in really violent ways.
…off to work.
Kevin Moore said:
The prospect of Arctic methane being released and causing catastrophe as a consequence of current warming is getting more coverage:
Kevin Moore said:
Gail provided a link and made a very pertinent comment on NBL:
Well, well. James Hansen says we’re screwed, because the 2 solutions he offers – carbon capture and safe nuclear power – don’t exist.
It’s useful to show that you can have a lifestyle which produce less carbon, but it doesn’t solve the problem. Because if that’s all that happens, even if you convince a thousand people or a million people or a billion people to reduce their emissions what it does is reduce the demand for the fuel, lowers its price and somebody else will burn it.
Here’s what he says about renewable energy:
I think it’s unfortunate that so many environmentalists are just assuming that these renewable energies will be able to satisfy all of our requirements. Renewables are only providing between 1 and 2 percent — the soft renewables. Hydropower provides a significant amount of electricity but that’s limited. The hope that the wind and the sun and geothermal can provide all of our energy is a nice idea but I find it unlikely that that’s possible.
The environmental community is basically asking governments to try to reduce their emissions and asking them to subsidize clean energies. Well, that simply doesn’t work because we don’t get enough energy from the renewables to make a difference. And that then forces any government to approve expanded oil drilling, hydro-fracking to get more gas, mountaintop removal to get coal. We’re not going to turn the lights out. No government, no president or governor is going to turn out the lights. There has to be energy. If renewables aren’t providing it, it’s been fossil fuels
Paul F Getty said:
A few years ago I really looked into the value of renewables as an alternative to our massive use of fossil fuels. I was so excited about the possibilities, some of them theoretical but seemingly possible. I may not have gotten as well informed about alternatives as Robert Scribbler, but I was hot enough about it all that I could have gotten irritated by others not open to the possibility of a bright future of wind and solar and other non fossil fuels. Just like Robert.
I think, though, that Robert, in his excitement, has ignored the other part of the equation…….not the technical possibilies and problems of renewables, but the social and political and emotional and economic aspects of a shift to renewables. Let’s face it. 30 years of yapping about making the shift and we haven’t done squat. And we won’t, as long as it causes any pain the Joe Sixpack or Sally the toll collector. And making a real shift will cause horrible problems. The biggest and most powerful corporations in the world would be devastated. They will balk at every step. Just changing our auto fleet to all electric for billions of people will mean decades, even if the money was available to do so. And what about tractors, construction equipment, ocean going tankers, jets? Where is the only going to come from? Making any bold move would kill the world’s stock markets. That means, surely, those moves will not happen. Very few would be ok seeing their investments go to crap.
Politically it just can’t happen. Right now Republicans are trying to push a 70% reduction in tax supplied money supporting renewable energy. Maybe it won’t pass, but the public pressure is there. Damage the economy even a teensy bit because of a move to renewables and the protests will be huge. And the media doesn’t support these moves that we all know must occur if we are to survive. They ignore almost all of the warnings by climate scientists.
We simply are not moving in a direction that would have to occur if Robert’s ideas were to come about. We don’t have the political will or the money to make it happen in any kind of meaningful timescale.
Meanwhile, global warming is continuing, ramping up. A decade or two from now the world’s wealth will be sucked up fighting floods and droughts and social unrest and wars. No money for a shift from fossil fuels.
Nope. Can’t happen.
Wish you were right.
But thanks for your many insights about climate change.
Randall S. Ellis said:
I greatly look forward to your essays. They are well-reasoned and display a fine command of our language. Wish you the best in the dark days ahead!
Best, Randall S. Ellis
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