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Anne

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The HANDY study
« on: March 20, 2014, 10:04:48 PM »
The HANDY (Human and Nature Dynamics) report

There has been a lot of recent press coverage of the NASA-funded study warning of the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution. The Guardian carried a useful article about it, and deep in the comments was this link to the draft report.  When it's published it will disappear behind an Elsevier paywall.

ritter

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2014, 10:14:20 PM »
Thanks, Anne!

Jim Hunt

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #2 on: March 20, 2014, 11:21:02 PM »
Thanks for the HANDY heads up Anne.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Albert Einstein

jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2014, 08:39:40 PM »
A simplistic curve fitting exercise.  The HANDY model does little to increase understanding but provides a valuable platform to increase the active discussion of the certain issues that are bound to restrict growth in the coming decades.

This work has already been done by the Club of Rome and the understanding of climate change as a significant "threat multiplier" has been well documented.

what has NOT been addressed is a coherent analysis that includes regional climate impacts with fossil fuel resource depletion and the significant potential for non-linear climate responses in the middle of the 21st century.

If these risk multipliers were adequately discussed and understood we would see climate mitigation efforts as the ONLY feasible pathway for preventing the wholescale collapse of modern global civilization.
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Anne

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #4 on: March 21, 2014, 10:07:12 PM »
I'm no expert, but agree with you that the model is simplistic. I was struck by the irony of a Marxian analysis being funded by NASA. It begs a lot of questions in the assumptions it's making: just for example, the idea that they could pluck any value for an eco-dollar seemed bizarre, as I'd have thought you'd need to weight the two values in relation to each other. Time and again I was reminded of the old saying that you can't eat money, so the period of grace bought by "wealth" would actually be very short. It's hard to tell when they are talking about an individual population in a discrete geographical area, and when they are talking about whole earth population. Mostly, they are just talking about the model.

There are many passages to pull out, and journalists have already done it, but this one is monitory:
Quote
It is important to note that in both of these scenarios [resource depletion with different population values], the Elites - due to their wealth - do not suffer the detrimental effects of environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners. This buffer of wealth allows Elites to continue "business as usual" despite the impending catastrophe. It is likely that this is an important mechanism that would help explain how historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases). This buffer effect is further reinforced by the long, apparently sustainable trajectory prior to the beginning of the collapse. While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory "so far" in support of doing nothing.
Above all, it struck me as being a demand for societal change, that our only hope is a more equal society, a revolutionary demand. As such, it seems to be a contribution to the discussion. Whether it just adds to the scepticism around models generally is another matter, though I doubt it was originally planned to do that.

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2014, 11:34:58 PM »
Above all, it struck me as being a demand for societal change, that our only hope is a more equal society, a revolutionary demand. As such, it seems to be a contribution to the discussion. Whether it just adds to the scepticism around models generally is another matter, though I doubt it was originally planned to do that.

It's also notable simply because of the provenance and where it's coming from.

It's where the debate needs to be at the current point in time - the increasingly fake optimism painted by scientists and the media is no longer really justifiable - it's misleading people to tell them that we can change behaviour now and avoid climate change (and possibly misleading to even say we can avoid catastrophic results, though we can still try to ameliorate the frequency and severity of our results).

I think we're witnessing the whole 2C movement slowly disintegrating as the mainstream slowly wakes up to the fact it's simply too late to hit that "target" (even setting aside the damage implied by it).

A new debate is called for, and this is much closer to where I think it needs to be.

JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #6 on: March 22, 2014, 03:37:19 PM »
ccg

Quote
I think we're witnessing the whole 2C movement slowly disintegrating as the mainstream slowly wakes up to the fact it's simply too late to hit that "target" (even setting aside the damage implied by it).

A new debate is called for, and this is much closer to where I think it needs to be.

It is interesting to see you write that as just yesterday I was contemplating a new topic on that very subject.  I was thinking that the focus on temperature +2C and all that does not resonate with people.  One reason is that its rise is so slow to most people and also there is a detrimental effect on what people think of the argument due to the fluctuations of their experience with weather.  Hey!  It's cold outside! and all that stuff.

I think a better metric would be Mauna Loa CO2 levels.  They are going up at a significant and steady rate.  The numbers are provided weekly and compared to the readings last year.  And so on.  One can make a good story from that.

Or maybe another.  But I do like CO2 as it changes so fast.

Thoughts?
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #7 on: March 22, 2014, 04:51:28 PM »
I think a better metric would be Mauna Loa CO2 levels.  They are going up at a significant and steady rate.  The numbers are provided weekly and compared to the readings last year.  And so on.  One can make a good story from that.

Or maybe another.  But I do like CO2 as it changes so fast.

Thoughts?

Personally I'm not sure any of the climatic stuff really resonates with the average person. Carbon dioxide always rises, every year - and people perceive little direct impact from it. Accordingly, is it really any more meaningful to the ill informed masses?

I'd actually argue for metrics that are not (on the face of it) climate change related - like the food price index (it's still influenced by climate change and increasingly so). To me that seems to be a more capable of unpredictable newsworthy variation and "progress" (keeping the novelty value) and to matter more to most people (as so many people have to think about food prices and we all have to eat). We also have more ability to influence it over short timescales.

It's much closer to a real world (and real time - given the lag in the actual warming after you release carbon dioxide) metric? Behind it, I think lie most of the major points of our predicament (population, resources, climate change, conflict, consumption, etc)

JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #8 on: March 22, 2014, 08:03:00 PM »
True, but a factor I was searching for would not have the frequent volatility which seems to play into human tendencies to dismiss things.  And something that can be sort of in everyone's face on a very frequent basis.

For CO2 we get a new average every week.  I was envisioning the nightly news every Wed reporting the number.  "This week CO2 rose 2.12 ppm over the same period last year."   It would be going up every week, always.  Repetition is the key to training people.  But..
that is a fantasy as all the big news outlets are just pushing the BAU line and would not do such a thing. 

We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #9 on: March 24, 2014, 02:58:27 AM »
I was just reviewing some economic analysis of carbon reduction strategies.  Economists have been cajoled into considering economic growth utilizing a carbon emission model.  Where economies that are doing well continue to increase their carbon emissions. 

In this vein, the Kaya model http://climatemodels.uchicago.edu/kaya/  shows historic collapse/decarbonization models and makes one very pessimistic of our future chances.

However,  In reviewing the following TED talk by Tim Jackson, I think it is important to note that the equitable distribution of resources, within a framework of carbon emission reduction, may be the only possible way to reach the emission target goals that are required.

here is the TED talk:  not for the faint of heart!   

In this view, the NASA model, even though it is a simplistic one, may be touching on the ONLY realistic scenario whereby modern society is maintained over the course of the next 6 decades.

Without doubt, the compounding effects of climate change and fossil fuel resource depletion can only be mitigated by embracing a egalitarian carbon mitigation strategy.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 12:14:13 AM by jai mitchell »
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JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #10 on: March 24, 2014, 02:53:10 PM »
jai

You need to edit your utube link.  Double post.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #11 on: March 24, 2014, 04:08:48 PM »
I was just reviewing some economic analysis of carbon reduction strategies.  Economists have been cajoled into considering economic growth utilizing a carbon emission model.  Where economies that are doing well continue to increase their carbon emissions. 

In this vein, the Kaya model http://climatemodels.uchicago.edu/kaya/  shows historic collapse/decarbonization models and makes one very pessimistic of our future chances.

However,  In reviewing the following TED talk by Tim Jackson, I think it is important to note that the equitable distribution of resources, within a framework of carbon emission reduction, may be the only possible way to reach the emission target goals that are required.

here is the TED talk:  not for the faint of heart!  [url]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp29wq5F4Fw]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp29wq5F4Fw] [url]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp29wq5F4Fw[/url]

In this view, the NASA model, even though it is a simplistic one, may be touching on the ONLY realistic scenario whereby modern society is maintained over the course of the next 6 decades.

Without doubt, the compounding effects of climate change and fossil fuel resource depletion can only be mitigated by embracing a egalitarian carbon mitigation strategy.


jai

Thank you very much.  I just spent a bunch of time yesterday searching for models which preformed just the kind of function your UC link led me to.  Now I can play with it a bunch.

I am certain that running it will be a sobering experience.  Some of us have been trying to describe why the prospects of various BAU futures are so improbable and many struggle with the explanations.  I was looking for a model which could be used to input data and show people the scale of what they are trying to do and why it is much harder than they think.  I think this will help.

A few other comments on the UTube video.

Hope

9 billion 2050 2%growth

No growth no capitalist economy.

TED Need 130 fold efficiency improvement.   --  Yikes!

TED Makes an argument for geo-engineering, or an assumption it will be required.  --- Unintended consequences are likely.  Any geo-engineering activity cannot be energy neutral (thermo again) and by definition its execution would require a tradeoff elsewhere to be neutral and thus sustainable.  Big problem.   

TED What is the objective?  Do we seek a place to fit in in the world?  Or do we seek to 'shine' in the modern world (which implies no space for most of the others).  --  The answer to this is likely to be 'Let's shine'.

TED Prosperity consists in our ability to flourish as human beings - within the ecological limits of a finite planet.  ---  There is the rub of course.  You can't have your cake and eat it too.  Zero carbon emissions strongly implies being very close to sustainable and that is clearly impossible with even a couple of billion people.

TED Redefining the meaning of prosperity in the richer nations. --- (they can't even do that for their own poor citizens.  How will they do that for their colonies which they depend on for stripping wealth?)

TED African concept of prosperity is I am rich because we are. ---- Is perceived as communism/socialism in places like the US. People will fight you over that as it runs counter to Western culture and ideology.
 
TED He states that it is not about overthrowing capitalism. ---- Not true.

TED The core point of the talk is that we need to change the entire foundation of modern culture and maybe of a large part of human nature. ---  Prospects for a rapid change in such is highly unlikely when looking at the flow of history.

TED He thinks political leadership is needed. ---- Not sure about that.  Politicians don't really lead until society is going in a direction and then they jump in front to ride the groundswell of public opinion. So this is really the point above.

Quote
Without doubt, the compounding effects of climate change and fossil fuel resource depletion can only be mitigated by embracing a egalitarian carbon mitigation strategy.


I have serious reservations that this is true.  But even assuming that it was it, once again, runs up against a large and very successful western culture which does not recognize egalitarian social structures as desirable.  It argues for significant changes in human nature.  Even if you 'could' change such things you surely cannot do it quickly.  And we are long out of time.  Maybe that is not a solution which is any longer viable (if it ever was) and it needs to be set aside and others with better chances of success need to be focused on.

Quote
In this view, the NASA model, even though it is a simplistic one, may be touching on the ONLY realistic scenario whereby modern society is maintained over the course of the next 6 decades.

Realistic?  I'm not so sure.  Show me a plausible set of model parameters which drop carbon emissions to zero and result in a 'sustainable' civilizational structure.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #12 on: March 24, 2014, 04:28:03 PM »
JimD

Ideological support or opposition to wealth redistribution aside, I have an engineering mind.  So, I like to work toward a functional goal.

Functional goal:  keep global temperature below 2 degrees C pre-industrial and minimize resource impacts.

tools: public vehicle and personal vehicle electrification, solar and wind power, nuclear power (if necessary), local battery and (other?) power storage systems, regional and household food production, collective urban food production, shifts in diets away from livestock, forestation and various natural and technical carbon sequestration activities.

hindrances: carbon emissions for the process of economic transformation, ideological resistance to paternalist public policies necessary for adequate response to collective threat (i.e. could you image a free-market response to the bombing of pearl harbor?), significant cultural inertia against reform/change especially if it conflicts with consumption and wealth.  Developing nation/population pressures.

drivers:  impending doom for 90% of the world's population due to climate, population (food), security, fossil fuel resource depletion threat multipliers.  Collapse of the global fishing industry, catastrophic weather events, regional water shortages, massive migrations.

As the drivers increase, public investments in tools will become more likely and social hindrances to solutions will become smaller.  The only question is will we be able to keep it together as a modern society while we attempt to decarbonize?  And will we do it before natural feedbacks make atmospheric carbon sequestration impossible (is it already?).
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JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #13 on: March 24, 2014, 05:06:16 PM »
jai

I too am an engineer and appreciate your thought process.  Experience has taught me that the hardest problems are not the science and data gathering.  It is executing the conclusions one is led to by the science.

Human nature, culture, politics, social dynamics are hard stuff.  And mostly incomprehensible to those who are very good at science.  The two sets of knowledge and understanding do not tend to go together.  Thus one ends up with science folks proposing solutions which are 'technically' possible but wholely impossible in the real world.  And many of them just cannot understand why.

The reverse is common as well when the socially oriented folks just cannot understand the laws of thermodynamics that will not allow for what seems obvious solutions to them.
 
This leads me to answer this part of your statement

Quote
As the drivers increase, public investments in tools will become more likely and social hindrances to solutions will become smaller.  The only question is will we be able to keep it together as a modern society while we attempt to decarbonize?  And will we do it before natural feedbacks make atmospheric carbon sequestration impossible (is it already?).

in the following way.  No social hindrances will not become smaller but more likely larger.  Will we be able to keep it together?  Not at all likely.  Is fixing it possible or is it too late.  IT was too late a long time ago.  We insist on sticking with the same civilization paradigm and it will not work any more than planning for the last war helps win the next one.  Human nature and technical possibility are in direct opposition in this circumstance and when it gets real tight and panic starts to set in human nature will not be in the direction of rational thought or behavior.  That is not the definition of panic.

The problem is not being properly defined and thus the solutions being proposed will not solve it.  BAU solutions are based upon the premise that we must maintain modern civilization as a key part of the solution.  Bad premise and likely to get everyone killed.  The problem is AGW.  The solution is how to get to zero carbon emissions and a sustainable system for our descendants.  No possible structure of modern industrial civilization can be carbon neutral nor sustainable so that premise needs to be set aside as part of the solution no matter how painful it may be.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #14 on: March 24, 2014, 07:17:44 PM »
Jim,

I appreciate your consideration but have serious problems with your assumptions.

Quote
No social hindrances will not become smaller but more likely larger.  Will we be able to keep it together?  Not at all likely.  Is fixing it possible or is it too late.  IT was too late a long time ago.  We insist on sticking with the same civilization paradigm and it will not work any more than planning for the last war helps win the next one.  Human nature and technical possibility are in direct opposition in this circumstance and when it gets real tight and panic starts to set in human nature will not be in the direction of rational thought or behavior.  That is not the definition of panic.

The problem is not being properly defined and thus the solutions being proposed will not solve it.  BAU solutions are based upon the premise that we must maintain modern civilization as a key part of the solution.  Bad premise and likely to get everyone killed.  The problem is AGW.  The solution is how to get to zero carbon emissions and a sustainable system for our descendants.  No possible structure of modern industrial civilization can be carbon neutral nor sustainable so that premise needs to be set aside as part of the solution no matter how painful it may be.

  • No social hindrances will not become smaller but more likely larger - Social hindrances are currently predicated on an uncertainty to the potential risk, much like pre-emptive war against japan or Germany in WWII, as the threat becomes catalyzed in the global public mind it will free up significant policy option
  • IT was too late a long time ago - If, as you later say, BAU solutions are non-solutions, then there was never a solution to begin with.  This is circular reasoning.  If there is a solution, one that maintains modernity on a global scale then it may or may not be too late to implement it.  It is certainly beyond your (or my) ken to say that this threshold has been absolutely passed by.
  • We insist on sticking with the same civilization paradigm - This is loosely defined as current population, longevity, health and freedom of expression.  I do not see where you can state that as an absolute, given all of the potential technological solutions to energy, food, transportation and entertainment that we have available.
  • Human nature and technical possibility are in direct opposition in this circumstance - no, quite the opposite, human nature is one to put off dealing with difficult choices and, under threat of loss of life or progeny will act in the utmost and in incredibly self-sacrificing ways to ensure continuity of life and liberty, that is human nature, when placed under duress.
  • panic starts to set in human nature will not be in the direction of rational thought or behavior-panic behavior certainly does exist on an individualist basis, but when looking at social dynamics, mass panic is extremely rare and only happens when doom is present, not impending.  in other words, the difference between the enemy at the gates and the enemy ransacking the city produces two very different behaviours. 
  • BAU solutions are based upon the premise that we must maintain modern civilization as a key part of the solution - yes, see above, this does not preclude a society where carbon emissions are reduced below natural and anthropogenic sequestration capacities.  This is especially true if one considers what a full-scale industrial implementation of atmospheric carbon sequestration would look like.
  • The solution is how to get to zero carbon emissions - you mean zero additional atmospheric accumulation on an annual basis, remember, 45% of all human emissions are currently sequestered on an annual basis.  We can do this and (I believe) we will.
  • No possible structure of modern industrial civilization can be carbon neutral nor sustainable - this is not a true statement and indicates that you have not exactly put your mind to this problem yet.

All of these situations may be addressed, on a global scale, given the full utilization of our current resources.  Our only real problem is the one we have always had, the inability to unite together within a transnational collective identity that allows the fullest expression of human self-love.
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JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #15 on: March 24, 2014, 09:37:16 PM »
jai

Quote
  • No social hindrances will not become smaller but more likely larger - Social hindrances are currently predicated on an uncertainty to the potential risk, much like pre-emptive war against japan or Germany in WWII, as the threat becomes catalyzed in the global public mind it will free up significant policy option

I disagree.  Social hindrances are based primarily on fundamental human nature.  That is the subconscious process which governs almost all human behavior.  These behaviors were largely hardwired by evolution.  Denialism, Green-BAU approaches, avoidance, all of these behaviors are largely subconsciously chosen and then the facts are chosen to back up the decision.  Thus those who tend to deny select 'facts'  like the slowdown in temp rise or cold weather to support their decision to ignore the issue, Green-BAU folks select for their favorite 'facts' like large scale renewable technology to support their supposed acceptance without having to make real changes either.  Further fundamental human nature problems which are going to work against your idea is that we are tribal in outlook and we will not sacrifice ourselves for strangers.  India says the west has to reduce emissions before they do because we started the problem.  Do you really think there is any chance that will happen?  We will let them all starve first.  I could go on but I think there is no need. 

Quote
  • IT was too late a long time ago - If, as you later say, BAU solutions are non-solutions, then there was never a solution to begin with.  This is circular reasoning.  If there is a solution, one that maintains modernity on a global scale then it may or may not be too late to implement it.  It is certainly beyond your (or my) ken to say that this threshold has been absolutely passed by.

No it is not circular reasoning.  Your premise is that there is no solution without BAU in some form.  This is illogical.   An objective look at the problem and possible solutions will result in the conclusion that any form of BAU is not part of the solution.  That does not mean there is no solution it means that BAU is just 'not part of it'.  And no it is not beyond my ability to figure this out and there are lots of people who have figured it out and tried very hard to explain it.  But you can't get a man to understand something if his job (or way of life) is dependent on him not understanding it.

Quote
  • We insist on sticking with the same civilization paradigm - This is loosely defined as current population, longevity, health and freedom of expression.  I do not see where you can state that as an absolute, given all of the potential technological solutions to energy, food, transportation and entertainment that we have available.

This is an example of techo-optimism by the Green-BAU crowd or hoping for a miracle.  This is the definition of faith based thinking and not rational.  It is quite straightforward to show that industrial civilization is not sustainable and cannot ever be carbon neutral.  Civilization on a smaller scale and with wise use of some of the current technologies and a huge reduction in population will still be unsustainable and probably not carbon neutral.  But perhaps close enough that it will give us a few thousand years to develop alternative ways of living and less onerous technologies.  This also goes to the time issue.  We do not have time to play the hope for a miracle game. 

Quote
  • Human nature and technical possibility are in direct opposition in this circumstance - no, quite the opposite, human nature is one to put off dealing with difficult choices and, under threat of loss of life or progeny will act in the utmost and in incredibly self-sacrificing ways to ensure continuity of life and liberty, that is human nature, when placed under duress.


But you prove my point and not yours here.  You well describe typical human behavior; i.e. wait until the last minute and then react.  Short term thinking, fight or flight behavior.  Evolutionary behavior.  Exactly what we are doing today.  But, it cannot work this time.  If we wait until the last minute - which I have no doubt we will - then the CO2 levels are going to already be 450-475 or maybe more before we react.  Far too late for meaningful action.  So that incredible self-sacrificing you speak of will be in the form of extreme violence as everyone does everything in their power to save their own and the hell with everyone else.

Quote
  • panic starts to set in human nature will not be in the direction of rational thought or behavior-panic behavior certainly does exist on an individualist basis, but when looking at social dynamics, mass panic is extremely rare and only happens when doom is present, not impending.  in other words, the difference between the enemy at the gates and the enemy ransacking the city produces two very different behaviours. 

You are going to get both situations at the same time.  Some places in the world have the enemy at the gates right now.  Collapse will not happen everywhere at the same time.  What happens when 30-50 million Bangladeshi's have to migrate to India because their country is no longer suitable for them to live in.  That will be panic on both their and India's part.  While to the Bangladeshi's it might be like the enemy the sea is at the gate, to the Indian's it will be they are coming over the walls and genocide will result.  In the US we will be drinking beer and cooking up the popcorn.  It is all relative.  The globe has to act together and there is no rational way to argue to that happening. 

Quote
  • BAU solutions are based upon the premise that we must maintain modern civilization as a key part of the solution - yes, see above, this does not preclude a society where carbon emissions are reduced below natural and anthropogenic sequestration capacities.  This is especially true if one considers what a full-scale industrial implementation of atmospheric carbon sequestration would look like.

I also say see above.  And I will raise you one to point out that proposing  vast technical solutions is a further distancing oneself from sustainability.  Not to mention that any such solution requires vast amounts of energy and resources to execute.  If you are not going to use fossil fuels then you have to have even more renewables which, unfortunately, also require vast amounts of energy and resources to build.  Industrial civilization cannot fix the problems generated by industrial civilization by doubling down.  As Einstein said "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Quote
  • The solution is how to get to zero carbon emissions - you mean zero additional atmospheric accumulation on an annual basis, remember, 45% of all human emissions are currently sequestered on an annual basis.  We can do this and (I believe) we will.

As you might know, the natural carbon sinks are saturating and many will eventually start emitting as AGW gets worse.  Additionally sequestering that carbon in the ocean is changing the acidity of the ocean and this will have huge extinction issues which will effect the food chain and work their way right back to us.  Such is not a solution.  When AGW results in much larger thawing of the methane clathrates, the dying back of the Amazon, the burning and shrinking of the boreal forests, and so on there will be extra carbon going into the atmosphere.  We must get as close to zero as possible.  The idea that we can continue to produce as much as 45% of the carbon we are now is just not correct.  It is worse than not correct.

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  • No possible structure of modern industrial civilization can be carbon neutral nor sustainable - this is not a true statement and indicates that you have not exactly put your mind to this problem yet.

Just the opposite actually.  No person wanting to be taken credibly would try and say what you just did.  You need to study up on what sustainability actually means. 

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All of these situations may be addressed, on a global scale, given the full utilization of our current resources.  Our only real problem is the one we have always had, the inability to unite together within a transnational collective identity that allows the fullest expression of human self-love.

So your solution to using resources unsustainably is to use them even more fully?

I agree that we have never shown an ability to globally work together.  And there is nothing in the human past which would indicate we are going to in the future either.  We evolved to have about a maximum of 150 people we can tightly bond with (there is plenty of research on this).  We are pack animals, tribal, leery of strangers, quick to violence, selfish.  We love our families intensely. We pretty much could care less about the folks who live on the other side of the river as long as they do not try and come over to our side.  We recognize and respect power.  And yes we do love ourselves as you say, but those other people?  Not so much.

We have to be practical and work within our limits.  Expecting all of human nature to change is not rational.  Build solutions which are within the scope of what is possible and you can have a chance of success.  Basing our future on something which has never happened before and sits outside of our demonstrated abilities is incredibly risky.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #16 on: March 24, 2014, 11:02:10 PM »
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It is quite straightforward to show that industrial civilization is not sustainable and cannot ever be carbon neutral

please do.

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then the CO2 levels are going to already be 450-475 or maybe more before we react.  Far too late for meaningful action.

I know it is hard for you to imagine that at 475 there might be high energy intensive atmospheric carbon sequestration but it is certainly possible.  This concentration will not be found for another 40 years or so, a lot can (and will!) happen between now and then.

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What happens when 30-50 million Bangladeshi's have to migrate to India because their country is no longer suitable for them to live in

on a global scale we will have come to the certitude that global warming is an existential threat about 4 decades before that happens.  We are only about 2-5 years away from it becoming our generation's premier threat- on a global level.

We currently have cost-effective solar panels that generate 35% of the total solar incident radiation.  There is more solar energy reaching the surface of the earth every hour than all of the fossil fuels used in a single year.  http://www.sandia.gov/~jytsao/Solar%20FAQs.pdf

not to mention the potential for next generation nuclear power to provide energy for CO2 extraction/transport/geologic sequestration.

natural carbon sinks are not saturating.  I think you need to look this up, what is happening is land based carbon is becoming emitted.

I did not say that we needed to reduce our emissions by 45%  I believe that a reduction in global emissions by 80% in 20 years is potentially feasible and that atmospheric suppression will provide a potential long term solution.

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TerryM

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #17 on: March 24, 2014, 11:14:34 PM »
Jim


I agree with most of your post. The technological miracle as I see it is the only game in town. Without it we are toast.


We do not have time to play the hope for a miracle game. 

Terry

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2014, 11:44:19 PM »
The ocean has not yet 'caught up' with the rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2. But we can't count  on the ocean absorbing our CO2 for ever. And yes, land based sinks are well on their way to turning into sources. (And let's not even think about sub-sea-surface methane hydrates right now, shall we?)

Balancing all these out, my understanding is that if we stopped all further emissions of CO2 (and methane...) tomorrow, CO2 levels would continue to rise gradually (or possibly not so gradually) for at least two hundred years.

Every year that we add more CO2 into the atmosphere will make it harder for the ocean to absorb any of the excess, since warm water holds less CO2 than cooler water.

Also please keep in mind that, if we are some how techno-miraculously able to withdraw significant amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere and reliably sequester it, at some point we will pass the equilibrium point with the CO2 already dissolved in the oceans, and they will start to come out, making it very hard to get below whatever that point is for a long time.

Any society that relies on any kind of mining of anything is, by definition, unsustainable. Mining stuff that you burn up and making your civilizations dependent on that is the ultimate  in unsustainability (especially when its waste gasses cook the only plant you have).
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #19 on: March 25, 2014, 12:21:41 AM »
I am not practicing wishful thinking, I am practicing realism.  I believe that we need to reduce our CO2 atmospheric concentration levels below 350.  I recognize that there really are very few pathways that will allow us to maintain an industrial/modern civilization in doing this.

However, it is entirely feasible, given unlimited electrical energy provided by the sun and nuclear power for us to effectively shift away from fossil fuels.  Every modern activity and industry can be transformed to renewable sourced energy if cost is not included in the consideration.

when one is including cost then one must include the cost of NOT doing that and, by definition, the cost of total global societal collapse is necessarily much higher!

Whether it can be done is different from whether it will be done.  to be sure it will take a new mindset, a new way of being to shift to a sustainable environment.  Still we can see this happening already, there are revolutions happening all over the world as we speak.  we have only just begun to address this issue on a societal scale.  After the El Nino of 2016 and the complete loss of arctic sea ice by 2023 (at least!) we will see a large change in how we address the problem.
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wili

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #20 on: March 25, 2014, 12:30:15 AM »
"unlimited electrical energy"

Nothing is unlimited.

And if there were, the last thing that should be supplied to the Global Industrial Society juggernaut is an unlimited supply of energy, no matter from what source.

Recall that, even before the effects of GW have really gotten going, Global Industrial Society was already responsible for the beginnings of the Sixth Great Mass Extinction Events in the history of the planet's complex life.

We have to rapidly shrink this behemoth till, to use Norquist's infamous words in a different context, "we can be drown in the bathtub."

"revolutions happening all over the world as we speak"

Yeah, like in Egypt, Syria, Ukraine...and how are those going, exactly?

"After the El Nino of 2016 and the complete loss of arctic sea ice by 2023 (at least!) we will see a large change in how we address the problem."

We can certainly hope that this is some kind of wake up call. But it will also take all of us screaming at the top of our lungs to point out that the cascading disasters have the clear fingerprints of GW and are exactly what we can expect much more of and much worse going forward. On the other hand, even tens of thousands of deaths in the heart of the industrialized world from a heatwave that was quite clearly attributable in its intensity to global warming (Europe, summer '03) was not enough to galvanize wide recognition of the threat among the public or their leaders. I'm not sure loss of some ice hundreds of miles away from where most people ever go will have a great impact on human consciousness, in spite of how much we on these forums obsess about the situation.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 12:37:34 AM by wili »
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

Anne

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #21 on: March 25, 2014, 12:56:11 AM »
"unlimited electrical energy"

Nothing is unlimited.

And if there were, the last thing that should be supplied to the Global Industrial Society juggernaut is an unlimited supply of energy, no matter from what source.

Recall that, even before the effects of GW have really gotten going, Global Industrial Society was already responsible for the beginnings of the Sixth Great Mass Extinction Events in the history of the planet's complex life.

We have to rapidly shrink this behemoth till, to use Norquist's infamous words in a different context, "we can be drown in the bathtub."

"revolutions happening all over the world as we speak"

Yeah, like in Egypt, Syria, Ukraine...and how are those going, exactly?

"After the El Nino of 2016 and the complete loss of arctic sea ice by 2023 (at least!) we will see a large change in how we address the problem."

We can certainly hope that this is some kind of wake up call. But it will also take all of us screaming at the top of our lungs to point out that the cascading disasters have the clear fingerprints of GW and are exactly what we can expect much more of and much worse going forward. On the other hand, even tens of thousands of deaths in the heart of the industrialized world from a heatwave that was quite clearly attributable in its intensity to global warming (Europe, summer '03) was not enough to galvanize wide recognition of the threat among the public or their leaders. I'm not sure loss of some ice hundreds of miles away from where most people ever go will have a great impact on human consciousness, in spite of how much we on these forums obsess about the situation.
QFT

jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #22 on: March 25, 2014, 01:28:40 AM »
For our purposes the full implementation of the technical potential of solar and wind energy, add into the mix the potential for safe nuclear energy, and then combine that with the necessary energy conservation and dietary/agricultural changes that will be required can and will allow us to have both the equivalent of unlimited energy and provide for the opportunity to restore our ecosystem.

whether or not we will do this depends on how we finally do react when the realities of global warming become a certitude in the mind of the vast majority of the population.  It will get much worse before it gets better but to say that society is "evil" and that we have no possible solution is worse than cynical, it is careless and hopeless and an absolute falsehood based on faulty premises.

Only 100 years ago, in western society, women were given much fewer citizenship rights, animals had no rights whatsoever and there was no such thing as environmental protections.  We have come a long way in our understanding and this increase in understanding is growing at an exponential rate. 

There is still hope for an equitable modernity that orients toward the preservation of future generations and the restoration of our ecosystems, there are valid examples of this happening (have happened!) all over the world.

It is everyone's job, those who are accurately informed, to understand what they can do, on a personal level, to ensure that this is where we end up going.
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JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #23 on: March 25, 2014, 03:45:48 AM »
jai

Sustainable means this.

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sus·tain·able
 adjective \sə-ˈstā-nə-bəl\ 
: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed
: involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources
: able to last or continue for a long time

Full Definition of SUSTAINABLE
1:  capable of being sustained
2 a :  of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged <sustainable techniques> <sustainable agriculture>
b :  of or relating to a lifestyle involving the use of sustainable methods <sustainable society>

Go to the nearest city to you and stand on the street corner in the middle of town and look at what you see.  Imagine the thousands of materials making up those structures and all of the processes required to create them.  Multiply by however many times it takes to get from your city to the world.  Note that making almost every one of those materials results in carbon emissions and transporting them definitely does.  What you are seeing is not sustainable.

By definition almost all industrial activities cannot  be sustainable.  Cities cannot be built without using virgin resources, windmills use resources, solar panels use resources.  None of these thing can be done in a strictly sustainable sense.  7 billion people are able to exist because we are using resources unsustainably.  You cannot keep those people alive without access to the very high energy density of fossil fuels and by stripping the world of resources.  Living sustainably requires that we live within the worlds carrying capacity and also to stop our carbon emissions.  This is not hard stuff.  Accepting it however might be.

I appreciate your idealism and enthusiasm.  But you are making claims which just do not hold water and indicate some serious misunderstandings. 

Humans had perfectly decent lives and were productive and happy long before we drifted into complex civilizations and then into industrial civilization.  If the situation  we are in does not allow for us to continue along the lines of how we have been living there is no shame or real loss in stepping back from the brink and taking time to learn from our mistakes and try again.  We will be just fine.  It is not the end of the world. Unless we continue on our present course.  Then it well might be.

If we allow our fears to guide our decisions then we double down on practices which have already been shown not to work.  This leads to disaster.  It is human nature to want not to have to pay a price for ones mistakes.  But this time we have really messed up.  There is no precedent in history similar to today.  All other civilizational collapses occurred in circumstances where the factors causing collapse were local or regional and in a world still chock full of resources and not overpopulated.  That is not our world unfortunately. 

There are many sound ways to approach this situation.  Why not advocate for things that fit the parameters of the problem.  We don't need to put resources into technologies designed to continue BAU.  But it does make sense to develop technologies designed to support the people following the big stepdown in civilizational complexity.  How about small residential solar capability which does not require rare earths nor newly mined materials and can be constructed and built by scavenging the millions of buildings no longer needed.  We need to move away from industrial processes, globalization, long distance transportation, flying and a thousand other things.  Prepare for the future.  There are a host of things we can do to try and help those who follow us.  That is where our focus should be.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

ccgwebmaster

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #24 on: March 25, 2014, 03:50:20 AM »
For our purposes the full implementation of the technical potential of solar and wind energy, add into the mix the potential for safe nuclear energy, and then combine that with the necessary energy conservation and dietary/agricultural changes that will be required can and will allow us to have both the equivalent of unlimited energy and provide for the opportunity to restore our ecosystem.

There are plenty of things in the ecosystem that cannot be restored. Plenty of permanent and significant damage even in the current day (and yet more indicated as committed damage) - no real need to speculate on the future.

While energy is a major part of the problem it is not the only major part.

Pragmatically, science (and events) has been warning the world for decades at the least to this point (and we're busy overshooting even the timid IPCC drawn safety lines). I think this quote says it best:

"If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading." - Lao Tzu

When the realities of global warming become a certainty in the minds of the majority of the population (if this ever happens in the first place!), I think you will see predictable responses. Heat waves? Buy or upgrade air conditioning. Electrical grid can't cope? Buy a generator. Food too expensive? Riot.

I see no other way to interpret that part of history that falls within my adult life. 100 years of progress have left us an awful long way behind the Indian tribe that considered the wellbeing of those seven generations ahead of them...

jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #25 on: March 25, 2014, 07:38:27 AM »
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I see no other way to interpret that part of history that falls within my adult life.

Yes, to approach a threat that is even partially adequate you would have to go all the way back to the great depression and the full-scale mobilization response and retooling for world war II.  Victory gardens, rationing and extreme response to extreme threat.

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By definition almost all industrial activities cannot  be sustainable.

oh really?  because we are going to run out of gravel to make concrete?  because wood isn't a renewable resource?  because you haven't seen it in practice and cannot fathom it in your mind?  Well, tell me about electric bullet trains, with iron tracks smelted with solar/nuclear driven EM furnaces, tell me about electrical propelled farm equipment working among 150 foot tall windmills, tell me about compressed air energy storage and battery storage in peoples solar homes.  tell me about electric vehicles and public transportation. 

tell me which aspects of modern society CANNOT be sustainable.

Tell me about water reclamation, tell me about industrialized human waste composting, tell me about methane capture and feedstock liquid fuels.  Tell me about Japanese fuel cells and hydrogen.

yes, rare earth metals are rare, yes they are expensive and we do not yet have a good method to recover them in our waste streams.  we will need to address them.  That being said, you are delving into hyperbole when you say that there is "no way" that modern society can be maintained.

it can be maintained.  you simply don't realize that it can.  Just as someone coming to the U.S. would say that the U.S. could NEVER operate like Sweden or Norway. . .which is, of course, not a true statement.  Eventually we will have to adapt in difficult ways, a complete remaking of society is not only possible, it is necessary.  There will be no middle ground, attempting to address this issue with a phased depopulation is wrong headed at best, and downright misanthropic at worst.
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ccgwebmaster

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #26 on: March 25, 2014, 08:33:02 AM »
oh really?  because we are going to run out of gravel to make concrete?  because wood isn't a renewable resource?  because you haven't seen it in practice and cannot fathom it in your mind?  Well, tell me about electric bullet trains, with iron tracks smelted with solar/nuclear driven EM furnaces, tell me about electrical propelled farm equipment working among 150 foot tall windmills, tell me about compressed air energy storage and battery storage in peoples solar homes.  tell me about electric vehicles and public transportation. 

Wood is no more renewable than fish once you start over exploiting it (wasn't it a shortage of wood for energy that drove the use of coal and indirectly the industrial revolution in the first place?). And we already stripped out immense amounts of fish biomass from the oceans and as far as I know are well on track to collapsing most fisheries (some already collapsed - Newfoundland cod don't seem to be in a rush to return) even ignoring acidification issues. Am I wrong to think globally forests are still being depleted at a considerable rate even before climate change accelerates this further? Or that coral is dying en masse and significant amounts are already gone?

Do you think the supply of iron ore infinite? Or do you assume recycling can be perfect? Is there an infinite amount of uranium for nuclear fission power? (I think you'll find there is nowhere near - especially not if you tried to replace bulk coal with fission power)

Electric cars using what battery technology? Lithium ion? How much lithium is there? How well advanced is the recovery procedure to recycle it? How much energy do you need to replace the fleet and infrastructure and where will you find it? (right now the numbers speak for themselves as to where our energy comes from)

Even gravel for concrete is not technically infinite, though I must admit to no idea how large the resource base is.

Besides, how long do you think it would take to produce enough energy - renewably - to completely renew the infrastructure of the world along such lines, even assuming all resources infinite? How long do you think we have left before catastrophic consequences from climate change and resource depletion emerge? (hint - they already are for some people)

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tell me which aspects of modern society CANNOT be sustainable.

From the current position given remaining time and resources? Most of them. In a hypothetical ideal world - yes, I'm sure we could do a lot better (and that's my ultimate vision, but not within this civilisation any more - and not in my own lifetime).

it can be maintained.  you simply don't realize that it can.  Just as someone coming to the U.S. would say that the U.S. could NEVER operate like Sweden or Norway. . .which is, of course, not a true statement.  Eventually we will have to adapt in difficult ways, a complete remaking of society is not only possible, it is necessary.  There will be no middle ground, attempting to address this issue with a phased depopulation is wrong headed at best, and downright misanthropic at worst.

Seems to me by the time a nation like the US adapts in such ways, a lot of the world has already collapsed. Just going by what seems to me to be happening to date. I mean - note the real damage to the world in the current tense - and the massive ongoing ignorance of the basic problems there? For that matter - if everyone in the world lived with the lifestyle of those in Sweden or Norway - do you think that sustainable?

Climate change is a long term threat - one people are intellectually poorly suited to responding to. When it becomes increasingly catastrophic and immediate I don't doubt they will respond to the immediate problems (even this seems questionable looking at how the UK government is responding to recent flooding and cutting relevant budgets and headcounts) but the bottom line is simple - there are decades of further worsening committed at the very least from that point onwards (and likely feedbacks from the earth system). We've set in motion a train of events that is beyond our ability to control in the timescales that we would need to do so within.

We have collectively failed to do anything but the very simplest and most token things (like energy efficient light bulbs and even those were fought in some countries!) even as the science has become ever clearer and more blunt. As a species we cannot ensure our members all receive enough to eat even in a world producing enough food - a billion do not. We cannot ensure running water or sanitation or education for all our members. The dream you try to sell means nothing to vast numbers of people today - they have never even had the privileges enjoyed today in the west, despite suffering for it. Even now as scientists openly warn of the risks of civilisation collapsing, we pump ever more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere year on year...

Thus I for one am not willing to consider predicating either my future or that of my species upon techno-optimism this late in the day with so many decades of abject failure and movement in precisely the wrong directions to take as my input trends. I don't subscribe to hope that people do the right thing in the end - because the lessons life has taught me (macroscopic and individual) are that virtually none do, with the exception of a very select few.

Nonetheless, everyone has their own opinions.

Anne

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #27 on: March 25, 2014, 10:15:29 AM »
There is one modern energy source which hasn't been exploited much of late in the western world. It's become larger over the past hundred years but it isn't unlimited and isn't exactly renewable. It's likely that more societies will be drawing down on it in the not-so-distant future: body mass.

Seriously, labour saving devices have freed us from drudgery, but it's a Faustian pact.

icefest

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #28 on: March 25, 2014, 10:31:11 AM »
ccgwebmaster, you are awfully close to suggesting that nothing can, by definition be renewable, as to be so it would have to violate the second law of thermodynamics.

Personally, if there is enough of a resource to last an awfully long time then I don't mind if it is not renewable.
Open other end.

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #29 on: March 25, 2014, 11:10:24 AM »
Lurked for around 18 months on a daily basis, and now here goes for my first post...

Both Jim and Jai are correct. Any individual process may be made almost totally sustainable. Oil for may be synthesised from biomass, power generated from solar. CO2 may be captured from cement production (at huge energy costs, but feasable). It's like trying to build a bigger ship made solely from the parts of the ship that we are already sailing on - whilst at the same time turning the engines off.

We cannot change over in one almighty hit, so we need a phased change over. This means that any plan must fit in with some form of BAU. Humans are hard wired to be generally conservative and only accept change in small, managable, steps. Plus, there are enough vested interests in BAU that will ensure that anything too far outside the current system will tie any new process up in red tape for years.

The three prongs of the problem come with scale required, lead time for build-out and social resistance to the change.

P.S. Forget the gravel issue for concrete - it's the production of the cement that is one of our biggest CO2 emmissions. Whatever new infarstructure we need to build, we better not plan on using too much concrete in it if we wish to reduce our CO2 footprint.

Bit of a ramble, but there you go.

Anne

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #30 on: March 25, 2014, 12:22:52 PM »
Welcome, Doom.

(Didn't think I'd ever write that ;) )

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #31 on: March 25, 2014, 01:00:58 PM »
Thanks Anne,

I always feel a little outgunned to be able to comment on the threads that I follow, both here and on the blog. The data analysis ones especially.

I think I can speak for all my fellow lurkers (as obviously they won't) when I say thanks to Neven and all you guys and gals that give up so much of your time to try and keep the rest of us informed. It really is appreciated.

Right then, time to crawl back under my rock.

JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #32 on: March 25, 2014, 03:48:32 PM »
jai

Quote
oh really?  because we are going to run out of gravel to make concrete?  because wood isn't a renewable resource?  because you haven't seen it in practice and cannot fathom it in your mind?  Well, tell me about electric bullet trains, with iron tracks smelted with solar/nuclear driven EM furnaces, tell me about electrical propelled farm equipment working among 150 foot tall windmills, tell me about compressed air energy storage and battery storage in peoples solar homes.  tell me about electric vehicles and public transportation. 

tell me which aspects of modern society CANNOT be sustainable.

Besides your drifting into an unfortunate tone of voice your responses are devoid of an understanding of physics, engineering, human nature and just pain common sense.  Virtually everything you are writing about this is just plain wrong.  You implied earlier that you are an engineer.  This is not possible given that your responses lack an understanding of some of the basic principals.

You claim you are describing something sustainable and your entire point demonstrates the opposite.

The Laws of thermodynamics are not suggestions which can be ignored.  Review the exponential function.  Read about cement production.  Study what EROEI means.  Study industrial processes.  Study the history of forestry if you think it is sustainable or of commercial fishing if you think that is.  Hold your coffee cup in your hand and mentally walk through the steps from the very beginning of how it was made and worked its way to your hand.  Then review the concept of sustainability.  Windmills and solar panels have to be built out of materials that require mining and manufacturing, they have to be transported by machines from where they are made to where they are installed, the cement and steel used to build their supports has to go through the same process, you need cranes to set them up and cranes need to be manufactured and their materials mined, the workers need trucks to hold their equipment and get to the work site and food to eat and clothes to wear and houses to live in - this is not sustainable.  And while you might be able to say when they are up and running that the windmill and solar panels are not emitting carbon you cannot say that about any other part of the process and you must count the entire process or you are cheating.  The very same argument applies to electric cars, trains, you name it.  It is the whole process which counts.

The first rule when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.   
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #33 on: March 25, 2014, 04:05:56 PM »
Thanks Jimd, I thought you would be tired of repeating the same thing over and over again...

I don't understand german (I saw the french version), may be of interest for some of you who do understand german.
It is about the depletion of sand nearly everywhere, for gravel it should be the same...though with a lot of energy you can make some...of course when you have a lot of enery you can do many things...but for how long...well until you realize that you are killing yourself, your children and nearly everything else...

deep octopus

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #34 on: March 25, 2014, 04:18:36 PM »
Along with Doom, I appreciate the spirited discussion here, but don't wish to get into the fray. I do want to chime in to say that I am still greatly impressed with Shared Humanity's points on the congruence of economic growth and fossil fuel usage from another thread ago. Not to drag him into this either, but I thought it the most telling evidence of our conundrum. The problem ultimately reveals itself as economic growth, which has so far been a foray into an inexorable increase in consumption. The paradigm of endless consumer growth is one of the most intractable realities that will have to be addressed to bring us to sustainability. The demise of seafood impresses me as the great lengths we will go to ensure sustained, increased consumption (well, sustained in the dollars sense, until the limitations are forcibly internalized back into costs.) Abundance of fish begot overfishing which begot dragnets by bottom trawling which now begets exploiting substitute fish. Res ipsa loquitur.

JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #35 on: March 25, 2014, 04:40:51 PM »
Doom

Quote
Any individual process may be made almost totally sustainable. Oil for may be synthesised from biomass, power generated from solar. CO2 may be captured from cement production (at huge energy costs, but feasable). It's like trying to build a bigger ship made solely from the parts of the ship that we are already sailing on - whilst at the same time turning the engines off.

I bolded part of your statement.  "Almost" does not equal "is" unfortunately.  And getting from where we are now to 'almost' is non-trivial and requires an overhaul of our industrial and energy systems, not to mention a restructuring of how and where we live and a huge change in our lifestyles.  And on top of that it requires decades of time when we no longer have vast amounts of cheap high EROEI fossil energy to use.  This is the point that jai misses.  We cannot change how the physics and engineering works.  Theoretically we can change human nature, but we do not have any examples from history of doing that on a global scale nor even a regional one.  This puts us in a very tough situation.

You mention capturing CO2 from cement production. Technically possible.  But one must analyze all of the steps of that additional industrial process and then measure the added energy requirements and resources which then need to be added to the cost and EROEI calculations of cement production to determine if one can afford to do it.  Many of the proposed industrial processes suggested like capturing CO2 result in such large increases in costs they end up being just as bad as using fossil fuels.  An end to end EROEI analysis of the existing nuclear plants indicates that their cradle to grave EROEI is about what solar is now and way less than using fossil fuels.   Many do not realize that coal is by far and away the primary energy source for manufacturing all of the renewable energy equipment and infrastructure.  Currently we are completely incapable of building that equipment any other way and will be for a long time.  If you analyze where the electric cars are being charged you find that many of them are resulting in more CO2 than if the owner was driving an ICE car because they are charged from coal based electricity.  This is just a dammed hard problem.

Another huge issue is EROEI.  There are many papers out there which document the rise in population, the buildout of our global infrastructure, our technical advances and so on to our discovery of the very high EROEI fossil fuels.  All well and good except that we did not understand what using those fuels meant.  It was a Faustian bargain and the devil wants his due.

We are in a rapidly declining EROEI situation and desperately need to stop burning those fossil fuels.  But our population and infrastructure requires a higher EROEI to maintain than is available from a global energy system derived solely from renewables.  A dilemma.  Our likely human response is going to be to keep burning them.  But the devil really bites here in that the carbon they produce will destroy the climate and while it will not kill us it will likely kill our descendants.  Another moral and ethical dilemma.

So
Following BAU requires fossil fuels
Saving the population requires fossil fuels
Maintaining industrial civilization requires fossil fuels
Building out an all renewable infrastructure requires fossil fuels
Burning fossil fuels ends in disaster
Absolutely none of the above is sustainable either

So
We MUST stop burning fossil fuels
We have to give up some amount of civilizational complexity
We have to give up a lot of existing infrastructure
We have to dramatically shrink population
We must stop emitting carbon (more than 90% anyway)
We must give up BAU

In military terms we have outrun our supply lines, are low on ammunition and are in danger of counterattack and being surrounded and annihilated.  Retreat is the only rational choice.  Live to fight another day.

Giving up most of what we have and saving as much as we can for the young and the future is the only moral choice available to us.  Thus the Faustian bargain we made comes home to roost.  Now we get to find out whether we as a species have real courage.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Bruce Steele

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #36 on: March 25, 2014, 04:50:59 PM »
I would like Jai to please go look over my small attempts at actually quantifying EROEI in a very small controlled experiment,gardening. Policy and Solutions, Improving EROI. Now when it appears a very small tiller with one solar panel to run it uses the same K/cal as the food K/cal produced in an entire acre of potatoes grown for one season it begins to put things in perspective . ( thanks JimD ) now I am not throwing my hands in the air and giving up and I hope with all my soul I can prove it is possible to improve upon those EROEI numbers the facts at this point are grounded in something real, and slightly depressing .
 I simply do not believe peoples EROEI numbers  pulled from thin air. Document, quantify and then when you are sure you have something you can stand behind tell us about the methodology you used and your results. This is a science blog and a damn fisherman/farmer should not have to tell an engineer to check his figures and REFERENCE your sources. Otherwise I smell something I'd rather not. 

JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #37 on: March 25, 2014, 04:55:13 PM »
DO

Point well taken.  The system dynamics is what is so hard for most (even the PhD's) to grasp.  SH is on this stuff all the time.  I find the science so locked down that I just follow topics I find inherently interesting and let folks like you and ASLR dig into the finer details and explain them to me.  I spend almost all of my time trying to focus on the system interactions and how they constrain the problem.  Thus my constant insistence that folks try and take everything into account.  There are so many ideas which sound good until one does that.  Then they disappear in a puff of smoke.

I have repeatedly stated that my opinion is that the trigger into general collapse will be the failure of the industrial agriculture system due to AGW degradation about 2050 (ccg thinks I am way to conservative).  But SH and many other bloggers in the financial world have very good arguments that the collapse of the capitalist financial system is what will drag us down and that will come first and could happen any time.  It is hard to win an argument with them.  One extreme weather year could get us too.  But one thing we just do not have is lots of time as we are running every metric into the ground.   
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

ccgwebmaster

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #38 on: March 25, 2014, 04:59:48 PM »
ccgwebmaster, you are awfully close to suggesting that nothing can, by definition be renewable, as to be so it would have to violate the second law of thermodynamics.

Personally, if there is enough of a resource to last an awfully long time then I don't mind if it is not renewable.

You know, taken to truly extreme levels - and the assumption that universes are non renewable - I guess that is a logical conclusion.

However I would tend to agree with your last point - if there is enough to last an awfully long time, that's probably OK too. People still claim (ignorantly in my view) that we are not going to see peak resources because we have plenty more resources to find and a very long time until they run out (a mindset that has always been applied in recent history as far as I can see - and I see it as similar to the sort of magical thinking being used to argue on one side here).

Your point here is rather important I think though - how long a time is acceptable? The human race has been around for somewhere between a couple of hundred thousand and a couple of million years depending how close to our current point of evolution you want to take.

So I'm curious - in that context how much longer do you think our species should hope to be around for? How long a time do you consider acceptable as a depletion timescale for a critical finite resource?

JimD

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #39 on: March 25, 2014, 05:14:34 PM »
icefest

A good issue.   I missed your point earlier.

Like ccg said it depends somewhat on your time definition of what constitutes "sustainable".

Forever?
50,000 years?
10,000 years?
1000 years?
the year 2100?
As long as it lasts until I die that is good enough?

Almost everyone's opinion of what is sustainable falls into one of the above categories.

In the spirit of full disclosure my favorite from the above list is the approx. 50,000 year number.

The reason I pick that is when one spends some time reading about the growth of civilization - starting about 10,000 years ago - and the damage that was done to the world and its carrying capacity over that time up until the beginning of industrial civilization it is clear that any form of civilization is not sustainable over a period as long as 10,000 years.  One can point to local or regional examples which were pretty close to sustainable like traditional Chinese agriculture practices.  But that was not the norm and was what was possible in an ideal location.  Over the same time that the Chinese were doing pretty well humans literally annihilated the arable land of Mesopotamia, the Near East, around the Mediterranean and many other locations.  We exterminated dozens of large mammalian species, cut down vast tracks of forests and upset the ecosystems of whole continents.  Even without industrial civilization we were on an unsustainable path and would eventually have hit hard limits.

So, what is your favorite number from the above list?
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

prometheus

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #40 on: March 25, 2014, 05:15:20 PM »
Thanks Anne,

I always feel a little outgunned to be able to comment on the threads that I follow, both here and on the blog. The data analysis ones especially.

I think I can speak for all my fellow lurkers (as obviously they won't) when I say thanks to Neven and all you guys and gals that give up so much of your time to try and keep the rest of us informed. It really is appreciated.

Right then, time to crawl back under my rock.
This exactly. I hope to be able to participate more in the future, but I still have a lot to learn before I can add much of any substance.

If I might add something germane to the thread, NASA actually had nothing to do with this paper: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/march/nasa-statement-on-sustainability-study/

ccgwebmaster

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #41 on: March 25, 2014, 05:19:06 PM »
I have repeatedly stated that my opinion is that the trigger into general collapse will be the failure of the industrial agriculture system due to AGW degradation about 2050 (ccg thinks I am way to conservative).  But SH and many other bloggers in the financial world have very good arguments that the collapse of the capitalist financial system is what will drag us down and that will come first and could happen any time.  It is hard to win an argument with them.  One extreme weather year could get us too.  But one thing we just do not have is lots of time as we are running every metric into the ground.   

Just to be clear - it isn't just the climate change effects that make me say you're conservative - I'm including things like conflict, economic failure (though I can't claim to understand it anywhere near as well as SH), human behavioural norms, etc. I try to look at the system as a whole, as it's all interconnected.

Why would the economy have problems? Resource constraints - including in food production - is surely a factor here. The economy is an important driver of conflict too in the sense that once you undermine purchasing power for food people tend to get angry (economic collapse is the other side of the expensive food coin as as prices are relative rather than absolute). Unemployed people have more time and energy to express their anger, too.

If one were strictly just talking climatic considerations I would be at least a few decades closer to your position - but we can't take the climatic effects in isolation. We have all the feedback in human systems to consider. Ukraine is a good example - if they start fighting in a big way there - that's a big chunk of agricultural production not going to see the global market. If the energy to Europe is cut, prices rise including the cost of food (and many other things) increasing social stress (how much more do we think various southern European nations will take before social cohesion fails?).

It's all interconnected though. In a world that had safe stockpiles and plenty of reserve capacity - there would be no real threat in the bigger picture from the Ukraine (save perhaps that of the cold war - an exchange of rather large bombs).

It's that interconnectedness I think worth emphasising - I don't think you can really pick a single cause and say "that's the driver of collapse". It's a more complex process with lots of facets. Suppose extreme weather started to cut agricultural production by a few percent per year in the foreseeable future? (or even just stalled it as demand is rising year on year).

Pretty sure you would then see the effects manifesting (economically and behaviourally) even though on paper it should still be easy to keep the system running if you're just looking at climate change and agriculture (you just stop burning food in cars, like we could've done 6 years ago when the first batch of countries started to fray at the seams). That's still originally a climate change input though (albeit in the context of a whole collection of non climate change factors).

I'm not sure one can really see economic collapse alone as the sole agent of collapse though (by my definitions of collapse) - as there are plenty of examples in history of economic failure, international debt defaults (Argentina, Russia), hyperinflation (Zimbabwe, Germany), recessions and depressions, and so on - and we've always tended to pull back from them in the past. I think it requires the wider lens to look through - though I'm open to correction by anyone who better understands the economics than I do (not hard to be that person).

ccgwebmaster

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #42 on: March 25, 2014, 05:36:36 PM »
In the spirit of full disclosure my favorite from the above list is the approx. 50,000 year number.

So you're basically saying our species is advanced in age, and doesn't need to plan to live as long as it already has?

I would've agreed with you until I looked at it this way, and now I'm wondering if at least a couple hundred thousand years isn't a better idea - and a million might be even more ideal. If we lived in such a way and focused our efforts onto things, we would presumably create our technologies around these principles and still potentially do ever better for ourselves (ie live well and enjoy the benefits of technology, if not perhaps quite as fancifully as presented in arguments above). Our "growth" would need to be predicated upon skill and intelligence rather than consumption and extraction. Theoretically we might be clever enough to make all resources replenishable (but difficult as it means concentrating very diluted and thermodynamically unfavourable states).

People who claimed the resources were virtually infinite and would last an awful long time are, in my view, rather culpable in the condemnation of my and future generations to the consequences. For a few generations, a portion (and only a portion) of the living human population squandered most of the future for thousands, if not tens of thousands or more, of years? Was it worth it? Some of the things squandered won't return over anything less than geological timescales (and some of those, perhaps not even then if the geological conditions are not suitable for deposition of the ores etc any more).

Inasmuch as we're guilty of anthropomorphising the species - I wonder if we're each guilty of projecting from ourselves a little. You say the species is older and closer to the end of the line than not. I say it's in the earlier part of middle age. I wonder if a child wouldn't say "forever"?

ccgwebmaster

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #43 on: March 25, 2014, 05:45:01 PM »
If I might add something germane to the thread, NASA actually had nothing to do with this paper: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/march/nasa-statement-on-sustainability-study/

While they're stating they didn't do the research directly and have no position on the findings, I don't think you can say they had absolutely no connection - assuming this article is correct that the research was (at least in part - amount unclear) funded by NASA:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/21/climate-change-scienceofclimatechange

So you couldn't claim "NASA scientists said that..." but it seems reasonable to say "NASA partly funded..." (and presumably there was some review or oversight of the funding to make sure they weren't totally frittering away the money?)

prometheus

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #44 on: March 25, 2014, 06:17:21 PM »
If I might add something germane to the thread, NASA actually had nothing to do with this paper: http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/march/nasa-statement-on-sustainability-study/

While they're stating they didn't do the research directly and have no position on the findings, I don't think you can say they had absolutely no connection - assuming this article is correct that the research was (at least in part - amount unclear) funded by NASA:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/21/climate-change-scienceofclimatechange

So you couldn't claim "NASA scientists said that..." but it seems reasonable to say "NASA partly funded..." (and presumably there was some review or oversight of the funding to make sure they weren't totally frittering away the money?)
From the link I posted:
"A soon-to-be published research paper 'Human and Nature Dynamics (HANDY): Modeling Inequality and Use of Resources in the Collapse or Sustainability of Societies' by University of Maryland researchers Safa Motesharrei and Eugenia Kalnay, and University of Minnesota’s Jorge Rivas was not solicited, directed or reviewed by NASA. It is an independent study by the university researchers utilizing research tools developed for a separate NASA activity."

Which I take to mean they used some mathematical models developed by one of the authors, Motesharrei, (which ones exactly? I haven't read the whole thing yet) developed under a NASA grant for some other purpose. I tried to find what grant NNX12AD03A (the one the paper specifically refers to) was for exactly I couldn't find any specifics in my initial search.

EDIT: It appears from the link you posted the connection, or lack thereof, is a bit unclear. I only looked at what NASA was saying about it directly. I have to go to bed now and can't look into it further at the moment, but thanks for sharing that link
« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 06:28:44 PM by prometheus »

DoomInTheUK

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #45 on: March 25, 2014, 06:43:43 PM »
JimD,

50,000 years seems like a reasonable figure for sustainable to me. I was trying to not fall into the trap of symantics. For my purposes "Almost sustainable" equates to at least several generations, long enough for alternatives to evolve.

So I agree that there are technically things that can be done - but I also agree that for myriad reasons they won't be done, can't be done, done in time or done at the scale required.

4th Gen nuclear is a prime example. Great idea on paper, would provide base-load power for centuries, but regulations and cultural push-back against all things "nuke" will keep it as stalled as it has been since the 60's. If we ever get to the point that we decide that we need to build them the development and build out times will mean that they make little difference.

As my login name indicates, I'm not confident about any attempts to find a cure for this mess.

jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #46 on: March 25, 2014, 07:17:16 PM »
JimD

so let me get this straight.

you assert that we require an EROEI in our global society that is higher than renewable energy can provide.

you also assert that the EROEI of nuclear on a cradle to grave basis is identical to renewable energy.

Therefore only fossil fuels can maintain our society.

but fossil fuels lead to climate change so we are doomed!

and anyone who thinks differently than you doesn't understand basic science!!!

 :'(

But I can assert to you that we currently are using less oil in the united states than we did only 10 years ago.

we are also beginning to decline our electricity consumption on a per capita basis



We have a ton of increased efficiency coming online over the next 10 years.  for example, new LED streetlights use 1/2 of the electricity of the industry standard metal halide lamps, they last 15 times longer and the replacement of 5 of them provides enough energy to propel 20 people, using electrically driven public transportation, for their daily travel requirements.

When you say,

Quote
We are in a rapidly declining EROEI situation and desperately need to stop burning those fossil fuels. But our population and infrastructure requires a higher EROEI to maintain than is available from a global energy system derived solely from renewables.

you show that you have absolutely no understanding of these systems or their requirements.

What do you suppose is the Ivanpah EROEI, over the life of the plant (60-80 years)?



In the end you have shown yourself to be an uninformed doomsayer who parrots a term (EROEI) as though it is an argument when, in fact, it shows how little you understand the issue and are actually using it to suppress valid discussion.

I find it very interesting to note that only fossil fuel advocates chirp EROEI when analyzing renewable energy resources.  you have either absorbed their discourse and made it your own or are simply an advocate for not enacting social changes required to reduce emissions, basically a fossil fuel advocate.

Is that why you are ideologically opposed to the concept of reducing economic inequality?

Just because we currently use coal and oil to produce things doesn't mean that we must always use coal and oil to produce them.  You said,

Quote
Windmills and solar panels have to be built out of materials that require mining and manufacturing, they have to be transported by machines from where they are made to where they are installed, the cement and steel used to build their supports has to go through the same process, you need cranes to set them up and cranes need to be manufactured and their materials mined, the workers need trucks to hold their equipment and get to the work site and food to eat and clothes to wear and houses to live in - this is not sustainable.  And while you might be able to say when they are up and running that the windmill and solar panels are not emitting carbon you cannot say that about any other part of the process and you must count the entire process or you are cheating.  The very same argument applies to electric cars, trains, you name it.  It is the whole process which counts.

I want you to name a single component of this list of activities that absolutely cannot possibly be performed using energy derived from renewable sources (or nuclear).

And then I want to ask you to tell me, exactly, how an EROEI of 6 or more for solar power is actually going to prevent solar power as a global resource when the amount of solar energy available is several orders of magnitude more than our annual consumption?

Be sure to show your math.







« Last Edit: March 25, 2014, 07:33:23 PM by jai mitchell »
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ccgwebmaster

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #47 on: March 25, 2014, 07:53:14 PM »
But I can assert to you that we currently are using less oil in the united states than we did only 10 years ago.

we are also beginning to decline our electricity consumption on a per capita basis

Great - can you keep it up if you stop outsourcing industrial activity to China? Or if you consume their fossil fuel produced goods, doesn't it count?

Quote
Is that why you are ideologically opposed to the concept of reducing economic inequality?

Is it unreasonable if the Chinese want to live like you? That's part of reducing economic inequality. Likewise the Indians, the Africans and so on - several billion people in fact who have a reasonable claim on what you expect.

Be sure to show your math.

Could I possibly ask the same for your estimate of timescale and resource requirements to totally rework the global energy infrastructure (while also reducing economic inequality taking into account the world, not just the US)?

Neven

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #48 on: March 25, 2014, 07:59:23 PM »
This discussion is very interesting, but let's try and not get too personal.

Personally, I think it is impossible to maintain civilisation as it is right now (revolving around growing GDP and populations through consumer culture). If solutions like jai proposes are to have a chance of making a dent, the whole system needs to change first. Or at least simultaneously. Green BAU is still BAU, just a bit slower.
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jai mitchell

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Re: The HANDY study
« Reply #49 on: March 25, 2014, 08:26:46 PM »
Neven,

I agree, the transformation of society into one that is more economically equitable as well as less energy intensive is a primary requirement for the remote possibility of moving away from fossil fuels.  This means a wide-scale change in consumption/diet patterns and energy use patterns. This is why James Hansen advocates a carbon tax, he sees this as the primary force that will motivate widescale changes in consumption.

CC,

to be clear I was speaking of wealth inequality within nations, a primary issue with non-first world economies, with whom I also place America for various societal ills.  I was not speaking of developing nations.  They have a different set of issues that must also be addressed. 

However, the growth of fossil fuel emissions in developing nations can be significantly offset as an economic response to first world nations (and America) implementing wide scale policy changes away from fossil fuels and toward conservation and renewable energy generation/storage. 

There are significant ways to move forward toward a more sustainable future for developing nations. 

While not a solution, this is a good example of wide-scale potential


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