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Topics - JimD

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1
The rest / AI - Another way to end civilization???
« on: May 21, 2018, 06:32:05 PM »
This topic is for ASLR  ;D

We have tumbled around the floor a few times over this issue.  I consider it another one of the existential threats to humanity and to be avoided at all costs.  I'm for my species right or wrong I guess. ASLR (if I have this wrong he can correct me) does not discount the possibility of where AI could lead us and sees that path as just as legitimate as any other form of evolution.  Humans go the way of the Neanderthal (who's DNA we all still carry) and are supplanted by the new AI Sapian (who carries some of our DNA in a sense).  It is just evolution so to speak. And maybe the AI Sapian will be more caring, ethical and moral than his flawed predecessor - or not.

So today I am as usual out and about looking for something interesting to read among the daily vomit which floods our computer screens and what do I find but the best single piece on the 'issues' presented by possible future developments in AI. Many of the things I find alarming about potential AI developments are laid out there in exquisite detail and well beyond my capabilities to articulate (wish I was that smart - and at 94 yrs old too - maybe there is still hope ha ha).

And the article is by Henry Kissinger no less (yes that Henry).

One of the items which has been missing in the AI discussions I have seen to date is the take on its issue from a really first class mind.  Kissinger has provided us one.  What I mean when I say a first class mind needs some explanation I suppose considering Kissinger's checkered past (if this reference is obscure to you there is a fruitful bit of history for you to bone up upon).  I am not aware of any first class minds being deeply involved in the creation of AI nor among those promoting its creation.  This is largely due to the AI field being a very nerdy item buried among a sea of technology issues somewhat outside of the awareness of those among us sapiens who are actually capable of deep thought.  Deep thought being an area of human endeavor pretty much outside of science, math and physics.  As my son informed me once, when I urged him to use his huge intellectual gifts in math and science to make a career, that he did not want to work on the easy stuff in life, but rather the hard stuff which really required one to think.  He found tech things easy because there was really only one right answer (hard as it may be to find) while the really difficult things like ethics, morals, philosophy, religion, history and the like were extremely difficult because there was no single right answer and many times no right answer at all.  Hard to argue with that.

To Henry's piece.

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How the Enlightenment Ends
Philosophically, intellectually—in every way—human society is unprepared for the rise of artificial intelligence.

The problem.

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As I listened to the speaker celebrate this technical progress, my experience as a historian and occasional practicing statesman gave me pause. What would be the impact on history of self-learning machines—machines that acquired knowledge by processes particular to themselves, and applied that knowledge to ends for which there may be no category of human understanding? Would these machines learn to communicate with one another? How would choices be made among emerging options? Was it possible that human history might go the way of the Incas, faced with a Spanish culture incomprehensible and even awe-inspiring to them? Were we at the edge of a new phase of human history?

Or were we sitting at the cusp of the end of history?

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AI, by contrast, deals with ends; it establishes its own objectives. To the extent that its achievements are in part shaped by itself, AI is inherently unstable. AI systems, through their very operations, are in constant flux as they acquire and instantly analyze new data, then seek to improve themselves on the basis of that analysis. Through this process, artificial intelligence develops an ability previously thought to be reserved for human beings. It makes strategic judgments about the future, some based on data received as code (for example, the rules of a game), and some based on data it gathers itself (for example, by playing 1 million iterations of a game).

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But precisely because AI makes judgments regarding an evolving, as-yet-undetermined future, uncertainty and ambiguity are inherent in its results. There are three areas of special concern:

First, that AI may achieve unintended results. Science fiction has imagined scenarios of AI turning on its creators. More likely is the danger that AI will misinterpret human instructions due to its inherent lack of context....

Second, that in achieving intended goals, AI may change human thought processes and human values. ...If AI learns exponentially faster than humans, we must expect it to accelerate, also exponentially, the trial-and-error process by which human decisions are generally made: to make mistakes faster and of greater magnitude than humans do. It may be impossible to temper those mistakes, ...

Third, that AI may reach intended goals, but be unable to explain the rationale for its conclusions....Through all human history, civilizations have created ways to explain the world around them—in the Middle Ages, religion; in the Enlightenment, reason; in the 19th century, history; in the 20th century, ideology. The most difficult yet important question about the world into which we are headed is this: What will become of human consciousness if its own explanatory power is surpassed by AI, and societies are no longer able to interpret the world they inhabit in terms that are meaningful to them?

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The Enlightenment started with essentially philosophical insights spread by a new technology. [Printing press] Our period is moving in the opposite direction. It has generated a potentially dominating technology in search of a guiding philosophy.

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AI developers, as inexperienced in politics and philosophy as I am in technology, should ask themselves some of the questions I have raised here in order to build answers into their engineering efforts. The U.S. government should consider a presidential commission of eminent thinkers to help develop a national vision. This much is certain: If we do not start this effort soon, before long we shall discover that we started too late.

(Start soon before it is too late.  Sounds a bit like climate change does it not?)

Technology is not what makes us humans.  Religion, morals, ethics, philosophy and the like are - what becomes of them?

Seems to me we look at a perfect example of why there is a Precautionary Principal.

Anyway have an interesting read.

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2018/06/henry-kissinger-ai-could-mean-the-end-of-human-history/559124/

2
The rest / The Dems blow the election again
« on: April 27, 2018, 01:17:35 AM »
Let's try a different type of political topic here. There is tons of stuff which is anti-Trump and anti-Repug here (some for good reason and some because many got butt hurt in 2016).  But that does not mean there is balance here and if you don't look at what is happening systemically then you will miss key factors which can be the deciding ones.

This topic is ONLY for posts which show or demonstrate how the Dems are in the process of, once again, fouling up their chances to win. Or for posts which show that the Repugs are mitigating Dem advantages and tightening the races. It will balance all the other political topics.

Back in the Jan-Nov 2016 span me, and a lot of smart people who know far more about this than I do, harped constantly on the Clinton/Democratic campaign strategy and how it was discounting a really serious upwelling of sentiment among a group of voters which was being discounted (the deplorables) or who's interests were not being addressed.  And along comes the pied piper who talks the talk (which is all you can do during a campaign), dog whistles a lot, understands how to inflame baser instincts, executes a plan, and, of course, uses every available lever to win.  And does win.

I see a great many parallels at this time to the state of the Democratic Party during the 2016 primary and general election campaigns.  And not in a good way if one wants to see the Republicans lose total control of Congress this fall.  In that the House is in play without a doubt and the Senate is not a zero probability (should the Dems run a very competent campaign - yes I know).

At this time among those who want the above change there seems to be a consensus that the roll over of the House is a done deal. What with a number of special elections going against the Repugs, strong enthusiasm in the proletariat for change, very large numbers of primary challengers in the Dem races (a mixed blessing perhaps), a good amount of money coming in, endless disturbances coming from the White House on a daily basis, various investigations going on, etc. And that all of the above put the Senate in play.

But is this story a fairy tale, a tragedy, a farce, or the real deal?

I see a very significant chance at this point that the Dems are going to repeat the last election and end up with a result in Nov which is well below what could be expected if they had learned any lessons from 2016.  Which I can say with confidence - they learned nothing. I don't think they will win the senate and I think that they may be able to once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and fall on their face in the House.

Off the top of my head I will list below some of the subject areas or topics which I can see as trouble areas for them.  I am sure there are a couple of dozen more and feel free to toss them into the mix. Then we can see how the tides move these issues over the next few months.

1.  Machine control of the Democratic party by those who lost in 2016. This is a disaster.  The Clinton machine is still in control and grinding the Progressives and anyone who is a real liberal into the mud.

2.  The Machine is still totally wedded to Wall Street and Wall Street owes Trump like you can't imagine. They will deliver for the Repugs.

3.  The big influx of money from the little guys which came into the 2016 Dem primaries was for the Progressives and will fade away as the Machine kills off all the Progressive candidates in the primaries it can.  Thus the money they think they are going to get will not be as much when they end up with too many Machine candidates. They are actively trying to force candidates out of the races already as they don't want to spend their money in primary fights.  But they will have too and then afterwards there will be a lot less money.  Example:
https://www.vox.com/2018/4/26/17285576/steny-hoyer-levi-tillemann-the-intercept-colorado-jason-crow

4.  Guns.  This issue will always hurt the Dems in the key states which tripped the election in 2016.  It will also be used to inflame the Repug base in order to gt them out to vote.

5.  Once again a large number of Progressives are going to be very angry at how the Machine treats them and will end up not voting for the Machine candidates.

6.  Quite a number of the Dem candidates running in the Red states (like Sinema in AZ) are what are called Blue Dog democrats and they are more conservative than the average Machine candidate much less a Progressive one.  Those of these who win will not deliver on many of the change ideas floating around in Dem party politics so a narrow win of the House will not deliver the voting majority that might be assumed from raw numbers.

7. The amount of money on the Repug side of the ledger is going to explode during the summer as the billionaires who saw their money from 2016 having been well spent are going to double down to maintain their success.  And the tax cut, of course, paid for this largess. Fund raising at the NRA has exploded and that money will be targeted carefully.  There will be many calls going out to the base for money mentioning the end of the world as we know it if the Reugs lose and that will have results.

8. Vicious negative advertising will tend as always to narrow the polling differences. Aside from that the polling spread has closed by about 50% already.

9.  The economy as always will be the number 1 most important factor and at this time there is no reason to think that it will not strongly favor the Repugs.

10.  The evangelical network TBN has more local stations than FOX, CBS, ABC or NBC and it is 100% behind Trump and the Repugs.  Its viewership is over 100 million.  Add in the FOX effect and this is a substantial impact on the Repug base who do not listen to any other networks.

11. National security issues or concerns will always favor the hawkish candidate and the Repug party.  One reason Clinton was so hawkish was to tap into the strong leader mystique.  The Repugs own this factor right now.

12.  Trump is poised to be able to deliver on the National Security front between what happens with NK and Iran.  He may fall on his face of course, but he may also end up with something which can be sold very well.  There is only upside here for the Repugs as if they get new agreements in place with either country it will look to the public that being Trump like really works.  Conversely if we end up in some kind of military action before Nov that always draws voters towards the party in power as that is the patriotic response.

13.  Identity politics Dem style are divisive across the whole population of course, but they are also a problem in the Dem party itself.  This will be a drag on potential results. And identity political issues will be used to help inflame the Repug base as always.

14.  A Black Swan is always waiting in the wings for either side as well.

Well that is a start I guess.  I see information almost every day which indicates this election is far from a done deal and that the Dems are still totally ignoring those who got Trump elected and their own failings.  Complacency is lethal in politics.

Enjoy  ;D

3
The rest / The Shooting and the mid-terms
« on: February 26, 2018, 05:09:46 PM »
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida - 17 killed.

The news is full of stories about the shooting .  Many of these stories have a narrative that this time it is different.  Change will come. I see many of the mainstream Democrats thinking that this will help them in handing the Republicans a giant defeat in the Nov elections.  But will that big defeat even happen.

So this is the first question.  Will the fallout from the shooting help the Democrats take control of the House/Senate or will the reaction from the right dominate.  Or neither.


This situation is a great test of where we actually are in terms of finding a common ground between the right and left in America.  Or whether we are truly on the road to a level of divisiveness which will bring the country to a point of being near ungovernable (the effects of decline).  There is potential here for the fallout from this situation galvanizing the Republican base in a way which could counterbalance expected gains by the Democrats.  Or perhaps we 'have' turned a corner and real change will happen. Or neither.  Which will it be?

Poll runs for 2 weeks.

4
The rest / 2017 Predictions
« on: December 24, 2016, 03:51:56 PM »
Last year was kind of fun.

I reviewed all the 2016 posts and my candidate for best prediction has to go to OLN

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6. The Chicago Cubs may actually buy enough talent this off-season to advance to the World Series in October 2016.

Holy Cow!!!  We all bow to your mastery!

Ok, put your tin foil hats on and get to typing.


5
Greenland and Arctic Circle / Greenland 2016 Melt Season
« on: January 19, 2016, 06:12:24 PM »
Interesting.

http://robertscribbler.com/2016/01/18/did-a-january-hurricane-just-set-off-a-massive-greenland-melt-event-in-winter/

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...Dr Jason Box notes that surface mass balance totals have consistently shown up as negative over the past week in the DMI measure. A record that continued today. Though Dr. Box states that such a negative mass balance could simply be chalked up to wintertime sublimation, the consistent losses showing up in the monitor over the past seven days have coincided temperatures in a melt-inducing range.

In addition, Dr Box also indicates a disturbing flushing of ice away from both Disko and Uummannaq Bays occurring on January 16th. In the satellite shot, both sea ice and ice burgs are moved en-mass from the bays and on out into the waters of Baffin.....

Sediment hitting water in this way would be a sign that a very large volume of water had been expelled along the basal zones of the Jacobshavn. In addition, the ice itself appears to have been forcibly ejected. ...


6
The rest / Europe - Collapse dynamics
« on: January 07, 2016, 04:17:06 PM »
We have had the US topic here for some time.  Seem's like one on Europe is long due.  After all big disruptions are likely there long before they really impact the US.

Here is a nice start - though there have been dozens of good choices over the last couple of years.  This is going to leave a mark as the saying goes.

Germany

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The assaults and harassment of women by groups of young men of Arab or North African descent have hit Cologne like a bombshell. The shocking incidents are a turning point for German society, says DW's Volker Wagener.

Under the cover of darkness they gathered in large numbers - right in the center of Cologne. They were drunk. They groped under skirts and blouses. There is no doubt about who the perpetrators were: they were young, male and looked North African or Arab.
Unfailingly, this has brought the migration and refugee debate to a new level.....

That includes strengthening the police.
How can dozens of women be at the mercy of the assailants, with no protection whatsoever? A seasoned police officer pinpoints law enforcement's helplessness, saying that filing crimes away is all they can do these days. Germany's police union has already said there probably won't be a single conviction. The police simply lack the personnel needed to conduct effective criminal proceedings.
....

http://www.dw.com/en/opinion-red-alert-in-cologne/a-18962912

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A spate of alleged sexual assaults and robberies at New Year's Eve festivities in the German city of Cologne has fueled a political firestorm over immigration in Germany.

Ninety criminal incidents, a quarter of which were sexual assaults, were reported following New Year's Eve celebrations in the city, Cologne police told CNN.

Police said victims described the perpetrators as gangs of Arab or North African men. Many of the assaults were likely intended to distract, allowing attackers to steal mobile phones and other devices, police said.

Authorities said the crimes, including a rape, occurred around the train station, next to the western German city's landmark cathedral.....

http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/05/europe/germany-cologne-new-year-assaults/index.html

7
The rest / 2016 Predictions
« on: December 28, 2015, 06:13:38 PM »
2016 Predictions

Rules: 

1.  NO Arguing with others predictions.  If you don't like theirs make the opposite prediction and a year from now you can be laughed at (or if you are lucky you can lord it over everyone).
2.  Predictions need to be related to climate change, collapse dynamics, carrying capacity issues, global politics/economic issues, technology developments related to the former items and such - i.e. relevant to the blog.  Who is going to win the Super Bowl or that funny form of football they play in the colonies are out of bounds.
3.  Keep predictions brief in that there is no requirement to present all of your reasoning - or even any.  Lots of predictions are fine however.  No links.
4.  If there are obvious rule additions needed let me know and I will edit them into the list.

This is intended to be sort of a fun brainstorming exercise.

8
Why in the near 30 years since Hansen testified on climate change to Congress has the climate change movement been such an utter and complete failure?  It is because the opposition is strong and it just takes time to break it down?  Or is it something else? 

Well below you will find some excerpts on this subject from Geer.  The whole article is well worth a careful read (along with about 75% of everything Geer writes). 

The premise is that we need a revolution in human behavior/politics/economics/etc to effect dramatic change in the way we live and conduct our affairs in order to stop and adapt to climate change.  Yet we fail utterly at making progress.  It is always easy to blame your enemies, but enemies are always going to fight back, so the real reason is because the climate change/green-BAU movement is incompetent.  Here is why.

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The first and most essential step in the transformation of any society is the delegitimization of the existing order. That doesn’t involve violence, and in fact violence at this first stage of the process is catastrophically counterproductive........The struggle to delegitimize the existing order has to be fought on cultural, intellectual, and ideological battlefields, not physical ones, and its targets are not people or institutions but the aura of legitimacy and inevitability that surrounds any established political and economic order.

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The delegitimization of the existing order is only the first step in the process. The second step is political, and consists of building a network of alliances with existing and potential power centers and pressure groups that might be willing to support revolutionary change. Every political system, whatever its official institutional form might be, consists in practice of just such a network of power centers—that is, groups of people who have significant political, economic, or social influence—and pressure groups—that is, other groups of people who lack such influence but can give or withhold their support in ways that can sometimes extract favors from the power centers.

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Effective revolutionaries know that in order to overthrow the existing order of society, they have to put together a comparable network that will back them against the existing order, and grow it to the point that it starts attracting key power centers away from the network of the existing order. That’s a challenge, but not an impossible one. In any troubled society, there are always plenty of potential power centers that have been excluded from the existing order and its feeding trough, and are thus interested in backing a change that will give them the power they want and don’t have.

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By the time the endgame arrives, therefore, you’ve got an existing order that no longer commands the respect and loyalty of most of the population, and a substantial network of pressure groups and potential power centers supporting a revolutionary agenda. Once the situation reaches that stage, the question of how to arrange the transfer of power from the old regime to the new one is a matter of tactics, not strategy.

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With this in mind, let’s look at the ways in which the climate change movement has followed this same trajectory of abject failure over the last fifteen years or so.

Really 30 years or even 40+ years if you count from the Limits to Growth studies.

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The task of the climate change movement at the dawn of the twenty-first century was difficult but by no means impossible. Their ostensible goal was to create a consensus in the world’s industrial nations that would support the abandonment of fossil fuels and a transition to the less energy-intensive ways of living that renewable resources can provide. That would have required a good many well-off people to accept a decline in their standards of living, but that’s far from the insuperable obstacle so many people seem to think it must be. When Winston Churchill told the British people “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” his listeners roared their approval. For reasons that probably reach far into our evolutionary past, a call to shared sacrifice usually gets a rousing response, so long as the people who are being asked to sacrifice have reason to believe something worthwhile will come of it.

That, however, was precisely what the climate change movement was unable to provide. It’s harsh but not, I think, unfair to describe the real agenda of the movement as the attempt to create a future in which the industrial world’s middle classes could keep on enjoying the benefits of their privileged lifestyle without wrecking the atmosphere in the process.

Green-BAU, Joe Romm, Elon Musk, Jim Hansen, Bill Mckibben, the list is endless since it is almost 100% of the people involved.

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On the off chance that any of my readers harbor revolutionary ambitions, may I offer a piece of helpful advice? If you want people to follow your lead, you have to tell them where you intend to take them. Talking exclusively about what’s going to happen if they don’t follow you will not cut it. Rehashing the same set of talking points about how everyone’s going to die if the whole world doesn’t rally around you emphatically will not cut it. The place where you’re leading them can be difficult and dangerous, the way there can be full of struggle, sacrifice and suffering, and they’ll still flock to your banner—in fact, young men will respond to that kind of future more enthusiastically than to any other, especially if you can lighten the journey with beer and the occasional barbecue—but you have to be willing to talk about your destination. You also have to remember that the phrase “shared sacrifice” includes the word “shared,” and not expect everyone else to give up something so that you don’t have to.

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So the climate change movement entered the arena with one hand tied behind its back and the other hand hauling a heavy suitcase stuffed to the bursting point with middle class privilege. Its subsequent behavior did nothing to overcome that initial disadvantage. When the defenders of the existing order counterattacked, as of course they did, the climate change movement did nothing to retake the initiative and undermine its adversaries; preaching to the green choir took the place of any attempt to address the concerns of the wider public; over and over again, climate change activists allowed the other side to define the terms of the debate and then whined about the resulting defeat rather than learning anything from it.

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We don’t even have to get into the abysmal failure of the climate change movement to seek out allies among the many pressure groups and potential power centers that might have backed it, if it had been able to win the first and most essential struggle in the arena of public opinion.

Incompetent, feckless.  Well what about the 'other' side.

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What makes the failure of the climate change movement so telling is that during the same years that it peaked and crashed, another movement has successfully conducted a prerevolutionary campaign of the classic sort here in the US. While the green Left has been spinning its wheels and setting itself up for failure, the populist Right has carried out an extremely effective program of delegitimization aimed at the federal government and, even more critically, the institutions and values that support it. Over the last fifteen years or so, very largely as a result of that program, a great many Americans have gone from an ordinary, healthy distrust of politicians to a complete loss of faith in the entire American project. To a remarkable extent, the sort of rock-ribbed middle Americans who used to insist that of course the American political system is the best in the world are now convinced that the American political system is their enemy, and the enemy of everything they value.

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The second stage of the prerevolutionary process, the weaving of a network of alliances with pressure groups and potential power centers, is also well under way. Watch which groups are making common cause with one another on the rightward fringes of society these days and you can see a competent revolutionary strategy at work. This isn’t something I find reassuring—quite the contrary, in fact; aside from my own admittedly unfashionable feelings of patriotism, one consistent feature of revolutions is that the government that comes into power after the shouting and the shooting stop is always more repressive than the one that was in power beforehand. Still, the way things are going, it seems likely to me that the US will see the collapse of its current system of government, probably accompanied with violent revolution or civil war, within a decade or two.

That is quite a statement from someone who has been the most thoughtful and articulate personage of all of the people covering this subject over the last 15 years. 

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Meanwhile, as far as I can see, the climate change movement is effectively dead in its tracks, and we no longer have time to make something happen before the rising spiral of climate catastrophe begins—as my readers may have noticed, that’s already well under way.


http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2015/08/the-last-refuge-of-incompetent.html

9
Policy and solutions / Collapse marches on
« on: July 17, 2015, 04:50:50 PM »
While the Green BAU team's cheerleaders dance, chant and shake their pom poms at the Black BAU team across the court - who, of course, are dancing, chanting and shaking their pom pom's in furious opposition in the great circus for the clueless masses - we catch a whiff upon the breeze.

sniff.. sniff..??? ...ahh carrion...the smell of napalm in the morning..smells like victory?

and the wind clears the fog for a bit and we see the early carnage as the weak are shunted aside and the wheels grind them into the mud. 

Europe and Asia have drifted once again into the pre-war years.  Germany is dropping its mask and once again returning to its drive for dominance while the militants of Japan move to throw off the yoke of subservience.  A lot of the rest of the world is already in the war years at this point.

Subtract two states and add them to the collapse list.  Who would have thought 2 years ago that both would have come from the European fold?  It was a surprise to me, but then that is the nature of systemic collapse - it is not always the periphery which tumbles first.  Neither country would have seemed to be that close to tipping and their membership in or proximity to the powerful would have seemed to insulate them from such events, which rightly should be happening to those colored folks scattered around the periphery of the important parts of the world (that is sarcasm btw).  Ukraine of course found itself in the place of the perfect pawn - lootable and located on the underbelly of an opposition power to the Empire.  Who could resist such a delectable weakness.  Not us.  The Greek people, struggling mightily to drag themselves out of the Middle East and become European (a waste of time really) leave themselves badly exposed to the corruption of their oligarchs who proceed with their European brethren to rape all who get in the way.  Germany and the Bankers also could not resist.  Get what you can while you can and then cut them off to die.  It is not your fault if they are incapable of looking out for their best interests and confused about the exercise of power.

So Germany is once again openly asserting its power and dictating the course of events - we have some experience on how such actions facilitate European cooperation.  Should do wonders for dealing with climate change.  (I'll just skip the links to what is going on in Europe.  If this is all news to you it might be time to shift ones focus for a time).

Japan is under the political control of the militarists in case you didn't know.  Once again they are being pushed from behind by the Empire ('once again' referring to the strong push towards empire building they were given by Teddy Roosevelt and company which led directly to the growth of their ambitions and thus to their atrocities in Asia before and during WWII.  TR by the way believed that the way to 'civilize' the savages was to exterminate most of them.  A concept which obviously carried strong appeal with Japanese cultural attitudes.).  Naturally we (and they) do this to counter the evil Chinese and their growing power.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/17/world/asia/japans-lower-house-passes-bills-giving-military-freer-hand-to-fight.html?_r=0

Our pre-war years now rhyme with those which came before in history's poetic play.

As collapse marches on it leads to increasing conflict not cooperation.  We are far beyond the carrying capacity numbers and there is just not enough to go around - even if we and the Germans and the Japanese and the Chinese and the Russians wanted to share.  Which we don't.  So pick your team and gird your loins.  The Finns are lining up with the Germans.  Who are you going to line up with?

Our situation continues to rapidly deteriorate.  We watch the daily ice numbers and argue over how fast it melts from the bottom and how much heat is blowing in from the Pacific.  It's being torched here and stirred there.  Interesting, yes.  However, I see a mostly unstated but intense desire for the big 'catastrophic' melt out.  Which is clearly based upon the belief that this shocking event will stir the masses and the useless 'policy' makers to finally understand the threats we are facing - and then take global cooperative action.  Do you  really think there is any chance of this happening?  Really?

Look at what is going on in the world.  Global cooperation?  In a circumstance where that cooperation naturally will result in a significant percentage of the total going under the wheels of the bus.  We know what the Germans and the Americans are going to do in that circumstance.  Do you doubt what the Japanese and the Russians are going to do?  What are you going to do?  What are the Indians and the Chinese going to do?

We used to have discussions here regarding a deliberate or managed collapse.  This is sort of what it would look like I guess since that is clearly the road we are upon.  Shove the Greeks under the wheels and cut your losses.  Portugal next?  Or Spain or Italy?  There will certainly be more EU countries falling by the wayside at least until the EU goes the way of all things.  It is just who's next.  Does anyone doubt that there will be bloodshed in Aisa - beyond what is already occurring I mean.  What happens if the psychopath Netanyahu decides that he has to deal with the Iranians on his own since the US has taken the last possible step to avoid direct conflict (the duration of this decision is very debatable given our internal politics).  Need I say that the above is a tiny sample of the whole.

Collapse is here now.   We are stepping down those stairs one at a time.  Your favorite BAU will not prevent it nor delay it.  We need to deal with it - now.  All your Green shit will not stop it nor will your AI dreams laid on the alter of Progress prevent it.  So what are we and what are you going to do?

10
Policy and solutions / Resilience is The New Black
« on: May 09, 2015, 03:56:27 PM »
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Yves here. One does not have to look hard to discern the troubling message of this post: that people are no longer motivated by appeals to broader, more abstract values, that what motivates them are more narrow, survival-oriented approaches...

But Lebo’s reading is based on a sense that individuals are pulling in their focus to me, mine, and my family. It’s reminiscent of a conversation I had with a friend who is the ex-wife of a billionaire, now living modestly and teaching calculus as an adjunct at a local college. She said:

I can’t get concerned any more about tragedies. We have billions of people living on this planet who are going to die because it can’t support them. I used to care about people dying in Guatemala but now I think that saving lives now means more deaths later. I know it sounds selfish but I’ve decided to care about science and my family and not much else.

I wonder how widely her sort of thinking is shared.

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Nelson Lebo III: Sustainability is so 2007. Those were the heady days before the Global Financial Crisis, before $2-plus/litre petrol here in New Zealand, before the failed Copenhagen Climate Summit, before the Christchurch earthquakes, before the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP)…the list continues.
Since 2008, informed conversations on the economy, the environment, and energy have shifted from ‘sustainability’ to ‘resilience’. There are undoubtedly many reasons for this shift, but I’ll focus on just two: undeniable trends and a loss of faith....

...For most of my adult life I have banged the drum for sustainability. I don’t anymore. Sustainability is about voluntarily balancing three factors: human needs, environmental health, and economic viability. My observation is that it has been a failed movement and that the conversation has naturally shifted to resilience...

Dennis Meadows, a well-known scientist who has been documenting unsustainable trends for over 40 years, puts it this way:

The problem that faces our societies is that we have developed industries and policies that were appropriate at a certain moment, but now start to reduce human welfare, like for example the oil and car industry. Their political and financial power is so great and they can prevent change. It is my expectation that they will succeed. This means that we are going to evolve through crisis, not through proactive change.........

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/05/resilience-is-the-new-black.html

I find these sentiments pretty compelling.  Even people who have a deep understanding of the situation are almost wholly incapable of altering their faith in Progress being able to save them from the devil of this dilemma and doing something meaningful.  The rest are just following the dictates of their subconscious survival instincts.

Fight like hell to the be last man standing.  Don't worry about the rest as you can't do anything about it and it is 'their' responsibility to take care of themselves.  As Meadows says, this leads to crisis and chaos...

I guess I am with the ex-billionaire wife mentioned above.  Mass tragedies leave no impression on me whatsoever any more.  It matters not because they are all dead men walking anyway.  It seems kind of cruel to go to all the trouble of saving them when all of our other actions are designed to eliminate them somewhere down the road anyway.  The same story is coming to a theater near you sometime soon....so keep your powder dry and take care of yourself.


11
Policy and solutions / Carrying Capacity Issues
« on: March 14, 2015, 04:35:42 PM »
Intertwined with Climate Change are global carrying capacity issues.  We talk about carrying capacity a lot and how it interrelates with all the other problems we face.  If one actually could magically set aside all of the issues of climate change, as some are trying so hard to do, the issues of global carrying capacity would easily replace climate change as the greatest challenge of human history.  So what we face in the combination of carrying capacity and climate change are the two greatest challenges of human history.  Together that makes them what?

So let us try and bring this issue home to those who don't recognize its significance.  This discussion is most closely related to the famous (infamous?) Limits to Growth books (there are 4 of them) the first of which was published circa 1973.  If you read these books you will find them absolutely frighteningly accurate to date.  We are dead on the the BAU projected pathway to collapse detailed in 1973.  That curve train wrecks circa 2050.  It is worth mentioning once again that the Limits to Growth projections did not take into account climate change.

Historically civilizational collapses are due to carrying capacity issues.  We have a lot of knowledge of how this actually happens and its effects on various cultures/civilizations.  This is not climate modeling.  This is history and actual data.  We have a large body of research on this topic that also covers others species and how their populations reach and exceed their ecosystems carrying capacities and then collapse. 

We are well in excess of the Earth's carrying capacity for our species.  How far?  This is where one starts to get many answers and we wrestle over definitions.  For instance the key definition is how we set the limits (does it have limits??) of the word sustainable.

One sees a wild span of definitions of sustainability.  The BAU folks seem to think that all the green technologies are sustainable because they touch some form of renewable energy.  Or they talk about fish farming or hydroponics or some other nonsense.  But what really makes sense when we say sustainable?  To some it means 'forever'.  Which means what?  A million years?  A hundred thousand?  Ten thousand?  50?  Sad to say that many people only seem to mean the span of their lives and f**k anyone else.  What does it mean to you as this is the crux of the argument.  The Sun will expand and fry us all eventually so there is no real forever.  But if you pick 50 years we may as well get the party going as time is wasting..right?  My favorite is 50,000 years...but I will settle for 1000.  How about you?  I note that even picking 1000 years makes solving our problems wickedly hard.

So we are done picking the span of time.  Now what does that mean really?  Does sustainable really mean only for humans or does it include other species?  This is a big issue and, after the duration point above, is the most critical.  These two points drive the vast differences in figures stating how far over the carrying capacity we are today.  One side ends up with numbers which sound not so bad (approximately 1.5 times) and others come up with numbers much scarier (as bad as 5 times).  Pushing these numbers of course is a rapidly rising population along with growing affluence and consumption.  Additionally, since we are already over the ecosystems capacity our continued actions reduce said capacity a little bit every day.  We are currently consuming well beyond sustainable levels across a wide and diverse range of support mechanisms.  The way to understand this for example is that row cropping farm land results in some inevitable loss of top soil and nutrients.  Being sustainable would have to mean that natural top soil generation would have to equal losses from farming and the replacements of nutrients taken out for consumption is required.  Otherwise the soil loses fertility and production drops (starvation).  Any body of good soil can be farmed for some time past these sustainable requirements but eventually its fertility will plunge.  We can offset that for a time with artificial fertilizers of course, but then we seem to have issues there..right?   Collapse dynamics.  Climate change, of course, is now and will in spades later, reduce global carrying capacity significantly.  We are the Red Queen running.

Climate change gets us to collapse.  Exceeding the carrying capacity gets us to collapse.  Together they really get us to collapse.  Thus my insistence on managed collapse - or degrowth if you will.  And once again I repeat my point that NONE of the critical problems we face can be solved unless we dramatically reduce total population levels.  We really and truely do not have the luxury of time.  We must act now and make dramatic change.

So feel free to jump in and chew on this one a bit.  I will post next the article which triggered this new topic.


12
The rest / A must read
« on: January 26, 2015, 05:18:13 PM »
While I try hard I am certainly not the most articulate writer.  JMG does not suffer from that affliction and is one of the best at presenting the realities of our situation.  Below is his most recent piece and it is spot on about much of what I have been trying to say recently.  There has been no one better at explaining the situation over the last 10 years. 


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One of the things my readers ask me most often, in response to this blog’s exploration of the ongoing decline and impending fall of modern industrial civilization, is what I suggest people ought to do about it all. It’s a valid question, and it deserves a serious answer.

Now of course not everyone who asks the question is interested in the answers I have to offer. A great many people, for example, are only interested in answers that will allow them to keep on enjoying the absurd extravagance that passed, not too long ago, for an ordinary lifestyle among the industrial world’s privileged classes, and is becoming just a little bit less ordinary with every year that slips by.  To such people I have nothing to say. Those lifestyles were only possible because the world’s industrial nations burnt through half a billion years of stored sunlight in a few short centuries, and gave most of the benefits of that orgy of consumption to a relatively small fraction of their population; now that easily accessible reserves of fossil fuels are running short, the party’s over.

Yes, I’m quite aware that that’s a controversial statement. I field heated denunciations on a regular basis insisting that it just ain’t so, that solar energy or fission or perpetual motion or something will allow the industrial world’s privileged classes to have their planet and eat it too. Printer’s ink being unfashionable these days, a great many electrons have been inconvenienced on the internet to proclaim that this or that technology must surely allow the comfortable to remain comfortable, no matter what the laws of physics, geology, or economics have to say.  Now of course the only alternative energy sources that have been able to stay in business even in a time of sky-high oil prices are those that can count on gargantuan government subsidies to pay their operating expenses; equally, the alternatives receive an even more gigantic “energy subsidy” from fossil fuels, which make them look much more economical than they otherwise would.  Such reflections carry no weight with those whose sense of entitlement makes living with less unthinkable.........

http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2015/01/the-mariners-rule.html

He has a few dozen other "must reads" you can find on his blog.

13
Policy and solutions / BAU until they peel my cold dead hands from it
« on: January 09, 2015, 05:36:02 PM »
I make no secret that I consider Green BAU to have no better prospects for saving us from catastrophic climate change than the standard fossil industry based Black BAU.  I base this partly on the fact that the future world envisioned by the proponents of Green BAU is a world almost identical to what we have today - just powered by renewable's and a world full of a couple of billion ev's.  Such a world, even if it was a possible one, would clearly not be close to carbon neutral so climate change would continue to worsen.  But there is a bigger reason.  Green BAU accepts the main positions of Black BAU and thus serves to perpetrate its evils.  Increasing energy use, consumption, rising affluence, and a rapidly growing population.

So where are we in this tragic tableau?  We have a rise of political conservatism in a number of key countries, pending global financial problems which make it far more difficult to make large scale structural changes, a requirement to make cultural changes and, on top of that, we see a growing push by the global fossil fuel industry to protect its turf. 

It should be clear to anyone that, given the worlds current political and economic situation, it is impossible to make any kind of rapid technological conversion on a significant scale along the lines of the Green BAU technologies proposed.  Large scale renewables are destined to be a niche component of the overall global energy infrastructure for at least 2-3 more decades.  And this is the exact plan that the global fossil fuel industry has in mind.  The two forms of BAU work hand in glove with each other as the growth of renewables actually helps keep the fossil fuel industry viable by filling in a little of the gaps in the energy infrastructure which would exist without that renewable input.

The below really brings home how desperate the situation has become.  If we follow the fossil fuel industry plan, or assist it by pushing alternative technologies which support our current civilizational structure and way of life, we have no chance.  On that comment I offer below an very good article on how deep and focused the fossil fuel industry is on protecting its turf. 

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2015/01/michael-klare-big-oil-responding-anti-carbon-movement.html

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Michael Klare: How Big Oil Is Responding to the Anti-Carbon Movement

Yves here. It should be no surprise that Big Oil is not about to go down without a big fight. And they continue to copy from the playbook used by Big Tobacco. Behind the scenes, they go to great lengths to trying to undermine the already strong and ever-increasing evidence of the connection between greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, including openly offering bribes to scientists to attack the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports. In addition, frontally, they try to present their products and their social role as positive.

By Michael T. Klare, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left.  A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education Foundation. Originally published at TomDispatch

Quote
...Around the world, carbon-based fuels are under attack......All this has been accompanied by what might be viewed as a moral assault on the very act of extracting carbon-based fuels from the earth, in which the major oil, gas, and coal companies find themselves portrayed as the enemies of humankind.

Under such pressures, you might assume that Big Energy would react defensively, perhaps apologizing for its role in spurring climate change while assuming a leadership position in planning for the transition to a post-carbon economy.  But you would be wrong: instead of retreating, the major companies have gone on the offensive, extolling their contributions to human progress and minimizing the potential for renewables to replace fossil fuels in just about any imaginable future.

That the big carbon outfits would seek to perpetuate their privileged market position in the global economy is, of course, hardly surprising..........Still, these companies are not just employing conventional legal and corporate tactics to protect their position, they’re mounting a moral assault of their own, claiming that fossil fuels are an essential factor in eradicating poverty and achieving a decent life on this planet

Quote
Improbable as such claims may seem, they are being echoed by powerful officials around the world .........Count on one thing: this crew of fossil fuel enthusiasts is intent on ensuring that any path to a carbon-free future will, at best, be long and arduous.  While you’re at it, add top Congressional leaders to this crew, since many of the Republican victors in the 2014 midterm election are from oil and coal-producing states and regularly laud carbon production for its contribution to local prosperity, while pocketing contributions by Big Oil and other energy firms.

Unless directly challenged, this pro-carbon offensive – backed by copious Big Energy advertising – is likely to attract at least as much favor as the claims of anti-carbon activists. ...

Quote
Once upon a time, the giant carbon companies like Exxon sought to deflect these attacks by denying the very existence of climate change or the role of humans in causing it — or at least by raising the banner of “uncertainty” about the science behind it. They also financed the efforts of rogue scientists to throw doubt on global warming.  While denialism still figures in the propaganda of some carbon companies, they have now largely chosen to embrace another strategy: extolling the benefits of fossil fuels and highlighting their contributions to human wellbeing and progress.

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If a climate movement is going to challenge the energy powers of this planet effectively, it’s crucial to grasp the vision into which Big Energy is undoubtedly planning to sink incredible resources and which, across much of the planet, will become a living, breathing argument for ignoring the catastrophic warming of the planet.  They present it, of course, as a glowing dreamscape of a glorious future .

Quote
No Growth Without Us

The cornerstone of the Exxon report is its claims that ever-increasing supplies of energy are needed to sustain economic growth and ensure human betterment, and that fossil fuels alone exist in sufficient quantity (and at affordable enough prices) to satisfy rising international demand........“Over the next few decades, population and income growth — and an unprecedented expansion of the global middle class — are expected to create new demands for energy.”

Some of this added energy, Exxon acknowledges, will come from nuclear and renewable energy.  Most, however, will have to come from fossil fuels.  All told, the Outlook estimates, the world will need 35% more energy in 2040 than it does today.  That would mean adding an additional 191 quadrillion British thermal units (BTUs) to global supplies over and above the 526 quadrillion BTUs consumed in 2010.  A small percentage of those added BTUs, about 12%, will come from renewables, but the vast majority — estimated by Exxon at 67% — will be provided by fossil fuels.

Without fossil fuels, this argument holds, there can be no economic growth.

Quote
Here’s how Exxon CEO and Chairman Rex Tillerson puts it: “Energy is fundamental to economic growth, and oil is fundamental because to this point in time, we have not found, through technology or other means, another fuel that can substitute for the role that oil plays in transportation, not just passenger, individual transportation, but commercial transportation, jet fuel, marine, all the ways in which we use oil as a fuel to move people and things about this planet.”

Natural gas is equally essential, Tillerson argues, because it is the world’s fastest-growing source of energy and a key ingredient in electric power generation. Nor will coal be left out of the mix.  It, too, will play an important role in promoting economic growth, largely by facilitating a rapid increase in global electricity supplies.  Despite all the concern over coal’s contributions to both urban pollution and climate change, Exxon predicts that it will remain “the No. 1 fuel for power generation” in 2040.

Yes, other sources of energy will play a role in helping to satisfying global needs, but without carbon-based fuels, Exxon insists, economic growth will screech to a halt and the world’s poor and disadvantaged will stay immersed in poverty......

Quote
If there is one overarching theme to the new Exxon ethos, it is that we are witnessing the emergence of a new global middle class with glittering possibilities and that this expanding multitude, constituting perhaps one-half of the world’s population by 2040, will require ever greater quantities of oil, coal, and natural gas if it is to have any hope of achieving its true potential.

Citing data from the Brookings Institution, the company notes that the number of people who earn enough to be considered members of that global middle class will jump from approximately 1.9 billion in 2010 to 4.7 billion in 2030 — representing what it calls “the largest collective increase in living standards in history.” 


The article is long and there is a lot more there.  But this is to be taken very seriously.  BAU is part of human nature and the tendency to continue down well worn paths is almost impossible to break from.  Any form of BAU perpetuates a continuation of the the status quo.  The future envisioned by the key leaders and spokesmen for BAU leads unerringly to utter catastrophe.

If we do not break from this historical approach to doing things we cannot avoid such a catastrophe.

14
Consequences / 2015 New Years Predictions - Pony Up!
« on: January 01, 2015, 05:14:34 PM »
Here is my prediction for the New Year.  Pony up your's.

The story of 2015 will be ALL about Global Economics

I'm going to go out on a limb here and make a call.  One is usually wrong when they do this as events which are inevitable often have a way of teetering on the precipice for a long time before they fall.  But I think the time is now.  But then again maybe not if we sign the taxpayers up for another round of 10 trillion in corporate bailouts.    We will see and you can have fun poking me in the ribs this time next year :)

The biggest story of 2015 will NOT be about Climate Change, renewable energy, melting ice caps, rising temperatures, or any of a host of other sundry topics floated constantly by the main stream media to entertain us.  Nope.  It is time for the next set of chickens to come home to roost - as the saying goes.

It is time for our next step down in the early days of our march towards the collapse horizon.  In other words the latest financial bubble is going to burst and the fallout from this necessary and unavoidable event will bring home to many what has been explained to them many times and that which they have not been able to get their heads around.  Namely that the game of buying our way out of this crises is not possible.  We are more than broke.  We are living on our children's future earnings to keep this ship afloat.  Almost nothing requiring massive expenditures in the future will be affordable barring a hardnosed decision (the triage thing) to let another part of the global civilization die.

So my prediction is that we will enter the next global financial crises this year and it has a good probability of equaling our last one.  The dominos are going to fall.  All of the Euro countries are heading for hard times with the Southern band of Greece to Portugal suffering the worst.  France and Germany will not be immune.  Great Britain will see serious problems.  Russia and Eastern Europe will suffer significant recession/deflationary events.  China will slow dramatically as well as Japan.  The Emerging market countries are going to get absolutely hammered. It will take time but this will bleed back to the US which is going to be in the process of dealing with the mess caused by plummeting oil and gas prices.

Some very interesting reading on the state of global finance's.

http://www.theautomaticearth.com/the-biggest-economic-story-going-into-2015-is-not-oil/

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he US dollar will keep rising more or less in and of itself, simply because the Fed has ‘tapered QE’, and much of what happened in global credit markets, especially in emerging markets, was based on cheap and easily available dollars. There’s now $85 billion less of that each month than before the taper took it away in $10 billion monthly increments. The core is simple.

This is not primarily government debt, it’s corporate debt. But it’s still huge, and it has not just kept emerging economies alive since 2008, it’s given them the aura of growth. Which was temporary, and illusionary, all along. Just like in the rest of the world, Japan, EU, US. And, since countries can’t – or won’t – let their major companies fail, down the line it becomes public debt.

One major difference from the last emerging markets blow-up, in the late 20th century, is size: emerging markets today are half the world economy. And they’re about to be blown to smithereens. Sure, oil will play a part. But mostly it will be the greenback. And you know, we can all imagine what happens when you blow up half the global economy …

http://www.theautomaticearth.com/were-not-in-kansas-anymore/

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But as I’ve discussed many times already, oil is just the spark that sets the world ablaze. The fuel is energy credit, junk bonds, leveraged loans, collateralized loan obligations. And it will spread to adjacent instruments, and then to just about everything, because shorts and losses will have to be covered with any asset that can be sold, loans called in, margin calls issued, etc. Many of these items will end up being valued at 20-30 cents on the dollar at best, and since the whole edifice was built on leveraged credit, those valuations will in many cases mean a death in the family.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102261689

Oil has become the new housing bubble:

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The same thing that happened to the housing market in 2000 to 2006 has happened to the oil market from 2009 to 2014, contends well-known trader Rob Raymond of RCH Energy. And he believes that just as we witnessed the popping of the housing bubble, we are in the midst of the popping of the energy bubble. “It’s the outcome of a zero interest rate policy from the Federal Reserve. What’s happened from 2009 to 2014 is, the energy industry has outspent its cash flow by $350 billion to go drill all these wells, and create this supply ‘miracle,’ if you will, in the United States.”

“The issue with this has become, what were houses in Florida and Arizona in 2000 to 2006 became oil wells in North Dakota and Texas in 2009 to 2014, and most of that was funded in the high-yield market and by private equity.”

http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2014-12-14/oils-crash-canary-coal-mine-9-trillion-crisis

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The Oil story is being misinterpreted by many investors. When it comes to Oil, OPEC matters, as does Oil Shale, production cuts, geopolitical risk, etc. However, the reality is that all of these are minor issues against the MAIN STORY: the $9 TRILLION US Dollar carry trade. Drilling for Oil, producing Oil, transporting Oil… all of these are extremely expensive processes. Which means… unless you have hundreds of millions (if not billions) of Dollars in cash lying around… you’re going to have to borrow money.

Borrowing US Dollars is the equivalent of shorting the US dollar. If the US Dollar rallies, then your debt becomes more and more expensive to finance on a relative basis. There is a lot of talk of the “Death of the Petrodollar,” but for now, Oil is priced in US Dollars. In this scheme, a US Dollar rally is Oil negative. Oil’s collapse is predicated by one major event: the explosion of the US Dollar carry trade. Worldwide, there is over $9 TRILLION in borrowed US Dollars that has been ploughed into risk assets.

Energy projects, particularly Oil Shale in the US, are one of the prime spots for this. But it is not the only one. Emerging markets are another. Just about everything will be hit as well. Most of the “recovery” of the last five years has been fueled by cheap borrowed Dollars. Now that the US Dollar has broken out of a multi-year range, you’re going to see more and more “risk assets” (read: projects or investments fueled by borrowed Dollars) blow up. Oil is just the beginning, not a standalone story.

If things really pick up steam, there’s over $9 TRILLION worth of potential explosions waiting in the wings. Imagine if the entire economies of both Germany and Japan exploded and you’ve got a decent idea of the size of the potential impact on the financial system. And that’s assuming NO increased leverage from derivative usage. The story here is not Oil; it’s about a massive bubble in risk assets fueled by borrowed Dollars blowing up.

The last time around it was a housing bubble. This time it’s an EVERYTHING bubble. And Oil is just the canary in the coalmine.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/12/did-wall-street-need-to-win-the-derivatives-budget-fight-to-hedge-against-oil-plunge.html

So.  A global financial crises similar in scope and scale to the circa 2008 mess.  Government defaults abounding, banks and too-big-to-fail companies getting bailed out on the taxpayers backs, a large rise in unemployment globally, deflation in some locations, etc.  All the fun stuff.

In the face of this type of crises dealing with climate change will take a back seat.  It will be all about the politics of finding a path back to economic growth.

Anyway that is my take on the next year.  What is your's???

15
I have been following viddaloo's and SATire's posts in the Money and Politics thread and then came across the below link.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/12/climate-change-triage-protect-money-people.html

Needless to say I agree with both viddaloo and SATire.   We did need to start 30 years ago and we do need to get going now.  No meaningful progress has been made to date so, while it would have been intelligent to get going in the past,  dwelling on the should of's and the could of's from that time gets us no where.  The time is now and letting the deniers and the trolls delay action is just adding an few more pills to the suicidal overdose. 

Now I do not agree with the implications and conclusions of the link above but one can read enough take downs of it in the comments to the article in the blog it is in.

The link and the discussion in the other thread bring the discussion around once again to the elephants in the room; population levels, carbon emissions, affluence, power, politics, human nature and the like.

I hate to keep reiterating the basic situation but I guess it is necessary.

1.  Serious overpopulation which is growing rapidly
2.  Seriously excess consumption
3.  Very high carbon emissions which are still growing (see 1 & 2 above)
4.  Power and Politics are owned by the 1% affluent and do mostly their bidding
5.  Human nature focuses decisions only on the near term and traditional threats
6.  Resource depletion is resulting in constantly lowering EROEI numbers
7.  Carrying capacity numbers are rapidly getting worse
8.  Severe Climate Change impacts are certain and ramping up now. 

One could, of course, go on adding to the above list for some time depending on how fine of an aggregation we wanted to describe or the level of complexity of interrelated problems.  Everything impacts everything and feedbacks are legion and many unclear and some unknown.

Seeing where we are now on a global basis, what we already know is going to get much worse, the highly likely additional feedbacks which will worsen the situation, etc, etc, I will just boldly state once again... collapse on a catastrophic level is certain in the medium term (30-40 years) if we do not change our course from the BAU black and green versions.

Now I think we will do nothing to change the direction of this gigantic ship of civilization as it has speed, momentum, incalculable mass and it is heading directly for the nearby rocks.

BUT...today I will be 'optimistic" and start a discussion to dovetail in with SATire's comments.  The time is NOW and Triage is in effect.  (Triage for the uninitiated is a battle field term for dealing with the wounded and it means that you abandon those who will die no matter what you do, you do not treat those who's wounds will not kill them and you concentrate all efforts on those who will live if you help them.)  If we actually did this we do still have the ability to dramatically lessen (not eliminate) the scale of civilizational collapse and untold suffering so why not investigate the scope of what triage actually requires.

Triage is in effect.

Who and what do we decide to let (or help) die, who do we ignore, and what requires immediate action?  Remember -  if you waste time and resources on the ones (or things) which will die anyway you will lose many of those who would have lived if you had chosen wisely. It is a tough job and everyone will hate you pretty much.

I'll start first.

1.  Since we already know where there is more fossil fuels than we can ever afford to burn we immediately cease all further efforts at exploration and discovery of new sources of oil.

2.  Following the theme of No 1 we immediately cease all deep water oil production, all oil production which has costs over 50$ a barrel.

3.  We shut down the Canadian Tar sands oil production.

4.  We cease all fracking operations globally (no 2 pretty much takes care of this but let us be specific.

5.  We do not allow any new coal operations to be started and implement a mandatory 10% per year reduction in global coal consumption.  In other words burning coal after 2024 will be a death sentence.

6.  There will be NO COMPENSATION to the owners of the capital who take losses in any of items 1-5. Period - triage means you let them die.  If you compensate them then something which could live dies instead.  Someone has to take one for the team and it is their turn to step up.

7.  Production of all luxury passenger vehicles will cease immediately (to include Teslas) as will production of all mid and large size SUV's.  Production of large pickups will be severely curtailed and purchase of same will in the future require absolute proof of need.  No nice to have's or occasionally needed will be accepted.  Needless to say we will cease production of recreational vehicles of all kinds - you want to get out?  Take a walk or go for a run.

8.  Ownership of existing luxury cars, mid-size SUV's and large pickup's will be phased out over a 5 year period.  Compensation will be given to those who trade these types of vehicles in during that time period for small fuel efficient vehicles on a prorated basis.  If you wait the whole 5 years to the final deadline to trade them in you get zero compensation.

8A.  Ownership of personal vehicles will be banned after 2030.  This gives sufficient time for reconfiguring housing, working and transportation networks.  Individual use of vehicles after that date will require proof of need, will be very expensive and will come from a common motor pool.

9.  Permits for new home construction in the US will mandate that all dwellings in towns or cities be multi-family types with a total square footage not to exceed 500 sq ft per bedroom (studies and dens count as bedrooms).  New single family homes will only be allowed for rural farming operations. 

10.  Existing homes above 5000 sq ft will be put on a schedule for dismantling and cannibalization for use in new construction and/or repair of proper sized housing.  There will be NO COMPENSATION for the above losses incurred by the owners - triage principals apply.

11.  All ocean going cruise lines will be immediately shut down and their ships cannibalized for proper more important purposes.  Once again - no compensation.  An exception to this will be ships converted to passenger traffic to move people across oceans as regular air plane passenger traffic will cease (see item 12).

12.  Airline travel will be restricted to the following uses; business (proof required and conventions do not count), attending funerals, what else?  No tourist travel or non-emergency travel allowed via air planes.  You want to visit someone get on a train or a boat.

13.  No cross-country driving in a vehicle for tourist reasons either (maybe a limit of 500 miles if I am generous).  Take a bus or train.

14.  Personally owned swimming pools will be banned and their removal verified (this is a personal bug - I live in AZ and in the Phoenix metro area there are near 200,000 swimming pools as well as privately owned man made lakes so people can live by the water).  You want to swim go to the YMCA as I do or to the city pool.

15....?

I am having too much fun I think.  It is someone else's turn.






16
The rest / Ursula Le Guin
« on: December 29, 2014, 04:57:35 PM »
This video actually choked me up a bit. 

http://billmoyers.com/2014/12/27/ursula-le-guin-will-need-writers-can-remember-freedom/

For those who don't know who Le Guin is, she is one of the most visionary Sci Fi writers ever.  Her writings were a big boost for me 40-50 years ago.

17
The rest / How do you get here? - from there???
« on: December 25, 2014, 09:33:53 PM »
A little bit of New Year's reflection. 

I often have to deal with responses to my comments about where we are going to end up in a civilizational sense due to Climate Change and energy supply issues.  The level of incomprehension I run into I must admit I often find staggering.  The minimum wage stare (or written equivalent) otherwise called the deer in the headlights look is often priceless as they say, but also a bit disheartening.  I often hear or read comments that indicate the person responding has never actually thought about the situation in depth nor has any understanding of the cause and effect of things.  For them to hear me talk (or read what I have written) amounts to the equivalent of having someone say that they can prove God does not exist. They are horrified and I get immediate rejection not because what I have to say does not make perfect sense, but because if they listen to me and arrive at the same conclusions it means that almost nothing about the way they live their lives and how they view the prospects of the future has any validity any more.  This is a terrifying prospect for almost everyone and is an individual example of the current global civilizational response to our situation.

So, where is "Here" and how did we get here?  "Here" can actually be found just by reading my posts here on the Forum over the last couple of years in detail as well as the thoughtful responses to them.  There is a large body of my work out there on this blog and others over the last 2 years that amounts to some 400 thousand words.  So I not only do not want to repeat all of that here, but I actually could not unless I sat down and wrote a book on the subject (which I have actually spent some time on, but chose not to go forward with).

It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads my work that I hold the opinions I try and articulate with some strength of grip and tenacity.  If those questioning what I have put forward cannot demonstrate a clear and deep understanding of the science behind the issues (physics), the engineering issues involved, the economic issues involved, and (biggest of all) the human nature issues involved, I do not feel they have any business advocating for specific solutions.  It is like discussing world affairs with a teenager who, due to lack of education, life experience and the maturity of years, is just not capable of comprehension.  They are passionate...but clueless.

Just below I will give a macro non-nuanced snapshot of where "Here" is.  And then to the main point of this post - the journey from "There" to "Here".  A road does exist and, while difficult to follow, it does connect the two places.

Here:
Climate Change is REAL and unequivocal.
Climate Change is the greatest challenge of human history
The number 1 driver of climate change is population levels
Population is increasing rapidly
Population levels are driven by available per capita energy supplies
The number 1 energy issue is EROEI which is in serious decline from peak levels
Human population is wildly over the Earth's carrying capacity
ALL cheap dense sources of both energy and resources are gone or dwindling quickly
The global environment is severely damaged and rapidly getting worse
The base of the food chain (the oceans) is in a critical state and collapse is on the horizon
Global food production is facing the headwinds of loss of top soil, water supplies, energy EROEI, sea level rise, unstable weather, crop diseases, etc, etc.
Economic conditions around the globe are supported only by borrowing heavily from the future via debt, exceeding the Earth's carrying capacity and living off a point source of millions of years of stored solar energy (whose use is driving climate change and must therefore cease)
The time when one could have conceivably started a global program to successfully adapt to and mitigate the above passed about 30-40 years ago.
It is no longer possible to avoid catastrophic climate change and all we are waiting for is to see how bad it is going to be.  Everyday of our current approach makes the end game more difficult.
The fundamental driver of our inability to deal with the above facts is our basic human nature and method of arriving at decisions and taking action.  It is hardwired into our brains by a few million years of evolution.  For almost all humans there is nothing in our makeup that provides the ability to make rational decisions about anything more than short-term issues.  We are fight or flight wired like all animals and even the most rational clear thinking human makes almost all decisions subconsciously and then justifies them with some pseudo-rational after the fact justification.  In a group setting the above process falls apart completely and results in something that makes even worse decisions.
Civilization as we know it with its vast population, levels of resource consumption, staggering complexities and almost limitless layers of technology cannot and will not continue given the above.  And it will not.  Period.  There is just no way past that statement.

Is the above the end of the world?  No.  But we are getting a different world.  Pursuing BAU's via they be Green or Black is a form of suicide.  I want to live not die (in a species sense), so I look on BAU proponents as purveyors of evil.  As their path leads not to an optimistic future but to death.

The future:  (to digress a bit here on what I think will happen)
"We" will continue to run BAU with a slow transition from the black version to the green version and it will make zero difference as the facts indicate.  Basic human nature dictates this decision path.  "We" will experience a dramatic civilizational collapse which will (over some period of time) result in a total population which is just a faction of our peak.  That great die-off will commence within the lives of those who are under 30 years old at the latest and it will last for generations.  Capitalism as a global economic system will disappear as it depends on economic growth, debt and cheap energy and we will return to older forms of economic structures - feudal structures most likely.  Many technologies will disappear from use entirely due to the lack of resources and energy to maintain extreme complexity.  Others will only be available to the few. Life will not end but it will return to more old fashioned forms of organization.  Many of the most cherished themes of the highly industrialized and incredibly wealthy countries will largely fade from the scene - i.e. freedom, equal rights, feminism, sexual rights, religious freedom and so on - thus a return to historical norms.  I do not advocate ANY of this.  I just see it as inevitable as the world returns to the rule by rough men and we all become much poorer.

Finally we get to the main point.  How does one gain the knowledge to really understand that the above IS going to happen in the macro form.

The Journey.

This is my journey. I fully accept that I am not a normal person.  But I am also certain that I can add value in a way that, if not unique, is somewhat rare.  I do not think hardly any are capable of making the journey I have made for a variety of reasons; mostly due to human nature constraints, but also due to the requirements of needing a certain kind of personality (which runs counter to many of those tenets of basic nature) as well as unusual life experience and a solid grounding in physics, engineering and the function of economic structures.  But it can be done.

To begin with one must set aside religion as the source of miracles and the reason for existence.  Accept the world for what it is and how it functions and that we are responsible for our actions.  I got thrown out of Sunday school about the age of 10 because I insisted that the Sunday school teacher answer my question about if God created the universe then who created god.  I still read books on this subject 50 years later.  I washed my hands of non-rational arguments about that time and proceeded from there.  I did not drift into a great love of science and math as one might imagine, but rather towards the philosophical disciplines.  This is where the pinnacle of human intellectual achievement lies.  All of the earliest great thinkers whom we think of as the early scientists, were from the philosophical arenas.  Math as well as scientific rigor is an out growth of logic.  I grew up in a family where I was one of the least intelligent in terms of raw IQ and our house reverberated with intense discussions of the why and what for. My father and both my grandfathers were engineers and my mother, who had a masters degree, was just as brilliant as my father.  Needless to say I got my head handed to me on a daily basis for a long time as my mind underwent development.  The only way to hold ones own was utterly unemotional fact based logical reasoning which included not only an understanding of physics and math, but also the underlying reasons that decisions are made and arrived at which seem to contradict clear thought.  I, being a typical young idealist of the 60's, struggled mightily with this dichotomy of life.  My brother, the PhD in math, multiple degrees from MIT, masters degrees in logic and computer science, helped me a lot by explaining to me that real deep thought required one to set aside the things in our brains that make us human for a time and to become just an impartial observer of reality.  You have to divorce yourself from your feelings and emotions to think clearly and rationally.  A very difficult thing to do and no one succeeds at it all the time.

During the course of my working professional life my job required me to combine my formal education in engineering and my background in attempting to think from a very rational unemotional point of view to help execute, plan and eventually direct actions which put at risk my life and the lives of many others, and which sometimes took lives. A government job supporting the empire.  One thing you learn in this type of environment is that optimists die young.  Your only chance of a high rate of success in such a job is to be a committed pessimist who is certain that if every eventuality is not taken into account and planned for it will go wrong and someone will die. Such an approach is the only reason I am alive today.  It is fine to be an optimist about your chances of dating that smoking hot cheerleader in high school, but when lives are on the line, especially the lives of everyone, being an optimist is not just a sloppy way of thinking but is the definition of being a fool.

When I left the above very busy life in 2004 I started to take more time to study issues which had been nagging at my mind from my casual readings.  The main ones being Peak Oil and Climate Change and, at that time and to a lessor degree, economic issues.  I have a lifetime interest in environmental issues and was already well versed in them.  I have a long familiarity with farming issues due to both my parents and my wife's parents growing up on farms.  I owned and operated an organic farming operation until 2012. From 2004 to the present I have spent untold hours studying and thinking about climate change, energy issues and all the related sub-issues mentioned above.  I have tried to apply all of my background to as rigorously work my way through the facts to see where they lead.  I strongly think they lead to the above location labeled "Here".

In my journey I have found compelling evidence and help in many locations.  Some of the most useful I am listing below.  I do not always agree with all of what they say there (and while I will not tell you who I am there I am present in many of the discussion under one of my other internet names) and my conclusions are sometimes different.  But often in a nuanced way and not as a large disagreement.

The Oil Drum blog - no longer active but available as archives. This site has a monstrous amount of information and data which, though it would take much time to go through and learn, can provide the best overall education in understanding energy issues, EROEI, the fossil fuel industry, economics, many technologies and such.  It was one of the more rigorous venues on the internet in terms of using math, science and logic to explain things.  If one works their way through this site one can gain a deep understanding of energy issues and supporting complex technologies.  If you leave out the chattering media masses and just look at the body of work and the real world data of today you realize that the Peak Oil folks hit the nail right on the head.

Limits to Growth:  The original famous study was published in 1972 by a team of MIT researchers (no my brother was not one of them) with follow up works in 1992, 2002 and 2012.  Contrary to the BAU mythology about these works being wildly wrong they have turned out to be eerily prescient.  We are dead on the track to the possible civilizational collapse forecast detailed in the 1972 work (forecast being if you don't change your ways this is where you are headed).  All the subsequent works have served to strongly reinforce the conclusions found in the original and added along the way.  Read these works.  In forty years we have not changed the trajectory of the curves in any meaningful way.  Proponents of BAU should think really hard about what is said in these works and what they are always choosing to support.  You just can not sugar coat the phrase suicidal tendencies.

The ArchDruid Report.  Yes I am suggesting you read the entire body of work on a religious man's site.  John Michael Greer is one of the most gifted and articulate writers of today and provides perhaps the best line of reasoning on energy, climate change and civilizational collapse I have seen.  While I do not agree with all of his conclusions (my most significant disagreement being over the rate of collapse) there is not a better articulated line of reasoning in existence on these subjects that I am aware of.

The Naked Capitalism blog.  Economics, debt, banking, impactful news. 

Read Jared Diamond and Joseph Tainter on the collapse of civilizations.

If you are very technical read the bulk of the RealClimate blog. 

Read and study the issues presented on the blog Skeptical Science.

Read the OpenMind blog.

Read and study publications on food production.

Study economic systems and how and under what circumstances they function.

Observe the significant and continuing disintegration of the industrialized countries. 

Study what is involved in the building of large complex technological systems.  And note that the US is incapable of properly maintaining its road, electrical, water and sewer systems already. 

Really think about the scale of change required to follow the Green BAU policies, the resource requirements, the time required to execute them, the need to service a constantly growing population, the fact that we have already passed the point of ending up with a climate catastrophe and declining wealth which follows declining EROEI.

There are many other good sources of course, but the above should be sufficient if one makes a real effort.

Our basic human nature tells us to run and hide from threats.   Only when cornered do we fight.  So that is what almost everyone is doing.  They are hiding behind soothing rhetoric and sticking to some version of BAU because reality is so scary they cannot wrap their minds around it.  But we ARE in the corner and we have to do whatever is necessary.

The point is not about someone being a bad person because they bring up a distasteful subject like the critical need to immediately implement rapid population reductions. 

One is not a good person because they find such thoughts distasteful.

What is important is doing what is required to mitigate the massive suffering which facts and logic says is inevitable.  We ARE going to suffer a civilizational collapse and a dramatic population reduction.  Again.  Just like we have had happen many times before. Yes, this time it IS different.  But not in a good way.  You cannot deny the laws of physics.  This time we have foolishly exceeded our carrying capacity across the entire globe as well as seriously caused a significant reduction in the globes carrying capacity compared to the past and initiated a further large reduction in the future carrying capacity via climate change.  There is simply no way out of the situation.

To continue BAU practices as long as possible (the choice of about 99% of the people) just serves to continue the burning of the candle from both ends.  It in no way prevents collapse.  It is highly probable that it brings collapse forward in time.  But most importantly it continues to use up precious resources needed for post collapse reconstruction as well as making the end result of climate change much worse.  Thus BAU versions black and green will result in the maximum amount of suffering.  Not the least.

So I say that the choice in this discussion about who's approach to the problem is the most concerned with preventing human suffering, which would result in the least amount of harm overall, which would give the greatest chances for rebuilding sometime in the future, which is the most humane and just and moral...is mine.

18
Policy and solutions / Oil and Gas Issues
« on: May 13, 2014, 04:38:18 PM »
Seems like a good topic to have as we are always talking about it and it certainly is very important  To start...

Mexico has finally ended their unusual policy of not allowing international oil/gas companies into the country.  This means that there will be a huge surge in that direction - especially from the US.  Expect a big boom in production within a couple of years that resembles the fracking boom in the US.

Quote
"No Turning Back:" Mexico's Looming Fracking and Offshore Oil and Gas Bonanza

After generations of state control, Mexico’s vast oil and gas reserves will soon open for business to the international market.

In December 2013, Mexico’s Congress voted to break up the longstanding monopoly held by the state-owned oil giant Petroleos Mexicanos — commonly called Pemex — and to open the nation’s oil and gas reserves to foreign companies.

The constitutional reforms appear likely to kickstart a historic hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and deepwater offshore oil and gas drilling bonanza off the Gulf of Mexico.....

...Proponents for Mexico’s energy reforms envision a gold rush. They argue the constitutional amendments and accompanying secondary legislation still up for debate in the Mexican legislature could add as much as $35 billion in outside investment into the national coffers.

Pemex says $25 to $60 billion could come its way as a result of joint ventures it can now sign with international oil and gas companies,
......

If the reforms bring about the production spike hoped for by Pemex and Mexican officials, the country could be among the world’s oil-producing giants by 2025.

Mexico’s Reserves: Where and How Big?

Mexico sits on nearly 14 billion barrels of oil in proven reserves, according to Pemex. The Oil and Gas Journal pegged it at 10.2 billion barrels at the end of 2011. But that’s just what they know they have.

The country’s unexplored oil reserve potential is second only to the Arctic Circle, according to Bloomberg and others reporting on the reforms.

Pemex estimates, as reported by Bloomberg, that deep-water Gulf of Mexico prospects could be as large as 26.6 billion barrels of oil. Onshore, there are potentially 60 billion barrels yet untapped.
...

As part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 (Section 303), President Barack Obama signed off on U.S.-Mexico Transboundary Hydrocarbons Agreement in December 2013, which “establishes a framework for U.S. offshore oil and gas companies and [Pemex] to jointly develop transboundary reservoirs.”

The bill lifts the floodgates for industry to tap into more than 1.6 million acres of offshore oil and gas.
...

Pemex estimates there could be more than 300 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas in the Burgos. And the U.S. Congressional Research Service pointed out in a January 2014 report that Mexico may have the fifth largest tight oil reserves and fourth largest tight gas reserves in the world.

This is largely due to the portion of the Eagle Ford formation that stretches south of the border.
....

Once this gets rolling it will be almost unstoppable.  Huge investments, big rise in wealth, lots of jobs, political corruption, economic growth.....

An interesting side effect is that once it is up and running it will put downward pressure on natural gas prices and add to the adverse effect that has on nuclear and renewable power generation.

http://www.desmogblog.com/2014/05/12/no-turning-back-mexico-looming-fracking-and-offshore-oil-and-gas-bonanza

19
Consequences / General Drought Stuff
« on: May 01, 2014, 09:29:36 PM »
I could not find a natural place for the below so I started a new thread.  If the El Nino happens I expect we will have lots of other new places to add to this one.

Big drought in central Africa.

NASA satellites show drought taking toll on Congo rainforest

Quote
23 April 2014 (NASA) – A new analysis of NASA satellite data shows Africa's Congo rainforest, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, has undergone a large-scale decline in greenness over the past decade.

It's important to understand these changes because most climate models predict tropical forests may be under stress due to increasing severe water shortages in a warmer and drier 21st century climate," Zhou said. .....

http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2014/04/nasa-satellites-show-drought-taking.html

20
Policy and solutions / Human Nature - rears its ugly head
« on: April 29, 2014, 08:05:37 PM »
Like many here I suspect, I have been blogging for many years now on climate change, energy issues, sustainability and so on with some sort of goal in the back of my mind that I was doing this for more than simple amusement.  I think it fair to state that almost all of the posters here - and elsewhere-  are very passionate in their interest and are motivated by the desire to seek some sort of solution to our problems.  Or perhaps in the case of some proponents of BAU in preventing the rest of us from trying to solve problems which they do not believe exist. 

In my simple world model of this situation I break us all down into three basic groups; the BAU group, the Green-BAU group, and the small group who have come to the conclusion that collapse is certain.  I obviously fall in the latter group.  If I were forced to estimate the relative size of these three groups I would guesstimate that the two BAU groups are roughly equal in size at this time and between them make up near 100% of the population.  There are naturally hard core members of each group as well as those towards the middle who vacillate back and forth between the two general viewpoints.  But, from my latest perspective, there are no great differences between the two groups.  And the desired civilizational/technological direction of both groups is pretty similar and they will result in pretty much the same outcome - catastrophic collapse.  I have been thinking about the above the last couple of weeks and realized that the viewpoint I have been arguing with the most frequently over my years of blogging has been the group I have come to call the Green-BAU viewpoint.  This may have been a result of my thinking that the BAU crowd is so wired into their mode of thinking that there is no point in taking up the writing cudgel and beating them about the head an ears or it may be because I find some common ground with the Green-BAU group.  I do think that anyone who moves to my viewpoint is very likely to be moving out of the Green crowd and not the BAU crowd.  At least I used to think that way, but now I am not so sure.

Over the last few weeks I have read a couple of thousand posts on RealClimate going back to about Dec (mostly in the Unforced Variations topics) and I am coming to the conclusion that my assumption at the end of the above paragraph is not accurate.  RealClimate for those of you who do not know is a blog run by a group of very top level world class climate scientists (to include Gavin Schmidt, Michael Mann & Stefan Rahmstorf) and has up until recently had a very strict posting policy oriented towards very scientific posts on the topics of climate change.  Thus it is interesting to read at times, but they do not in general address the most significant problems related to AGW - i.e. human factors.  This posting policy seems to have been relaxed the last few months and a more free flowing level of discussions has occurred.  And a much more vigorous  discussion as well - more like the ones we have here on the Forum.  While the site owners/moderators have not materially contributed to these discussions as one would expect of prominent scientists due to the reputational risk, the regular posters have been very active and as such it has provided a great opportunity to see into the minds of folks who are much more scientifically credentialed and oriented than is the norm here on the Forum.  What do I think I have learned from this exposure to the inner workings of the minds of very strong proponents of the Green-BAU viewpoint - as almost all of them fit into this group?

First and foremost is further proof of the findings of the studies of human nature and thought which find that almost everyone subconsciously determines what their conclusion is and then rationalizes an argument to support the unconscious decision.   The couple of thousand posts I read are replete with examples of posts by authors, who on scientific subjects are very calm, mathematical and reasoned, becoming very emotional and quickly resorting to insults, personal attacks and faith based arguments.  This begs the question as to why this is occurring in a group which one would naturally assume was the most objective and rational subset of people to be found - professionally trained and practicing scientists/engineers. The seeming obvious answer is that this is because the average scientist is no more capable of overcoming the dictates of the evolutionary stamp impressed upon the workings of the human brain than the average joe.  A few generations of the scientific method in no way overcome the 2 million years of evolution which wired the human brain for short-term survival.  In the face of extremely strong evidence that they themselves helped to collect the scientist/technologists are just as incapable of rationally coming to a conclusion as the plain old vanilla BAU group is.  They are just as focused on doubling down on a faith in technical progress and endless growth as everyone else is and will not even discuss the implications of the data which they are helping collect.  A perfect example of short-term human thinking and discounting the future for the present.

So where does this leave me - or perhaps leave a few of us.  If one comes to the conclusion that left to its own proclivities either group will rush headlong into collapse and that it makes little, if any, difference which group someone belongs to, then who is an ally in search of survival and who is not.  Convincing someone to move from the BAU crowd to the Green-BAU crowd serves almost no purpose what-so-ever.  And it makes almost no difference which group holds political power if their policies work to the same effect. 

Over the years I have spent a lot of time pointing out counter examples to Green-BAU arguments - renewables, coal, empire, agriculture, nuclear, etc. some 1300 posts here on the Forum alone - in a vain attempt to connect the dots of the data and point to what seems, to me anyway, a clear path to a logical conclusion that neither the BAU approach or the Green-BAU approach has any chance of preventing collapse and both approaches will lead to a much worse collapse than one planned for.  Almost never does anyone actually understand or choose to recognize the argument, much less respond to it.  This is also clearly the case over at RealClimate.  I have focused the vast majority of my efforts on those who do not fall into the standard BAU group in the belief that those most likely to be able to comprehend the arguments were those most trained to follow a rational thought process.  I no longer believe that to be the case I guess as I think I have come to the conclusion that there is no meaningful difference between the two groups and neither will come to their senses until catastrophe is staring them in the face.  Then, as human nature dictates, everyone will panic. 

In the meantime global CO2 emissions rose another 2+% in 2013 and are now some 36+Gtonnes (39+ Gton US) and presumably still climbing.  US emissions rose 2% in 2013 after declines for a few years and are projected to stay higher thru 2015.  We are 'still' completely wrapped around the axle and ignoring reality as hard as we can.

It is pretty depressing in a way, even if to be expected.   

21
Policy and solutions / The Manhattan Project concept
« on: April 19, 2014, 06:36:35 PM »
Why the Manhattan Project model is not executable in today's world.


A very common suggestion is seen often in posts describing what we need to do to deal with AGW.  That is the Manhattan Project model of actions as executed by the US in WWII.

I have always shied away from this model for several reasons.  I do not think most posters actually understand what the US did in WWII nor do I think that it can be extrapolated to a global level in today's world.

Let's see what we can figure out.


Now most people think of the Manhattan Project as being a hugely massive undertaking which consumed the entire wealth and productive capacity of the US during the war - with the exception of the wealth and resources used to actually field the armies and do the fighting.  One might note that there is a serious discrepancy already creeping into the 'real story' here as the US military had 10 million men under arms and was making hundred of planes every day, dozens of ships, hundreds of tanks, etc.  So how big was the Manhattan Project?

Quote
The Manhattan Project was a research and development project that produced the first atomic bombs during World War II. It was led by the United States with the support of the United Kingdom and Canada....The Manhattan Project began modestly in 1939, but grew to employ more than 130,000 people and cost nearly US$2 billion (about $26 billion in 2014[1] dollars). Over 90% of the cost was for building factories and producing the fissile materials, with less than 10% for development and production of the weapons. Research and production took place at more than 30 sites across the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manhattan_Project

Pretty interesting isn't it?  $26 billion in today's dollars spent over 6 years.  The Project was not even a small part of the US war effort.  Not in terms of wealth, resources or manpower. Let alone a global effort.

A key component to how the US fought the war is very relevant here as well as it has great implications in the needs for fighting AGW,   President Roosevelt  essentially tossed out the US constitution for the duration of the war and the US was run as a command economy.  Essentially as a fascist state.  In other words to execute a 'total war' strategy required a suspension of democracy in any meaningful sense. 

This, of course, is one of the prime requirements facing us in dealing with AGW in that most (all?) proposed solutions which could actually have a substantial effect require a command economy and decision making and enforcement on a gloal scale.  A single world government.  There is no greater single item in all of global human relations more fraught with trouble than this suggestion.  Virtually everyone would be opposed to such a creation and many would fight to the death to keep it from happening.  Especially here in the United States.  I joke frequently that a One World Government is ok with us Americans as long as we are the ones running it.  But, as with all jokes, there is a grain of truth in what I say.  There will be no such government unless we the Americans are in charge of it.  And any group of nations which went their own way on this and attempted such a creation we would crush without a second thought.  I am not exaggerating here.  So unless all of you are willing to agree to such a solution it is best that you take this off the table as a suggestion.

Resources are another big issue with this idea.  In 1940 the US was still awash with vast amounts of resources.  We had lots of capacity and could burn through it as was needed.  We were beyond sustainability of course, but no one would have cared as we were in close too total war and victory was essential.  In today's world there is not a wealth of untapped resources and there are a host of competing critical needs after those same resources.  Simply maintaining living standards for the additional 30% growth in the population by 2050 will suck up most of the spare resources, or resources we could redirect, that we have available today.  This is a huge issue that is completely ignored by those advocating huge buildouts of various technologies.   Rising population and rising affluence take all the slack and then some out of the global system thus not leaving the resources to execute global full commitment projects.  Additionally, many of the technology buildouts seem to require more strategic minerals than are known to be obtainable.

A significant number of the global systems which make up our complex civilization are in meaningful decline or under serious stress, and all indications are that they are going to get worse fast. Global growth is a paradigm which will not soon be relinquished.  This drive to growth is held and executed by every government on earth and the wealth of the global rich is intrinsically tied up in it.  Global finances are under severe strain and the system is very fragile.  Should it undergo significant contraction, as is very possible in the near-term and likely in the mid-term, it will constrain the ability to execute any new technology buildouts. Absent global growth it will not be possible under our current financial system to fund infrastructure as we do now.   As the system is currently run you cannot use someone's wealth to build it unless you guarantee them a big profit.  This is exactly what was done in the US during WWII. the wealthy owners of the infrastructure needed to conduct the war were guaranteed huge profits for commanding them to shift production to what the government wanted made. But there is no profit to be made in the situation generated by AGW because we are in the position that we have to spend our savings to do the buildout (for instance, all fossil fuel infrastructure value and the value of the untapped resources has to be written off - wiped out- with NO compensation to the owners).  This is not a situation designed to guarantee cooperation.  Food production is going to be stressed and will eventually end up in a shortage situation.  Water supplies are going to be short.  Sea level is going to rise.  Countries are going to collapse.  You have to be able to execute your plan in this environment or it is not a viable plan. 

The effects of AGW are cumulative and incessantly degrading.  What we could do today if we started today we will not be able to do tomorrow as the global system is degrading all the time.  Resources are degrading all the time and the Earth's carrying capacity is degrading all the time.  Solutions proposed need to take into account how long it would take us to create the global situation which is required BEFORE we begin to execute said solution.  This is not being done by anyone yet.  Not the IPCC folks, not the renewable energy folks, not the nuclear power advocates.  No one.  If it is going to take you 20 years to overhaul the global political and financial system before you can create the situation where you could start to execute your plan then the plan must assume from the start what wealth and resources will be available to execute the plan in 20 years.  Not from today as that gives you the wrong answer.  We see this problem all the time in statements like "If we start today....".  Well that is just bull crap as everyone knows that it is not possible to start today.  This type of language is manipulation of opinion only.  And let us not forget time.  We do NOT have all that much time left before AGW degrades the global systems sufficiently that conditions will stop progress on many suggested plans.  If your plan requires 40 years to execute then it is not a plan that is valid as we do not have that much time.

The suggested plans to completely replace our power and energy infrastructure with renewables, or a combination of renewables and nuclear, fail to pass the above time test.  If one reviews the actual text of these plans (not the posts of those advocating them but the actual academic level work) one sees that all of them indicate that the buildouts will take until somewhere in the neighborhood of 2050 or longer to complete.  All of the plans assume continued economic growth, assume availability of all resources needed, assume global governance, ignore population growth and its demand on resources, ignore the degrading effects of AGW, completely ignore the norms of human behavior in times of stress - perhaps the single most important point of all, ignore national and global strategic interests, and so on.  In other words the plans ignore the real world.
 
Everything should be evaluated in terms of what can be executed in the real world not from a faith based perspective.  If your plan depends on the world accomplishing something which has never been done before then you must have a solid argument as to how it can be done for the first time.  If you are just assuming that it will happen you are basing your opinion on faith not reason.  The current versions of replacing our power and energy systems with renewables, or a combination of renewables and nuclear, are not taking real world considerations into account and are thus based upon faith not reason. 

About this time, or long before it, many people reading such a post as this will have thrown up their hands and will be complaining about my being a defeatist.  That we have to have optimism or we will not succeed.  I am going to be blunt here.  Such a complaint is just stupid.  I am not saying there is no fix to our problems and that we should do nothing.  What I am saying is that we need to stop listening to fools who are unable to evaluate the problem, who lack the ability to see the problem at all, who are incapable of seeing that what we need to do is to ensure survival first and foremost, who are bought and sold by some unknown interest, who are blind for some other reason.  This is a hard, a very hard extremely hard, problem and simple solutions are not passing the test.  We need to man up and discard them and dig down and figure out what can actually be accomplished and when and with what we will have available.  This is the only location from which a solution can come from.  The answer may well be an unpalatable one but that is reality and we go from there to any solution.

22
Policy and solutions / Canada - The Americanization there of
« on: April 17, 2014, 09:11:18 PM »
For Terry and to start a dialogue about the growing conservatism being manifest in wealthy countries around the world.  See Australia and the austerity movements in Europe. None of this bodes well for dealing with AGW.

Quote
What Happened to Canada?

The left has long admired Canada as an enclave of social democracy in North America: for its openly socialist electoral parties, its robust welfare state, and its more moderate policy profile. Recent developments, however, have thrown that reputation into question. The country is helmed by a prime minister, Stephen Harper, known for his brazenly right-wing views and executive unilateralism. Both federal and provincial governments have embraced austerity and eroded public services. And Canada’s newly aggressive exploitation of its natural resources has it trampling on civil liberties and reneging on its international obligations like, as Foreign Policy put it, a “rogue, reckless petrostate.”

Quote
What is happening in Canada is part of a much larger trend: the formidable disciplinary forces of late capitalism are exerting themselves everywhere, including in other western democracies, where governments are scaling back social programs while lavishing tax concessions and subsidies on industry. The European Union and the United States are similarly absorbing market shocks on behalf of business while allowing downturns to undermine the poor and working class. If Canada is becoming indulgent of, even slavish toward, its resource industry (the biggest contributor to GDP), it is arguably no more so than the United States in relation to its banking sector, which was never brought to heel despite causing the 2008 collapse.

Quote
Just how has this agenda secured such a hold on government? And why haven’t Canadians voted it out at the polls?

The answer has to do with a deliberate attempt, by a handful of media outlets and political strategists, to push the entire Canadian political spectrum to the right, importing rhetoric that bears little relationship to the country’s own intellectual history.

Quote
To prosecute its G8 status as one of the world’s largest economies, Canada seems willing to play the short-term strategy of reaping resource-based profits instead of developing sustainable growth or economic diversity. And to do so, it appears willing to comprise civil liberties, democratic integrity, and environmental safety no less than other, less developed countries that rely on resource extraction.

The evidence is chilling. The government has required Environment Canada scientists to obtain permission before speaking to the media, sent government escorts to accompany researchers participating in international conferences, and reclassified entire swaths of research findings as “confidential.” Meanwhile, as protests have arisen to the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway pipeline projects, the government has sent spies to intimidate community organizers, and reclassified Greenpeace and aboriginal groups as “extremist threats.” Documents obtained through freedom of information requests reveal that the Canadian government has even shared intelligence information with resource companies about admittedly peaceful groups and individuals posing “challenges to projects.”

In addition, the government has shuttered dozens of libraries and environmental research centers, and in December literally burned or landfilled centuries’ worth of materials on Canadian natural resources such as forests and waterways under the mendacious pretext of digitizing records, and at significant cost.

Comments?

http://nplusonemag.com/what-happened-to-canada

23
Policy and solutions / The 2014 US elections and climate policy
« on: April 15, 2014, 03:24:22 PM »
SATire asked a question about US policy in the Coal Thread the other day about what the US might do policy wise in the near term and I was just writing another note about it and decided it was enough of a different topic that I would start a new one. So I will copy the original here and a couple of the posts related to it.



Do you see any chance that USA could sign a treaty in Paris next year? What could be done to convince the American poeple to do so? Would they agree to shut down "Bakker in Dakota" and "Athabasca oil sands" in Canada if Germany shuts down "Rheinisches Braunkohlerevier"?

An interesting question and suitable for a bunch of posts I expect.  My opinion...

The US is entering another one of its interminable election seasons (every two years with long campaigns which end in Nov of even years).  This election is for the Senators and Congressmen but not for President.  The US is a very conservative country overall with the exception that the youngest voting generation - The Millennials - is about 75% liberal (by the US definition).  However, in the US historically the young do not vote much so the impact of the Millennials is likely to be muted and until they assert power via the ballot box the political powers resident in the Republican and Democratic parties will not pay attention to them beyond some passifying rhetoric.  Both of the main US political parties in election seasons drift to the political right in general in order to win their individual elections.  The usual situation in an election like this one is for the party of the President to lose seats.   The polling and various experts expect this to happen once again.  The new Congress which will be seated following this election is almost certainly going to be more conservative than the current one and there is a strong possibility (some think more than that) that both the Senate and the House will be under Republican control following the election.

In the event that we end up with a more conservative Congress but not totally under Republican control one can expect pretty much a continuation of the current status.  No international environment agreements would be possible, a reduction in supports for renewables, a weakening of environmental regulations, and so forth.  BAU. 

In the event that Republican gain complete control of Congress it will be much worse than the above on AGW and environmental issues.  Either Obama will be resorting to using his veto power frequently or there will be even bigger negative impacts on trying to reduce carbon emissions, deal with AGW and environmental regulations.   BAU with a vengeance.

I expect, in an attempt to help the election prospects of vulnerable Democratic candidates, that Obama will approve the Keystone Pipeline as this would be a significant boost for a few of them.  Reports are that Obama does not accept the risk of the Tar Sands oil and looks at the opposition to the pipeline with some annoyance and this would ease his decision.  Obama is fundamentally a conservative as all main line politicians in the US are and his non-social views are directly in line with those of the first President Bush.  Do not expect much from him on AGW or environmental issues.

A long way to get to an answer. 

Do not expect the US to sign any treaty and if they do it will not be enforced.
The American people do not get to decide such things nor are they consulted.
There would be no chance of an agreement to shut down the Bakken and stop using Tar Sands oil.  We are going to expand such efforts for the foreseeable future.

Note:  It is the 2016 election we need to really be worried about.  Should the Republicans win the Presidency then it will likely make the problems we have now and the new ones generated by this years election seen small in comparison.  Not that Hillary Clinton would be much different than Obama if she won, but the alternative is scary.  Things can certainly get worse.

Note:  It is the 2016 election we need to really be worried about.  Should the Republicans win the Presidency then it will likely make the problems we have now and the new ones generated by this years election seen small in comparison.  Not that Hillary Clinton would be much different than Obama if she won, but the alternative is scary.  Things can certainly get worse.

Do you honestly believe it makes a real difference which party gets in? The sound bites might vary a little but on the whole I would say policy has been almost rock steady from one party to the next.

The illusion of choice, the pacifier of the masses, a convenient scapegoat to shield the corporations when the wheels really start to come off... what else are the politicians any good for?

Note:  It is the 2016 election we need to really be worried about.  Should the Republicans win the Presidency then it will likely make the problems we have now and the new ones generated by this years election seen small in comparison.  Not that Hillary Clinton would be much different than Obama if she won, but the alternative is scary.  Things can certainly get worse.

Do you honestly believe it makes a real difference which party gets in? The sound bites might vary a little but on the whole I would say policy has been almost rock steady from one party to the next.

The illusion of choice, the pacifier of the masses, a convenient scapegoat to shield the corporations when the wheels really start to come off... what else are the politicians any good for?

If we elect a Republican president and the party controls both the House and the Senate, we are absolutely screwed. And by "we", I mean the planet. The base of the Republican Party has gone insane. The more reasonable party officials are even concerned.

A Republican controlled Congress and President gave us the illegal Iraq war. In the 2008 elections McCain was arguing for military action against Iran. The Republican base is still arguing for this. Please do not equate the parties.

24
Science / Renewable Energy and Thermodynamic Limits
« on: April 13, 2014, 04:52:11 PM »
A very interesting paper by Axel Kleidon from the Max Planck Institute which calculates the 'free' energy (thermodynamically speaking) in the Earth system.  This number is compared to the free energy consumption by humans and the needs we have to convert free energy equivalent to the energy provided by fossil fuels in order to replace them.  It turns out that human requirements for free energy - renewables- to replace the fossil fuels are substantial in comparison to the free energy total available.

Thus, unlike what we have commonly believed about wind, solar and tidal, the amount of 'free' energy generated by the energy being delivered to the Earth by the sun is not in practical terms actually unlimited and we need to keep in mind that if we use the free energy we need to convert our global system to all renewables using today's technologies we will have a substantial negative impact on the global environmental systems.

In other words we dare not do it with the technology we currently possess.  The author suggests that to obtain the free energy we require "safely" would require that we resort to geoengineering schemes like 'greening the desert' mentioned in one of our earlier topics.  Cautionary results and scary options.

A very interesting read.

From news link at New Scientist

Quote
Wind and wave farms could affect Earth's energy balance

WITNESS a howling gale or an ocean storm, and it's hard to believe that humans could make a dent in the awesome natural forces that created them. Yet that is the provocative suggestion of one physicist who has done the sums.

He concludes that it is a mistake to assume that energy sources like wind and waves are truly renewable. Build enough wind farms to replace fossil fuels, he says, and we could seriously deplete the energy available in the atmosphere, with consequences as dire as severe climate change.

Axel Kleidon of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany, says that efforts to satisfy a large proportion of our energy needs from the wind and waves will sap a significant proportion of the usable energy available from the sun. In effect, he says, we will be depleting green energy sources. His logic rests on the laws of thermodynamics, which point inescapably to the fact that only a fraction of the solar energy reaching Earth can be exploited to generate energy we can use......

At present, humans use only about 1 part in 10,000 of the total energy that comes to Earth from the sun. But this ratio is misleading, Kleidon says. Instead, we should be looking at how much useful energy - called "free" energy in the parlance of thermodynamics - is available from the global system, and our impact on that.

Humans currently use energy at the rate of 47 terawatts (TW) or trillions of watts, mostly by burning fossil fuels and harvesting farmed plants, Kleidon calculates in a paper to be published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. This corresponds to roughly 5 to 10 per cent of the free energy generated by the global system.

"It's hard to put a precise number on the fraction," he says, "but we certainly use more of the free energy than [is used by] all geological processes." In other words, we have a greater effect on Earth's energy balance than all the earthquakes, volcanoes and tectonic plate movements put together...

Of the 47 TW of energy that we use, about 17 TW comes from burning fossil fuels. So to replace this, we would need to build enough sustainable energy installations to generate at least 17 TW. And because no technology can ever be perfectly efficient, some of the free energy harnessed by wind and wave generators will be lost as heat. So by setting up wind and wave farms, we convert part of the sun's useful energy into unusable heat.

"Large-scale exploitation of wind energy will inevitably leave an imprint in the atmosphere," says Kleidon. "Because we use so much free energy, and more every year, we'll deplete the reservoir of energy." He says this would probably show up first in wind farms themselves, where the gains expected from massive facilities just won't pan out as the energy of the Earth system is depleted.

Using a model of global circulation, Kleidon found that the amount of energy which we can expect to harness from the wind is reduced by a factor of 100 if you take into account the depletion of free energy by wind farms. It remains theoretically possible to extract up to 70 TW globally, but doing so would have serious consequences.

Although the winds will not die, sucking that much energy out of the atmosphere in Kleidon's model changed precipitation, turbulence and the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth's surface. The magnitude of the changes was comparable to the changes to the climate caused by doubling atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide (Earth System Dynamics, DOI: 10.5194/esd-2-1-2011).

From the actual paper.

Quote
How does the Earth system generate and maintain thermodynamic disequilibrium and what does it imply for the future of the planet?

...

6. How does human activity change planetary free energy generation?
The free energy used for human activities are, of course, drawn out of the Earth system and thereby affect its state. At present, much of the free energy needs for industrial use are met by depleting a stock of geological free energy (in form of fossil fuels) and this results in global climatic change due to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere. If this depletion is going to be replaced by renewable sources of free energy – as commonly suggested to avoid emissions of carbon dioxide –, then this is going to leave an impact on the free energy balance of the planet. Other impacts of human activity, such as the emission of methane, nitrous oxide, or soot also relate, directly or indirectly, to the combustion of fuels or to food production, and should also relate to the Earth’s free energy balance. Hence, it would seem appropriate to relate human activity as well as its impacts on the Earth system to its basic driver, the need for free energy. This need for free energy would seem to be the most important metric to measure the impact of humans on the planet and would seem to serve to be a highly useful metric to evaluate potential future impacts. As we have already seen in the last section, human activity already consumes a consid- erable share of the free energy in relation to how much is generated within the Earth system. When we think about the future state of the planet, it would seem almost inevitable that hu- man activity will increase further, in terms of population size and standard of living, among others. Both of these will require more free energy to sustain. Then, the central question is going to be whether this increase in human activity is going to be met by degrading the ability of the Earth system to generate free energy or whether these demands will be met by enhancing the ability of the Earth system to generate free energy. ...

....Both examples of meeting the human demands for free energy suggest that human activity will result in detrimental effects in terms of the ability of the Earth system to generate free energy. We can, however, also imagine another scenario. If human activity is directed to have impacts of the sort that these would act to enhance free energy generation within the Earth system, as shown in Fig. 5b, then this could have beneficial effects on the overall system in that the ability to generate free energy within the Earth system is enhanced. ....

1st  link is to the paper via a pdf link on the right side of the page.  21 pages

http://arxiv.org/abs/1103.2014

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21028063.300-wind-and-wave-farms-could-affect-earths-energy-balance.html?full=true#bx280633B1

25
Policy and solutions / National Climate Assessment Reports
« on: March 07, 2014, 07:45:57 PM »
It looks like there will be a number of reports published and info about them for the next few months.  I figured we could link to them here.

Quote
WASHINGTON -- From roads and bridges to power plants and gas pipelines, American infrastructure is vulnerable to the effects of climate change, according to a pair of government reports released Thursday.

The reports are technical documents supporting the National Climate Assessment, a major review compiled by 13 government agencies that the U.S. Global Change Research Program is expected to release in April. Scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory put together the reports, which warn that climate-fueled storms, flooding and droughts could cause "cascading system failures" unless there are changes made to minimize those effects. Island Press has published the full-length version of the reports, which focus on energy and infrastructure more broadly.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/03/06/climate-change-effects_n_4914116.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Link to Technical purchaseable report on Infrastructure follows.

http://islandpress.org/ip/books/book/distributed/C/bo9497837.html

Quote
Hurricane Irene ruptured a Baltimore sewer main, resulting in 100 million gallons of raw sewage flooding the local watershed. Levee failures during Hurricane Katrina resulted in massive flooding which did not recede for months. With temperatures becoming more extreme, and storms increasing in magnitude, American infrastructure and risk-management policies require close examination in order to decrease the damage wrought by natural disasters. Climate Change and Infrastructure, Urban Systems, and Vulnerabilities addresses these needs by examining how climate change affects urban buildings and communities, and determining which regions are the most vulnerable to environmental disaster. It looks at key elements of urban systems, including transportation, communication, drainage, and energy, in order to better understand the damages caused by climate change and extreme weather. How can urban systems become more resilient? How can citizens protect their cities from damage, and more easily rebound from destructive storms? This report not only breaks new ground as a component of climate change vulnerability and impact assessments but also highlights critical research gaps in the material. Implications of climate change are examined by assessing historical experience as well as simulating future conditions........




26
The rest / Historical Tidbits
« on: February 26, 2014, 07:29:19 PM »
I come across historical items of interest all the time which do not fit into our typical topics, but that tell an interesting story or provide a window into our current issues and times.  So here is a place for them.

The one that triggered this post.  A deterministic view of history over the free will view.

Who Needs World War I?

Quote
....Few events are more central to the history of the 20th century than the First World War.  Without Sarajevo, Tannenberg and the Somme, we have no Hitler, no Lenin, no Hemingway.  The history of the past hundred years flows directly from the happenstance series of events that led to Europe destroying itself for little reason between 1914 and 1918. 

And yet, if we imagine a German diplomat or general falling asleep in February 1914 and waking up today to see a prosperous Germany dominating a peaceful Europe, he would be pleased but not be surprised. The fall of the multiethnic Austrian Hungarian and Ottoman empires and their replacement by nation states was also predictable. No one in 1914 would have been astonished to learn that 100 years later Russia would remain an exporter of raw materials and its politics would be authoritarian, oligarchic, and corrupt. Britain’s half-hearted relationship towards the rest of Europe would startle no one.   What would shock our German general is the realization that it took two brutal world wars and the rise and fall of communism to achieve this outcome. Disastrous defeat twice over did not impede Germany’s rise.

So we have a conundrum.  On the one hand, even deeply important historical events can be seen as accidents or flukes.  On the other, over the longer term history seems tied to the profound processes of demographics, technology, culture and institutions that have little to do with the actions of mere men.  To put it another way, even if Christopher Columbus had never gone to sea, cassava would nonetheless be a staple crop in Africa today and a Nahuatl speaking emperor  would not be ruling Mexico.  If we explore the counterfactual and assume that World War I had not broken out in 1914 and so the Russian Revolution  not occurred in 1917 and Hitler not come to power in 1933, we might still end up with a world pretty close to what we have today.  I’m not sure what that tells us about the value of the study of history.

Determinism.  I have a streak of that in me also.  Free Will fails to inform or achieve results so often that I always question arguments based upon it.

What does this say about our current dilemma?

http://www.pieria.co.uk/articles/who_needs_world_war_i


27
Policy and solutions / Global economics and finances - impacts
« on: January 30, 2014, 06:24:46 PM »
We have never had a topic like this on the Forum and some might think it not relevant.  But I would like to explore a bit what folks like SH and others who, beside following AGW and the issues in the Arctic, also follow the financial system.  I must admit that probably 50-70% of my research and learning time is spent on economics, finance, and geo-political strategy and tactics.  My focus in this direction is because I think that, while AGW is the greatest challenge in human history, our primary actions for some decades still will be driven by the decisions we think we are being forced into by the combined force of EFGS&T (as I internally refer to them - I have a copyright btw  ;D

I am not interested in arguing the strengths and weaknesses of low level political economic ideology like the Repubs/Dems do here in the States.  All paths lead to chaos in my opinion so that is not an important issue. What I think though is very valid for the Forum is what the impacts on dealing with AGW, in any way whatsoever, will be given the slowly unfolding financial system and the eventual fracturing of all kinds of economic and political alliances.  And other considerations like that.  One, among many, of the reasons I am so negative on the various BAU solutions is that all of those solutions chances of success are predicated on a stable and well functioning global growth EFGS&T situation.  I don't believe that situation can any longer be depended upon and as it inevitably degrades that will make it increasingly hard to execute any measured gradual reindustrialization along the lines of Green-BAU solutions.  Degraded efficiency, recession/deflation, and lack of time do not equal successful transitions so to speak.

I read the weekly and monthly economics data and constantly monitor the financial press and a number of blogs which concentrate on the EFGS&T topics.  For some time I have thought that we are once again approaching an inflection point and believe we are once again on the cusp of major economic and financial stresses.  Recently the press and blogs have started to fill up with multitudes of articles describing problems across the world and virtually all countries.  I do not know enough to make any predictions of another 2008 crash or anything like that, though some blogs are starting to say that very thing, but no part of the world or country seems to be  in a position this time to help carry the rest and cushion any drop off.  So it certainly could get real ugly it seems.  I note that the official press has been going out of its way to sound very optimistic and  to try and talk up how the economy is improving.  That is usually a sure sign that we are at the top of the business cycle and that it is about time for the s**t to hit the fan. 

What happens in Europe for example if the slight deflation in the peripheral countries expands and more central countries like France fall into the hole?  What happens to alternative energy buildouts and climate emission efforts.   If China contracts what will be the impetus for them to actually follow through on reducing emissions.  All of the BRICS are in trouble.  Roughly 80% of the global economy is tightening.   A number of the countries have huge housing/property bubbles once again.  Debt issues, of course, never went away and many are worse now than 5 years ago.  Etc, etc.  The US and Germany are ostensibly in the best shape of anyone, but the US underneath the headlines has a lot of issues that make us unlikely to really continue on a positive path much longer I think.  And Germany is wrapped up in the mess in Europe and must give ground at some point or they will push everyone else off the cliff. 

So, do we tip or not?  If so who goes, in what way, and what impact on carbon emissions does it have?  A sinking global economy 'could' drive down energy demand and dry up exploration/production of the hard to get fossil resources, thus building in another vicious cycle in energy costs.  Would coal become very cost competitive and usage rise?  Would there be big negative impacts on alternative energy projects?   

Does anyone find this worth discussing or of concern?

28
Science / ISI-MIP - Agriculture & Water
« on: January 09, 2014, 07:21:31 PM »
The purpose of this topic is to highlight the state of modeling of agriculture yields and water resources in order to better assess the long term prospects of feeding the rapidly growing population.

This topic is a sub topic of ISI-MIP (Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project) general topic and one should read that topic first to understand where this subtopic originates from.

http://www.pik-potsdam.de/research/climate-impacts-and-vulnerabilities/research/rd2-cross-cutting-activities/isi-mip/isi-mip-fast-track/about

As readers here will have noted I have written many posts detailing why I think the global industrial food system is eventually going to fail to be able to feed the human population.  I have predicted an approximate date of 2050 for substantial collapse of our ability to feed large numbers of people and, by extension of what this event implies, this means that the advent of global civilizational collapse occurs simultaneously with the global food crises.  I won't go into my reasoning and a host of details again right now as I want to present a series of posts which describe the state of the academic work in this subject area and what they are saying.  As usual, when we get to talking about the state of where some very complex scientific undertaking is at, us partially educated but interested bystanders come up with all kinds of comments along the lines of what are they thinking and why are they not taking this into account (most of the time we are just confused of course).  That will be a likely outcome here as well once you read some of what I present.  There are strong corollaries between the state of the research in this area and what we see when we start talking about the IPCC AR reports and the weaknesses of the various climate models.  Since the agricultural modeling and predictions cannot easily be tainted by suspicions of political influence along the lines of what at least some of us think we see with the IPCC, the fact that the two efforts suffer from some of the same problems might lead us to think that the political influence problems are not as severe as we think with the IPCC and rather are endemic to such a large and complex effort.  But YMMV.

I, for now, am going to focus on a part of the above efforts which are several reports which were recently pre-published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that relate to agriculture.    Please jump in and help work though these complex reports.

A post will follow based upon the first paper below. Others will follow later.

Assessing agricultural risks of climate change in the 21st century in a global gridded crop model intercomparison PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222463110

Constraints and potentials of future irrigation water availability on agricultural production under climate change PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222474110

Climate change effects on agriculture: Economic responses to biophysical shocks PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222465110

Multisectoral climate impact hotspots in a warming world PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222471110

Hydrological droughts in the 21st century, hotspots and uncertainties from a global multimodel ensemble experiment PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222473110
 

http://www.agmip.org/blog/2013/12/16/agmip-global-gridded-crop-model-paper-published-in-pnas/#more-3868

 

29
Science / ISI-MIP (Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project)
« on: January 09, 2014, 07:13:16 PM »
Systemic Research and Modeling

Recently on the Forum a link was provided to the results of a large interdisciplinary study on the prognosis for industrial agriculture to feed the world.  Upon following the links I realized that a very large interdisciplinary effort is underway to attempt to fill in a lot of the gaps in systemic analysis of the effects of climate change across a broad range of subject areas as we are always talking about.  This is the ISI-MIP effort. The Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project.  It is jointly managed by the Potsdam Institute and The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis.  This effort draws upon the IPCC AR reports and various other research on such subjects as agriculture, disease, etc. and provides a more systems based results. 

Note: I must admit that back in mid-summer someone mentioned this effort and it passed over my head and I did not realize it existed until about a week ago from another post linking recent results published by PNAS.  After the last few days of reading about this work I think we have missed a very relevant and large effort that is oriented along the lines of just what many of us have been advocating. So I am going to provide some overview in this 1st post and then start digging down into their work in a series of posts.  I think at this point multiple topics might arise from this work (they do certainly intend to perform work at a complex level) so if anyone wants to split a section off into its own topic feel free.  So some version of general info about the effort here and specific subjects in separate topics?? I am going to start another topic on Agriculture and Water.

From the PIK (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) page:

Quote
ISI-MIP is a community-driven modelling effort with the goal of providing cross-sectoral global impact assessments, based on the newly developed climate [Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs)] and socio-economic [Shared Socio-Economic Pathways (SSPs)] scenarios.

Based on common background scenarios (climate and socio-economic), a quantitative estimate of impacts and uncertainties for different sectors and from multiple impact models will be derived. From this, policy relevant and society-focused metrics will be deducted.

This initiative, coordinated by a team at PIK (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research) with support from IIASA (The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis)  and backing from the IPCC Working Groups II and III  , aims to provide fast-track outcomes for the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Further it hopes to initiate a longer-term coordinated impact assessment effort driven by the entire impact community.

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Why

A large number of studies of mitigation pathways and strategies have shown that achieving a 2° world is much more ambitious and costly than a 3° world.  Therefore there is a great need for comprehensive understanding and quantification of the differences between multiple levels of global warming in terms of impacts from climate change.

However, currently uncertainties in and fragmentation of knowledge on impacts are large. A global, cross-sectoral, quantitative synthesis of climate impacts, including consistent estimates of uncertainties, is missing so far.

Furthermore, a better, quantitative understanding of impacts will enable the derivation of efficient impact emulators. These have the ability to enhance integrated assessment studies with the impact and adaptation dimensions.

Quote
How?

The timeline for the first year is dominated by the deadline for Working Group II for the IPCC AR5. Around 18 teams maintaining global impact models from the sectors agriculture (including agro-economic models), water, ecosystems, infrastructure and health have been invited to join this fast-track effort. They will be provided with pre-processed input data (climate and socio-economic data, based on CMIP 5, using as many scenarios as are available, and SSPs). This will ensure basic harmonization. Results have to be returned by July 1 2012. A kick-off workshop in February 2012 and a results workshop in September 2012 will provide opportunity to discuss comparison within sectors as well as appropriate synthesis metrics within and across sectors.

A special issue of the PNAS will be submitted containing sectoral papers as well as a synthesis paper prepared by the coordination team. An international impact conference in May 2013 will evaluate the projects and the state of the art in impact research, and will provide space for the community to discuss further long-term efforts.

A number of the papers mentioned are in pre-publication electronic form on the PNAS site for review (as of Jan 8, 2014) and info on those papers is at the end of this post. 

http://www.pik-potsdam.de/research/climate-impacts-and-vulnerabilities/research/rd2-cross-cutting-activities/isi-mip

http://www.pik-potsdam.de/research/climate-impacts-and-vulnerabilities/research/rd2-cross-cutting-activities/isi-mip/isi-mip-fast-track

http://www.pik-potsdam.de/research/climate-impacts-and-vulnerabilities/research/rd2-cross-cutting-activities/isi-mip/isi-mip-fast-track/about

Here is the general description of the project from the joint managing organization II-ASA

This study is co-managed by The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis located in Laxenburg, near Vienna, Austria with PIK.  Per the II-ASA web site the Institute "conducts policy-oriented research into problems of a global nature that are too large or too complex to be solved by a single country or academic discipline". 

Quote
A pioneering collaboration within the international scientific community provides comprehensive projections of climate change effects, ranging from risks to crop yields to the spread of malaria.

The analyses were published today in a special feature of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that assembles the first results of the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP), which aims at bringing research on climate impacts onto a new level. The ISI-MIP project is jointly coordinated by IIASA and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research (PIK), and involves a consortium of researchers around the world.

More than 30 research teams from 12 countries systematically compared computer simulations of climate change impacts on a broad range of sectors.  The project builds on previous inter-comparison exercises from the fields of agriculture, hydrology, and ecosystems sciences. Results are combined to identify, for example, regional hotspots of climate change – the Amazon, the Mediterranean and East Africa - where several impact types coincide and potentially interact. Moreover, comparing models helps to understand the differences between them. For example, projections of impacts on food prices are affected by different assumptions about the intensification of land management or changes in international trade.  Elucidating the various influences of these measures could help to identify options for effective real-world policies.


Quote
The climate change impacts picture remains far from complete, in particular with regard to socio-economic consequences,” says Pavel Kabat, IIASA director general and CEO, who co-edited the special feature and contributed to several papers. “The human costs of climate change are often triggered by the biophysical impacts, but are not identical to the impacts themselves. For example, water shortages in some regions might contribute to human conflicts and drive large-scale migration. We already have enough certainty today about climate change impacts to recognize it is high time to act.  But as scientists we will work hard to further integrate and strengthen the existing expertise to better see the elephant in the room – and just how dangerous the mighty beast really is.......
 

http://www.iiasa.ac.at/web/home/about/news/20131216-ISIMIP.en.html

I have pasted info to find a number of the reports which were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.  They are hard to find since they are still in pre-pub electronic status at this time and not in a specific publication with a date associated with it, but this should allow you to find the pdf's.  Anyone who finds others please post info on how to find them.

Assessing agricultural risks of climate change in the 21st century in a global gridded crop model intercomparison PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222463110

Constraints and potentials of future irrigation water availability on agricultural production under climate change PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222474110

Climate change effects on agriculture: Economic responses to biophysical shocks PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222465110

Multisectoral climate impact hotspots in a warming world PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222471110

Hydrological droughts in the 21st century, hotspots and uncertainties from a global multimodel ensemble experiment PNAS 2013 ; published ahead of print December 16, 2013,  doi:10.1073/pnas.1222473110

30
Policy and solutions / Is the Earth F**cked??
« on: December 25, 2013, 06:36:22 PM »
Werner’s research implies that, eventually, we’re definitely fucked. Civil resistance is our best and probably only hope.

From a presentation at the American Geophysical Union yearly meeting in 2012.  Very interesting from a variety of points.  Werner presents an interesting position that we have reached the point where the only solution is direct action to disrupt the current political/economic system.  I have held this position for a long time.  Are we starting to see a ground swell of opinion?  We will know for certain when Earth First! or the ELA start burning down the house.

Quote
...Standing at the front of the conference room, the geophysicist from the University of California, San Diego walked the crowd through the advanced computer model he was using to answer that question. He talked about system boundaries, perturbations, dissipation, attractors, bifurcations and a whole bunch of other stuff largely incomprehensible to those of us uninitiated in complex systems theory. But the bottom line was clear enough: global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient and barrier-free that “earth-human systems” are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When pressed by a journalist for a clear answer on the “are we f**ked” question, Werner set the jargon aside and replied, “More or less.”...

Quote
There was one dynamic in the model, however, that offered some hope. Werner termed it “resistance” – movements of “people or groups of people” who “adopt a certain set of dynamics that does not fit within the capitalist culture”. According to the abstract for his presentation, this includes “environmental direct action, resistance taken from outside the dominant culture, as in protests, blockades and sabotage by indigenous peoples, workers, anarchists and other activist groups”.

Serious scientific gatherings don’t usually feature calls for mass political resistance, much less direct action and sabotage.
....

Quote
....Anderson and Bows inform us that the often-cited long-term mitigation target – an 80 per cent emissions cut below 1990 levels by 2050 – has been selected purely for reasons of political expediency and has “no scientific basis”. ......

Which is why Anderson and Bows argue that, if the governments of developed countries are serious about hitting the agreed upon international target of keeping warming below 2° Celsius, and if reductions are to respect any kind of equity principle (basically that the countries that have been spewing carbon for the better part of two centuries need to cut before the countries where more than a billion people still don’t have electricity), then the reductions need to be a lot deeper, and they need to come a lot sooner. (insert by JimD - there is no chance what-so-ever that an equity principal will ever be implemented.  Drop this nonsense and move along!)

To have even a 50/50 chance of hitting the 2° target (which, they and many others warn, already involves facing an array of hugely damaging climate impacts), the industrialised countries need to start cutting their greenhouse-gas emissions by something like 10 per cent a year – and they need to start right now. But Anderson and Bows go further, pointing out that this target cannot be met with the array of modest carbon pricing or green-tech solutions usually advocated by big green groups. These measures will certainly help, to be sure, but they are simply not enough: a 10 per cent drop in emissions, year after year, is virtually unprecedented since we started powering our economies with coal. In fact, cuts above 1 per cent per year “have historically been associated only with economic recession or upheaval”, as the economist Nicholas Stern put it in his 2006 report for the British government.

 Even after the Soviet Union collapsed, reductions of this duration and depth did not happen (the former Soviet countries experienced average annual reductions of roughly 5 per cent over a period of ten years). They did not happen after Wall Street crashed in 2008 (wealthy countries experienced about a 7 per cent drop between 2008 and 2009, but their CO2 emissions rebounded with gusto in 2010 and emissions in China and India had continued to rise). Only in the immediate aftermath of the great market crash of 1929 did the United States, for instance, see emissions drop for several consecutive years by more than 10 per cent annually, according to historical data from the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Centre. But that was the worst economic crisis of modern times.

If we are to avoid that kind of carnage while meeting our science-based emissions targets, carbon reduction must be managed carefully through what Anderson and Bows describe as “radical and immediate de-growth strategies in the US, EU and other wealthy nations”. Which is fine, except that we happen to have an economic system that fetishises GDP growth above all else, regardless of the human or ecological consequences, and in which the neoliberal political class has utterly abdicated its responsibility to manage anything (since the market is the invisible genius to which everything must be entrusted).

So what Anderson and Bows are really saying is that there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed.
....

Ok.  I agree with what we need to do, but PLEASE stop with the immature nonsense that we can avoid economic catastrophe when we stop the capitalistic/growth economy!  We obviously MUST start taking direct action and this WILL, if it succeeds, crash the global economy and result in the deaths of hundreds of millions of people.  That is just a given so quit crying about it and get to work.

From The Decline of the Empire

Quote
...In short, some scientists are now turning to enviromental activism. (Read the Slate article if you want the details). However, there is a constant avoidance of the only question which really matters, which in the context just above, turns out to be—

Why can't humans get their shit together?

You can see the avoidance in Brad Werner's talk.

The bulk of Werner’s talk, as it turned out, was not profane or prophetic but was a fairly technical discussion of a “preliminary agent-based numerical model” of “coupled human-environmental systems.”

He described a computer model he is building of the complex two-way interaction between people and the environment, including how we respond to signals such as environmental degradation, using the same techniques he employs to simulate the dynamics of natural systems such as permafrost, glaciers, and coastal landscapes.

These tools, he argued, can lead to better decision-making. Echoing Anderson and Bows, he claimed it as a legitimate part of a physical scientist’s domain. “It’s really a geophysics problem,” he said. “It’s not something that we can just leave to the social scientists or the humanities.”

This is easily the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard a "scientist" say. Werner has built a computer model describing the two-way interaction between humans and their environment, using the same techniques he employs to simulute the dynamics of natural systems such as permafrost, glaciers and coastal landscapes.

In short, Brad has a hammer, and everything, including typical human behavior and decision-making, looks like a nail to him.

Now, allow me to be blunt. Why can't humans get their shit together and stop fucking up the Earth? This is a problem with humans, it is about humans, and to figure out what that problem is, you have to step outside the Human Condition (to the extent possible) and take a long, hard look at what humans are, and why they do what they do.

This is not the kind of problem which can be solved with the same techniques used to simulate the dynamics of natural systems like glaciers or coastal landscapes. Do I have to say it? Apparently I do—

Investigating human behavior is not the same kind of thing as investigating the behavior of glaciers or coastal landscapes. The investigation of Human Nature takes place on an entirely new level of understanding. Necessarily, it requires self-knowledge. You must observe what humans typically do in the present, and study what they have done in the past, and draw your conclusions accordingly.

Therefore, you need a entirely new set of cognitive skills to figure out what humans are and why they do what they do. It is only by applying such "introspective" and "objective" skills that you will be able to figure out why humans are fucking up the Earth.

One might say that humans must attain a "higher" level of consciousness to solve their self-created problems.

In the past, I have referred to the tragic lack of self-knowledge of the human animal. Well, now you know what I mean by that. But Werner is completely immersed within the Human Condition. He can not step outside of it (to the extent possible) in order to draw some conclusions about human behavior. So he has come to the totally absurd conclusion that he can facilitate "better decision-making" with a computer model of human-environmental interactions. But it is that very human decision-making which is at issue! He has begged the question!
....

Well interesting reading.  The time truly has arrived.  Who is going to step up to the plate?  IS any one? 

http://citizenactionmonitor.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/is-earth-fucked-asks-geophysicist-brad-werner/

http://www.newstatesman.com/2013/10/science-says-revolt

http://www.declineoftheempire.com/2012/12/is-the-earth-fcked.html

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/12/09/1306051/agu-scientist-asks-is-earth-fked-surprising-answer-resistance-is-not-futile/

31
Policy and solutions / Funding climate change denial
« on: December 24, 2013, 06:17:58 PM »
Interesting new study on who is paying the climate change deniers.  Past exposures have changed how these people do business.

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A new study conducted by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert J. Brulle, PhD, exposes the organizational underpinnings and funding behind the powerful climate change countermovement. This study marks the first peer-reviewed, comprehensive analysis ever conducted of the sources of funding that maintain the denial effort.

Not that previous work by Greenpeace was not sound, but this does count as academic research.

Quote
Key findings include:

Conservative foundations have bank-rolled denial. The largest and most consistent funders of organizations orchestrating climate change denial are a number of well-known conservative foundations, such as the Searle Freedom Trust, the John William Pope Foundation, the Howard Charitable Foundation and the Sarah Scaife Foundation. These foundations promote ultra-free-market ideas in many realms.

Koch and ExxonMobil have recently pulled back from publicly visible funding. From 2003 to 2007, the Koch Affiliated Foundations and the ExxonMobil Foundation were heavily involved in funding climate-change denial organizations. But since 2008, they are no longer making publicly traceable contributions.

Funding has shifted to pass through untraceable sources. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to denial organizations by the Donors Trust has risen dramatically. Donors Trust is a donor-directed foundation whose funders cannot be traced. This one foundation now provides about 25% of all traceable foundation funding used by organizations engaged in promoting systematic denial of climate change.

Most funding for denial efforts is untraceable. Despite extensive data compilation and analyses, only a fraction of the hundreds of millions in contributions to climate change denying organizations can be specifically accounted for from public records. Approximately 75% of the income of these organizations comes from unidentifiable sources...

Great chart follows the above quote.

http://www.drexel.edu/now/news-media/releases/archive/2013/December/Climate-Change/

32
Antarctica / World record low temp in Antarctica
« on: December 10, 2013, 04:01:21 PM »
I have not seen this posted before.

NASA data indicates that a all time record low  of -135.8F was set in Aug 2010.  On July 31, 2013 the low was -135.3F.  Previous record was -128.6F July 31, 1986.

My curiosity is whether the ozone hole and changing weather conditions related to AGW are contributing to these unusually low temperatures?   Or is this just better ability to collect data.


http://www.aol.com/article/2013/12/10/antarctica-hit-ridiculously-low-record-cold-temperature/20785456/

33
The rest / Totally Creepy
« on: December 06, 2013, 05:16:40 PM »
No wonder so many of our fellow citizens don't like nature!

I showed this to my wife.  I am certain she will have bad dreams and wake me up tonight as she is petrified of snakes.   Human cruelty has no bounds   ;D

http://www.dramafever.com/news/anaconda-swallows-drunk-sleeping-man-outside-liquor-store/

34
Science / New Hansen paper - 2013 Hansen, Kharecha, Sato, el al
« on: December 04, 2013, 08:01:30 PM »
 Assessing ‘‘Dangerous Climate Change’’: Required Reduction of Carbon Emissions to Protect Young People, Future Generations and Nature



http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0081648

35
The rest / Crazy Ideas
« on: December 04, 2013, 07:27:12 PM »
I guess I could have put this in Policy and Solutions in one of the Geo-Engineering threads, but...most are more humorous than realistic.  I got a good laugh over this one.

Quote
It's not even geo-engineering, it's lunar-engineering.
 
Shimizu, a Japanese architectural and engineering firm, has a solution for the climate crisis: Simply build a band of solar panels 400 kilometers (249 miles) wide (pdf) running all the way around the Moon’s 11,000-kilometer (6,835 mile) equator and beam the carbon-free energy back to Earth in the form of microwaves, which are converted into electricity at ground stations.
....

Simply they say...we are always making things out to be difficult when solutions are just staring us in the face.

http://www.declineoftheempire.com/2013/12/its-not-completely-crazy.html#more

36
Antarctica / Brinicle formation filmed
« on: December 04, 2013, 04:26:50 PM »
Quote
...With timelapse cameras, specialists recorded salt water being excluded from the sea ice and sinking.

The temperature of this sinking brine, which was well below 0C, caused the water to freeze in an icy sheath around it.

Where the so-called "brinicle" met the sea bed, a web of ice formed that froze everything it touched, including sea urchins and starfish.
...

...The icy phenomenon is caused by cold, sinking brine, which is more dense than the rest of the sea water. It forms a brinicle as it contacts warmer water below the surface....

Check out the time lapse video.  Pretty cool.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/15835017

37
Consequences / Pathogens and their impacts
« on: December 03, 2013, 09:42:02 PM »
I have been reading about various pathogens and their current and potential impacts on us and our future for some time.  My prime interest in this subject is how they relate to agriculture production, but there are significant additional threats that pathogens present to human health, the economy and other species which can have major impacts beyond agriculture.  Feel free to add whatever you think is interesting.

Posts to follow.

38
The rest / Learning How to Die in the Anthropocene
« on: November 25, 2013, 10:21:01 PM »
Op Ed from the NYT

I found this a very intriguing article and thought it might start some philosophical discussions.  I found it on a blog where someone was ranting about how messed up the authors opinion was.  Then I read the article and found out I pretty much agreed with all of it.  Comments?

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/11/10/learning-how-to-die-in-the-anthropocene/?_r=1&

39
The rest / Sanitation issues and rising population
« on: November 22, 2013, 05:38:28 PM »
Toilets

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On Tuesday, the United Nations marked its inaugural World Toilet Day, designed to draw attention to the fact that more than one-sixth of humanity still lacks indoor sanitation,...

...If there is any one country toward which such initiatives must be aimed, then that is India,...  that more than half of the population still doesn't have access to a proper toilet.

It has become clear that in water-scarce and people-dense India, it's an impossible resource challenge to deliver the conventional flush toilet to more than 1 billion people and then treat the sewage water. .......After all, only 13 percent of piped sewage in India is currently treated. Lester Brown writes in a recent book on urban water policy:

As currently designed, India’s sewer system is actually a pathogen-dispersal system. It takes a small quantity of contaminated material and uses it to make vast quantities of water unfit for human use....

Adding 2.4 billion to the population by 2050 as is projected will help fix this issue I am sure   ;)

It just seems so likely that some lethal bug is evolving out there in that muck which will someday pay us a visit.

Not to mention what our shrinking water supply will add to this problem.  They mention the composting toilet as being a possible fix and I hope they move towards this fast.  But here in the US such items are illegal in almost all cities and towns and even in most rural areas.  Catching rain off your roof to use on your own property is illegal in many places in the US as well.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-21/india-confronts-the-politics-of-the-toilet.html

40
Policy and solutions / UN Climate Chnage Conference in Warsaw
« on: November 20, 2013, 04:25:34 PM »
Leaked Memo Reveals U.S. Plan to Oppose Helping Poor Nations Adapt to Climate Change

Quote
Newly leaked documents have revealed how U.S. negotiators at the U.N. climate summit in Warsaw are opposing efforts to help developing countries adapt to climate change

Quote
The proposal by developing countries that their wealthier counterparts be held financially responsible for the damage incurred by extreme climate events such as typhoon Haiyan and droughts in Africa has become the most explosive issue at the UN's climate change conference in Warsaw.

This is an expected conflict and one can be pretty certain that no developed country would ever formally sign up to such a commitment.  At the least it would be political suicide to any national party or leader who agreed to it.  I think that aid will flow to the less developed world for some time, but never to the extent that it will impact the economies of the richer countries.  Politics will never allow such charity to go to far.  I can only imagine how strong this conflict will be in another 10-20 years.  It will eventually lead to violence.

http://www.nationofchange.org/leaked-memo-reveals-us-plan-oppose-helping-poor-nations-adapt-climate-change-1384878965

http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2013/nov/19/climate-talks-wealthy-countries-bill-weather-disasters-un-warsaw

41
Policy and solutions / The global Chemical Industry
« on: November 17, 2013, 08:56:44 PM »
When I was commenting the other day on the water situation in northern China one of the pieces of information I came across was that there were 4000 chemical factories along the Yellow River.  That is a lot I think and it got me to wondering about how big the chemical industry actually is.  So I thought it would make an interesting post to go along with my others about cars, trucks, boats, planes and such which demonstrate just how big the infrastructure of civilization is.

The Chemical Industry

Globally this is a 3 trillion dollar a year industry.  This means that it represents approximately 4% of the global economy or 1 out of every 25 dollars.  Pretty substantial.

In ranking terms the US is 1st at $750 million a year or 25% of the world total.  The Europeans are 2nd at 20% of the world total where 20 years ago they were 1st at 36%.  Japan is 3rd and China and India are coming up fast.  The European chemical industry is actually almost 2 times larger than 20 years ago but the growth of China and the US has dramatically shrunk their global percentage.  Europe is the worlds most impactful region for this industry.  Globally there are 8000 companies which manufacture chemicals (with tens of thousands of actual manufacturing plants).  BASF is the worlds largest chemical firm and is over twice as big as Dupont.

Quote
...in 2012 The chemical sector accounted for 12% of the EU manufacturing industry's added value. Europe remains world’s biggest chemical trading region with 43 % of the world’s exports and 37%of the world’s imports, although the latest data shows that Asia is catching up with 34% of the exports and 37% of imports.[4] Even so Europe still has a trading surplus with all regions of the world except Japan and China where in 2011 there was a chemical trade balance. Europe’s trade surplus with the rest of the world today amounts to 41.7 billion Euros...

...Since 2000 the chemical sector alone has represented 2/3 of the entire manufacturing trade surplus of the EU....

In Europe 3.2 million are employed (both directly and indirectly) in the chemical industry with 60,000 companies involved.  In the US a total of 3.5 million are employed.  If the employment ratios hold globally this means that another 8.2 million are employed outside the US and Europe for a total global employment of 11.7 million.  In the US R&D by the industry totaled $56 billion in 2011 and accounted for 20% of all US patents.

The global chemical industry manufactures approximately 70,000 different products of which 80% are polymers and plastics (Mr. Robinson was right).  For purposes of efficiency and integration large scale or commodity chemical manufacturing is normally concentrated in a fairly small area.  For example Teesside in North-East England accounts for 50% of UK manufacturing of commodity chemicals.  Rotterdam in Holland and Louisiana in the US are other manufacturing centers (and the Yellow River I guess).

Obviously much of the most noxious pollution is related to this industry as well as much of the trappings of global civilization.  The world abounds with horror stories of pollution related to the manufacture and use of toxic chemicals.

To say that this industry exists at the scale it does today is mainly because we have access to vast deposits of natural gas and crude oil is an understatement.

http://selectusa.commerce.gov/industry-snapshots/chemical-industry-united-states

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemical_industry


42
The rest / Nuclear proliferation
« on: November 08, 2013, 05:07:40 PM »
We hear a lot in the news here in the States about Iran's potential nuclear ambitions and we have organized punishing sanctions on them over the years as well as threatened them with military force (as has Israel).  But here is another issue in the region which may come as a surprise to many.

Saudi Arabia is reputed to have paid Pakistan for nuclear weapons which are sitting in Pakistan and available on demand.

Quote
Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight..

...Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.

Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, "the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring."

In the late 1980s they secretly bought dozens of CSS-2 ballistic missiles from China. ...

This summer experts at defence publishers Jane's reported the completion of a new Saudi CSS-2 base with missile launch rails aligned with Israel and Iran....

One senior Pakistani, speaking on background terms, confirmed the broad nature of the deal - probably unwritten - his country had reached with the kingdom and asked rhetorically "what did we think the Saudis were giving us all that money for? It wasn't charity."

Another, a one-time intelligence officer from the same country, said he believed "the Pakistanis certainly maintain a certain number of warheads on the basis that if the Saudis were to ask for them at any given time they would immediately be transferred." ....

I note the large number of reports in the press over the last couple of years related to Saudi disenchantment with US mid-east policy (especially Syria and previously related to the invasion of Iraq).  One wonders what the limits are of US influence with the Saudi's in the evolving middle east.  If Iran and Saudi (bitter religious enemies) are reaching the point where they are pursuing such weapons due to their fear of each other nothing is likely to dissuade them from obtaining them.  It will be like the US and Russia in the 40's and 50's.  This is not a comforting situation.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-24823846

43
Science / Carbon emissions, totals, trends, etc
« on: November 01, 2013, 08:35:37 PM »
I didn't want to skew Bruce's Carbon Cycle thread and could not find a topic for which emissions was the main item so I started another one.

A new report is out on carbon emissions for 2012.  It is interesting to note the positive spin being put on by the BBC when they state

Quote
Global emissions of carbon dioxide may be showing the first signs of a "permanent slowdown" in the rate of increase.

When the report itself states that

Quote
Actual global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) reached a new record of 34.5 billion tonnes in 2012. Yet, the increase in global CO2 emissions in that year slowed down to 1.1% (or 1.4%, not accounting the extra day in the leap year), which was less than half the average annual increase of 2.9% over the last decade. This development signals a shift towards less fossil-fuel-intensive activities, more use of renewable energy and increased energy saving...

...Three countries/regions remain responsible for 55% of total global CO2 emissions. Of these three, China (29% share) increased its CO2 emissions by 3%, which is low compared with annual increases of about 10% over the last decade. Although China's CO2 emissions per capita are comparable to those in the EU and almost half of the US emissions per capita, its CO2 emissions per USD in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) are almost double those in the EU and the United States and similar to those in the Russian Federation. In the United States (16% share) CO2 emissions decreased by 4%, mainly because of a further shift from coal to gas in the power sector. The European Union (11% share) saw its emissions decrease by 1.6%, mainly due to a decrease in energy consumption ( oil and gas) and a decrease in road freight transport.

One data point being justification for announcing a permanent slowdown in the rate of increase.  I guess.

A good sign and what prompted the positive spin was the fact that the increase was only 1.4% and was about 1/2 the rate of GDP increase.  This increase being a significantly lower rate then the GDP increase is being attributed primarily to the increase in hydro power in China (3 Gorges?) and increased use of natural gas in the US.  Unless China is building a lot of hydro power 2012 might be a one off anomaly and the increased use of natural gas in the US being sustainable is questionable.  It will be interesting to compare 2012 to 2013 this time next year.

I draw your attention to the following data however.

1990 Global Mt emissions CO2 equivalent was 38258 Mt
2010 Global Mt emissions CO2 equivalent was 50101 Mt

2012 is not calculated yet but will be approx. 52000 Mt

We could be doing better I think.


http://www.pbl.nl/en/publications/trends-in-global-co2-emissions-2013-report

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24742770


44
Policy and solutions / Ships and boats
« on: November 01, 2013, 05:30:32 PM »
This morning I decided we needed a post on ships to go along with the ones on cars and planes.  Sort of in honor of Bruce so he does not think we forget him  ;)

Commercial Fleet

Quote
Fleet statistics weave a fascinating pattern. By mid-2011 the world’s entire fleet of all types of commercial ships over one hundred tons had increased its gross tonnage to 1 billion. At the end of last year the total reached 1.09 billion GT, numbering 86,300 ships. This gigantic armada includes not only the vast fleets of bulk carriers, tankers and container ships, but also a wide range of other types. General cargo vessels, multi-purpose ships, car carriers, roll on-roll off vessels, gas carriers, reefer tonnage, cruise ships, offshore service vessels and others (such as tugs and dredgers) are represented. Many perform services which do not involve carrying cargo, of course.
According to figures compiled by shipping information providers Clarksons, another (nautical) milestone was attained recently. The world’s fleet of vessels actually carrying cargo – which had numbered 50,000 over seven years ago – reached 1 billion GT in September last year, and since then has grown to 1.01 billion, comprising 57,400 ships, today. It is especially significant that this achievement resulted from cumulative growth of an astounding 43 percent over the past five years, averaging 7.5 percent annually.
Looking at the fleet statistics in more detail reveals some impressive performances over the past few years. Expansion rates in the largest sectors have been rapid. Measured by deadweight volume, the tonnage measurement normally used in the bulk markets, the world fleet of bulk carriers has grown by 73 percent in the past five years. At the end of 2012 there were 9,500 bulk carriers totalling 679 million dwt. The tanker fleet’s growth was 29 percent during the same period, to a total of 515 million dwt (13,500 ships, including 7,700 small tankers below 10,000 dwt). In the container ship sector, where the standard measurement is TEUs (twenty-foot-equivalent units), the world fleet reached 5,100 ships totalling 16.2 million TEU at the end of 2012, after growing by 50 percent over a five-year period.

Fishing Fleet

Quote
In 2002 the world fishing fleet numbered about four million vessels. About one-third were decked. The remaining undecked boats were generally less than 10 metres long, and 65 percent were not fitted with mechanical propulsion systems. The FAO estimates that Asia accounts for over 80 percent of them.

The average size of decked vessels is about 20 gross tons (10–15 metres). Only one percent of the world fishing fleet is larger than 100 gross tons (longer than 24 metres). China has half (25,600) of these larger vessels.

Recreational boating. US numbers

Quote
There were 527,000 new boats sold in 2011, an increase of two percent compared to 2010, with a total retail value of $6.1 billion, an increase of 3.5 percent over 2010. (Table 5.2) (Edit:  both power and sail).
 
Boat registrations were down two percent in 2010, falling to a total of 12.4 million, compared to nearly 12.7 million the previous year.

I could not find global numbers for recreational boats just the US.  But if the US has almost 13 million one has to figure that the world total must have numbers near 50 million.

There are a LOT of ships and boats out there.  And I did not even bother about counting the military vessels as there are only 10,000 or so of them. 

If one spent some time looking up data they could get an estimate of the total fuel consumption of the above vessels but I was too lazy today.  But it is a lot.   And it tends to be very polluting as most of the big vessels are burning bunker fuel and have little to no emissions control.

http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/News.aspx?ElementId=984ef639-7f94-4d62-88a9-f80b3ecc6fb9

Most of the rest of the data is from various wiki pages.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fishing_vessel

45
The rest / Russell Brand- who would have known?
« on: October 25, 2013, 05:44:47 PM »
Yes, that Russell Brand.  One of the best and longest rants I have ever read.

Kinda of long but well worth the read for some great verbiage and humor.

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/10/russell-brand-on-revolution

46
The politics / Empire - America and the future
« on: October 23, 2013, 06:13:58 PM »
We talk constantly on the Forum about American motivations and intentions.  There is often a big divide between what the non-American posters think is going on here and what those of us from the States think about what motivates Americans and what we intend to do in the future.  Or perhaps it would be better to say what the folks who make the core decisions for America intend to do in the future as I don't think they are listening all that much to what we us peonos have to say.   There is huge frustration on the part of most posters here with the intransigence of American policy and decision making at our leadership levels.  I offer a partial explanation.

I argue all the time that most US actions can be best explained by examining them in the light of what it takes to run and maintain our empire.  Below you will find an example of what I am talking about.  In the lead paragraph an author/historian named Chalmers Johnson is mentioned.  If you find the article interesting and want to learn more about this subject I would suggest (as SH did earlier) that you visit your library and check out a few of his books on this subject.  They are excellent from my perspective of a former cog in the gears turning that empire wheel.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175568/

47
The rest / Those who inspire us
« on: October 21, 2013, 05:41:34 PM »
One of mine is Lester Brown.

I came across this mans work well over 30 years ago.  He is one of the great environmentalists of all time.  He has had major influences on how I think about the big picture and how slow long-term trends have a huge impact over time and are so difficult to manage for a better outcome.  He was a founder of the World Watch Institute (the State of the World books which have been published each year for decades now) as well as the Earth Policy Institute.  He is the main author of the series of Plan B proposals.  He is relentless and has never lost focus or commitment.  A remarkable man. 

Quote
There is perhaps no living environmental analyst and writer as prolific and widely known as Lester Brown. The founder of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, Brown has won numerous accolades, including a MacArthur Fellowship and a United Nations environmental prize. He will publish his 52nd book, an autobiography, on Monday.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/21/lester-brown-autobiography_n_4124707.html?ref=topbar

48
Science / Li paper predicts cooler Northern Hemisphere temps
« on: October 18, 2013, 05:45:49 PM »
NAO implicated as a predictor of Northern Hemisphere mean temperature multidecadal variability

Thanks to idunno over on the blog for this info.  I thought it deserves its own topic as it is likely to trigger a number of comments.

Li is one of the lead authors of AR5 and his research indicates that the AMO leads the Northern Hemisphere detrended temperatures by 15-20 years.  Using this metric the authors predict NHT trends from the 1970's to the present to include 2012 and warming hiatus.  Most interestingly they predict that NHT temperatures will "cool" out to 2027.  This has interesting implications for fighting with the deniers and changing emission patterns.

Quote
Abstract
[1]The twentieth century Northern Hemisphere mean surface temperature (NHT) is
characterized by a multidecadal warming–cooling–warming pattern followed by a flat trend
since about 2000 (recent warming hiatus). Here we demonstrate that the North Atlantic
Oscillation (NAO) is implicated as a useful predictor of NHT multidecadal variability.
Observational analysis shows that the NAO leads both the detrended NHT and oceanic
Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) by 15–20 years. Theoretical analysis illuminates
that the NAO precedes NHT multidecadal variability through its delayed effect on the AMO
due to the large thermal inertia associated with slow oceanic processes. A NAO-based linear
model is therefore established to predict the NHT, which gives an excellent hindcast for NHT
in 1971–2011 with the recent flat trend well predicted. NHT in 2012–2027 is predicted to fall
slightly over the next decades, due to the recent NAO weakening that temporarily offsets the
anthropogenically induced warming.

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013GL057877/pdf

49
Consequences / Trends in China that impact emissions and AGW
« on: October 17, 2013, 05:09:24 PM »
I have been thinking for a time that trends in China are at least as important as those in the US or Europe in that consumption in the highly developed areas, while exceedingly high, is relatively plateaued and in most places declining slightly.  In China however, all relevant trends that I am aware of indicate that we are looking at a long period of rapidly increasing consumption that has dire implications for slowing and eventually reducing carbon emissions.  Given its vast population, rapid growth rates and huge rises in consumption it will possibly dominate the metrics governing emissions going forward.  India also has potential to have this kind of effect due to its large and growing population, but its economy is not in a condition yet where it can have the effect China is likely to have.  So I thought it might be useful to have a depository for metrics related to China which have a direct impact on emissions and other AGW issues.  Here it is.

50
The rest / Real experts versus us.
« on: October 13, 2013, 07:36:58 PM »
I was reading a blog today and came across an interesting dig, by a real expert on AGW, directed at a type of poster(s) found on many forums related to climate change.  It illustrates an interesting point about people who are very interested in highly technical topics like AGW.  It might merit some discussion.

Quote
....Those predisposed to believing climate change who are less scientifically literate, fall for scares about climate changing fast in improbable ways.

Those predisposed to _disbelieve_ who are less scientifically literate, fall for scares about socialists stealing their freedoms in fast improbable ways.

I would surmise that the attitude expressed in this post is more prevalent than many might appreciate.  To a true expert the mis-understanding or misattribution of the state of the science (in either direction from what is known or can be predicted) is equally upsetting.  One sees on blogs like Real Climate the frustration of the moderators with both denialists and their opposite, who extrapolate to climate changes which are not supported by the science, in their somewhat dismissive and/or slightly contemptuous responses to postings.  There is also a trend there for the jargon to become more technical, and thus incomprehensible to the non-expert, over time in a sort of unconscious intellectual intimidation and shutting off of discussion.

I suspect we are all susceptible to this tendency of non-expert but very interested bystanders to exaggerate in the direction our limited understandings lead us (whether for or against).   I try to guard against this natural tendency by discounting almost all news reports and going directly to the sources of research and also to places like Real Climate to get their interpretation of what the current research tells us.  But, like most I suspect, when I have a level of expertise which exceeds the apparent knowledge of those like the Real Climate moderators in some area that impacts AGW conclusions, I feel fully justified in applying that knowledge and reinterpreting their conclusions or extrapolating from them.  After all, a PhD in Physics is a pretty limited subset of understanding how the world actually functions as a whole.  Having had a brother with multiple degrees from MIT (math & physics), a Fulbright scholar, a PhD in math and post masters degree level work in Philosophy (logic) and Economics (yes I did point out the contradiction of the last two), and fluent in 4 languages; I was still astounded at times what he did not know or understand.  Most all of us fall in the range of from a mile deep and an inch wide to a mile wide and an inch deep.  No one is both a mile deep and a mile wide (many, of course, are an inch and an inch).

But the poster I quoted makes a valid point and I try to keep it in my mind and to apply it when I perform my own analysis of what is likely to happen.  I try to always base my thoughts on the foundations of opinion of experts in the areas where I do not have equal or better knowledge.  I do my best to resist taking the worst number from the worst case RCP and assuming that that number is what we base our assumptions on.  This tendency is very prevalent in news reporting of studies and also a common tendency of those who post about AGW's future effects (or lack thereof).  We need to guard against it.

 

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