By Richard Nolthenius: The Thermodynamics of Civilization


James @ Megacancer posted a link to a presentation on the thermodynamics of civilization by Dr. Richard Nolthenius who is Program Chair of Astronomy at Cabrillo College.

Nolthenius is an admirer of the work of Tim Garrett and here explains and elaborates on Garrett’s work.

Garrett has the best understanding in the world of the relationship between climate change and the economy, so it’s very nice to see a peer amplify Garrett’s novel and important work, which sadly has been mostly ignored to date.

It’s complex stuff and I don’t pretend to have absorbed all 260 pages but it’s worth a read because it conveys the unvarnished reality of the challenge and threat we face, which you won’t often find.

The only possible flaw in the logic that I was able to detect is that both Nolthenius and Garrett appear to think the most probable scenario is that we will continue to achieve 2% economic growth per year until climate change does so much damage to the economy that it can no longer grow and then collapses.

I think economic growth is slowing and the economy will within a few years begin to contract due to the depletion of high quality fossil energy and the resulting decline in net energy and exploding debt.

I recall Garrett saying a couple of years ago that fracking had solved the peak oil problem and you can see this thinking in the presentation.

I suspect that declining net energy will collapse the economy before climate change, but I have no idea if this will occur soon enough to prevent a climate incompatible with what remains of civilization. Maybe war will pre-empt both.

Here is the PDF version and here is the PowerPoint version.

Here is the concluding summary:

Richard Nolthenius - The Thermodynamics of Civilzation - 2018

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