By Richard Nolthenius: Will the End of Growth Tame Climate Change?

Angry Tiger

Dr. Richard Nolthenius is a climate scientist that I respect. I have previously posted some of his excellent work here and here.

Nolthenius stopped by today to leave a comment. This gave me an opportunity to ask a climate expert a question that I have wanted to ask for a long time:

Do you think the end of economic growth (which will probably occur soon due to low-cost oil depletion) will be enough to prevent a climate incompatible with civilization?

Here is his answer:

No, not at this point.

The old IPCC carbon budgets are woefully politically manipulated and wrong, missing key physics and assuming massive carbon capture and sequestration later this century to boot.

We are crossing the permafrost thaw tipping point right now – since Vaks et al 2013 showed that +1.5C was the tipping point, and we’re arriving there right now, as of the end of 2016 +1.48C if you use the new Schurer, Mann et al 2017 work on what is the more reliable measure of “pre-industrial” temperature. We’re passing the West Antarctic melt tipping point too, and even at today’s temperatures the Arctic Ocean is soon to be free of summer ice.

It’s too late for merely ending growth (as if “merely” were easy or going to happen !).  We’ll need active human-effort’ed atmospheric CO2 removal and sequestration. AFTER ending growth, AFTER ending all current CO2 and GHG emissions.

Also, merely ending growth doesn’t stop energy generation. We still need to support all past growth. Even getting to the point we can do that with renewables entirely, still means we need much more CO2 emissions from factories etc just to build the infrastructure to put in place an entirely new grid and energy system. 81% of primary energy consumption in the world today is still fossil fuels and that hasn’t budged for the entire century we’re in. I’m reading 2% growth in emissions in 2017, and predicted 2% more in ’18 and another 2% in ’19. While renewables has a good % growth rate, it’s on such a tiny base that fossil fuels even at only 2% are easily able to keep the same percentage of total energy.

The only solutions at this point are going to be EXPENSIVE, as in maybe 5-10% of GDP for a very long time, to do the transition and take Earth to the Urgent Care ER. And we as a global society only do “expensive” when we get short-term bling out of it.

No; we have to grow up, spiritually and emotionally, in a huge hurry, and so far I see none of that, but instead I see more fear-induced wall building, demagogues, and violence.

As scarcity increases, I expect to see more of it, not a “come let us love together” transformation, I’m sorry to say.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “By Richard Nolthenius: Will the End of Growth Tame Climate Change?”

  1. Sad, but realistic. When their systems collapse, people get angry…..not the best time for spiritual and emotional change.

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  2. You know you are in trouble when reduced CO2 emissions from an economic collapse caused by low-cost oil depletion is not sufficient to prevent civilization collapse from climate change caused by previously emitted CO2.

    Like

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