Notice the tight correlation between CO2 emissions per person and standard of living:
That’s not a coincidence as physicist Tim Garrett has explained:
So if we ever decide to do something effective about climate change (assuming it’s not already too late due to self-reinforcing feedback loops) then that solution must include some combination of a lower standard of living and a lower population.
When was the last time you heard a leader or climate scientist speak with such clarity?
Probably never because most are in denial as explained by Ajit Varki’s theory:
Unfortunately, reducing our standard of living is not as simple as tightening our belts because of the large amount of debt we use to support our lifestyles and economy.
Contraction means a depression at best, and more likely some form of crash:
So the choice is severe economic hardship from a voluntary contraction, or collapse and possible extinction from climate change.
But it’s not so simple.
Our lifestyle and economy is totally dependent on burning non-renewable fossil carbon and we have already depleted the best low-cost reserves:
The best minds predict we will have 50% less oil to burn in 10 years:
This means our lifestyles and economy will contract soon no matter what we choose to do.
So the real choice is do we want to try to control our decline in a civil and humane manner, or do we want to let nature force an uncivil and inhumane decline?
The correct choice seems obvious:
The correct choice is even more clear when you consider the many other negative side effects of human overshoot besides climate change:
But of course there is no choice because we are collectively unable to acknowledge or discuss our predicament due to the denial of reality behavior that enabled our unique brain:
Which probably explains why we have found no other intelligent life in the universe:
It’s also probable that complex multicellular life, like plants and animals, is extremely rare in the universe because it depends on a rare “accident” to create the eukaryotic cell:
Which means our planet really is special.
And you reading and understanding this essay is a miracle, but we don’t need God to explain this miracle, just physics and biology, plus billions of years and trillions of planets to enable several low probability events to occur:
To sum all of this up, if you have the rare ability to break through the human tendency to deny reality, then you should be in awe of being alive to witness and understand this rare event in the universe, and you should be grateful for the good food and other comforts we enjoy.
13 thoughts on “Mashup”
Wow! I watched that last YouTube video. The one that towards the end spoke of humans having a denial of death and, also, a denial of the ultimate loss of our species. (Or words to that effect!) If this is correct then it explains so much, and it means that we, as in human beings, are destined to fail. Or at least vast numbers of us and those that survive will do so in a world that is very different to the present world. I believe this. I wish I could say more but in reality that is it!
Exactly. Varki’s theory explains the insanity we swim in. His book changed my life.
Just to be certain, that’s his book Denial?
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That’s quite a link!
Rob, you write: “So if we ever decide to do something effective about climate change (assuming it’s not already too late due to self-reinforcing feedback loops) then that solution must include some combination of a lower standard of living and a lower population.”
However, in a 2018 article titled: “Is population growth a problem?” (http://www.inscc.utah.edu/~tgarrett/Economics/Is_population_growth_a_problem.html), in the penultimate paragraph he writes: “So, does population growth matter? Well, I think it’s the wrong question. Instead it makes more sense to ponder the external forces that control the energy efficiency of civilization as a whole, and how efficiently it can use energy resources to incorporate raw materials from the environment.”
The physics calculations in the article are way beyond my comfort zone. but I’m sure you can sort out what what he means in the context of your statement relating “a lower population” to doing something effective about climate change. Or maybe I’m missing the point entirely.
I think Garrett is saying that the efficiency of our civilization’s ability to convert energy into wealth is the key driver of overshoot because that determines our growth rate.
For example, as we deplete the cheap oil, more oil will be used to get oil, and less oil will be available for maintaining and growing wealth, including agriculture, which will produce less food, and therefore our population will decline.
Garrett does not believe it is possible to contract our economy without crashing it. He’s probably right, although I think there’s a chance that an aware civilization with good leadership might be able to navigate a civil and humane contraction. Denial of course is blocking our awareness.
Garrett also believes, I think, that fracked oil will keep some growth going for quite a while which explains, I think, why he’s not a “doomer”.
Jim Kunstler has posted a new link to an excellent essay by Catherine Ingram.
I wasn’t familiar with her. I highly recommend her essay, though it is long. About 70% down the page she covers the idea of the Great Filter. Here’s an excerpted paragraph:
“I first read The Great Filter theory a few years ago. It made sense to me then and ever since. In previous years, I had considered our predicament as a “species problem,” that we had a terrible kink in our evolution that made us ecocidal, homicidal, and suicidal. But the theory of The Great Filter allowed me to see that humans are just doing what we were evolutionarily destined to do. It is not an aberration of evolution, even though it will destroy all complex life. Nor is it is the result of any one thread of evolution, any particular age or technological advancement or economic system.”
Since she didn’t mention you or Ajit Varki perhaps she isn’t aware of his book Denial. Other than that omission I think this is the best single essay I’ve read on our predicament.
Thanks for your blog, I get a lot out of it.
Brent (a mechanical engineer from the outskirts of Kansas City.)
Hi Brent, my apologies for the delay in getting your comment posted. For some reason your comment was marked as spam by WordPress along with several hundred other comments selling me Viagra. Now that one from you has been approved others should appear immediately.
Thanks for the link to Ingram’s essay. I skimmed it and it looks excellent so will go back for a slow read.
Nice to hear from a fellow engineer.
Now I remember Ingram and why I did not dig deeper. She’s got a profitable gig going as a guru at $75 for 30 minutes. Something does not sit right with me when people try to profit from overshoot awareness.
Rob-what a couple of months its been here in Un-denialville (population small but growing). Terrific stuff from the usual suspects-Gail T, Chris M, TimM, TimW, PaulB,
SrsRocco, James at Megacancer, X-Ray Mike. Then Paul Chefurka makes a short but very gloomy comment at Xraymike’s blog and Paul Arbair comments on Gail’s blog. Oh and then a retired engineer develops a “Denial to Domesticate” theory. Truly my cup runneth over.
Then just this morning Tim Garret’s Twitter had a link to an article at the Conversation.C0m by a James Dyke from the University of Exeter which was very compelling and,which while containing a litte bit of hope for the troops at the end, was very honest about our predicament. It also included a reference to the Garret Relation although he seems to be still at the bargaining stage with it. Still it’s getting out there no doubt helped by Richard Nolthenius’s continued pushing.
The easiest layman’s explanation (ie one I think I understand) came from Tim Garret’s Twitter feed. That is “Every trillion dollars of GDP require bringing on line six 1GW power plants.” Global GDP appears to be more than 60 trillion dollars. So as far as I can even comprehend those numbers we are on a treadmill to hell of continuous obligatory energy growth without end and if we try to get of something breaks. I have no idea how Tim Garrett stays so hopeful (fracking really?).
Hi Mick, welcome.
Our energy treadmill will begin to wind down soon, but not in the way most expect. I anticipate people will go bat-shit crazy.
Today’s essay by Tim Watkins nicely captures the intractability of our predicament.