By James Kunstler: The Uncomfortable Hiatus

The Next Financial Crisis Lurks Underground

I haven’t posted anything by Kunstler for a while. When he’s occasionally good, he’s really good, like today.

http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/the-uncomfortable-hiatus/

And so the sun seems to stand still this last day before the resumption of business-as-usual, and whatever remains of labor in this sclerotic republic takes its ease in the ominous late summer heat, and the people across this land marinate in anxious uncertainty. What can be done?

Some kind of epic national restructuring is in the works. It will either happen consciously and deliberately or it will be forced on us by circumstance. One side wants to magically reenact the 1950s; the other wants a Gnostic transhuman utopia. Neither of these is a plausible outcome. Most of the arguments ranging around them are what Jordan Peterson calls “pseudo issues.” Let’s try to take stock of what the real issues might be.

Energy: The shale oil “miracle” was a stunt enabled by supernaturally low interest rates, i.e. Federal Reserve policy. Even The New York Times said so yesterday (The Next Financial Crisis Lurks Underground). For all that, the shale oil producers still couldn’t make money at it. If interest rates go up, the industry will choke on the debt it has already accumulated and lose access to new loans. If the Fed reverses its current course —say, to rescue the stock and bond markets — then the shale oil industry has perhaps three more years before it collapses on a geological basis, maybe less. After that, we’re out of tricks. It will affect everything.

The perceived solution is to run all our stuff on electricity, with the electricity produced by other means than fossil fuels, so-called alt energy. This will only happen on the most limited basis and perhaps not at all. (And it is apart from the question of the decrepit electric grid itself.) What’s required is a political conversation about how we inhabit the landscape, how we do business, and what kind of business we do. The prospect of dismantling suburbia — or at least moving out of it — is evidently unthinkable. But it’s going to happen whether we make plans and policies, or we’re dragged kicking and screaming away from it.

Corporate tyranny: The nation is groaning under despotic corporate rule. The fragility of these operations is moving toward criticality. As with shale oil, they depend largely on dishonest financial legerdemain. They are also threatened by the crack-up of globalism, and its 12,000-mile supply lines, now well underway. Get ready for business at a much smaller scale.

Hard as this sounds, it presents great opportunities for making Americans useful again, that is, giving them something to do, a meaningful place in society, and livelihoods. The implosion of national chain retail is already underway. Amazon is not the answer, because each Amazon sales item requires a separate truck trip to its destination, and that just doesn’t square with our energy predicament. We’ve got to rebuild main street economies and the layers of local and regional distribution that support them. That’s where many jobs and careers are.

Climate change is most immediately affecting farming. 2018 will be a year of bad harvests in many parts of the world. Agri-biz style farming, based on oil-and-gas plus bank loans is a ruinous practice, and will not continue in any case. Can we make choices and policies to promote a return to smaller scale farming with intelligent methods rather than just brute industrial force plus debt? If we don’t, a lot of people will starve to death. By the way, here is the useful work for a large number of citizens currently regarded as unemployable for one reason or another.

Pervasive racketeering rules because we allow it to, especially in education and medicine. Both are self-destructing under the weight of their own money-grubbing schemes. Both are destined to be severely downscaled. A lot of colleges will go out of business. Most college loans will never be paid back (and the derivatives based on them will blow up). We need millions of small farmers more than we need millions of communications majors with a public relations minor. It may be too late for a single-payer medical system. A collapsing oil-based industrial economy means a lack of capital, and fiscal hocus-pocus is just another form of racketeering. Medicine will have to get smaller and less complex and that means local clinic-based health care. Lots of careers there, and that is where things are going, so get ready.

Government over-reach: the leviathan state is too large, too reckless, and too corrupt. Insolvency will eventually reduce its scope and scale. Most immediately, the giant matrix of domestic spying agencies has turned on American citizens. It will resist at all costs being dismantled or even reigned in. One task at hand is to prosecute the people in the Department of Justice and the FBI who ran illegal political operations in and around the 2016 election. These are agencies which use their considerable power to destroy the lives of individual citizens. Their officers must answer to grand juries.

As with everything else on the table for debate, the reach and scope of US imperial arrangements has to be reduced. It’s happening already, whether we like it or not, as geopolitical relations shift drastically and the other nations on the planet scramble for survival in a post-industrial world that will be a good deal harsher than the robotic paradise of digitally “creative” economies that the credulous expect. This country has enough to do within its own boundaries to prepare for survival without making extra trouble for itself and other people around the world. As a practical matter, this means close as many overseas bases as possible, as soon as possible.

As we get back to business tomorrow, ask yourself where you stand in the blather-storm of false issues and foolish ideas, in contrast to the things that actually matter.

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.

 

 

 

James Hansen On and In Denial

James Hansen

James Hansen is a great man, and a great example of the power and ubiquity of Varki’s MORT theory.

Despite working harder than any scientist on the planet to bring reality to government climate policies, Hansen himself is also in denial about one aspect of climate change, namely the implications of reducing CO2 emissions.

Wealth is proportional to energy consumption. Over 90% of energy comes from burning carbon. Most “renewable energy” is dependent on burning carbon for manufacture, installation, and maintenance. Basic physics dictates that reducing CO2 emissions must also shrink the economy.

Notice that in this and almost every other article on climate change there is never an honest acknowledgement of the implications of reducing CO2 emissions.

The reality is that one way or the other we are going to have fewer and poorer people soon.

A carbon tax is one way. Raising interest rates is another. A one-child-policy is another. Starvation, forced migrations, disease, and war are another.

We get to choose. Doing nothing is also a choice.

 

“All we’ve done is agree there’s a problem,” Hansen told the Guardian. “We agreed that in 1992 [at the Earth summit in Rio] and re-agreed it again in Paris [at the 2015 climate accord]. We haven’t acknowledged what is required to solve it. Promises like Paris don’t mean much, it’s wishful thinking. It’s a hoax that governments have played on us since the 1990s.”

Hansen’s long list of culprits for this inertia are both familiar – the nefarious lobbying of the fossil fuel industry – and surprising. Jerry Brown, the progressive governor of California, and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, are “both pretending to be solving the problem” while being unambitious and shunning low-carbon nuclear power, Hansen argues.

There is particular scorn for Barack Obama. Hansen says in a scathing upcoming book that the former president “failed miserably” on climate change and oversaw policies that were “late, ineffectual and partisan”.

“The solution isn’t complicated, it’s not rocket science,” Hansen said. “Emissions aren’t going to go down if the cost of fossil fuels isn’t honest. Economists are very clear on this. We need a steadily increasing fee that is then distributed to the public.”

“It’s not too late,” Hansen stressed. “There is a rate of reduction that’s feasible to stay well below 2C. But you just need that price on carbon.”

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/19/james-hansen-nasa-scientist-climate-change-warning

By Jean-Marc Jancovici: Can we save energy, jobs and growth at the same time?

Thanks to Mike Stasse for finding this excellent presentation by Jean-Marc Jancovici on the relationship between energy, employment, and income.

I am not yet familiar with other work by Jancovici, but he seems to be a French version of Tom Murphy and Tim Garrett, which is a very good thing, because their quality of intellect, on the issues that really matter to civilization, are scarce.

Jancovici, an engineer, in 90 minutes, crisply demolishes 100 years of theories cherished by the “profession” of economics.

Idiots, all of them.

The depletion of natural resources, with oil to start with, and the need for a stable climate, will make it harder and harder to pursue economic growth as we know it. It has now become urgent to develop a new branch of economics which does not rely on the unrealistic assumption of a perpetual GDP increase. In this Colloquium, I will discuss a “physical” approach to economics which aims at understanding and managing the scaling back of our world economy.

Biography : Jean-Marc Jancovici, is a French engineer who graduated from École Polytechnique and Télécom, and who specializes in energy-climate subjects. He is a consultant, teacher, lecturer, author of books and columnist. He is known for his outreach work on climate change and the energy crisis. He is co-founder of the organization “Carbone 4” and president of the think tank “The Shift Project”.

 

By Dahr Jamail: Update on the State of the Planet: How Then Shall We Live?

Dahr Jamail quote

A must watch presentation on climate change by Dahr Jamail recorded March 16, 2018.

I’ve criticized Jamail in the past for blaming political leaders for lack of action on climate change while Jamail regularly flies long distances to report on climate change.

Nevertheless Jamail is an excellent journalist and this talk is a superb (and sobering) update on climate change.

The first 38 minutes presents the latest data and may feel like being smacked with a 2×4 if you’re not current on the science.

The balance of the talk explains Jamail’s personal journey through awareness, depression, and finally acceptance of that fact that we’re not going to fix climate change. Jamail shares the things he has done in his personal life that permit him to function despite knowing the dire reality.

I found his advice helpful. One plank of his strategy is having a few local friends to talk to that share his knowledge and concerns. I need to work on this. I don’t know anyone nearby that shares my outlook.

Portions of the Q&A at the end were disappointing. Jamail thinks solar energy could save modern civilization if only we would reign in those evil fossil energy companies. He should try flying to Australia on a solar powered plane to gather data on climate change by snorkeling on the great barrier reef. Then he should read Varki.

Jamail understands what is going on, but not why. For the why, see Tim Garrett or Richard Nolthenius.

Jamail’s presentation can be viewed here:

https://media.csuchico.edu/media/Update+on+the+State+of+the+PlanetA+How+Then+Shall+We+LiveF/0_2ljujwjg

 

Dahr Jamail is a journalist who has spent several years researching what he labels “anthropogenic climate disruption,” also referred to as human-caused climate change. In this presentation, he shares some findings of his research, which will be included in his soon-to-be-published book, “The End of Ice.” He presents compelling – and sobering – information about the rise in the Earth’s surface temperature, the melting of the polar ice caps, and sea level rise. Jamail then talks about the human response to these very serious problems, and how people can cope and cooperate with each other in the face of them.

h/t Mike Stasse

On the Trans Mountain Pipeline

Trans Mountain pipeline

Many environmental groups in my province of B.C. oppose construction of a new pipeline from Alberta to the west coast. The motives of these groups include:

  • preventing dirty oil from contributing to climate change;
  • preventing environmental damage from pipeline and oil tanker spills;
  • concern for First Nation rights.

While these motives are admirable, all of the groups lack an understanding of, and/or deny, the laws of thermodynamics that govern our economy, and our overshoot predicament.

It’s true that climate change is a serious threat. In fact it’s much more serious than most environmental groups acknowledge. We are already locked into a dangerous 2C higher climate with 10m of sea level rise no matter what we do. There are no actions we can take today to solve the climate problem and avoid future suffering. Our choices today are to try to maintain our current lifestyle and increase future suffering, or reduce our population and consumption, and constrain future suffering.

It’s also true that the pipeline will create some new risks for environmental damage, but these risks pale in comparison to the damage the human footprint is already causing. Habitat loss, species extinction, soil depletion, nitrogen imbalance, pollution, deforestation, overfishing, and non-renewable resource depletion are the real threats environmental groups should focus on. As with climate change, nothing can be done about these threats unless we reduce human population and consumption.

In addition, if you want to maintain our current lifestyle, and you are concerned about the risk of oil spills, then there is a good argument to build the pipeline.

With regard to First Nations rights, all 7.6 billion humans descended from one small tribe in Africa about 100,000 years ago, meaning we’re all basically the same. Environmentalists should focus on the rights of all future generations, including First Nations.

Our standard of living is completely dependent on the burning of fossil energy, especially oil. We have already burned most of the cleaner and cheaper oil. That’s why we are mining dirty expensive oil sands, and fracking. To reduce our use of fossil energy we must reduce our standard living and our population.

Put another way, new pipelines will be built for another decade or so, until even the dirty oil is gone, unless we reduce our consumption of oil, and the only way to accomplish that is to shrink our economy, standard of living, and population.

If environmental groups want to make a difference on the issues that matter, as well as lesser issues like preventing new pipelines, they must:

  • set good examples in their personal lives (no more than one child, no long distance travel, reduced consumption of everything);
  • advocate for a global one child policy;
  • advocate for austerity, conservation, and a smaller economy (the simplest and most effective way to accomplish this would be to implement a higher interest rate).

It’s true that our choices are unpalatable, but they are reality, and there is a key point that must be understood when weighing what to do. The remaining affordable fossil energy is depleting quickly. Extraction will, in a decade or so, become too expensive for us to afford, meaning fossil energy will be gone for all intents and purposes. When this happens, our lifestyles and population will collapse, thanks to the laws of thermodynamics, no matter what we choose to do.

The advantages of choosing to voluntarily contract today are threefold. First, we would constrain future suffering caused by climate change. Second, we could use some of our remaining wealth to prepare a softer landing zone and to orchestrate a fairer and more humane descent. Third, we might leave some oil in the ground for our grandchildren so they can enjoy some of the comforts we take for granted. The alternative of doing nothing until thermodynamics forces the issue is chaos, war, and much more suffering for all species, including humans.

This article today suggests that environmental groups may have succeeded in preventing construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline:

https://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Disaster-Hits-Canadas-Oil-Sands.html

Kinder Morgan said it would halt nearly all work on a pipeline project that is crucial to the entire Canadian oil sands industry, representing a huge blow to Alberta’s efforts to move oil to market.

Here is what I predict will happen:

  1. Environmentalists will continue to deny reality and focus on the wrong things.
  2. We will not voluntarily contract the economy.
  3. We will not implement a one child policy.
  4. The Trans Mountain pipeline will be built, provided that our luck persists at avoiding an accidental crash caused by the instability we have created by using extreme debt to maintain an illusion of economic growth.

Let’s check back in a year to see if I am correct.

By Steven Spencer: Interview with Richard Nolthenius

Environmental Professionals Postulating

Steven Spencer hosts a new podcast called Environmental Professionals Postulating.

On October 27, 2017 Spencer interviewed Dr. Richard Nolthenius, a professor of climate science at Cabrillo College, Santa Cruz California. I recently discovered Nolthenius and am very impressed, in part because he respects and acknowledges Tim Garrett’s work, and in part because he is so knowledgeable.

I’ve listened to hundreds of interviews with climate scientists over the years and this ranks among the very best.  Spencer asked good questions and Nolthenius responded with lots of depth, breadth, and candor.

Given that Nolthenius understands Garrett’s thermodynamics of climate change you will detect segments where he lapses into denial, but he does far better than most climate scientists.

Highly recommended.

The 3 hour interview was broken into 3 parts:

Part 1 – Policy Mechanisms for fighting Climate Change

Part 2 – Technological Solutions for fighting Climate Change

Part 3 – GeoEngineering and the “Garrett Relation”

 

Dr. Richard Nolthenius has a background in thermal engineering and astronomy. He currently runs the Astronomy Program at Cabrillo College, Santa Cruz California. He also lecturers and has been a visiting researcher for UC Santa Cruz since 1987. He describes his professional transition in to climate science as “quite a shock, not necessarily a pleasant one”!

Dr. Nolthenius suggests that Professor Tim Garrett’s work on linking global wealth and energy consumption has not been given the attention it deserves, Dr. Nolthenius also concludes that the only way to advert the increasingly critical climate change situation is in line with Prof. Garretts publications and therefore requires sharp, rapid cuts to our use of fossil fuels.

To achieve this end Dr. Nolthenius has compiled a list of 7 Policy Mechanisms which he will discuss in Part one. These include:

  • Tax and Dividend
  • End government subsidies to fossil fuel companies
  • Trade sanctions against all countries who do not enact Tax and Dividend or end fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Devise an efficient mechanism to impose Tax/Dividend on all externalized costs.
  • Tax consumption, not income.
  • End Child Tax Credit, and promote policies which economically discourage population growth.
  • Amend the Constitution.

Dr. Nolthenius explains exactly what the above may involve, and discusses ideas for getting them implemented with a million person Occupy DC movement.

In Part Two Dr. Nolthenius highlights potential technological ‘band aids’ (and their short falls) which could potentially be implemented alongside the Policy Mechanisms discussed in Part 1. These include:

  • Energy technologies (PV, Wind, Hydroelectric, Geothermal and Nuclear).
  • Carbon Capture and storage
  • Artificial capture of CO2 from the atmosphere via ‘Air Capture’
  • Climeworks commercially operated Air Capture CO2 machine.
  • BECCS – BioEnergy with Carbon Capture and Sequestration.

Dr. Nolthenius also points out how even if we ended all our carbon emissions today, the effect of Thermal Inertia would still cause global temperatures to rise.

Part 3 covers GeoEngineering including:

  • Permafrost Carbon
  • How do we choose?
  • Solar Radiation Management
    1. ‘Butterflies’
    2. Asteroids with dust secretion
    3. Reflective Aerosols
    4. Refreezing the Artic using pumped sea water.
  • ‘Loan Shark’ methods that won’t work long term
  • Why there is no ‘Magic Bullet’

Finally, in Part 3 Dr. Nolthenius takes some time to explain how economics is related to climate change, and why we need to stop our obsession with Growth.  The work of Prof. Tim Garrett / “The Garrett Relation” is expanded upon and discussed.

Reference is made by Dr Noltheius to “E.C.S”, although not covered in the series this stands for Equilibrium Climate Sensitivity. More information on this is available in Dr Noltheniuss presentation ‘Earth Climate Change in One (very long) Lecture’ available here: https://www.cabrillo.edu/~rnolthenius/Apowers/ClimateInOne.pptx

Many thanks to Dr Richard Nolthenius for joining me for this 3-part series, I hope I can discuss more issues with him in the future. I highly recommend visiting his website where there is a wealth of information freely available: https://www.cabrillo.edu/~rnolthenius/. His college lecture presentations (powerpoint and pdf versions) relevant to the topics covered can be found at: https://www.cabrillo.edu/~rnolthenius/astro7/A7PowerIndex.html .

Professor Tim Garretts work as discussed can be found here: http://www.inscc.utah.edu/~tgarrett/Economics/Economics.html

All 3 parts where recorded Friday 27th October 2017.