The Way We’re Going

This is the way we’re headed. What are we going to do about it?

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89 responses to “The Way We’re Going

  1. What is the global political-economy (i.e. us, we, society) going to do about “the way we are heading”? The most likely scenario is that we are going to collapse. See the paper http://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf by Jem Bendell concluding the following after an exhaustive review of the most up-to-date findings about climate change: “inevitable collapse, probable catastrophe and possible extinction.”
    See also https://jembendell.wordpress.com and https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-03-17/deep-adaptation-post-sustainability-and-the-possibility-of-societal-collapse/
    Note well: one can accept the reality of (1) a present social order which will never escape from the nature of its structure being a progress trap and (2) near term social collapse due to rapid climate disruption (aka climate chaos, climate tragedy) without being a fatalistic true believer in near term human extinction.

    “George Orwell once talked about his ability to face unpleasant facts, and that’s always inspired me. I want to look at the things that are happening in the world that we may not want to think about and try to really understand them” (Roy Scranton).

  2. Reblogged this on orestes6 and commented:
    What is the global political-economy (i.e. us, we, society) going to do about “the way we are heading”? The most likely scenario is that we are going to collapse. See the paper http://www.lifeworth.com/deepadaptation.pdf by Jem Bendell concluding the following after an exhaustive review of the most up-to-date findings about climate change: “inevitable collapse, probable catastrophe and possible extinction.”
    See also https://jembendell.wordpress.com and https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-03-17/deep-adaptation-post-sustainability-and-the-possibility-of-societal-collapse/
    Note well: one can accept the reality of (1) a present social order which will never escape from the nature of its structure being a progress trap and (2) near term social collapse due to rapid climate disruption (aka climate chaos, climate tragedy) without being a fatalistic true believer in near term human extinction.
    “George Orwell once talked about his ability to face unpleasant facts, and that’s always inspired me. I want to look at the things that are happening in the world that we may not want to think about and try to really understand them” (Roy Scranton).
    “Don’t confuse me with those who cling to hope. I enjoy describing how things are, I have no interest in how they ought to be. And I certainly have no interest in fixing them. I sincerely believe that if you think there’s a solution, you’re part of the problem” (George Carlin).
    “The meanings of life aren’t inherited. What is inherited is the mandate to make meanings of life by how we live. The endings of life give life’s meanings a chance to show. The beginning of the end of our order, our way, is now in view. This isn’t punishment, any more than dying is a punishment for being born.”―Stephen Jenkinson

  3. Presumably the anomaly base used is 1880-1910.

  4. The global average you are showing is 70% weighted in favor of air temperatures over ocean surfaces, which are cooled by mixing with the waters below. Here is another way to look at it, from James Hansen’s website: http://www.columbia.edu/~mhs119/Temperature/T_moreFigs/land+SST_12+132rm_1880-1920base.pdf

  5. Martin Smith

    I think the revenue-neutral carbon tax is a necessary component.

    • We are far more certain that “a carbon tax” is likely to be insufficient than we are that it is “necessary”. It certainly is not sufficient at the prices being proposed for the next decade or so, and it will have very, very little impact on some of the biggest and toughest segments (long-haul transport, shipping, aviation, steel, glass, cement, agriculture, I could go on, but it is all in those long-ago McKinsey abatement curves, everything to the right hand side…) until it is very high indeed. At this point, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the price to “gradually” rise to those levels.

      As to it being “necessary” that the revenue recycling choice be “revenue neutrality”, there is zero theoretical support for that, and polls show that the public prefers the money be used for R&D, clean energy, infrastructure, helping displaced workers.

      I have been active with Citizens Climate Lobby – one of the foremost proponents of revenue-neutral carbon pricing – for 10 years. Much of their leadership and membership seems to have completely lost the plot about what the last lost decade on emissions and the grim realization of both observations and models over the same timeframe imply for their one-trick-pony policy.

      A gradually rising, revenue-neutral price on carbon? Go for it! You’ve got my vote (provisionally). But peeps, even the economic architect of the “gold standard” revenue-neutral carbon tax in British Columbia (which itself is rising so gradually that it hasn’t budged in about 8 years, so nervous was the government of scaring the various horses), even Mark Jaccard thinks it is both insufficient and too politically inapt to be the central policy thrust given “where we are”.

      https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-divisive-carbon-prices-are-much-ado-about-nothing/

      Excerpt:

      “(G)uess what? Carbon pricing is not essential to stop burning coal and gasoline. We economists only say it is because we prefer it. If we were honest, we would explain that decarbonization can be achieved entirely with regulations. These will cost more, but not a great deal more if policy-makers use flexible regulations, or “flex-regs,” that allow companies and individuals to determine their cheapest way to decarbonize…

      … We economists should also explain that while carbon pricing gets all the media attention, flex-regs quietly do the heavy lifting. A decade ago, I helped design British Columbia’s mix of a carbon tax and flex-regs. One flex-reg caused BC Hydro to cancel intended coal and natural gas plants and instead develop low-carbon options from competitive bids. This flex-reg is three times more effective than B.C.’s carbon tax, and it faced no opposition.”

      • Martin Smith

        >We are far more certain that “a carbon tax” is likely to be insufficient than
        >we are that it is “necessary”.

        The revenue-neutral carbon tax doesn’t have to be sufficient to be effective, and, obviously, because the purposes of the tax are (a) induce consumers to burn less carbon, and (b) induce producers to design products that make burning less carbon easier, the tax must be set high enough at the outset to induce the desired producer and consumer behaviors, and it must have an increasing level that everyone can see coming.

        >and it will have very, very little impact on some of the biggest and
        >toughest segments (long-haul transport, shipping, aviation, steel, glass,
        >cement, agriculture, I could go on, but it is all in those long-ago McKinsey
        > abatement curves, everything to the right hand side…) until it is very high
        > indeed.
        But I just read about a new kind of concrete stores more CO2 than is used in its production, and Boeing already strives for fuel efficiency in its designs. So it doesn’t make sense that increasing the incentive to burn less carbon won’t have a positive effect.

        Nor do we have to levy the tax on agriculture, at least not for fertilizers. I think farm machinery can be made electric. Trucks can be electric, and long-haul shipping can be done by rail, which can be all electric.

        And on the point about insufficiency, we can add tax incentives to specific industries. Like railroads to convert to electric.

        >As to it being “necessary” that the revenue recycling choice be “revenue
        >neutrality”, there is zero theoretical support for that, and polls show that
        >the public prefers the money be used for R&D, clean energy,
        >infrastructure, helping displaced workers.

        Well, by necessary, I didn’t mean revenue-neutral is the only thing that will work. I mean it is necessary to change everyone’s behavior, and the only way to change the behavior of AGW deniers is to give them a money-making proposition.

    • John Brookes

      I agree entirely. Whatever else we do, a carbon tax is a must. If any country says they are tackling global warming but does not have a carbon tax, I won’t believe them.
      With a carbon tax it is up to industry to pick winners, not government. And industry is far more likely to be agile and determined than government. I’m not knocking government here, just observing that people with their own money on the line will move heaven and earth to keep it.
      But of course we need regulation too. Because you can build energy inefficient houses more cheaply, even if they are more expensive over their lifetime, you need regulation so that people can’t go for the cheap up-front option. Same deal with cars.
      But I think almost all the heavy lifting needs to be done by a price on negative externalities – like green house gases.

  6. We need to be clear that we only have 25 ppm of new CO2 accumulation in the atmosphere before we blow by the 2 degree target. We need to be clear that it will only take about ten years now for us to add that 25 ppm. That means our reducing emissions about 80% from current levels needs to be done by 2030.

    I am trying to explain this on the comments threads over at real climate, but some folks just don’t get the fact that the change now has to happen in the next ten years. We are down to crunch time and we are still talking instead of acting.

    The strength of the resistance to the changes we have to make is amazing. Maybe it’s just the bodies in motion and bodies at rest thing? As a species we are not in motion to address an existential problem. But maybe we can move fast once we start to move.

    Thanks for the work you are doing to make that happen.

    Cheers

    Mike

    • Yeah, that’s a calculation I’ve made, too, more or less. You can fuss about the 25 ppm and its significance–we both know folks who would tell us we’re cooked already at 410. let alone 435, for instance–and about the perils of uncritical extrapolation.

      But this isn’t a long-term extrapolation, and there’s not a whole lot of variability in CO2 over decadal scales, so it doesn’t seem you projection is particularly daring in that way.

      You can also approach the question with extrapolation of temperature trends. There’s a lot more variability, but over multidecadal spans the rate seems to have been reasonably stable. If we’re at roughly 1 C now, then it’s about 3 decades to 1.5 C at current rates. Of course, we’d be committed to 1.5 C, plus, long before that. Indeed, it’s not hard to find folks who think we already are.

      • John Brookes

        The trouble, Doc Snow, is that any changes we’ve made have not been reflected in the rate at which CO2 is accumulating in the atmosphere. So it still really is as though we hadn’t started.

        But I’m sure that once genuine efforts are made, the results will be pretty quick. Our problem now is fighting the argument that it is all too late, and so we may as well not bother. It may well be too late, but only a fool would give up on such an important thing just because they might not succeed.

      • First, you turn the wheel.

        A little later, the ship answers the helm.

    • The last time I checked, a few years ago, the CO2e number was over 480 ppm. Although CO2 is the biggest contributor to forcing, we shouldn’t forget the other GHGs, some of which are very powerful even if only a tiny component. I still remember the Michael Mann calculation, a few years ago, that 2C is likely to be reached around 2036.

      I just can’t see us avoiding the purple bar on Tamino’s graph but we might be able to limit it to just “disaster” if we start to act now. Can I see us doing that? Sadly, no. However, there is talk of another global recession, so there is some hope that this will at least slow the emissions and perhaps give us a little more time for many more people to wake up.

      • “Start?”

        Mike, you seem determined to overlook–I won’t say ‘deny’!–every action that has already been taken, proposed, planned or enacted.

        I’m certainly not saying that all is well, or that all problems are solved. We’re in a pretty perilous state, to be sure, and most crucially, global emissions are still rising. Until that changes, not enough has been done.

        However, from my perspective it appears that the global economy is transforming before our eyes, toward a much more sustainable path. I’m confident that we are going to see the decarbonization of the the electrical grid, already visibly underway, continue to accelerate over the next decade and beyond. Transportation, too, is starting to change, and will certainly continue to change faster. And speaking of carbon taxes, as some were just upthread, I think the latest count has them on the books in over 40 countries and still climbing.

        So, a ‘start’, at least. Will we avoid 1.5 C? At this point, I’d probably be betting with you that we won’t. But 2 C? I think the chances there are much better.*

        *Though I can’t help but note once again how literally insane it is to run such risks, and with such casualness! Folks who want to guard against individual risks at the 1-in-100,000 level suddenly get very cavalier about risk when it’s, say, a 1/3 chance of crashing civilization.

  7. “What are we going to do about it?” Pray that political-economic collapse happens before ecosystem collapse?

    • When I crunched the numbers about five years ago, this was my (secular) hope. It’s probably the most plausible and effective way that planetary ecosystem/biodiversity collapse can be reduced when compared to actual change being intentionally manifested by countries.

      Global war and/or pandemic is another option, but by their very character they will take more people down with them than ‘mere’ economic collapse, and as jaded as I am I could never wish that.

      Every day I wake up and hope that the right-wing dictator wannabes in most of the Anglophone nations are overthrown and replaced by level heads, and every day we have a day less to do something about it. Russia will never let go of fossil carbon, and China, for all its enthusiasm for renewables, is large and still gulping coal and oil and growing exponentially…

      We have the answers – we just need the leadership and the social wherewithal to leave our indulgent pasts behind and become a civilisation that will not eat itself, or the rest of life on the only living planet in the universe that we know of.

      Time is seriously running out.

  8. Reblogged this on jpratt27 and commented:
    Time to join the ExtinctionRebellion

  9. There is an option, we can act. Then by acting we will likely influence others. I helped write a book, “Driving to Net 0 – Stories of Hope for a Carbon Free Future”. It features 15 households from across the USA and Canada who have cut their carbon emissions by 75% or more, with several going carbon negative. We are trying to show that a very low carbon lifestyle is not only possible now with today’s technology, but it is a freeing and empowering lifestyle that most would want. Become an active part of the solution and find out how. https://www.amazon.com/Driving-Net-Stories-Carbon-Future/dp/0692143831/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

  10. I read an interesting tweet from Professor Kevin Anderson the other day where he pointed out that most people haven’t even accepted the scale of the problem nor the timeframe to do something before they start ‘espousing” solutions. I see ridiclous solutions that don’t meet the timeframe, or scale issue articulated all the time.

    I have been trying for 20 years and gotten no where substantive and for the last decade living off grid with super low emisisons compared to my fellow countrymen (Australia) an only voted Green…We just had a recent election, the Greens went backwards, no other party even recognises climate change is an issue beyond tokenism besides the Greens. Implicatory denial is a real issue and I am making preparations in case it gets much worse.

    • Sadly, you are right. The majority sees climate change as both real and ‘worrisome’ pretty much around the world. But they are at best only beginning to see it as something that needs to be a priority.

    • T-rev: it is impressive to get off grid. I am curious: have you quantified your footprint (and sustainability) using systems ecology principles (Howard T Odum et al)? It could be a very useful exercise and educational tool to do so. Draw a boundary around your home and calculate the energy and material flows that cross that boundary. In both directions.

      Mine is a serious question: I would like to see such a methodology applied to an urban area. Cf. http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1001345

  11. You only have to look to the brexit debate in the UK parliament for a model for how this will play out.

    The brexit debate is “easy” in comparison – there is a hard deadline ahead – everybody agrees that something must be done – there is a majority for action – but nobody agrees what the right action is and every suggestion gets voted down.

    I’m not sure climate change has yet reached the “majority convinced something must be done”, especially in the US, but even if/when it is, it’s going to be hard to impossible to get a majority around any action that will actually achieve something.

    • Yes and no. The wild thing about the RE revolution is that it is proceeding apace even with folks who are ‘skeptics’ about climate change; for example, large majorities of Republicans favor wind and solar power, including in deep red Texas (by far the largest wind power state in the country.)

      So, in a way, we’ve already got a majority around taking some actions, even with the, shall we say, imperfect appreciation of the climate crisis.

      • Assuming “RE” means renewable energy: It is also “necessary but not sufficient” to deal with the impending collapses. Note the plural. IMO, RE is mostly a fantasy designed to allow people to think they don’t need to change their lifestyle, i.e., their economic activity.

        Until there is a critical mass of people aware that the quantity of the latter is what needs a very large reduction, not just the source(s) of energy for those economic processes, it is unlikely that our momentum off the cliff will slow down to any significant degree.

        The global movement of people and material that seems to be an inherent aspect of the current global capitalist political-economy cannot be supported or sustained with RE. That’s why I posed the question I did above: If we cannot reduce economic activity on our own initiative, a collapse of global economic systems is the most certain and *least* unpleasant way to achieve a significant reduction of anthropogenic emissions of GHGs short of a much more traumatic measure such as nuclear war/winter.

        That is the conclusion I have reached based on review of the available data—connection of economic activity to GHG emissions, population growth, wealth inequity and desire for a ‘middle class’ lifestyle by the poor, already baked in warming, etc. If you think I’m wrong, I’d appreciate specific and if possible quantitative arguments to the contrary.

      • louploup, I have points of both agreement and disagreement. But I can’t claim that I have the skill to model social outcomes numerically, unfortunately, so I’m not going to be able to rise to your challenge with “specific and if possible quantitative arguments…”

        (Well, I could do specific, I guess, but honestly I’m not satisfied with that.)

        So, a few comments: yes, “RE” is “renewable energy”. I think it’s considerably more that a fantasy, but if you truly mean what you said, that it’s “necessary” (albeit not sufficient), then I guess you may actually think so, too. For what it’s worth, I think it’s a necessary first priority right now, not in order to coddle the illusions of First Worlders, but to allow development to continue elsewhere, and to decarbonize electric power production.

        Be that as it may, I agree that RE is not ‘sufficient’. In the longer term, it is simple (and I do mean ‘simple’) physics that energy growth must cease. (For those wondering about this, I’d recommend the reductio ad absurdam that physicist Dr. Tom Murphy wrote a few years ago, under the title “Galactic Scale Energy.” It’s a blog post; you can Google it easily.)

        The end to energy growth may or may not mean an end to economic growth per se–economically wiser heads than I are still fussing about that–but even with that possible ‘out’ it still means a big change in the way that we do business, literally and metaphorically. I don’t think I come close to imagining all the ramifications, frankly. Maybe no-one does, yet. But it’s a question we’ve got to start getting ready to answer.

        But I actually think the side of the crisis that will/is bite first and hardest isn’t sources of energy or labor or resources; it’s sinks for the energetic and material wastes that we produce. (CO2 being an obvious example.)

      • doc says: ““RE” is “renewable energy”. I think it’s considerably more that a fantasy, but if you truly mean what you said, that it’s “necessary” (albeit not sufficient), then I guess you may actually think so, too.”

        I have been following this discussion and I think the fantasy that was raised was that we would be transition to RE and just keep on living as we have. I think all sensible folks understand that we need to make a comprehensive transition to RE. I think most SP would agree that sooner is better than later on the transition. But comprehensive transition to RE is not necessary unless we want to avoid some of the more nightmarish paths into the future. A comprehensive transition to RE is not necessary if we proceed on a Mad Max style future. It is necessary and insufficient to the least disastrous and positive paths in the future. To think that comprehensive transition to RE is necessary and sufficient is the fantasy as I understood LL.

        Cheers

        Mike

      • mike, I’m not taking Mad Max as a viable ‘choice’.

  12. ll2: The global movement of people and material that seems to be an inherent aspect of the current global capitalist political-economy cannot be supported or sustained with RE.

    BPL: Prove it. Show your work.

    • Here’s a site based on good data showing that transport is a major and increasing percentage of the global use of petroleum—over 63% in 2013: https://transportgeography.org/?page_id=5885
      I think the declining EROEI of oil is pretty well established. Murphy, David J. December 2, 2013. The implications of the declining energy return on investment of oil production. Trans. R. Soc. A 2014 372: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rsta.2013.0126
      This page has a real time map of global tanker traffic: https://www.marinetraffic.com/en/ais/home/centerx:13.9/centery:16.0/zoom:3

      Without that dense tanker traffic, and without sustainable levels of high EROEI oil to power that tanker traffic (a related subject, with a few papers* evaluating how much more efficient that can become—a few percent), current levels of “global movement of people and material” will be difficult to sustain. *Here’s one of those papers: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421511009645

      Are you suggesting that we could replace the oil powered global tanker fleet with RE sourced battery power or wind powered ships? The latter seems absurd, and the former seems highly unlikely. I agree that “show the work” should include quantification of the above flows and a detailed analysis of the ability to transition to RE powered transport systems. That takes more time than I have right now.

      I stand by my statement as an accurate summary of our current situation.

      On a more philosophical level, I think the quantity of energy flux in our civilization is not needed for a high quality of life. To the contrary, I think a much better quality of life in an equitable society is only achievable with a much lower energy flux. “only a ceiling on energy use can lead to social relations that are characterized by high levels of equity. … Participatory democracy postulates low-energy technology.” Ivan Illich, Energy and Equity, 1973: http://preservenet.com/theory/Illich/EnergyEquity/Energy%20and%20Equity.htm

      • “Are you suggesting that we could replace the oil powered global tanker fleet with RE sourced battery power or wind powered ships? The latter seems absurd, and the former seems highly unlikely.”

        I don’t think anyone is suggesting either, because there are other potential solutions–although there are serious projects on to bring back wind power as an efficiency/cost-cutting measure. Just to name a few:

        Methanol, already in use on demonstration scale:

        http://www.seatrade-maritime.com/news/asia/methanol-an-economic-alternative-marine-fuel-of-the-future.html

        LNG, biofuel, etc.–an overview (from about 5 years back):

        https://iea-amf.org/app/webroot/files/file/Annex%20Reports/AMF_Annex_41.pdf

        These options ameliorate, but don’t completely solve marine emissions.

        Hydrogen fueled shipping is on the horizon, with actual vessels commissioned for the cruising industry:

        https://maritime-executive.com/article/worlds-first-hydrogen-powered-cruise-ship-scheduled

        Older, and more speculative:

        https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360319906005647

        And there’s lots of possibilities with synfuels, including Carbon Engineering’s ‘air to fuel’ process, which has been working at pilot scale for 4 years now or so. Diesel is one of their focii–presumably marine applications would not be problematic.

        https://carbonengineering.com/

        I’m not suggesting that all of this approaches marksmanship with silver bullets–just some possible avenues by which marine use of fossil fuels is likely to be progressively reduced and eventually eliminated. It probably won’t be easy, but it is certainly very possible from a technical point of view. It’s the cultural, social, and financial pieces that are the hard ones.

      • Thanks for the links. I’ve added them to my files on energy sources (and the last one to the CCS folder).

        The liquid hydrogen cruise ship? The energy to produce the fuel has to be spent somewhere (hydrogen is an exchange agent, not a real energy source). Perhaps it can be produced with hydropower or nuclear to lower the carbon footprint. The ship itself is basically a floating bomb. Think Hindenburg on the water.

        CCS has yet to be scaled up. CO2 capture is the easy part. Locking it up somewhere is the hard part. I’m waiting for someone to demonstrate it at scale from capture through sequestration with a net energy benefit. Search “carbon capture and storage fails”

  13. Louploup2, I think you’ve hit on the main problem that seems to elude most people who think all we have to do is change our energy sources along with a few light bulbs. There is no way that the typical western life-style and economic model is compatible with planet Earth, especially now that the planet is way over-populated with humans who generally all want to live like the typical American with all our toys. Most economists and politicians completely ignore the fact that humans can’t exist without all the free services provided by the global ecosystem which is a situation no different than that for any other species, no matter how high a pedestal we think we occupy as some thing special on this planet. The fact is, there’s really nothing special about our existence, and as far as I can tell the only thing that results from our relatively high level of “intelligence” is our ability to be the most destructive species that ever existed (Beethoven and Einstein not withstanding among a few others of our kind).

    I have a friend who has a PhD in evolutionary biology and who has become an expert in complexity science over the years while applying it to just about anything field of study one can imagine. He has managed to construct an extremely comprehensive overview of what complexity scientists have discovered about how the Universe really works. In so doing, he has concluded that dealing with such issues as abrupt climate change needs more than just economic, political, and legal changes in order to mitigate the deleterious effects that are accelerating all around us. He has concluded (and I agree 100% with him) that we must also completely change how we view our place in the Universe using the principles of complexity and systems sciences rather than the very dangerous mechanistic view espoused by Newton and Descartes nearly 400 years ago and which has become the governing paradigm for how human civilization has developed. He has put together a video that summarizes his conclusions and recommendations as well as being the portal into his program of study which he has developed over the last 30 years since resigning from a teaching position at Albuquerque CC in order to pursue his work on complexity. His video and links to his program can be found at the following for anyone who’s interested in what he has to say. I hope that some of you at least check him out and then provide him with some feedback which he definitely would appreciate. His name is Alder Stone Fuller; his email is: alderstone@icloud.com; and the URL for his video is:

  14. Michael D Sweet.

    I lived in the third world for several years and spent many evenings discussing how people live with people who lived there. It is my experience that many (most?) of them do not want an American style of living and would be happy with a lower level of energy consumption. They envy the possessions but do not want the accompanying problems. Many people in the third world value friendships and time with family very highly. The US lifestyle of individual living with little time for anything but work is not highly valued.

    Can anyone provide a peer reviewed reference that surveys developing countries and documents the existence of “humans who generally all want to live like the typical American with all our toys.” I often see it said that this is the desire of people in the third world, frequently by people who have never talked to a person in the developing world, but in my experience their desires are much more complicated.

    I see people in Europe value vacations much more than Americans and take a pay cut to get them. Perhaps developing people will be happier with a European energy use than an American one. Much of American energy use is wasted.

    • Perhaps Americans would be happier with a less consumerist lifestyle, too. But with Madison Ave selling the opposite, who is motivated to try it and find out?

      Some contrarians and counterculturalists, to be sure. But by definition, most of us are ‘ordinary.’ So it’s good to see and hear about those non-conformists. They’re existence theorems, showing us that there are other ways of being, and they may not be so bad. Heck, maybe they’re actually better.

      Last night, we saw a bit of a popular sitcom. In that episode, the daughter and father were “comically” failing to go vegan. “Oooh! It’s so hard! Gotta have my chicken!” Mad Ave, at work in the writer’s room.

      Today, I got home to find fresh-baked loaf of vegan lemon-blueberry bread awaiting. Definitely wouldn’t trade that for a bucket of KFC!

      • “Perhaps Americans would be happier with a less consumerist lifestyle, too. But with Madison Ave selling the opposite, who is motivated to try it and find out?…. most of us are ordinary.”

        hey, kemosabe… what “us”?

        I will attempt to be polite about this: Fuck Madison Avenue.

        Ok, I think I failed.

        I am pretty motivated to try a very low consumer lifestyle and I have found it to be rewarding most of the time and frustrating some of the time. I buy as few new consumer goods as I possibly can. I fix and re-purpose old, wornout consumer goods as a lifestyle practice. I buy new underwear and new socks, but not a lot of socks because I am usually sockless in sandals.

        As for the popular sitcoms, the mainstream media and entertainment messaging that serves to ramp up consumerist impulses? Turn that shit off. Don’t feed the beast.

        My partner and I have chosen retirement in comfortable poverty which helps us stick to our non-consumerist path. We do this for our kids and grandkids. I feel good about it every day. It’s wonderful.

        Mike

      • You may possibly have misunderstood me, mike. What you guys are doing is admirable, and we’re on something of a similar path ourselves.

        I merely meant to point out the social forces pushing the other way.

    • John Brookes

      I guess it comes down to what are real human needs, and how do we satisfy them without destroying the planet. And a big human need is to be important, to have status. And in the west that means having a bigger house, a better car, a prettier wife, an overseas holiday every 6 months, etc etc. Obviously these things are a bit counterproductive if we are trying not to emit so much in the way of ghgs. But can we construct an “authentic” society that makes the pursuit of status not harmful to the environment?

      I guess my fundamental thing is that we won’t change human nature. I see a lot of people hoping that we can change people, and I don’t think you can. People want status. They want to hold their heads high and know that they are valued and respected. They compete for the best possible mate, and want to give advantages to their children. Its what humans do. But we maybe can change the expression of our human nature into things that are less harmful to the environment.

      Of course the other side of the equation is much simpler. Just put the appropriate price on negative externalities, and those producing the things which make us happy will do so in a way that is less harmful to the planet.

  15. Hey JB,
    I don’t think all human beings seek status. The first noble truth is “all beings seek happiness.” Another variation of the first noble truth is “all life is suffering” that assumes that all beings seek to avoid suffering.

    There is certainly some pathological seeking after status in the west and probably among the income and wealth elites around the world. You can see it in the way that a young person with few skills and accomplishments outside the realm of appearances can become a wealthy “influencer” in our world, producing nothing more than their particular opinion about appearances. I suggest we all dig a little deeper and be cautious about surrendering our aspirations about what it means to be a good person to the world of Madison Avenue and Instagram. That looks like some pretty dumb stuff to me.

    But, hey, what do I know? I am a poor guy with little status and almost no followers. I am, nonetheless, a pretty happy dude. I helped a grandson purchase a 2001 Honda Insight this past week. It’s cool, it’s pretty green in many ways and he loves it. We can do better than succumbing to the worst impacts of Madison Avenue and Instagram. I think we need to do it and be open about it. Reject the value of a status-driven life publicly and loudly.

    My $.02

    Mike

  16. Severus Snape

    I have some friends who I think represent a lot of middle class progressives. They have a Minivan but also a Prius. Would vote for any bill aimed at protecting the environment, including a carbon tax. They don’t give a rip about Madison Ave. or status.

    OTOH (and here’s the sad irony), a big house? Yep. Packed full of stuff: bikes, kayaks, TV’s, furniture, exercise equipment, kids, pets, misc. accumulated junk.

    And when summer vacation comes…..do they want to just hang out and walk the dog? Hell no, “let’s take road trip!” Or Costa Rica, Europe, Hawaii, the Galapagos. Someplace new and exciting.

    The reality is, things are gonna have to get really bad for them to give all that up.

    • Their kids, grandkids and anyone who is climate woke needs to keep shoving the mirror in their face until they look.

      We have all kinds of cognitive defences to normalize things, but at the end of it, they are prioritizing very selfish “me-me-me!” choices over doing their share to protect our shared home, resources and future. Talk about it, tell them. We don’t have time to wait around because we are too afraid of upsetting people. Way too late for that.

    • John Brookes

      One of the side effects of a wealthy planet is that tourism is wrecking the great tourist destinations of the world. There are some walks in Tasmania that have strict limits on the number of people on the track at any one time. A friend of mine can’t see why these restrictions should apply, but they make sense to me.

      • John, casting an ecologist’s eye on some these walks I can attest that there is an absolute need for maximum limits on traffic, and further that in at least some cases these limits are perhaps too generous. There is some extraordinarily beautiful and biologically-valuable habitat in Tasmania (as, of course, there is in many other places) and the only reason that they aren’t already lost or irretreivably damaged is the remoteness and the lack of human density to date.

        That anyone is unable to understand why these limits are necessary indicates that those folk do not have a working knowledge of the ecology that is affected by human impact, nor why this ecology is worth protecting from overuse…

      • Heck, there are all too many people who have no idea that ecology is a science–seriously, they think it’s just a fancy word for ‘environmental activism.’

  17. David B. Benson

    While coal consumption around the world keeps increasing…

  18. Vaguely on topic, have you seen the latest from David Archibald at WUWT? It elevates cherry picking to a whole new level and is almost self-debunking.

    Archibald declares global cooling because …… the Feb anomaly for the US48 states is negative (only just: -0.03C). So one data point covering around 2% of the globe is enough, discard the rest!

    As for self-debunking, all you have to do is click on the link he provides to the data and scroll down, where you will discover that the global Feb anomaly was +0.36, and the trend in the US48 data at 0.18C/decade is almost 50% higher than the global trend.

    Not even wrong. But good enough for Anthony.

  19. David B. Benson

    ‘Extraordinary increase’ in global energy demand
    Kevin Ross
    2019 Mar 27
    Power Engineering International

    Much of that is burning natural gas and also more coal.

  20. Off topic–replying to Martin Smith from the Beto thread, which is now closed to comments:

    Martin: “Whatever you say about Trump, he really is the person who is speaking.”

    Say what? Donald J. Trump is a fictional character who first appeared in “The Art of the Deal,” ghost written by Tony Schwartz. He subsequently made appearances in the “reality” TV show, “The Apprentice,” and its offshoots, including The Presidency: 2016.
    The real “real DJT” is a privileged imbecile, born to vast wealth and privilege, who has managed to fuck up everything he’s touched. He plays DJT.

    You remind me of the quote:
    “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.”–Jean Girardooux

    • Martin Smith

      Snarkrates :”Say what? Donald J. Trump is a fictional character…”

      Yes! That is who Trump is! That is all there is. He really is who he appears to be. He says whatever he thinks. He tells a lot of lies about people, but when it comes to stating his policies and objectives, he says what he wants, what he thinks, and what he will do.

      Snarkrates: “The real “real DJT” is a privileged imbecile, born to vast wealth and privilege, who has managed to fuck up everything he’s touched. He plays DJT.”

      But this real DJT is the fictional DJT. They aren’t different people. He isn’t pretending when he speaks at his rallies. He is being the real DJT, a privileged imbecile, born to vast wealth and privilege, who is fucking up everything he touches.

      And he will win again unless a real leader comes out of the Democratic morass who can stand toe to toe with him and make him look stupid to and dangerous to a lot of people who so far really don’t care that he is a complete asshole.

      • So, help me out here, Martin. How is playing a role that other people constructed for you in any way “authentic”. It appears to me that you are insinuating that the ironic comment if Girardoux has been made flesh.

      • “Democratic morass?”

        Gee, thanks for helping.

        I think that is both inaccurate and unfair.

      • Doc: As a long time Democratic party activist, I think “morass” is a very apt description. The Democrat Party has largely been taken over by neoliberals, leaving real “democrats” at the grass roots constantly fighting within the party against corporate ownership of the party. The “Bernie Bros” (and Sisters—”sistos”?) made a valiant effort in 2016.

      • Martin Smith

        Snarkrates: “How is playing a role that other people constructed for you in any way “authentic”.” I don’t see your point about authenticity. Even if the persona he presents is not his real persona, it is the persona to beat. One of the Democrats must face that public Trump persona and convince people who voted for him before not to vote for him again. That will be difficult because the Democratic party now has the image of not listening to or caring about the middle of the country, where Trump won the election.

        Registered Republicans will vote for Trump again because he is either implementing the economic and regulatory policies they want, or he is trying to. But these are not real Republicans like Bush Sr. Those Republicans, the few that still exist, have already deserted the Republican party. And the white nationalists will vote for Trump again for the same reason, although because of different policies. There is no point in talking to either registered Republicans or white nationalists.

        That leaves the Great Uninformed Class, people who are not dumb at all but are not politically astute because they are wholly focused on trying to get by every month and have neither the time nor the inclination to study the physics of the greenhouse effect, or the real consequences of a tariff war, or the drug war, or what will happen to the US economy if we actually stop immigration. These people will vote in their own best interests if they can see clearly what their own best interests are. Their best interests are not those of Wall Street, not those of the DoD, not those of Big Oil, Big Ag, or Big Pharma.

        Whoever goes against Trump must have command of all the facts and all the arguments. and must expose Trump as being not just wrong but working against the best interests of the GUC. So how do you reach those people? It is difficult for you and I to put ourselves in that frame of mind, because we actually understand the physics of the greenhouse effect and all the other stuff. But if you were a member of the GUC, Elizabeth Warren’s whiny pleading voice? I can’t stand it and I know she’s right.

      • Martin Smith

        Doc Snow: “I think that is both inaccurate and unfair.” See, for example, the DNC statement on the Social Security system: https://democrats.org/about/party-platform/#social-security
        It says, this: “We will fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits.” First, increasing the retirement age does not cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security. It would actually strengthen SS, and it is one of the actions Democrats could use to fix the real demographic problem with SS that looms. But the Democrats rule it out. Why? People live longer now than they did when SS was created. Why shouldn’t the retirement age be raised? (full disclosure: I’m waiting to age 70 anyway). But the point is that raising the retirement age does not cut or weaken SS; it strengthens it, so the Democrats have confused valid way to strengthen SS with weakening SS. Nor does the DNC even mention that we could raise the cap on the yearly contribution, or we could raise the percentage of the tax, or we could add means testing to withhold payments to rich people. Each of these is also a way to strengthen SS, not weaken it, but the DNC doesn’t mention them.

        On cost of living adjustments, the DNC says “We are committed to exploring alternatives that could better and more equitably serve seniors.” This is the kind of meaningless statement politicians use all the time now. It says nothing; it commits them to nothing in Congress, but it sounds comforting.

        Then the DNC tips its hat to the actual problem with SS: “We will make sure Social Security’s guaranteed benefits continue for generations to come by asking those at the top to pay more, and will achieve this goal by taxing some of the income of people above $250,000.” But what is this? A new tax? Why? Why not just raise the cap on contributions for those reporting that much income? The mechanism is already in place and working. Why add a new tax? Or if that IS what they plan to do, why not say it? On the other hand, will their proposal actually fix the problem with SS? They don’t provide any numbers. It would seem to be a simple modeling problem to show how much revenue would be generated from their proposal and whether or not it would eliminate the looming shortfall. But the DNC couldn’t be bothered to prove that what they propose will actually work. Why not? I think they don’t actually know. This policy change is in the platform because of Bernie Sanders. Bravo, Bernie! But even Bernie Sanders doesn’t show the projected results of his raising the tax.

        I can find many such problems with the Democratic morass. I could write a much better platform, but it would commit the party to actually doing stuff. Like this: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.” I can’t imagine any of the Democratic candidates making a speech like that one.

      • Sorry, Martin, but you are the one who used the word “authentic”. DJT has lied about every aspect of his platform except those related to his fear of brown people and contempt for women. He said he’d improve health care. Nope. He said he’d bring blue collar jobs back. Nope. He said he’d save coal. Yeah, right! He said he’d “Drain the swamp.” Well, only in the sense that he replaced with a cesspit of incompetence. He said it would be America First, but I’ve seen more deference to Saudi Arabia and Russia than to the welfare of the average American.

        The man is a cipher. I simply do not understand how any decent human being could support him. As such, you can draw your conclusions of my opinion of the people who do.

      • Martin Smith

        Snarkrates: “Sorry, Martin, but you are the one who used the word “authentic”.” It doesn’t sound like me. I remember saying things like ‘The Trump we see and hear at his rallies is who he really is.’ I’m saying he is not pretending. He is a bullshit artist, but unlike a slick car salesman who is decent person when he’s not selling cars, with Trump, there is no ‘there’ there. He is just a bullshit artist. He is always a con man. He is a sociopathic narcissist. And that’s all.

        Snarkrates: “DJT has lied about every aspect of his platform…” Not about what he was going to do. He has done or is doing what he said he was going to do. Key difference: Your examples of failure are correct, I think, but failures don’t mean he didn’t try or isn’t trying to do what he said he was going to do. I am sure he believed that his tariff war would, and still will, bring blue collar jobs back. I am sure he believes that he will convince Congress to replace the ACA with “something beautiful.” He is still trying to save coal. He believes he is draining the swamp. He believes America id greater now than it has ever been. His blindness to the reality of his failures is complete. That’s the only way a sociopathic narcissist can be.

        Snarkrates: “I simply do not understand how any decent human being could support him.”

        Exactly! But my point is quite a lot of decent human beings, who are in the Great Uninformed Class, do support him. They did vote for him because they wanted him to implement the policies he said he would implement, and he has steadfastly kept at it, doing what he said he would do. His failed policies are to be blamed on the Deep State or on AOC and the Clintons and the FBI. He claims the Mueller investigation has been an obstacle to his governing.

        But Trump has to be defeated by convincing enough people in the GUC to change their votes and vote for socialism, because no matter which candidate wins the Democratic nomination, he/she will be condemned for socialism. Whoever the nominee is, he/she must defeat Trump in a flame war, in addition to positive, real policies that can be demonstrated will work and that we can pay for.

      • Martin,
        Ever hear the saying, “Never wrestle a pig. You both get dirty, and the pig likes it?” The last thing we need is a candidate who engages in a flame war with Trump. Trump wins any flame war because nothing is beneath him. To beat him, the candidate will have to be exceptionally disciplined and instead stay on message. Leave the flame throwers to the surrogates. Hopefully after a 4-year shit show, there will at least be >50% of voters who want an adult back in office. If not, then America ain’t worth saving, and quite possibly the human race isn’t either.

  21. Thank you for your blog, I have found both it and your community of commenters insightful and helpful. I have a question I’m hoping someone could help me with, regarding our carbon footprint. We have gone to great lengths to live a low impact life – on the consumption side of our lives, but am perplexed by the production side.

    All the carbon footprint calculators I’ve seen talk about how one spends ones money. What about how one makes ones money? Or is it irrelevant as there is a 1:1 ratio regardless of of source. Does economic activity directly correlate with emissions? And if so, does simply participating in the economy = emissions?

    What about surplus? Does what I do with savings/investments make any difference. Is putting money in a credit union any different then putting it in the S&P500? If I have $100,000 in each, how would I include that in my contribution to CC.

    Any insight would be appreciated, thank you

    [Response: I hope other readers can give you some useful answers; this is an area I know little about. Thanks for asking, I’d like to know more about this myself.]

    • Yes, good questions. Presumably, one’s livelihood isn’t irrelevant: one could be working for, say, a company doing composting with bicycle collection–yes, that is a thing–or one could be working for Exxon, and presumably that would make a difference.

      But at the end of the day, we need systemic change, not just virtuous individual choices, important though the latter may be as models.

      • Snarkrates:

        It doesn’t understand energy. It doesn’t understand entropy. It doesn’t understand thermodynamics. The limits to growth are related to the second law only tangentially.

        Could you expand on this, please? I ask because I am interested in the topic of sustainable/zero growth economy, and am at the beginnings of reading about this whole topic. So fundamental critiques would be important in assessing the work and perhaps in understanding the various conflicting claims being made.

      • Doc, Well, for one thing, if you are going to claim that the economy is driven by energy and entropy, you should be able to define the temperature of the economy–which doesn’t make any sense. What about the volume of the economy, or the chemical potential? How would you determine the entropy of an economic process? In physics it’s a path integral in the phase space? Economics?

        Even if you define entropy in its information theoretic sense, then what is energy, and what is money? The whole approach reminds me of the exchange between John Von Neumann and Claude Shannon about his information metric.
        Von Neumann: “You should call it entropy, because there is a quantity by that name in thermodynamics already that has those properties. And second, if you call it entropy, you will always have the advantage in an argument, because no one really understands what entropy is.”

        Trying to reduce economics to thermodynamics is just an absurdly stupid model–and obviously it doesn’t work because the practitioners aren’t rich.

      • Michael D Sweet.

        Currently economic solar energy alone is estimated to be far greater than current world energy consumption. Add wind and solar over the ocean and it is much larger. Energy is unlikely to limit economic growth in the end.

        There are many materials like phosphate, copper, beryllium, lithium, uranium, arable land and others that will run out way before energy.

        While claiming the second law will limit economic growth is an interesting metaphor, I doubt that energy will be the limiting reagent for civilization.

    • Huge topic. Caveat: this post is really at the edge of my ability to describe what I have absorbed from reading on the subject for a few years. See the sources below if you want to read the “experts.”

      I’ve been digging into this question for a while. My conclusory conclusion: All economic activity is directly related to consumption of energy. This is “metabolism”; economies are the “metabolism” of cultural/economic systems. To some extent a specified quantity of economic activity can be accomplished with less energy via increased thermodynamic efficiency, but the Second Law limits the quantity of reduction of energy flux that can be achieved.

      The relationship between money and energy flux is more difficult to describe—”economic activity” is complicated by the use of debt and fiat currency. Both of these mechanisms are promises by the debtor to provide energy created “things” (services or goods) some time in the future. Most of the analyses I’ve read claim that the increasing use of debt and other financializing tricks postpones collapse: everyone pretends to believe they will get paid back even as debt becomes an ever greater percentage of the economy. At some point people will be calling in debt and the energy won’t be there to produce the claimed goods and/or services.

      Your money sitting the bank is used to leverage further economic activity. That’s true whether it be a credit union or ExxonMobil stock. The only way to prevent your money from being supportive of an emission creating economic activity is to convert it to a thing that doesn’t by itself emit. A house? A Rolls Royce that doesn’t move? That, or bricks of gold or cash.

      I believe the argument over whether economic activity can be delinked from GHG emissions is largely a waste of time. I think this is also in Second Law territory: no metabolism (economic activity) can occur without energy flux. The only such “delinking” that makes sense is that a portion of the economic activity can be powered by GHG free RE. As you can see from my comments above, I don’t think more than a small percentage of our current energy flux can be so powered.

      Partial list of sources (I have a long reading list; if you dig up my email and send me a request I’ll be happy to send it):
      Ourfiniteworld.com
      Charles A.S. Hall and Klitgaard, Energy and the Wealth of Nations: An Introduction to Biophysical Economics, 2018 (2d Ed.)
      Howard T. Odum, Environment, Power, and Society for the Twenty-First Century: The Hierarchy of Energy, 2007
      http://www.yadvindermalhi.org/uploads/1/8/7/6/18767612/malhi_2014_metabolism_of_a_human_dominated_planet.pdf
      https://arxiv.org/pdf/1812.09756.pdf (The Central Role of Energy in the Urban Transition: Global Challenges for Sustainability)

      • “Your money sitting the bank is used to leverage further economic activity.”

        The banking system does not need ‘your money’ to ‘leverage further economic activity’.
        “Saving does not by itself increase the deposits or ‘funds available’ for banks to lend. Indeed, viewing banks simply as intermediaries ignores the fact that, in reality in the modern economy, commercial banks are the creators of deposit money. This article explains how, rather than banks lending out deposits that are placed with them, the act of lending creates deposits — the reverse of the sequence typically described in textbooks.”
        http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/Documents/quarterlybulletin/2014/qb14q102.pdf

      • Louploup2, sorry, as a physicist, you lost me when you invoked the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. Although there are physical limits on the economy, in no way can it be sufficiently simple to analyze in terms of thermodynamics. Attempts to do so are analogous to New Age types trying to explain the efficacy of their crystals in terms of “The Quantum”. In other words. Bullshit.

      • Snarkrates: There is a body of work that ties the second law to economics. That thread largely starts with Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen:
        https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/45406468/When_where_and_by_how_much_do_biophysica20160506-26754-17u4bz3.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAIWOWYYGZ2Y53UL3A&Expires=1554076632&Signature=Em45lAixlZvcTXSp5H5g0RYVojg%3D&response-content-disposition=inline%3B%20filename%3DWhen_where_and_by_how_much_do_biophysica.pdf

        A basic point is that capitalism seems to require growth—at least the current corporate dominated version—but physics tells us there are limits. I am not a physicist, but physicists whose work I respect agree that the connections with economics are important. E.g., https://www.albartlett.org/articles/art_meaning_of_sustainability_2012mar20.pdf

        You agree that “the physical limits on the economy” exist, so I’m not sure why you’re hostile to my “invoking the Second Law of Thermodynamics” which underlies that fact. Drawing the connections is needed in order to push back against what I call the neoliberal growth machine (Logan and Molotch, “Urban Fortunes” & “City as Growth Machine”; Herman Daly; David Harvey; G. Wm. Domhoff; etc.)

        I don’t think my invoking the Second Law is bullshit; I think it’s part of essential work needed to move the political-economy away from its current trajectory. If you have a critique of some specific aspect of the relationship between physics and economics I’ve referenced, please provide it. E.g., I wrote “the Second Law limits the quantity of reduction of energy flux (efficiency) that can be achieved,” pointing out that the conversion of energy sources (e.g., oil) to motion (work) can never reach 100% efficiency (perpetual motion). I.e., there are limits to the amount of work we can wring out of any defined quantity of fuel. What is inaccurate about this statement?

      • psotkey: “commercial banks are the creators of deposit money” — Yes, I meant to indicate that with reference to “fiat money.” Thanks for clarifying and the reference.

        I do think that money on deposit in the banks (and credit unions, and brokerage accounts) is used to grease economic activities. I think it’s a “both:and” situation.

      • Yes, there is a body of work along those lines, and it is bullshit. It doesn’t understand energy. It doesn’t understand entropy. It doesn’t understand thermodynamics. The limits to growth are related to the second law only tangentially.

        I object to your invocation of this body of work because I am a physicist who has at least a vague understanding of thermodynamic. To paraphrase H. L. Mencken–this solution is simple, easy to understand and wrong.

      • Snarkrates: You do not engage; you insult. Your name suits you. Bye.

      • louploup2, I am sorry that you feel that it is insulting to feel that a suggestion that one understand the concepts on is dealing with is an insult, but I might suggest that this feeling could be contributing to your lack of understanding.

      • Snarkrates: it’s your dismissiveness without content (that’s called engagement) that’s insulting. If you don’t want people to take offense, you shouldn’t call their thinking and learning “bullshit,” at least not without giving specific reasons based on your expertise and knowledge.

        Doc: The temperature of an economy is called it’s metabolism. Here’s a couple pieces that discuss and measure the metabolism of economic systems:
        http://www.yadvindermalhi.org/uploads/1/8/7/6/18767612/malhi_2014_metabolism_of_a_human_dominated_planet.pdf
        https://arxiv.org/pdf/1812.09756.pdf
        Then there’s the issue of scaling: the metabolism by size of urban agglomerations appears to recapitulate the relationship of metabolism by size of animals (Kleiber’s Law). One well cited paper on scaling relationships in cities is:
        https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064727

        The field of systems ecology is not trying to import entropy into economics. The point is that the economy is a system. It’s a non-equilibrium open system living on entropy gradient created by energy flow into the system, and seems to be subject to many of the same rules that apply in the physics lab. Like the Earth. I’m halfway through Schneider and Sagan’s “Into the Cool” which discusses many of these relationships. I am finding it to have very good descriptions of thermodynamic processes. Some of the analogues between NET and systems ecology and energy flow as worked out in some detail by Howard T. Odum are quite remarkable.

        My goal is to take the lessons from NET and systems thinking to push for more rigorous quantification of the energy and material flows in specific agglomerations (like where I live, Pugetopolis): Another paper by Burger and others describes the issue generally:
        https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.1001345
        Having accurate data will illuminate where our vulnerabilities lie, and hopefully where and how we can make changes that increase our resilience as the energy flow starts to decrease.

        A fairly large decrease in available energy (net energy) appears to be inevitable: Look up net energy cliff. With decreasing access to high EROEI energy, it becomes more difficult to move food and water into, and waste out of, cities. There’s a good reason that pre-fossil fuel civilizations appear to have their city populations top out at about a million.

        Here’s how entropy fits into political-economy, from a bumper sticker by an artist:
        “Civilization is Entropy in Drag”

      • Bentley Lein

        Thanks for the link, and insight. I’ll dig into this. (I’m unclear about how to get your email…clicking on your name/link brings me to a very dated blog)

        I agree that we need systemic change, and I like many feel my personal choices are close to meaningless at any significant level. Yet, I sleep better at least working towards causing less harm to the others that will bear the costs of my actions.

        As brought to light by the discussion that followed my post. Too many of us have no idea how our choices influence carbon emissions. I have no idea if my so called “saving for retirement” totally offsets every personal choice I’ve made to lower my impact.

        I know that money keeps moving, and if money=carbon based upon how we’ve designed our economy then maybe It’s more clear what systemic change is required.

        But today, it’s warm enough to get out in the garden, and the Mississippi River is expected to crest. The tundra swans and the pelicans are on the move and there are bald eagles everywhere. I’m going out to take in some of that wonder.

        Again, thank you for your insights. I can’t think of anything more important to be working on and thinking about.

      • Louploup2, I’m sorry, but when you say: “The temperature of an economy is called it’s metabolism.;” WTF does that even mean? You do realize that these terms have precise meanings in thermodynamics. Temperature is DEFINED AS the partial derivative of energy wrt entropy. How is that a “metabolism”?
        The problem I have with this approach is that you are taking terms with VERY precise definitions and stretching and distorting them to cover a system that doesn’t fit those definitions at all. The result is rather like a very fat man wedging himself into a speedo:
        1) It doesn’t cover what needs to be covered
        2) It distorts the “covering material” until it is unrecognizable
        3) The result is grotesque if not obscene.
        4) You really don’t want to take it out in public!

      • I’m sorry it’s so difficult for you to think outside your physics box, Snarkrates. Don’t complain to me about use of “metabolism” to quantify economic systems in the papers I’ve cited. (Have you bothered to read any of them?)

        Try studying a little biology some time. BTW, one of the seminal works tying thermodynamics to biology was a short book by Erwin Schrœdinger published in 1944. “What Is Life?” Have you read it?

        And it wouldn’t hurt to get that speedo off your head and show a little grace now and then too.

      • Bentley: thank you. I updated my WP profile to make it easy to find me.

      • Louploup2: “I’m sorry it’s so difficult for you to think outside your physics box, Snarkrates.”

        Uh, dude. Entropy is physics. Temperature is physics. Energy is physics. The terms you are using in your paradigm are inherently physics related. They do NOT have a meaning outside of physics/physical chemistry…. Metabolism is a term borrowed from biology. None of these are terms of economics.
        The reason why this matters is that if you introduce these terms with a meaning divergent from the meaning in physics/biology…, it distorts the meaning in the public mind. It gives people the mistaken impression that they understand “entropy”–which is a very subtle and difficult concept with a deceptively simple definition. I’ve dealt with this type of thing before–whether it’s the moron who thinks whatever he believes is valid because “relativity” or the Woo Meister who attributes the “energy” of his crystals to “quantum.” I shudder to think what some “Master of the Universe” will do with the sorts of theories you are peddling here.
        Words have meanings for a reason. In science, precision is essential, and vagueness of the type you are advocating is fatal.
        And yes, I have looked at some of the publications you’ve recommended–enough to realize that this whole framework is a botched abortion.

      • OK “dude”: you’ve got your clearly stated opinions—delivered about as rudely as possible. Yes, words have meanings for a reason: for mutual understanding. Your level of discourse negates mutuality. In that regard, here’s another reference for you: Martin Buber.

        It’s clearly not productive for me to spend much of my time dealing directly with you. I’ll leave it to others reading our exchanges to come to their own conclusions.

      • Hey, dude, whatever. It must take courage to be willing to persist in being that wrong! Kudos!

      • It’s weird that someone who claims to understand the laws of physics would make a blanket claim that those laws cannot be utilized to analyze complex adaptive systems such as the earth’s climate system and the global political economy.

      • Certainly. It’s much easier to be rude and close minded. Cheers!

  22. it is possible to ask biases question !

    quebec denier R. Duberger often repeat this question :
    Q: If you claim that CO2 emissions are the main factor of anthropic global warming, explain to us why in 20 years there is a pause of GMAT since during this period there has been 40% of GHG emissions since the beginning of the year. industrial age.

    Please read biases i identify

    1st biases
    Change 10 years instead of 20 years in your question and then change 30 years instead of 20 years in your question: do you still see that there is a hiatus?
    Over 10 or 30 years the temperature increase rate is 0.17 C / decade. there is no hiatus.

    Second biases
    Choose 1998 as your starting year. In addition the year 98 was really hotter than 97 and 99.

    3rd biases
    Continue to spread false information: the plateau .. it’s a myth.
    and also I add that it is not because each of the steps of a staircase are horizontal that the staircase does not rise.

    4th biases
    Use the percentage of emissions.

    Instead, you have to evaluate the CO2 concentration and see if there is a correlation between CO2 and TMAG: yes, there is a correlation.

    Then we must look at whether the atmospheric CO2 and the emission rate of anthropogenic sources is related: answer yes it sticks !!

    5th biases

    Presume that CO2 from anthropogenic emissions does not stay in the atmosphere for a long time and returns quickly like water vapor. The CO2 emitted into the atmosphere stays there for several years.

    6th biases
    Separate CO2 emissions from other toxic gas emissions through the use of fossil fuels and then suggest that emissions from fossil fuel use have a positive effect on nature.

    6 bias in one question: I rarely saw this in one question.

    oh yes I forgot there is also the political biases (7, 8, 9, etc …) that has no connection with the scientific fact. We do not care if it’s left, right, UN or not, capitalist, communist !!!! all the discussions around each other’s political opinions are not related to science

    DO YOU HAVE COMMENT about his question or about biases i identify ?

  23. Just read a comment in The Economist about sluggish economies in the US, China and Europe, and how bad that is. Not a single word on climate change. This is the old way of thinking – to miss the big picture completely. From a climate change point of view, a sluggish economy is actually a good thing. I to not plead for economic crisis, do not misunderstand me, but for an aptly complex world view, in which climate protection is an ever present, undisputed economic goal, as important as jobs, low inflation, low income inequality, balanced trade &c.