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I'm a contrarian, so I tend to believe that it's darkest before dawn about a lot of things.  And things are pretty dark when you look at how the climate is changing, when even the IEA is saying things like "we are seeing the door for a 2 degree Celsius target about to be closed and closed forever."  I do think we may be headed for an awakening of sorts regarding the confluence of peak oil and climate change.  While this awakening might not be acknowledged as such, let alone lead to appropriate action, it may be in the cards.  I've long thought that the apocryphal Gandhi quote on this---"first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win"---might be quite applicable, except the thing won in this case isn't so positive.

These issues were long ignored: consider that climate change in its modern form (i.e. caused by human fossil fuel combustion) has been known for over a century and peak oil for over over half a century.  We've moved through the "laugh at you" stage and are well into the "fight you" stage on both.  The general public, though, has been left out of the fray, and many people don't know what to think about these issues any more.  However, there's often a quick transition in public awareness from "that's crazy" to "that's stupid" to "that's obvious"---so quick that the people who follow that arc often don't even realize they have.

A shock might do the trick.  And 2015/2016 might be when it happens.  Specifically, I'm looking at three physical phenomena that may converge around that time:

  1. Summer arctic ice may reach zero or near-zero for the first time in human history.
  2. World oil and/or liquid fuels production may begin a decline for the first time in human history.
  3. Atmospheric CO2 may hit 400 ppm for the first time in human history.
There's a fair bit of evidence that these are likely to occur in that timeframe.

Take arctic sea ice: sea ice volume trends from PIOMAS data indicates that we're likely only a few years away from zero September sea ice.  (Though "near-zero" is probably more accurate, since it's unlikely that there will be zero ice floating around somewhere in the arctic.)

Oil and liquid fuels production is harder to project; I've been looking to Hirsch (video, slides) and Skrebowski (slides), who are both expecting a liquid fuels production decline to begin around 2015.

The final, easiest of the three to justify is atmospheric CO2.  One look at the Mauna Loa data and you can see that we're very likely to hit 400 ppm by 2015.

It's important that these are physical phenomena, because besides the 27 percent in the population who will deny even well-understood scientific data, it's hard to make a case that these facts are politically or otherwise skewed.  The first two are likely to also have a number of major consequences.  Those of peak oil are well known and often discussed.  Those of an ice-free arctic are less often discussed, but still important.  Consider, for example, that the minimal sea ice cover this past winter may have been and may continue to be a cause of abnormal weather in Europe.

What might be the reaction to these happenings?  I imagine that a number of those who previously denied that climate change was a problem will quickly shift to "it's too late to do anything about it" or, among those who never miss an opportunity, "we have to geoengineer our way out of this problem."  While I hope that these three events would lead to a wide-spread realization that we need to down-scale our human footprint---rather than throw up our hands or dig the hole even deeper---the only way that might have even a slight chance of happening is if we all plant the seeds of that thinking now.

Until next time...

Originally posted to barath on Wed May 23, 2012 at 10:31 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Conclusion. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    linkage, Just Bob, venger, rb608

    Human history is about to come to a close. Still not sure if this is good or bad.

    life is just a temporary discontinuity  in the second law of thermodynamics

  •  Just saying... (7+ / 0-)

    http://www.nytimes.com/...

    Despite lively opposition, Shell, with President Obama’s support, will start test wells in Alaska’s North, in a moment of major promise and considerable danger.

    Others have simply gotten old. I prefer to think I've been tempered by time.

    by Just Bob on Thu May 24, 2012 at 02:43:29 AM PDT

    •  Headlines: "Alcoholic Nation Finds Key To (31+ / 0-)

      New Liquor Cabinet"

      “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

      by the fan man on Thu May 24, 2012 at 02:56:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  that's better than what's going to be in the... (8+ / 0-)

      .... NY Times if all the "dump on Obama" stuff succeeds in turning 2012 into another 2010 rather than another 2008.

      Test wells are merely test wells.  Whether or not they become production wells is another decision for another time, and by that time the public opposition can prevent it.  

      Obama does his work by incremental steps that bring the public along by degrees.  Witness the change in regard to the right to marry, over the period beginning when it was first proposed to repeal DADT.  

      But if Democrats stay home, the news stories are going to be something along the lines of "Major Shell oilfield in Alaska suffers blowout; wildlife threatened for miles; meanwhile coal production increases 4% this quarter, while smog blankets the Northeast."  

      "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

      by G2geek on Thu May 24, 2012 at 05:05:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If Obama keeps steam rolling the scientists (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        notdarkyet, ozsea1

        and environmentalists, then there might just start to be an issue with people staying home.

        Read taht piece and tell me it does not sound very very much like the stories from the Bush administration.  It's a long article, but very sobering.

        Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

        by Mindful Nature on Thu May 24, 2012 at 01:43:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  As a follow on (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        maryabein, ozsea1, Calamity Jean, jm214
        Test wells are merely test wells.  Whether or not they become production wells is another decision for another time, and by that time the public opposition can prevent it.
        Macondo was a test well.

        But the larger issue is why is it that when we are facing a MAJOR catastrohpe looming on the horizon, we have a President who is fasttracking the development of resources that would come on line at best several years after we need to have stopped using them.  To use an analogy, FDR might have delayed getting into WWII, but at least he had the good sense to suspend scrap iron sales to Japan well ahead of time.

        As a political matter, it really is kicking a large constituency full on in the teeth.

        Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

        by Mindful Nature on Thu May 24, 2012 at 02:22:00 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Or kicking a large can down the road: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          jm214

          just putting off the day of hard choices.

        •  There's a problem, though. (0+ / 0-)

          In that oil is a globally fungible commodity.  The problem lies on the consumption side.  As long as we keep consuming it, someone, somewhere will keep producing it.  So, where do we want it to come from?  Middle eastern deserts?  South American rainforests?  Canadian tar sands?  I mean, really, there are no good options, but as long as we keep consuming it, someone is going to be making it.  Stopping drilling in a single location just means someone in some other country is going to drill there instead.  What you do by blocking a particular pipeline or production is the most marginal of increases in global oil price.  Now, one could argue that that's a good thing.  Heck, I would.  I want global oil prices to be high and stay stable and high, to provide a strong financial incentive for conservation and the development and mass adoption of alternative technologies.  But I want it to be that way due to taxes rather than inefficiency, so that at least we get something out of it.

          Just my two krónur  :)

          •  The thing is that oil consumption (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Rei

            is 2/3 in transportation. Read: automobiles and airplanes. It will constantly be a demand issue. Part of this equation to reducing carbon-based fuel consumption will have to include shifting the paradigm from automobile-dependent communities to ones that utilize high-efficiency mass transit, walking, and biking (or non-automotive modes of transportation.) Bike share programs in the U.S. (like Capital Bikeshare here in DC) have boomed tremendously since their inceptions. It also helps by not having a car, and buying groceries as you need them and walking to the store; and not piling into a car and buying in bulk. Tighter communities really are going to be key here as we go forward. Oil companies have an incentive to encourage suburban, automobile-depenent communities, and conspiracy theorists griping about the very non-binding Agenda 21 (a 20-year old provision during the 1992 UN talks at Rio de Janeiro) put fear cards in play that only stymie sustainable urban development.

            "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

            by rovertheoctopus on Fri May 25, 2012 at 12:06:49 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Some of those lines are going to have to (0+ / 0-)

    change, aren't they?

    “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

    by the fan man on Thu May 24, 2012 at 02:57:37 AM PDT

  •  Yo Barath: here's to your forecast being correct: (7+ / 0-)

    ... that the convergence of events in the 2015 - 2016 time frame brings about one of those shifts of public opinion that just occurs without a lot of drama.

    Per my recent email, what matters is that predictions are correct, for being able to take the steps needed for preparedness, resilience, and sustainability.

    If we get Obama his second term, he'll be in office when this shit starts to hit the fan, and that will set the conditions for totally discrediting Republican denialism and electing another Democratic administration in 2016.  If whoever that turns out to be, gets two terms, then we can look forward to a sufficient period of Democrats in office as to put a serious climate program into effect.  

    Sorry I missed this diary when you posted it, there was a bunch of other stuff going on at about the same time.

    "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Thu May 24, 2012 at 05:13:20 AM PDT

    •  He better have a Congress that will not gridlock (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      G2geek, Dvalkure, ozsea1

      for 4 more years. We can't afford it.

      “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

      by the fan man on Thu May 24, 2012 at 05:38:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that's also all about GOTV this year. (5+ / 0-)

        All of this is why we should take a dim view of diaries or comments that spread emotionalisms that discourage activism.

        And when we run across such diaries or comments, we should point out in blunt language that they are doing our enemies' work for them.

        That's also why all of us need to be engaged in whatever ways we can.  This year it's too important to lose.  

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Thu May 24, 2012 at 06:20:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I agree wholeheartedly. I'm back on the (6+ / 0-)

          let's get moving side of the equation. I understand the fatalism, the enormity of the task, the news that never seems good. Just don't have time for it. We can disagree and discuss how deep the shit is we're in or the best way to bail ourselves out, but we must act. No time for defeatism. Outside of here (with a few stellar exceptions), people all over the world are making headway.

          “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

          by the fan man on Thu May 24, 2012 at 06:52:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Aye, there's the rub. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Crider
        He better have a Congress that will not gridlock

        Renewable energy brings national global security.     

        by Calamity Jean on Fri May 25, 2012 at 02:16:41 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Obama will be blamed for climate change (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      chimpy, ozsea1, Calamity Jean

      RW will finally admit climate change does exist, and discover it began the day he took the oath of office.

      Disclaimer: Weapons of Mass Destruction and terrorists may vary according to region, definition, and purpose. Belief systems pandered separately.

      by BlackBandFedora on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:02:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Don't write off the GOP's (0+ / 0-)
      If we get Obama his second term, he'll be in office when this shit starts to hit the fan, and that will set the conditions for totally discrediting Republican denialism and electing another Democratic administration in 2016.
      Or, he's on track to take the blame for the GOP's big set-up. No matter how many new wells get approved, prices will keep rising.

      Why is there a Confederate Flag flying in Afghanistan?

      by chimpy on Thu May 24, 2012 at 02:04:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Ok.. I'll bite - "So, what?" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59

    I'll play the devil's advocate here..

    Zero Summer Sea Ice - So, what?  This affects the average joe how?  One year of bad European weather is a trend?  C'mon.  There were a lot of factors involved in arctic weather this past winter - a winter that brought record levels of sea ice volume south into the Bering Sea.

    World Oil production - Huh? We're finding new huge reserves right here in the central US all the time.  North Dakota has surpassed Alaska in second biggest oil producer after Texas.  And even if that is so, we are using far less oil than we were a decade ago.

    400 ppm atmospheric CO2 - Ok.  You can prove somehow this is a magic number?  That once we reach it global catastrophes will begin?

    So.. reaction?  crickets.. there will be no reaction until it is too late.  Predictions and models have proven wrong time and time again for anyone outside the scientific community to take these kind of phenomena seriously.

    •  Well, you're wrong. People are waking up, they see (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FutureNow, ladybug53, ozsea1

      weather weirding. Next step will be to accept change in behavior, consumption, and expectations for the future.

      “The first principle [in science] is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Richard Feynman

      by the fan man on Thu May 24, 2012 at 05:40:28 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The first two have huge consequences (4+ / 0-)

      Zero sea ice can have huge tipping point effects in the climate system.  It's still poorly understood, but it could tip Greenland into a full-on melt, could destabilize methane clathrates, etc.  Those can cause the global climate systems weirding to go up a notch and could have major economic consequences, if that's the metric you're concerned about.

      More than that, it's symbolic in all sorts of subtle cultural ways (e.g. "where does Santa live, mom?"), and that's the sort of thing that causes a cultural shift.

      As for oil production, those observations are neither here nor there.  Jeffrey Brown has done many good analyses on that, with data:

      http://www.aspousa.org/...

      http://www.aspousa.org/...

      http://www.energybulletin.net/...

      http://www.energybulletin.net/...

      contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

      by barath on Thu May 24, 2012 at 06:26:52 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why did you have to lump climate with peak oil? (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jerry J, mithra666, BusyinCA, ozsea1

        On one hand, you've been linking to peer reviewed data about things like arctic sea ice decline, on a topic that has the agreement of 98% of the world's active publishing climatologists, and then on the other, slides from the ASPO.  It's not even close to the same standard.

        People have been en masse clamouring about Peak Oil since the late 1800s, always with the date pinned at right around the corner.  And every decade global estimates of known reserves grows.

        As for Jeffrey Brown, I remember him over on the Oil Drum (westexas) back in '06 clamoring about how the world was hitting peak oil right then.  But shifting goalposts is the name of the game when it comes to peak oil.  Many of them have been shifting the goalposts for decades.

        While global reserves estimates continue to grow.

        It's hard for people to intuitively understand what's going on, so let me explain.  The actual amount of hydrocarbons in the crust is unfathomably large.  It's not like some fixed cup of liquid that we're just sucking out with a straw that suddenly will "empty".  The amount that we classify as "reserves" is the tiniest of tiny fractions of the total.  The amount of carbon in Earth's crust (that is, coal, oil, natural gas, bitumen, etc or "pre-oil" rock such as shale, which people are also starting to produce from) is roughly 3,862e18 kg (3.862 sextillion).  In barrel-of-oil-terms, adding in some hydrogens, and you get about 3.5e16 barrels (35 quintillion).

        This is a basic issue with all mineable resources: every bit of Earth's unfathomably massive crust is made of "something", generally a lot of different "somethings".  So the total of any resource is generally way, way, way, way more than humans could ever need.  What varies is the cost to extract a particular resource from a particular location.  And that's what this all comes down to: cost.

        The cost to produce a resource varies based on how unevenly distributed the resource is (uneven = good), how easy it is to get to, and how easy it is to take it out and process.  The first aspect is not variable, but the latter aspects vary highly with technology, and the technology shows no signs of halting (as a random example, the cost to produce Canadian bitumen was nearly 100 a barrel in the 1970s, and now it's cheaper than a lot of conventional crudes).  Beyond this, the quality of resources follows an exponential curve: the best, easiest to get to, easiest to extract resources tend to be incredibly rare (like, say, the Spindletop field), while each step in higher difficulty that you take increases the recoverable total by an order of magnitude or more. So as either technology advances or prices increase, not only does the available total increase, but it increases exponentially.

        This doesn't mean that prices won't fluctuate - far from it.  The difficulty is that producers have to estimate what prices will be like in a decade (because it can take that long or longer to bring a totally new field online), and they need to bet conservatively or they risk betting their entire company's life on a bad gamble (small-time wildcatters tend to be riskier, but the big giants play it safe).  But that's a ridiculously hard thing to do.  An economic crisis can destroy the world economy (and slash oil consumption) in under a month, let alone a decade.  And nobody knows what global policies or technology advances will change the consumption patterns in that time.  So the world is bound to cycle through glut and shortfall.  Now, OPEC tries to level out the curve by keeping prices at their "desired" range -- that being defined as the level that they think nets them the most income without overly hurting the world economy (and thus dropping demand for their products) or encouraging non-OPEC nations to develop too much non-OPEC oil.  But OPEC isn't omnipotent; they've been both overwhelmed and undercut at various points in time.  Also, the logic behind the OPEC price target shifts over time based on what the world economy can bear and what their competitors are doing.  After the late 00s oil shock, it became apparent that the market could bear a much higher oil price than previously, so OPEC significantly raised its target price.

        Beyond global trends, there's also various (smaller) local trends related to refinery output capabilities versus shifting consumer demand, pipeline capacity, unexpected system downtime, accidents, etc.

        Back to the big picture, and to bring things full circle: even if all of this wasn't the case, oil is special in that it's made of carbon, a readily acquirable element, and can thus be synthesized in a whole host of manners.  Now, this takes energy.  How much depends on how you synthesize it.  Making it from coal, for example, you can get your energy from the coal itself.  Making it from the atmosphere, you need significant inputs, whether solar, wind, nuclear, hamsters running on treadmills, whatever.  The method used also determines the price.  Making oil using solar energy and atmospheric CO2 with today's tech would probably have a market price between 100 and 150 a barrel.  Who knows with tomorrows tech.  But obviously nobody's going to do that when there's still plenty of $30/barrel and cheaper oil out there to produce, and because even if you thought oil was going to be that expensive in a decade, that'd be a massive gamble to take.

        The reason why I bother to mention this all is that I find Peak Oil scaremongering to not only be pointless, but dangerous.  People thinking that oil is going to run out leads them to think that the climate problem is going to start to solve itself as world carbon emissions drop.  But that's not going to happen.  No "shortage" is going to save us from ourselves.  Only we can do that.

        •  Hrm... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          subtropolis, BusyinCA, Calamity Jean

          So there are a number of what I see as misconceptions in your comment, not least of which is that peak oil is about "oil running out".  It's not: it's more about whether surplus energy flows will exist to power industrial civilization in a way we've come to expect.  Of course alternatives exist, but the time to transition isn't there.

          About the opposition of climate change and peak oil, which I don't see as one - I wrote about that a while back:

          http://contraposition.org/...

          Second, reserves don't really matter much since it's flow rates that affect price and availability.  It's true that new supply comes online as prices increase, so the main question is can they beat declining rates in old fields?  Hirsch and Skrebowski have looked at it and think by around 2015 the answer is no.  If you have other concrete analyses of production rates (not reserves), I'd be interested to read them.

          Third, as for reliability of sources: there are really no good sources for peak oil projections, but Jeffrey Brown, despite what you might say, has actually been pretty much right on the money.  The IEA itself says that oil (not liquid fuels) peaked in 2006.  His net exports projections have also been quite accurate, and more importantly informative.

          contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

          by barath on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:03:47 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Shifting goalposts (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            ozsea1

            It's not: it's more about whether surplus energy flows will exist to power industrial civilization in a way we've come to expect.

            Now you're switching from "peak oil" to peak energy.  And, really?  I mean, really?  Do you know how unfathomably large amounts of energy of all different forms exist on this planet compared to the puny amount which we consume?  Even if we just want to say "coal", limiting it to a "mineable" energy source, and ignoring the patent absurdity of trying to argue that global coal reserves are anywhere near out (ever looked at a coal map of wyoming, for example?  Practically the entire subsurface of the state is coal), let's just give a counterexample: China.  China's coal reserves are less accessible than America's, less abundant, and mined with quite primitive technology.  And yet they produce over three times that of America. And that's just a mineable energy resource, and one notably smaller than mineable uranium (whose total usable energy increases over 100fold with breeders, over 100fold once again with thorium, and multiply the total once again by an additional couple orders of magnitude with seawater fuel extraction.).  While solar, wind, tidal, wave, geothermal, hydro, etc are unbounded, and  of those, only hydro isn't sufficient enough to power the world orders of magnitude over on its own.

            Peak energy hype make peak oil hype look like nothing by comparison.  It's just so transparently stupid.  I'm sorry to say that, and I'm not trying to call names here... but it's just absurd.  

            Second, reserves don't really matter much since it's flow rates that affect price and availability.

            Which, as I just explained, is precisely what reserves are.  Reserves are known despoits of oil of which at least a sizeable part is exploitable at current prices and technology.  Which is why, for example, the entire massive conventional-oil (unconventional strata) Bakken oil field wasn't even listed in global reserves figures until recently, despite being well known since the mid-20th century.

            It's true that new supply comes online as prices increase, so the main question is can they beat declining rates in old fields?

            That's a given, by the very definition of reserves.  Don't you remember a couple years back about how people on this site were clamouring for congress to pass laws forcing oil companies to give back all of their blocks that they have reserved but aren't drilling?  That's what reserves are.  They're stuff you know you can produce but there's currently no economic argument to produce them.  Heck, until just a couple years ago, Saudi Arabia was sitting on an entire supergiant that they hadn't even sunk a single well into.

            Hirsch and Skrebowski have looked at it

            First off, you're doing precisely what climate deniers do, picking whatever happens to support your preconceived notions.  Secondly, you didn't even list the title of what you're referring to, let alone a link.  Third, I read the Hirsch report.  I love the fact that all but a handful of the dates it includes for a liquids peak have already passed.  And I've read some Skrebowski before; in what I read he was talking about short-term shortfalls and made no long-term projections.  

            If you have other concrete analyses of production rates (not reserves),

            First off, that's a fallacious statement.  The short-term rates of production have nothing to do with what can be done in the long-term.  The short-term rates of production are a result of whatever the oil companies bet over the past decade or so would be the price of oil in the coming decades.  Secondly... really?  You've really never seen anything from, say, CERA, to pick a non-doomer group?

            Third, as for reliability of sources: there are really no good sources for peak oil projections,

            Which is precisely why it should not be combined with climate SCIENCE.

            The IEA itself says that oil (not liquid fuels) peaked in 2006.  

            That's such a pointless distinction.  To be blunt, who gives a rat's arse whether something is synfuel or not?  If the price is right and it runs in your car, that's all that matters, from a "peak oil" perspective.  Of course synfuels are going to play an increasingly dominant share of the market in the coming years.

            And, for that matter, it should be pointed out that when doomers talk about peak oil, they're talking specifically about production going down while demand stays high -- not peak demand.  As even CERA notes, demand has likely long-term peaked in the OECD, and it's certainly repressed globally right now by the global economic downturn.  A demand peak isn't a problem, it's a good thing.  People didn't switch public lighting from tallow and beeswax candles to paraffin because the world ran out of livestock or bees.  Nor did they switch from paraffin candles to kerosene lamps because the world ran out of tar, nor kerosene lamps to electric lamps because the world ran out of oil.  They hit demand peaks, and that's a good thing.

        •  Great comment! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ozsea1

          I was going to ask the same question.. why even include talk of peak oil in a discussion of climate change?

          I can think of several scenarios where oil reserves don't even matter.

          For instance, a couple of technological advances could bring oil prices back down to $30 a barrel in a very short time.

          An example in the near future:  A new discovery in batteries allows for carrying much more stored electric energy in a smaller more compact package.  Couple that with a breakthrough in fission, and we could all be driving cheap electric cars in less than ten years from those technologies coming online.

          And coal plants are a thing of the past.. and nearly zero carbon footprint from autos.  The world changes overnight.

          •  Well (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            subtropolis, rovertheoctopus

            Because this diary isn't just a discussion of climate change...it's a discussion of climate change and peak oil.  Both are related to our dependence upon fossil fuels to keep our "way of life" going.

            And if you map out the time it takes to change society's energy infrastructure, you'll find (as many studies have) that it would take at minimum a couple of decades.  Given the timeframe we're talking about on both climate change and peak oil the best, and really only, option is to rapidly downshift our energy use rather than hoping for a techno-fix.

            contraposition.org - thoughts on energy, the environment, and society.

            by barath on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:12:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  You misunderstand me.. (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barath, ladybug53, Bush Bites, ozsea1

        until Greenland gets tipped.. until methane gets destabilized... until these things occur, most Americans, at least, won't pay much attention at all.

        I don't think there will be any cultural shift until something major and permanent happens with the climate.

    •  Peak oil is not about reserves (5+ / 0-)

      Peak oil is about the peak of production and the declining energy return on energy invested. It's economics meets environment. What is clear is that the epoch of cheap, conventionally extracted oil is well on its way out, as evidenced by clear declines in oil field production. Conventional oil once was able to produce 20 times as many barrels of oil for each barrel of oil inputted for production. For shale, it's about 5 to 1. To switch from conventional to unconventional oil demonstrates that we'd only be 1/4th as efficient. The amount of recoverable oil is not the same as economically recoverable. To even reach these reserves, capital investment in every form (wells, water and chemicals for fracking fluid, transportation) would all have to be accounted for.

      You may find this article rather interesting as well. You see, once gold was discovered, it was easy to milk it for all it was worth using conventional mining methods. But as diminished returns so played out, miners turned to hydraulic mining to literally wash away mountains to extract gold. More production over time just to get each equivalent batch of gold. This clear bell curve in production so played out in California between 1848 and 1872, and later in the Yukon from 1897 to 1904. How's the gold mining industry doing now?

      "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

      by rovertheoctopus on Thu May 24, 2012 at 12:11:40 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  economics meets environment (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        rovertheoctopus

        and delusionally believes it holds the upper hand.

        A better link for that article, which is brilliant, is at the oil drum

         http://www.theoildrum.com/...

        read it and weep.

        muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

        by veritas curat on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:18:24 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  EROI is irrelevant. (0+ / 0-)

        No, seriously.  All that matters is economics.  If I put in 100 times as much solar energy into making a fuel as I get out of said fuel, but it's still economical, there's still a perfectly good case for doing so.  You can't put the sun in your gas tank.  Or nuclear fuel rods, or wind, or hydro, or coal, or almost any other fuel type except a specific range of liquid hydrocarbons.  How much energy they contain versus how much energy went into making them is irrelevant so long as the cost of production makes sense.

        conventionally extracted oil

        To be blunt, who gives a rat's arse whether it's conventionally extracted or not, as far as peaking goes?  If it works in your gas tank, it works.  The environment cares, of course, but from a doomer perspective, it's irrelevant.

        The amount of recoverable oil is not the same as economically recoverable.

        Actually, reserves figures are based on economically recoverable oil.  A field is not added to global reserves figures unless oil can be produced economically from it.  See the Bakken for an example.  Note also that most fields have their total capacity estimates rise significantly over time as they become better explored.

        How's the gold mining industry doing now?

        Booming.  Record production.

        BTW, as a bit of side trivia, hydraulic mining was used even by the ancient romans.

        •  EROI is economics (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rovertheoctopus

          Frankly, I fail to see your words as comforting. After all We DID peak at 2006, like Westexas said. We've been on a production plateau ever since.

          •  EROI is not economics. (0+ / 0-)

            Economics is economics.  Energy is energy.  The two are not the same thing.  Corn growing on a farm in Iowa intercepts a massive amount of energy and is yet sold for dirt-cheap prices.  All forms of energy are not of the same value.  Liquid fuels tend to be notably more expensive than electricity per unit energy.  Electricity tends to be notably more expensive than harvested thermal energy.  Harvested thermal energy tends to be notably more expensive than unharnessed energy, and so forth.

            Did the world end in 2006 because conventional liquids peaked?  Not even close.  One, because treating conventional as separate from synfuels is stupid in a discussion of peaks, and two, because the OECD is experiencing a demand peak, which is a great thing and absolutely the opposite of doom.

            •  The world is ending (0+ / 0-)

              Evidence the credit 'crunch' in most nations and the collapse of middle classes here and most OECD nations after 2006.

              Oil is the foundation -- the pillar -- of economic activity in the industrialized world. When the quantity of crude does not grow, then the economies cannot grow either. When the economies do not grow, then debt-based monetary systems eventually collapse.

              •  If you think oil caused or is causing this... (0+ / 0-)

                then you have quite a bit to explain about how oil surged to nearly $150 a barrel but then collapsed to almost nothing, then rose back up, and in general has tracked the economy nothing whatsoever.

                Oil prices are what oil producers want them to be.  Is it really your contention that oil producers should want to flood the market and lower the price of their products?  If your answer is the logical "no", then there's nothing else to discuss here.

                •  Oil producers want more money (0+ / 0-)

                  Very few of them will voluntarily hold back production is they have the capacity -- especially the sovereigns. OPEC is sort of an exception except they're under the thumb of the Saudis. THe Saudis are one of the few sovereigns who are willing to hold back production to keep the price high. The other OPEC members regularly cheat.

                  •  Holding back production is *precisely* (0+ / 0-)

                    the purpose of OPEC.  And OPEC is not "under the thumb of the saudis", it's a collective organization which votes on its policies.  And yes, they cheat, but first, cheating is factored into the targets, and second, the overall logic of the Prisoner's Dilemma keeps the system from getting too far out of whack.  That is, if a country cheats too much, other countries start threatening to cheat as well, everyone ends up in a lose-lose situation, and the gamesmanship backs off.  So cheating is always present but rarely too dramatic (there were however a few times in history where it was rampant, mainly involving Iran and Iraq)

          •   (0+ / 0-)

            Economics is economics.  Energy is energy.  The two are not the same thing.  Corn growing on a farm in Iowa intercepts a massive amount of energy and is yet sold for dirt-cheap prices.  All forms of energy are not of the same value.  Liquid fuels tend to be notably more expensive than electricity per unit energy.  Electricity tends to be notably more expensive than harvested thermal energy.  Harvested thermal energy tends to be notably more expensive than unharnessed energy, and so forth.

            Did the world end in 2006 because conventional liquids peaked?  Not even close.  One, because treating conventional as separate from synfuels is stupid in a discussion of peaks, and two, because the OECD is experiencing a demand peak, which is a great thing and absolutely the opposite of doom.

            Lastly, as for your "plateau" comment, do you really think it makes sense to produce more oil right now?  No, answer the question honestly, do you?  We're at around the current OPEC targets.  You think it makes sense to flood the market and crash the price, from a producer perspective?  No?  Then the market is doing exactly what it should be doing.

            •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

              Energy returned on investment is actually economics.

              By the way:

              So many shoes are dropping out there that reality is starting to look and sound like the tap-line in a Busby Berkeley production number. The meme-scape, too, is humming with viral transmissions of dire doings. Is JP Morgan unwinding like a 1911 knitted woolen Yale varsity sweater? Did it booby-trap the credit default swap universe in the process, and is that getting ready to blow? The whole world is hanging by its fingernails, refusing to be dragged into the future.
                   That future is all about contraction. We could navigate our way into it but we don't want to. We want to stay right where we are with all our stuff and no need to make new arrangements and we are trying every last trick to do that. Can you not sense a terrible tidal surge of implacable forces under the headlines' placid surface?
              •  No, economics is economics. (0+ / 0-)

                Energy is energy.  The two are different words because they are not the same thing.  If you believe that all forms of energy deserve equal weighting and that energy is economics, then, wow, let me tell you, the Pistol Star is raking in the dough.

                •  Energy Returned on Investment is economics (0+ / 0-)

                  It's the ratio of the energy delivered by a process to the energy used directly and indirectly in that process . . .

                  •  The point you're not following... (0+ / 0-)

                    is that different forms of energy have grossly different economic value, ranging from absolutely nothing (uncapturable energy, energy radiated far from Earth, etc, like the Pistol Star, the most radiant star in the galaxy) to superbly expensive (like, say, silver-oxide primary cells).  Oil is a high-cost form of energy.  Electricity is a low cost form of energy.  Heat is an even lower cost form of energy.  Using the latter two at a one-to-one ratio or worse than a one-to-one ratio still makes perfect economic sense.

        •  Begging the question (0+ / 0-)

          Your definition of reserves is not exactly what you said in an earlier comment:

          That's what reserves are.  They're stuff you know you can produce but there's currently no economic argument to produce them.
          So are they economical or not? Saturn's moon Europa has a 61 mile deep ocean of water under its crust. Is it exactly economical to retrieve for human use? Will it ever be? When? Three quarters of Earth is water, yet we have water shortages and places like Las Vegas constantly have to dynamite the bottom of Lake Mead to get more water? Why is that? We have the supply, right? It's because desalinization is too expensive to construct. Because chemicals and pharmaceutical pollution makes water less useable for drinking. And oh by the way, groundwater, like oil, takes centuries to refill, yet they are used mindlessly on lawns in Phoenix, center pivot crops in Saudi Arabia, and oh yes, oil production included.

          You made generic references earlier to "short term" versus "long term" costs. I assume you're referring to technological innovations. But technology is an engineering problem and, aside from the motivation itself to seek innovation, scarcity or difficulties in obtaining do not compound to technological innovation. It's strictly physics, and physical limits for that matter. And yes, technological may fix this, but you know what, it's about timing. And let's stick to the facts. World oil production is stuggling to keep afloat even as consumption continues to climb. Unconventional oil is trying to counterbalance that decline in conventional production. That's why it matters if it's conventional or not.

          Also...

          How much energy they contain versus how much energy went into making them is irrelevant so long as the cost of production makes sense.
          What?

          "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

          by rovertheoctopus on Fri May 25, 2012 at 07:38:51 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oil (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rovertheoctopus

            Your definition of reserves is not exactly what you said in an earlier comment:    That's what reserves are.  They're stuff you know you can produce but there's currently no economic argument to produce them.

            You really think it makes sense to produce every economical-to-produce field at the same time?  Really?  There's a difference between having an economical field and flooding the market.

            Three quarters of Earth is water, yet we have water shortages and places like Las Vegas constantly have to dynamite the bottom of Lake Mead to get more water? Why is that? We have the supply, right? It's because desalinization is too expensive to construct.

            Actually, that's a great example.  Because desalination is not too expensive... for human consumption of water.  It is, however, too expensive for irrigation, which uses the lion's share (2/3rds) of the freshwater in the world.  It's also a great example because desalination costs have gone down dramatically over time with advancing technology and is thus now used at a commercial scale in 17 countries, including 3 plants in the US.

            And yes, how people use water in the US desert southwest is absurd.

            It's strictly physics, and physical limits for that matter.

            No, it's not.  The Bakken didn't become economical because of new physics.  Canadian bitumen didn't become economical because of new physics.  Venezuelan ultra heavy didn't become economical because of new physics.  It's simply the slow process of developing and refining new technology to address known challenges.  There's no radical fundamental breakthroughs involved in any of this.

            And furthermore, one doesn't have to just assume that something is going to magically appear from a void tomorrow.  You can see all of the technologies progress from their infancy to maturity, and how they're matching up with the long-term expected cost targets.  I've been keeping tabs on oil shale in Colorado, for example.  It's well on track to do exactly what bitumen did in Canada. (and to go ahead and head you off, the oil industry can easily pay more per water than individuals, let alone than farmers.  The oil industry ships an environmentally hazardous substance (oil) across entire continents and hardly changes its sale price; do you really think they can't get a couple gallons of water to make a barrel of something that sells for $90?  If you could turn a couple gallons of water into $90, do you really think much of anything could hold you back?)

            And, do remember, when we talk about these new production sources, we're not talking about things that only become economical at 200 a barrel oil here.  We're not talking $100 a barrel oil.  We're not even talking $50 a barrel oil -- in general, even betting on processes that cost $50 a barrel is somewhat of a risk for the supermajors.  The sort of projects that are being looked at now are in the $30-40 a barrel range at a production level, and lower as time goes on.  But the higher the price you're willing to pay, the orders-of-magnitude greater the supply is.

            And let's stick to the facts. World oil production is stuggling to keep afloat even as consumption continues to climb.

            Oh, really?  So OPEC has lost control and prices have shot over their desired range?  Certainly you wouldn't say something like that if prices were right at what the industry was trying to keep them at....

            Once again, I ask you, and the other doomers here: so you really think the industry should flood the market?  You think that's a logical choice for them?  How much should they flood the market?  How low of a price do you think makes sense for them to have?  Unless you think the industry should want to lower the price from what it is right now, it's an absurd claim to make that "we simply can't produce more!"  It's plateaued because demand has plateaued because the world is in a global recession

            Unconventional oil is trying to counterbalance that decline in conventional production. That's why it matters if it's conventional or not.

            Which is utterly irrelevant, since both are fine to put in your car.  So again, who cares which is produced from?  People will produce from whatever is cheapest.  If the world used 100% synfuels but the prices remained the same (as synfuels are quite economical in the current market regime), nobody would even notice this "doom".  It's a pointless distinction.

            How much energy they contain versus how much energy went into making them is irrelevant so long as the cost of production makes sense.

            What?

            I think that was plain English.  Do you actually think all forms of energy are the same?  Can I run my car on galactic cosmic radiation?  No?  Then all forms of energy are not the same, and hence can have different value.  I can't put a river in my gas tank, but I can put a dam on a river, make cheap power, and use that to power synfuels production, and it can make economic sense to do that because the energy content of liquid fuels is worth a lot more than the energy content of electricity.  And the energy that goes into liquid fuels production doesn't even need to be as expensive as electricity; heat is significantly cheaper than even electricity per unit energy, and can often be used as an energy source in synfuels production.  The specific details depend on what type of synfuels we're talking about and which process to produce them, of course.

            To put it another way: until the allies bombed the refineries flat, the Nazis powered the Luftwaffe with fuel made from coal.  1940s tech.  They used several times as much coal energy as came out in aviation fuel.  And this "impossible" (by your standards) negative EROI fuel made the air wars of WWII possible for them.

            •  Solid points made (0+ / 0-)

              Ugh, I still have some quibbles, but honestly, I'm drained from this discussion at the moment. But I think you make some reasonable points, especially on EROEI, since yes, one does not "need" oil to produce oil. It's not that straight or simple of a conversion, I realize. But it's also more nuanced, at the same time. As also stated by others, I take issue with the "doomer" tag and the gratuitous use of "really?", but that's something else to work on.

              And I also agree, I have never hoped that the Earth would be punctured with hole after hole to extract more oil, just based on whether it's "economimcal" to do so or isn't. I don't approve of that as a straw man. Clearly, there are even more serious issues than peak oil, whether its presence overstated or not. Climate change by-and-large supersedes this. I believe it's mostly overconsumption that is pushing the constraints of our planet, and pollution, ocean acidification, overfishing, and boiling down to climate change will be testing that. As you have well pointed out, the price of oil on the consumer side fails to honestly consider its associated environmental damage. That's truly the dishonesty playing out in capitalism. Oil companies can afford to do so by discounting their negative externalities, but as a public issue, we're paying for it in more ways than at the gas pump--for what it's worth, I don't own a car; I take transit and use my human body to get places. =)

              We'll see.

              "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell." ~Edward Abbey ////\\\\ "To be a poor man is hard, but to be a poor race in a land of dollars is the very bottom of hardships." ~W.E.B. DuBois

              by rovertheoctopus on Fri May 25, 2012 at 11:02:14 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  Accepting human influence on global climate (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Calamity Jean

      ...is a big idea on the scale of ending slavery and racial discrimination, and recognizing women's civil and property rights.

      I'm afraid that true acceptance of global climate change will come only on a similar time scale, beyond the natural life span of anybody walking around above ground today.

      •  I hope you're wrong, because humanity (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Bronx59
        I'm afraid that true acceptance of global climate change will come only on a similar time scale, beyond the natural life span of anybody walking around above ground today.      
        needs to cut carbon emissions NOW, to avoid major dire consequences.  

        Renewable energy brings national global security.     

        by Calamity Jean on Fri May 25, 2012 at 02:24:30 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I hope I'm wrong, too (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Calamity Jean

          ...but I've come to the conclusion that the idea that humans are modifying the earth's climate is a huge change in mindset, at least on the scale of the two I mentioned above.  

          For one thing, I don't see how it can be reconciled with either Christianity or Islam.  Even in our era of accelerating change, I don't see how generations raised before this idea became commonplace are going to act on it.

          Obsoleting or reconfiguring millennia-old religions takes time.  Catholicism is in the early backlash stage 50 years after the last attempt.

  •  Meanwhile the mad scientists labor on (0+ / 0-)

    I recently read that scientists have genetically modified bird flu virus so that it can be transmissible between humans.

    Then they made their work public.

    •  um, yes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      maryabein, muddy boots

      after a lot of screening and discussion about how to handle it.

      But I'm thinking that knowing that such viruses can and will exist at some point, maybe it makes sense to understand how they work?  Just maybe?

      Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

      by Mindful Nature on Thu May 24, 2012 at 02:23:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  yes, but why go there? (0+ / 0-)

        Why even make the beast? And having done so, why not make the vaccine now?

        •  To understand how it works (0+ / 0-)

          one might see what the genes are that could potentially be associated with the trait, but until you the beast you can't look at how it works.  Understanding how human transmissible viruses pull off that trick is pretty important to know.

          And I think the vaccine was already made some time ago to this particular strain and  a lot of people were vaccinated already when they got flu shots, I think two years ago, if memory serves right.  They used an old strain for this one.

          Courtesy Kos. Trying to call on the better angels of our nature.

          by Mindful Nature on Thu May 24, 2012 at 09:44:19 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  A lot of individuals out there are taking matters (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, ozsea1

    into their own hands. Its a paradigm shift that is a bottom-up transformation.

    Marketing devices are starting to react to these new habits, so it might not be happening as fast, or the way we want it to, but people are changing.

    As for people who think it's too late and we can't do nothing anyhow--they have been around for a very long time. Apocalyptic belief systems have always been thus.

    Start with yourself and then reach out to a neighbor.

  •  Americans are getting dumber by the decade. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bronx59, Crider

    Surveys prove it.

    I wouldn't count on any revelations down the road.

    "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

    by Bush Bites on Thu May 24, 2012 at 05:17:39 PM PDT

  •  Projections Of Warming: Celsius at 400 ppm (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ozsea1

    2.5 degree warming at 400 ppm CO2?  people don't realize that 2.5 degrees is Celsius, not Fahrenheit and that we are inexorably heading to 400 ppm, which has been the worst case scenario.

    Who's doing the projections for beyond 400 ppm?

    There’s always free cheddar in a mousetrap, baby

    by bernardpliers on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:19:44 PM PDT

  •  Methane clathrates (0+ / 0-)

    Are the Sword of Damocles hanging over our global heads.

    "What have you done for me, lately?" ~ Lady Liberty

    by ozsea1 on Thu May 24, 2012 at 08:55:10 PM PDT

  •  Oh My. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    the fan man

    I saw your title "A Hole atop the World" and I read it as
     "  A-hole Atop the World " and thought it was about either Mitt Romney or GW Bush.   Gasp.

  •  The last stage of climate denial: (0+ / 0-)

    "It's all the climate scientists fault for not making a good enough case back in 2012 when there was still time to do something about it."

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