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Climate Change dominates news coverage at expense of other equally important existential issues

Climate Change dominates news coverage at expense of other equally important existential issues

Preface. I’ve noticed that in the half dozen science magazines and several newspapers I get practically the only environmental stories are about climate change. Yet there are 8 other ecological boundaries (Rockström 2009) we must not cross (shown in bold with an asterisk below) and dozens of other existential threats as well.

Global peak oil production may have already happened in October of 2018 (Will covid-19 delay peak oil? Table 1). It is likely the decline rate will be 6%, increasing exponentially by +0.015% a year (see post “Giant oil field decline rates and peak oil”). So, after 16 years remaining oil production will be just 10% of what it was at the peak.

If peak oil happened in 2018, then CO2 ppm levels may be under 400 by 2100 as existing and much lower emissions of CO2 are absorbed by oceans and land. The IPCC never even modeled peak oil in their dozens of scenarios because they assumed we’d be exponentially increasing our use of fossils until 2400. They never asked geologists what the oil, coal, and natural gas reserves were, assumed we’d use methane hydrates, and many other wrong assumptions.

Meanwhile, all the ignored ecological disasters will become far more obvious. They’re papered over with fossils today. Out of fresh water? Just drill another 1,000 feet down. Eutrophied water? Build a $500 million dollar water treatment plant. Fisheries collapsed? Go to the ends of the earth to capture the remaining schools of fish.

The real threat is declining fossil production, yet climate change gets nearly all the coverage. And I’ve left out quite a few other threats, such as “nuclear war” with 17,900 results since 2016 in scholar.google.com.

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Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions are Fate

Anthropogenic CO2 Emissions are Fate

Mill, Halsey, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

I developed a model of Global Warming based on the anthropogenic perturbation of the Carbon Cycle. The essence of this model is a rate equation for the evolution of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere.

The interesting results from this model are projected trends for the CO2 concentration and the average global temperature during the next century. The character of those trends — whether rapid rises, shallow plateaus, or diminishment into the future — depend crucially on the magnitude of our civilization’s emissions of CO2, and whether those anthropogenic emissions increase or decrease with time. In the real world at present, they are increasing.

I have now been able to include the effect of linearly increasing or decreasing anthropogenic emissions into my Carbon Balance Model, which has been significantly improved.

This model also includes the effect of the increase in the rate at which atmospheric CO2 is absorbed by photosynthesis and the surface waters of the oceans, because those absorption rates are increasingly stimulated by the higher levels of CO2 in the air. This process of absorption-enhancement cannot continue indefinitely as the atmospheric CO2 concentration increases, but at what point of elevated CO2 concentration it saturates and then absorption largely shuts down, is unknown.

The third process included in the model is that of the slow absorption of atmospheric CO2 by the chemical reactions of weathering on the surfaces of rocks and soils. CO2 not “quickly” scavenged from the air by photosynthesis or the surface waters of the oceans will stay airborne for 12,000 to 14,000 years. The ~2,500ppm spike of atmospheric CO2 that occurred 55.5 million years ago took 200,000 years to clear away.

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Fossil-fueled industrial heat hard to impossible to replace with renewables

Fossil-fueled industrial heat hard to impossible to replace with renewables

Preface. Cement, steel, glass, bricks, ceramics, chemicals, and much more depend on fossil-fueled high heat (up to 3200 F) to make. Except for the electric-arc furnace to recycle existing steel, there aren’t any renewable ways to make cement, other metals, and other high-heat products, and industries aren’t working on this either.


Roberts, D. 2019. This climate problem is bigger than cars and much harder to solve. Low-carbon options for heavy industry like steel and cement are scarce and expensive. Vox

Climate activists are fond of saying that we have all the solutions we need to the climate crisis; all we lack is the political will. This is incorrect. There are some uses of fossil fuels, that we do not yet know how to decarbonize.

Take, for instance, industrial heat: the extremely high-temperature heat used to make steel and cement. 

Heavy industry is responsible for around 22% of global CO2 emissions, with 42% of that — about 10% of global emissions — from combustion to produce large amounts of high-temperature heat for industrial products like cement, steel, and petrochemicals.

To put that in perspective, industrial heat’s 10% is greater than the CO2 emissions of all the world’s cars (6%) and planes (2%) combined. Yet, consider how much you hear about electric vehicles. Consider how much you hear about flying shame. Now consider how much you hear about … industrial heat.

Not much, I’m guessing. But the fact is, today, virtually all of that combustion is fossil-fueled, and there are very few viable low-carbon alternatives. For all kinds of reasons, industrial heat is going to be one of the toughest nuts to crack, carbon-wise. And we haven’t even gotten started.

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Do the World’s Energy Policies Make Sense?

Do the World’s Energy Policies Make Sense?

The world today has a myriad of energy policies. One of them seems to be to encourage renewables, especially wind and solar. Another seems to be to encourage electric cars. A third seems to be to try to move away from fossil fuels. Countries in Europe and elsewhere have been trying carbon taxes. There are alsoprograms to buy carbon offsets for energy uses such as air travel.

Maybe it is time to step back and take a look. Where are we now? Where are we really headed? Have the policies implemented since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 had any positive impact?

Let’s look at some of the issues involved.

[1] We have had very little success in reducing CO2 emissions.

CO2 emissions for all countries, in total, have been spiraling upward, year after year.

Figure 1. Carbon dioxide emissions for the world, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.

If we look at the situation by part of the world, we see an even more concerning pattern.

Figure 2. Carbon dioxide emissions by part of the world through 2018, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy. Soviet Empire is an approximation including Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, based on the BP report. It would not include Cuba and North Korea.

The group US+EU+Japan has been able to reduce its CO2 emissions by 5% since 2005. Emissions were slowly rising between 1981 and 2005. There was a dip at the time of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, followed by a downward trend. A person might get the impression that CO2 emissions for the EU tend to rise during periods when the economy is doing well and tend to fall when it is doing poorly.

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CO2 emissions: The trend is not your friend

CO2 emissions: The trend is not your friend

When the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported in late March that energy consumption in 2018 rose at the fastest rate in a decade, it confirmed something that most of those who truly understand the climate crisis already know: Collectively, humanity is making almost no progress in doing anything significant about climate change. So, it’s not surprising that atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration has hit yet another record high.

While the dominate public narrative has been that we are making great leaps toward a low-carbon economy through the rapid deployment of renewable energy, the IEA report showed a civilization moving inexorably toward climate catastrophe.

Of the growth in energy demand—the extra energy needed to power the world economy in 2018 versus 2017—70 percent was supplied by fossil fuels. When we hear, as the IEA tells us, that solar energy generation increased by 31 percent last year without appropriate context, we fail to understand that this is off a very small base relative to fossil fuel energy.

Coal burning accounted for about one-third of all emissions in 2018. Coal consumption continues to increase. This, we are told, is despite the rising use of natural gas for electricity generation. But, natural gas, though it contains less carbon, is still a carbon fuel.

Perhaps the most important statement in the release was this:

Almost a fifth of the increase in global energy demand came from higher demand for heating and cooling as average winter and summer temperatures in some regions approached or exceeded historical records. Cold snaps drove demand for heating and, more significantly, hotter summer temperatures pushed up demand for cooling.

Climate change is creating a vicious cycle in which that change creates greater extremes in weather which create more demand for energy which is still largely generated using fossil fuels—which then release more greenhouse gases creating even more extreme climate.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

CO2 on Track for Largest Rise in 62 Years

CO2 on Track for Largest Rise in 62 Years

Around the world, atypical climate change grows increasingly threatening to all life on the planet, principally because of excessive CO2 emissions. Paradoxically, this is happening on the heels of the Paris 2015 climate accord among nations of the world.

But, didn’t almost all of the countries of the world pledge to cut back greenhouse gas emissions?

Oh yes, they did, but CO2 emissions set new records year after year after year. Ever since Paris 2015 nothing positive has happened to halt global warming, almost nothing!

Granted, it’s true that renewable installations, especially in China, are hot items but so is fossil fuel usage, which had its largest increase in seven years in 2018. Ya gotta wonder: Where’s Waldo/Paris2015?

By all appearances, pledges to reduce greenhouse gases at Paris 2015 are fatigued because the climate system is staggering and sending early warning signs of rapid deterioration of key ecosystems that support life, which, in large measure, is caused by ever-increasing bursts of CO2 emissions.

On January 25, 2019, the prestigious Met Office Hadley Centre/UK issued a dismal CO2 forecast: “Faster CO2 Rise Expected in 2019.”

“During 2019, Met Office climate scientists expect to see one of the largest rises in atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentration in 62 years.”

As of today, 4 years since Paris 2015, CO2 is supposed to be plateauing or leveling, flattish, not roaring ahead in a 62-year ascendency to new record highs as it continues to ratchet up. Something’s horribly amiss about the pledges by countries to reduce CO2 emissions in order to minimize the risks of climate change/global warming. Those pledges are going backwards, falling into a deep black abyss.

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The End of Illusion

The End of Illusion

Photo Source Christopher Michel | CC BY 2.0

The following is the Epilogue from Jeffrey St. Clair’s and Joshua Frank’s new book The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink, available now from CounterPunch Books.

In the spring of 2017, the carbon dioxide readings at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawai’i cracked 410 parts per million, an all-time record and a frightening one. On Earth Day, climate marches took place in cities across the world. Trump’s policies didn’t drive the spiking CO2 levels, but they did propel tens of thousands onto the streets for a few hours of fun. Where were those people during eight years of Barack Obama, an oil and gas man of some distinction? Where were they during eight years of Bill Clinton, one of the greatest environmental con men of our time?

Has Donald Trump finally shattered our illusions, so that we can see clearly the forces—economic, political and technological—that are plunging the planet toward a man-made heat death? Is he, in fact, a kind of clarifying agent for the real state of things?

One can hope so.

Except one mustn’t hope.

As Kafka, the High Priest of Realism, admonished his readers, “There is hope. But not for us.”

Hope is an illusion, an opiate, an Oxycontin for the masses. Instead of hope, we need a heavy dose of realism. A realism as chilling as reality itself.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, the Buddha instructed us that the world is suffering, and indeed it is. He also advised us that the cure for suffering is empathy, especially for those living beings—among which we would include redwood trees, sea coral and saguaro cacti—which have no defense against the forces that are inflicting that globalized torment.

That’s where we come in. Defenders of the Earth need to abandon all hope before entering the fray. Hope is a paralytic agent. Hope is the enemy.

The antidote is action.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Inevitable De-Industrialisation of Europe

EU ministers agreed to binding cuts in CO2 emissions of 35% by 2030. The German auto industry won’t be able to deliver.

Hamburg was first in May. Stuttgart, home of Mercedes and Porsche, was second in July.

A diesel ban in Frankfurt came third.

Only older cars that do not meet emission standards are banned, but diesel is now toxic. No one wants to buy diesel.

Merkel Can No Longer Protect Car Makers

Adding to the woes, Merkel has lost control. She is no longer able to protect German industry.

The European Parliament just voted to cut CO2 emissions by 40%. The European ministers voted for a 35% reduction. The latter is binding.

Car sales dropped sharply in September.

Eurointelligence on Autos and German Industry

The German government – backed by its usual eastern European allies – fought in vain to head off the tougher standards.

Germany’s environment minister Svenja Schulze deliberately – and astonishingly – weakened her own negotiating position by making clear that her personal preference would have been for tougher targets than those she was officially defending as her government’s position.

An administrative court in Berlin decided yesterday that the city of Berlin needs to ban diesel cars – compliant with Euro norms five and earlier – in important areas of the city, including Friedrichstrasse and Leipziger Strasse. There is no ban for petrol cars as the emissions in question are nitrogen oxide. The ban will have to be implemented by July 2019 at the latest. The plaintiff was a German environmental NGO, which had sued for a city-wide ban of diesel.

Car Sales Plunge

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The impacts of electrification – the example of France

The impacts of electrification – the example of France

A number of “100% renewable” studies foresee wholesale electrification as the best way to cut emissions. In this post I compare load curves from three European countries where electric heating is not widely used (Spain, Germany and Poland) with one where it is (France). The annual load curves for Spain, Germany and Poland do not show large seasonal load variations or high winter peak loads, but because of electric heating the load curve for France shows both large seasonal variations and a strong winter peak. France’s electric heaters will therefore have offset a substantial tonnage of CO2 emissions at the expense of making the grid more difficult to manage. Considerations such as the performance of France’s nuclear fleet and the impact of France’s electric heaters on “demand response” are also discussed.

Figure 1 shows the locations of the four countries considered. They have a combined population of 235 million, a combined GDP of $8.1 trillion and cover an area of 1.8 million square kilometers:

Figure 1: Country locations

A few basic statistics are listed in Table 1 for reference:

As discussed in numerous previous posts, matching electricity supply to demand (load) 24/365 in a country where a high fraction of generation is provided by intermittent renewables is problematic if not impossible. Regardless of the generation mix, however, the problem will usually be lessened if the annual load curve does not show significant seasonal variations. Three of the four countries considered, Poland, Spain and Germany, show no large seasonal variations except during the Christmas/New Year holiday season in Germany. (All the data used in this post are from the P-F Bach hourly data for 2015except where otherwise specified:)

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California’s progress, or lack thereof, in cutting its emissions

California’s progress, or lack thereof, in cutting its emissions

The California Air Resources Board (CARB) recently published its 2018 inventory of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, according to which the state achieved its goal of cutting GHG emissions below 1990 levels in 2016, four years in advance of the 2020 target date*. Gov. Jerry Brown claims that this proves that the state’s anti-carbon laws and regulations are “succeeding”, but are they really? Here we take a brief look at CARB’s data, concluding a) that success has not yet been achieved and b) that California’s long-term emissions targets remain as elusive as ever.

* There is no certainty that California’s 2016 emissions (429 million tons) were in fact lower than its 1990 emissions. (431 million tons). With estimation errors in the 2-5% range a 0.5% difference is not diagnostic.

A few points to note before proceeding:

The graphics and data used in this post are from CARB’s 2018 inventory report unless otherwise specified.

CARB’s emissions include all greenhouse gases from all sources, not just CO2 from fossil-fuel burning. Gases such as methane, Nox, fluorocarbons etc. are converted into CO2 equivalents on the basis of their “global warming potential”.

CARB’s electricity sector emissions cover the entire state. Previous posts on California have used only data from the three major utilities that make up the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which between them account for about 75% of California’s electricity transmission.

First a brief history of California’s GHG emissions-reduction legislation. The bill that established the 1990-by-2020 GHG target (AB 32) was passed in 2006. Then in 2017 AB 398 set a new target of a GHG reduction of at least 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, and in April of this year an executive order established a longer-term target of 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. (California is now considering another bill – SB100 – that reportedly calls for 100% renewable electricity by 2045, but more about this later).

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The BP 2018 Statistical Review, electricity and CO2 emissions

The BP 2018 Statistical Review, electricity and CO2 emissions

The just-issued 2018 BP Statistical Review contains a number of variables that were not available in previous reports, in particular electricity generation from oil, gas and coal since 1985. Combining these variables with BP’s nuclear, hydro and renewables generation numbers and with BP’s CO2 emissions data reveals the following:

• The world has made no progress towards decarbonizing its electricity sector over the last 32 years. In 1985 it generated 35% of its electricity from low-carbon sources (hydro, nuclear, renewables). In 2017 it generated 34%. Mostly this is a result of rapid emissions growth in China.

  • Of the country groups considered only the EU28 has made any significant progress towards decarbonization (from 59% low-carbon generation in 1985 to 44% in 2017). EU28 emissions, however, make up only a small fraction of total global emissions.
  • In 2017 electricity generation accounted for probably less than a third of total global greenhouse gas emissions, which include CO2, methane, NOx etc. Targeting electricity sector emissions while ignoring emissions from other sectors is therefore pointless.

Electricity generation

BP’s generation data are summarized on the following four Figures, each of which contains a graph showing total generation by source followed by a graph showing the percentage contribution of each source to the generation mix between 1985, when the BP data begin, and 2017.

Figure 1 shows global electricity generation. The first graph shows global electricity generation growing by an average of about 3% annually since 1985, although the rate of increase has slowed marginally (to about 2.4% annually) since 2010. Of particular interest is the fact that increased generation from renewables (solar, wind, bio) has been sufficient to cover only about half of the increase in world electricity demand over the last ten years or so. The most remarkable thing about the second graph is the absence of any significant change.

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Only ‘collective intelligence’ can help us stave off an uninhabitable planet

Only ‘collective intelligence’ can help us stave off an uninhabitable planet

Humanity needs new tools to overcome the global crisis of collective insanity

Published by INSURGE intelligence, a crowdfundedinvestigative journalism platform for people and planet. Support us to report where others fear to tread.

The world faces an unprecedented convergence of crises. The ecological crisis, which points to a near uninhabitable planet by end of century if business-as-usual continues, is perhaps its most apocalyptic dimension. But the ecological crisis is intimately bound up with the business-as-usual political, economic, and cultural structures of industrial civilization-as-we-know it.

The crisis

Last year, I reported on an analysis by British investment firm Scroders, which concluded that at our current rate of burning fossil fuels, global average temperatures would rise by as much as 7.8C by 2100. The catastrophic collapse of GDP at this point, by more than 50%, would be the least of our problems. Also unleashed would be uncontrollable amplifying feedback processes that would lead to the loss of most of the world’s coral reefs; the disappearance of major mountain glaciers; the total loss of the Arctic summer sea-ice, most of the Greenland ice-sheet and the break-up of West Antarctica; acidification and overheating of the oceans; catastrophic sea-level rise swamping major cities from London to New York; the collapse of the Amazon rainforest; and the loss of Arctic permafrost; to name just a few.

The ecological crisis is, then, bound up with both our civilization’s addiction to oil, gas and coal; and its addiction to endless economic growth. The imperative to continuously grow our economies has pushed forward an escalating hunger for hydrocarbons as the fuel for that growth. And yet, with every year, we encounter increasing evidence that we are depleting the planet’s natural resources at unsustainable levels — beyond the planet’s capacity to renew itself.

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Energy Externalities Day 5: Wind Power

Energy Externalities Day 5: Wind Power

It’s now day 5 of the Energy Externality Game and time to move onto the first of the new renewables, namely wind power. Loved by Green groups who see only reduced CO2 emissions, wind farms are hated by many others who see a blot on the landscape. Here at Energy Matters we normally just see high cost noise being added to a grid that needs to be balanced from second to second with some precision. This high cost noise needs to be mitigated and the cost of that mitigation is normally borne by others, not the wind farm operators.

The Externalities of Energy Production Systems (Day 1 Coal)
Energy Externalities Day 2: Gas-fired-CCGT
Energy Externalities Day 3: Biomass-Fired-Electricity
Energy Externalities Day 4: Nuclear Power

I am proposing to use 12 metrics to measure costs and benefits:

  • Fatalities / year / unit of energy produced
  • Chronic illness years / year / unit of energy produced
  • Environmental costs not covered directly by the system operators
  • Foot print of energy system per unit of energy produced
  • Energy system costs where energy source transfers costs to the transmission system
  • Energy system benefits where energy source provides a service to the transmission system
  • Environmental benefits derived from energy system operation
  • Taxes raised / year / for total energy produced
  • Subsidies paid / year / for total energy produced
  • Tax free cost of energy
  • EroEI
  • Resource availability

For the following 12 electricity generating systems

  • Coal-fired (Monday 19 March)
  • Gas-fired (Tuesday 20 March)
  • Biomass-fired
  • Diesel
  • Nuclear
  • Hydro electric
  • Wind
  • Solar PV
  • Solar thermal
  • Wave
  • Tidal
    • barrage
    • lagoon
    • stream
  • Geothermal

I then go on to provide qualitative assessments of each measure for each electricity system. I have then developed a game whereby we assign a score against each measure on a scale of 1 to 10 where.

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Acidification could leave oceans ‘uninhabitable’ for cold-water corals

The world’s oceans could become “uninhabitable” for cold-water corals by the end of the century as a result of ocean acidification, research suggests.

Ocean acidification, which occurs as seawater takes up CO2 from the atmosphere, could threaten around 70% of cold-water coral living below 1,500 metres in the North Atlantic Ocean by 2050, the research finds.

Acidified waters that accumulate in the North Atlantic could then be circulated to the global seas via a system of ocean currents, the lead author tells Carbon Brief, which could have consequences for reefs across the world.

The findings reiterate how many coral reefs could “dissolve” and “crumble” as the world continues to warm, another scientist tells Carbon Brief.

Cool corals

Cold-water corals are found in deep, dark parts of the world’s oceans in both the northern and southern hemisphere. They can thrive at depths of up to 2,000 metres and in water temperatures as low as 4C.

Unlike tropical corals, cold-water corals do not rely on colourful algae for their food. Instead, cold-water coral feed on floating plankton.

This means they are unaffected by coral bleaching, a process which is heightened by climate change and poses a great threat to the survival of tropical reefs, such as the Great Barrier Reef.

However, both tropical and cold-water coral species are threatened by a process known as “ocean acidification”, which occurs as seawater absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere.

The oceans have absorbed around 30% (pdf) of the CO2 released by human activity since the industrial revolution. This has caused oceans, which are alkaline, to become more acidic over time. The overall pH of seawater has fallen from around 8.2 to 8.1from pre-industrial times to the present day.

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New study questions impact of ending fossil fuel subsidies

Ending the world’s fossil fuel subsidies would reduce global CO2 emissions by 0.5 to 2.2 gigatonnes (Gt) per year by 2030, a new study says.

The research, published by Nature, concludes that the removal of subsidies would lead to bigger emissions reductions in oil and gas exporting regions, such as Russia, Latin America and the Middle East, than promised by their Paris Agreement pledges.

In all other regions, removing fossil fuel subsidies would not have as large an impact as the  Paris pledges, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

However, a researcher not linked to the report tells Carbon Brief that comparing the effects of subsidy removal to the Paris pledges is “unnecessary and inappropriate”, since these economy-wide pledges are generally composed of many other policies and actions than just subsidy removal.

Global removal

Ending financial support for fossil fuels has long been cited as an important way to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Both the G7 and the G20 have pledged to end “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies – the G7 by 2025, and the G20 with no fixed end-date.

The new research analyses the implications for mitigation efforts in different regions of the world of removing all fossil fuel subsidies.

The researchers built a global dataset of subsidies under both high and low oil prices, and worked with five different modelling teams to look at the impact of removing these subsidies on emissions.

The study found the removal of subsidies would reduce the globe’s CO2 emissions by 0.5-2.2Gt per year compared to a business-as-usual scenario by 2030, equivalent to a 1-5% reduction.(Note though, that under a business-as-usual case overall emissions would increase substantially even with this reduction).

The graph below shows the impact of subsidy removal on emissions in each of the five models used in the study, compared to each model’s baseline, for low (left) and high (right) oil prices.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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