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The Renewables Farce

The Renewables Farce

The renewals transition is a lie. Here’s why.

The Renewables Farce
Photo by CHUTTERSNAP / Unsplash
Let me say this loud for the people in the back:


Sure, wind, solar or geothermal energy might reduce carbon intensity per unit of output. Indeed, an EV, for example, emits less carbon than an ICE vehicle.

Unfortunately, it’s more complicated. It always is.

Let me stop right here for a second. I am no fossil fuels apologist. And I’m not trying to thwart the efforts to improve the planet. However, I am a realist and observer of human and political behavior. In this article, I describe what will likely happen, as opposed to what I wish would happen.

First, renewables must be evaluated from a birth-to-death perspective. This includes the manufacturing processes, inputs and raw materials extraction. Accounting for these, the tradeoff is less black-and-white and often highly influenced by the longevity of the renewable alternative.

Break-even estimates vary wildly, and are highly dependent on what you’re measuring – e.g. financial cost or carbon emissions. I think it’s fair to say any renewable used to replace fossil fuels must have a lifespan across decades to be a viable alternative.

Studies show conflicting information – potentially influenced by inherent biases – with one recent study suggesting the breakeven between EVs and ICE vehicles is beyond normal usage.

Other studies show carbon parity can occur much earlier, depending on the underlying energy source.

My point is there are hidden complexities beneath the renewables transition, which has been misused as a soundbite to appease the citizenry.

Looking longer-term, those hidden complexities worsen. Transitioning to alternative energy sources requires massive consumption of copper, nickel, lithium and other metals. Research by Simon Michaux, Associate Professor at Geological Survey of Finland, suggests at current production rates there simply won’t be enough raw materials to feed the transition.

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

Living with/in Fear

Living with/in Fear

There are more like you than you think.

Living with/in Fear
Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor / Unsplash

“I think 3C is being hopeful and conservative.”
– Ruth Cerezo-Mota an expert in climate modelling at the National Autonomous University of Mexico

A recent survey of 380 leading climate scientists conducted by The Guardian has revealed the profound unease these experts feel as they examine the ongoing damage humanity has inflicted on the natural world.

One prominent voice in the survey, Ruth Cerezo-Mota, a climate modeling expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, expressed her deep despair:

“Sometimes, it feels almost impossible not to feel hopeless and broken. After witnessing the flooding, fires, and droughts around the world—all consequences of climate change—and experiencing the fury of Hurricane Otis in my own country, I was hopeful that governments would start heeding scientific advice for the benefit of the people.”

“The turning point for me was a meeting in Singapore—it was then that everything made sense, but it plunged me into deep depression. It was a very dark period in my life where I was just surviving.”

“We continue our work because it’s necessary. It prevents those in power from claiming ignorance. They might say they don’t care, but they can’t deny they didn’t know.”

“I believe projecting a 3°C increase is both hopeful and conservative. A 1.5°C rise is already serious, and frankly, I see no clear commitment from any government to stay below this threshold.”

She is not alone. 77% of surveyed climate scientists believe we are on a path to at least 2.5°C warming this century.

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

10 Premises Behind Collapse 2050

10 Premises Behind Collapse 2050

What does “collapse” mean? What will the downfall of civilization look like? What am I suggesting people do? What if I’m wrong?

10 Premises Behind Collapse 2050
Photo by Yaoqi / Unsplash
People look at my username on Twitter or title of this website and jump to conclusions about the way I think. Some ‘get’ me straight away, while others formulate their own incorrect narratives.

What does “collapse” mean? What will the downfall of civilization look like? What am I suggesting people do? What if I’m wrong?

To better understand my thinking on collapse, read my 10 premises below and share your own in the comments.

Premise 1: Existential risks are converging

This is not just about rising CO2. There are converging crises driving collapse. The combination of climate change, ecological destruction, declining EROEI and AI will overwhelm civilization at some point.

Regardless of the cause, our fate ultimately comes down to our ability to grow food – something we have done for about 12,000 years under a stable climate. Agriculture requires predictability. Modern agriculture requires energy (transportation, mechanization, fertilizer). The poly-crisis is straining our ability to produce enough food to feed 8+ billion people.

AI is the wildcard, but it is emerging at such a speed that the risk of unpredictable damage is growing rapidly.

Note how I didn’t mention nuclear war or civil strife. While I believe these become more probable as the poly-crisis emerges, these are symptoms and not causes.

The Poly-Crisis
I’m afraid the best we can hope for now is to delay the inevitable and mitigate the consequences.

Premise 2: Collapse is a mathematical certainty

Collapse – however you define it – is almost a mathematical certainty at this point. The economic system, regulatory capture and individual behaviors are baked into the maintenance of civilization. Stepping back requires a decline in living standards, so few will voluntarily do so.

Importantly, the ‘math’ suggests a discontinuous change in the future, not the past. Those relying on civilization’s record of success – built on a temporary influx of high EROEI energy, no less – will miss the left turn as it approaches.

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

How to Collapse: Hyperinflationary Depression

How to Collapse: Hyperinflationary Depression

How crop failure leading to a 20% caloric deficit might cause a financial crisis.

It’s Wednesday. You wake up, let the dog out for a piss, shower and drag yourself to work. Eight to ten hours of pointless grin-fucking pass by and you’re ready to collapse on your sofa with a mind-bending substance to stare at the idiot box for the rest of the night.

If you’re lucky, you have a companion with whom to share your misery.

The joy you once had for life has turned to drudgery and you wonder where you went wrong. The thing is, for most of us this is life now.

The weekly jaunts to a family restaurant: gone. Too expensive.

The desire to achieve greatness at work: that died with your youthful vigor.

Extended family: torn apart by tribalism.

A home to call your own: Only for the rich. 80% of Canadians believe ownership is now only for the wealth.

It wasn’t always like this. I can’t pinpoint when this all began, but it feels like everything started deteriorating at the turn of the century.

There are many causes and symptoms, but two deeply scarring events helped tip the West into decline. September 11th, 2001 cracked the veneer of trust within America. Enabled by new technologies, governments salivated at the ability to wrest control in the name of security. The surveillance state reached maturity.

The global financial crisis also gave us a peak behind the curtain of capitalism. It demonstrated how the winners and losers of capitalism were demarcated, with captains of industry bailed out while individuals were held to account. Wealth and power became inseparable, forging an impenetrable barrier beyond which most will never reach. The wealthy – still unhealthily revered by most – gained more control and extended the moat between them and the unwashed masses.

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

EROEI and Civilization’s Forced Decline

EROEI and Civilization’s Forced Decline

EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) is possibly the most important ratio to human existence. This measure is foundational to our civilization, yet understood by few.

EROEI and Civilization's Forced Decline
Photo by NASA / Unsplash
EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) is possibly the most important ratio to human existence. This measure is foundational to our civilization, yet understood by few.

EROEI is why we’re able to support 8 billion humans, why atmospheric CO2 is 425ppm and also why human civilization will eventually collapse.

It’s an essential metric that explains why we have computers, retirement funds and air travel. It’s essential to our progress as a species. This has been true since the dawn of agriculture and is even more so in a post-industrialized world.

To help broaden understanding of this deceivingly simply measure, I’m writing the following primer on EROEI.

What is EROEI?

EROEI is a metric used to evaluate the efficiency of energy production systems. It measures the amount of energy obtained from a particular source compared to the amount of energy invested to harness that energy. The formula used is:

Rethinking Growth Part Two - Pure Advantage

Example of EROEI: Solar Panels

Consider a solar panel system:

  1. Energy Invested: This includes the energy used in manufacturing the solar panels, transporting them, installing them, and maintaining them over their lifespan.
  2. Energy Produced: This is the energy the solar panels generate during their operational lifetime.

If a solar panel system uses 1,000 units of energy for its entire process (from manufacturing to operation) and generates 10,000 units of energy in its lifetime, the EROEI would be 10. This means that for every unit of energy invested, ten units of energy are returned.

EROEI in Agriculture: An Example of Caloric Return Versus Energy Investment

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

What Farmers Say About Climate Change

What Farmers Say About Climate Change

This is probably the most honest assessment of the current state of farming and our future food supply.

What Farmers Say About Climate Change
Photo by Rob Mulder / Unsplash
People seem to misunderstand the connection between atmospheric CO2, climate predictability and industrialized agriculture. The number of times a “climate skeptic” has told me “plants love CO2”, like that fixes everything, is dumbfounding.

True: plants love CO2.

Also true: plants love warmth and water.

Also, also true: it’s not the CO2 (aka “plant food”) itself that’s the problem. It’s the resulting changes caused by rapidly rising atmospheric CO2 levels. Too much climate unpredictability, weather variability, heat, drought or water will destroy agriculture. That means shortages and famine.

Civilization is built off the back of agriculture. And agriculture requires a foundation of predictability and good soil. Without predictability, agriculture isn’t sustained and we once again become a species of hunters, foragers and nomads. While that worked 10,000+ years ago, the human population today is far too large and we would soon starve.

Climate change may push wild plants into areas in which they don’t currently flourish, but this has nothing to do with our ability to sustain an 8 billion population with industrialized agriculture. There is a reason why farming is concentrated in certain regions of the world: good climate and good soil.

The new areas in which plants may flourish aren’t necessarily ideal for growing fields of wheat, soy or corn. Even if they were ideal, it would take a significant amount of time to a) confidently identify these areas and b) build the necessary infrastructure.

If given a century or two, perhaps we could adapt to a changing environment. Unfortunately, the current pace of change risks multi-breadbasket failure in the near future.

r/MapPorn - World's Main Breadbasket Regions, from McKinsey & Company

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

COP(out) is Dead

COP(out) is Dead

I took a few minutes to dig into the text coming out of COP(out)28 this morning.

While 70,000 delegates depart Dubai in their private jets congratulating themselves for a job well done, the rest of us are flabbergasted by the failure.

Yet again, the planet has been let down. Anyone paying attention didn’t have high hopes in the first place. COP has been co-opted by the oil industry and is now basically a fossil fuels conference. COP29 is being held in oil-rich Azerbaijan.

This morning, the COP28 final announcement (including recommendations) was released. It is weak and full of loopholes. It’s rhetorical fluff.

COP is dead. Governments and their corporate overlords have abandoned us.

After 28 years of chances, the announcement coming out of COP28 proves we’re on our own.

To demonstrate how weak the recommendations are, I picked apart the announcement. Below I’ve copied the relevant COP suggestions and added my comments underneath.

Further recognizes the need for deep, rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in line with 1.5 °C pathways and calls on Parties to contribute to the following global efforts, in a nationally determined manner, taking into account the Paris Agreement and their different national circumstances, pathways and approaches:

OK. Sounds interesting. Let’s look at those suggested approaches are…

(a) Tripling renewable energy capacity globally and doubling the global average annual rate of energy efficiency improvements by 2030;

A good start. Tripling renewables capacity and doubling growth within 6 years could significantly shift the energy mix, all things equal. Of course, the language doesn’t speak to the mix directly so this is implied.

However, it is possible that non-renewables capacity grows at the same rate resulting in no change to the mix. Moreover, even if the mix shifts to overweight renewables, non-renewable capacity if left unchanged would still spew the same amount of GHG emissions as today.

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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