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UN Warns of ‘Total Societal Collapse’Due to Breaching of Planetary Boundaries

A landmark report by the United Nations concludes that ‘global collapse’ is becoming more likely. But was it watered-down before being published?

When the United Nations published its 2022 ‘Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction’ (GAR2022) in May, the world’s attention was on its grim verdict that the world was experiencing an accelerating trend of natural disasters and economic crises. But not a single media outlet picked up the biggest issue: the increasing probability of civilisational collapse.

Buried in the report, which was endorsed by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, is the finding that escalating synergies between disasters, economic vulnerabilities and ecosystem failures are escalating the risk of a “global collapse” scenario.

This stark conclusion appears to be the first time that the UN has issued a flagship global report finding that existing global policies are accelerating toward the collapse of human civilisation. Yet somehow this urgent warning has remained unreported until now.

The report does not suggest that this outcome is inevitable or specify how close to this possibility we are. But it does confirm that, without radical change, that’s where the world is heading.


Planetary Boundaries

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Sendai Framework are a set of social, economic, legal, political and institutional measures to reduce “disaster risk and losses” – both involve targets to 2030 which the world is in danger of failing to meet.

That failure, however, is directly linked to the rate at which human activities are interfering with natural systems, in particular, ‘planetary boundaries’.

The planetary boundaries framework was developed by the Stockholm Resilience Centre in 2009 to provide what it calls a “science-based analysis of the risk that human perturbations will destabilise the Earth system at the planetary scale”…

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

JP Morgan’s misinformation on the clean energy disruption – a handy guide

JP Morgan’s misinformation on the clean energy disruption – a handy guide

The JP Morgan Asset and Wealth Management Annual Energy Paper is one of the most influential publications among global investment and business leaders in the energy sector.

But JP Morgan Chase’s 2021 Annual Energy Paper is a deeply flawed piece of work that promotes some serious misinformation about the clean energy transformation, reinforcing the mistaken belief – often promulgated by fossil fuel companies – that it will be slow, expensive and require onerous state intervention.

Coming from JP Morgan Chase – the world’s fifth largest bank, and the largest lender to fossil fuel industries – the paper informs the policy, investment and business decisions of many influential companies, organisations and governments around the world. Which is why it is important to understand that the world’s largest fossil fuel lender appears largely oblivious to the dynamics of technology disruptions and energy transitions.

Myth 1: Renewable energy forecasts are too optimistic

The Annual Energy Paper, authored by chairman of JP Morgan Asset Management’s chairman of market and investment strategy Michael Cembalest, was overseen by its technical advisor, influential academic Vaclav Smil.

Its tone is set by a graph on the first page depicting alleged failed ‘renewable energy forecasts’. The graph seems to show that these forecasts were overly optimistic, and then repeatedly turned out to be false.

Yet according to Ketan Joshi, who previously worked in science communications for Australia’s national science agency, the sources for the alleged forecasts are impossible to trace.

For instance, he writes: “Danish physicist Bent Sørensen, for instance, seems to have published the figure between 1978 and 1980, and it isn’t easy to figure out where the prediction of 50% by 2000 was made. There was never any ‘Clinton Presidential Advisory Panel’ – the phrase can only be found in republications of this very chart; so that’s a mystery.”

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

The New Paradigm of Renewables: if we want something to change, we need to change something

The New Paradigm of Renewables: if we want something to change, we need to change something

We can make it: the latest results of the analysis of the performance of renewable energy, photovoltaic and wind, show that their efficiency in terms of energy return on investment (EROI) is considerably larger than that of fossil fuels. It is becoming clear, too, that renewables don’t need rare and disappearing mineral resources: the infrastructure to build them and maintain them needs only abundant and recyclable minerals: silicon, aluminum, and a few more that can be efficiently recycled (rare earths and lithium).
In other words, renewables can’t be considered anymore as an emergency replacement for the depleting and polluting fossil fuels, but as a true step forward. They are the new, “disruptive” technology that people expected nuclear energy to be, but that never was.
Tony Seba — sharp as always — has diffused the idea of renewables as the new energy revolution. Seba’s ideas have been popularized by Nafeez Ahmed in a two parts series, (Part 1 and Part2). These assessments may be too optimistic in some regards, but they do note how things are changing. We have a chance, a fighting chance, to falsify the scenarios that saw an irreversible decline — actually a collapse — of the industrial civilization during the next few decades.
Can we really make it? It is a chance, but not a certainty. The quantitative calculations made by Sgouridis, Csala, and myself indicate that we can only succeed if we invest in renewables much more than what we are investing nowadays. If we maintain the current trends, renewables will be able to slow down the decline, but not avoid a “dip” in the civilization curve. Then, we will re-emerge on the other side in a new and cleaner world…

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How the Economy Has to Radically Transform to End Fossil Fuels in 20 Years

How the Economy Has to Radically Transform to End Fossil Fuels in 20 Years

Coming disruptions will eventually lay waste to conventional jobs in incumbent fossil fuel, combustion engine, and livestock farming industries.
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IMAGE: MARCEL KUSCH/PICTURE ALLIANCE VIA GETTY IMAGES

To avoid the worst of climate change’s disastrous effects, humanity needs to slash carbon emissions and remove carbon from the atmosphere at a pace and scale often said to be eye-wateringly difficult, expensive, and even unlikely given the continued failure of political will. That’s the implication of the IPCC’s report, published this week, which concludes that a 1.5 degrees Celsius rise in global average temperatures is now inevitable in 20 years.

The IPCC’s “best-case” scenario concludes that if we act fast, we might be able to gradually reduce temperatures back down to 1.4C by 2100. Yet this would keep us in the 1.5C climate danger zone for decades, which could risk triggering tipping points that could lead to irreversible and even more dangerous shifts in the climate system. Against this background, the Biden administration’s infrastructure bill has offered a watered down set of policies that simply won’t contribute to the scale of change required.

But a new report by technology forecasting think-tank RethinkX finds that the scope for change could be far larger and faster than either the IPCC or powerful governments like the United States realise: because the most powerful fossil fuel-based industries in the world—oil, gas, and coal; livestock farming; and combustion engines—are going to become obsolete purely due to extant economic factors well within the next 20 years. According to RethinkX, they are being increasingly disrupted by a cluster of clean technologies in the energy, transport and food sectors, which are rapidly becoming cheaper, more efficient, and as a result, more ubiquitous.

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

MIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century. New Research Shows We’re on Schedule.

MIT Predicted in 1972 That Society Will Collapse This Century. New Research Shows We’re on Schedule.

A 1972 MIT study predicted that rapid economic growth would lead to societal collapse in the mid 21st century. A new paper shows we’re unfortunately right on schedule.
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IMAGE: GETTY

A remarkable new study by a director at one of the largest accounting firms in the world has found that a famous, decades-old warning from MIT about the risk of industrial civilization collapsing appears to be accurate based on new empirical data.

As the world looks forward to a rebound in economic growth following the devastation wrought by the pandemic, the research raises urgent questions about the risks of attempting to simply return to the pre-pandemic ‘normal.’

In 1972, a team of MIT scientists got together to study the risks of civilizational collapse. Their system dynamics model published by the Club of Rome identified impending ‘limits to growth’ (LtG) that meant industrial civilization was on track to collapse sometime within the 21st century, due to overexploitation of planetary resources.

The controversial MIT analysis generated heated debate, and was widely derided at the time by pundits who misrepresented its findings and methods. But the analysis has now received stunning vindication from a study written by a senior director at professional services giant KPMG, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms as measured by global revenue.

Limits to growth

The study was published in the Yale Journal of Industrial Ecology in November 2020 and is available on the KPMG website. It concludes that the current business-as-usual trajectory of global civilization is heading toward the terminal decline of economic growth within the coming decade—and at worst, could trigger societal collapse by around 2040.

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

Pentagon report: collapse within 20 years from climate change

Pentagon report: collapse within 20 years from climate change

Preface. The report that the article by Ahmed below is based on is: Brosig, M., et al. 2019. Implications of climate change for the U.S. Army. United States Army War College.

It was written in 2019, before covid-19 and so quite prescient: The two most prominent risks are a collapse of the power grid and the danger of disease epidemics.

It is basically a long argument to increase the military so it can help cope with epidemics, water and food shortages, electric grid outages, flooding, and protect the (oil and gas) resources in the arctic.

Since I see energy decline as a far more immediate threat than climate change, and the military knows this, it is odd so little is written about energy in this report. But then I looked at the pages about the arctic, and though the word oil doesn’t appear, you can see that the military is very aware of the resources (oil) there and the chance of war with Russia. Therefore they propose that the military patrol this vast area with ships, aircraft, and new vehicles that can traverse the bogs and marshes of melted permafrost. They propose sending more soldiers to the arctic for training, satellites for navigation, to develop new ways of fighting, enhance batteries and other equipment to be able function in the cold arctic environment, and more.

***

Ahmed, N. 2019. U.S. Military Could Collapse Within 20 Years Due to Climate Change, Report Commissioned By Pentagon Says. vice.com

According to a new U.S. Army report, Americans could face a horrifically grim future from climate change involving blackouts, disease, thirst, starvation and war. The study found that the US military itself might also collapse. This could all happen over the next two decades.

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

Fossil Fuels Are Wildly More Expensive Than Previously Thought, Study Says

Fossil Fuels Are Wildly More Expensive Than Previously Thought, Study Says

Overinflated fossil fuel investments might be a ‘worthless’ bubble waiting to trigger the next crash, while renewables seem more appealing than ever.
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IMAGE:  LUKAS SCHULZE/GETTY IMAGES)

A new study finds that conventional electric power plants powered by fossil fuels and hydro are massively overvalued by the world’s leading analyst organizations. The report says they are overvalued to such a degree that the trillions of dollars of investment in these industries could amount to a “bubble” similar to the subprime mortgage housing bubble whose collapse triggered the 2008 financial crash.

The stunning findings imply not only that renewable energies such as solar, wind and battery storage are far cheaper than believed, but that they are already outcompeting coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydro power. This fact, however, has been masked by distorted calculations based on a fundamentally incorrect metric: the ‘Levelized Cost of Electricity’ (LCOE).

The new report by independent technology think tank RethinkX, titled The Great Stranding: How Inaccurate Mainstream LCOE Estimates are Creating a Trillion-Dollar Bubble in Conventional Energy Assets is written by environmental social scientist Dr. Adam Dorr, a Research Fellow at RethinkX, and the think tank’s co-founder Tony Seba, a serial entrepreneur and Stanford University lecturer in technology disruption.

Their new analysis, which is likely to send shockwaves across fossil fuel industries and utilities, probes into the science around a conventional power plant’s LCOE—which basically measures the average cost of generating electricity across the entire lifetime of the plant, including its building and operating costs.

Energy hype

Dorr and Seba show that mainstream LCOE assessments for conventional coal, gas, nuclear, and hydro power plants are simply false. In reality, due to the growing inefficiencies of these forms of energy, the amount of electricity conventional power plants produce falls over time, in some cases quite dramatically…

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

 

Nafeez Ahmed – Taking a Step Back to Move Forward in Times of Transition

Nafeez Ahmed – Taking a Step Back to Move Forward in Times of Transition

Systems journalist Nafeez Ahmed joins us to discuss why it is so important to draw on systems thinking to understand global politics.

Nafeez Ahmed guides us through the intricacies of systems thinking from within and outside the IR Academy, throwing light on the scale of the governance challenge which complex global problems such as the climate crisis pose, the inevitable demise of current systems, and what a new emerging paradigm might look like, one in which we find ways to live together in our diversity and thrive within planetary boundaries.

Nafeez Ahmed

Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, founding editor and chief writer for INSURGE intelligence, and ‘System Shift’ columnist at VICE’s science magazine Motherboard. He is developing a unique form of what he calls “systems journalism” and in the conversation also explore what it means to be a journalists in an age of media hyper-partisanship. He holds a DPhil in International Relations from the University of Sussex and is the author of a number of books, including Failing StatesCollapsing Systems: BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence and A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization, which has also been turned into a documentary.

COVID-19 Is a Symptom of a Planet That’s Been Pushed Past a Tipping Point

COVID-19 Is a Symptom of a Planet That’s Been Pushed Past a Tipping Point

The pandemic could signal that we’ve passed a series of civilizational tipping points that will usher in a new era of ecological emergencies.

The COVID-19 pandemic signals that civilization has breached a major ‘tipping point’ that could pave the way for a dangerous new era of interacting ecological emergencies.

Scientific evidence accumulated over the last five years suggests that the pandemic didn’t come out of the blue, but is a direct consequence of industrial civilization’s breaching of key ‘planetary boundaries’—these are important natural ecosystems needed to maintain what scientists describe as the ‘safe operating space’ for human survival on the planet.

The more we destabilize those boundaries, the more this safe space for human habitation shrinks—and COVID-19 suggests that the world economy is now entering a volatile new phase of chronic instability due to not just one crisis, but the interaction of many crises including climate change, resource bottlenecks, food system failures and civil unrest. It is the escalating synergy between these crises, each of which is experiencing its own tipping points, which points to the risk we are crossing a planetary threshold in the global system.

This verdict doesn’t come from new data, but from applying a systems lens to understand the massive amount of data we already have. I assessed the evidence in a major report for the Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems, a British think-tank which has led on the European Commission’s CONVERGE project, among other things.

Pandemic: a symptom of civilization itself

Prior to 2020, warnings from public health experts of an incoming global pandemic had accumulated over the last few decades. All of them have based their diagnosis on examining the risks posed by the relentless expansion of industrial civilization.

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

Capitalism Will Ruin the Earth By 2050, Scientists Say

Capitalism Will Ruin the Earth By 2050, Scientists Say

The good news is, by cutting our consumption, there’s another way.
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IMAGE: GETTY IMAGES

A spate of new scientific research starkly lays out the choice humankind faces in coming decades:

By 2050, we could retain high levels of GDP, at the price of a world wracked by minerals and materials shortages, catastrophic climate change, and a stuttering clean energy transition —paving the way for a slowly crumbling civilization.

Or, we could ditch the GDP fetish and enter a world of abundance, with energy consumption safely contained within planetary boundaries, and high-tech economies that support jobs, health and education for everyone without costing the earth.

On the first option, scientists backed by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program have concluded that capitalism-as-we-know-it cannot support a successful clean energy transition.

Not only that, but capitalism is on track to lead the world into mineral shortages and supply bottlenecks that could cut short efforts to decarbonize transport systems, guaranteeing dangerous climate change.

The new study published in the journal Energy Strategy Reviews finds that electrifying our cars, trucks and trains so that they run on renewable energy is only viable if we reduce the endlessly growing levels of consumption in industrial societies. That, effectively, means fundamentally transforming the very sinews of capitalism.

The good news is that separate research published in September proves that such an economic transformation is perfectly feasible while still maintaining a good quality of life for people all over the world.

Modeling the world

The transportation study is based on a highly sophisticated ‘integrated assessment model’ (IAM) that brings together a vast amount of empirical data. Known as the MEDEAS-World model, it incorporates feedback relations between global and regional economies; renewable, fossil fuel energy flows and energy infrastructure; technology developments and costs; minerals and land requirements; climate change and water; and many other sectors.

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