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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.

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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.

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

Catastrophic Hurricanes Are the ‘New Normal,’ and They Will Cost Trillions

Catastrophic Hurricanes Are the ‘New Normal,’ and They Will Cost Trillions

Taxpayers and already struggling communities are largely bearing the brunt of the costs for climate change-fueled disasters created by big oil and big business.
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“We got a little bit lucky,” said President Donald Trump about the storm which killed at least six people in Louisiana, ripped apart buildings, left more than half a million homes without power, and triggered a chemical fire from an industrial plant over Lake Charles.

Of course, Trump was glad he didn’t have to postpone his speech at the Republican National Convention.

But while Hurricane Laura did not, thankfully, produce the catastrophic storm surge some predicted—weakening into a tropical storm—it represents an unmistakably escalating trend of extreme weather events due to increasing global temperatures.

Hurricane Laura had followed hot on the heels of Hurricane Marco. The Atlantic hurricane season has already broken records with 13 named storms, which meteorologists consider well above-normal activity.

Recently published scientific studies suggest that the devastation wrought by Laura, and the potential catastrophe only narrowly avoided, are likely to become a ‘new normal’ if we continue to pump carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Billion dollar disasters

Earlier in August, the US-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) published a major report on exactly this issue, titled Climate Change-Fueled Weather Disasters: Costs to State and Local Economies.

The report brought together data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters database with other studies, to build a stark picture of what we now know about extreme weather risks.

The report points out that since 1980, the number of extreme weather events per year in the United States has increased fourfold, with annual direct cost of these disasters increasing fivefold.

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

Beyond Trump: Rebooting the System from inside the Death Machine

Beyond Trump: Rebooting the System from inside the Death Machine

Free your mind, find your power, change the world

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Women’s March in Manhattan (source: New York Times)

We previously exposed the fact that President Donald Trump is fighting a war to protect the establishment from itself, and the rest of us. Now here’s what we do about it.


We’re all feeling it. A sense that, in the Age of Trump, something fundamental has shifted. You feel like you’re going insane. Like everyday brings with it a new battle, a fresh sense of feeling deluged with new, alarming information, the constant experience of being overwhelmed.

In such circumstances it’s not unusual to feel a combination of outrage, resignation, despondency and despair, mingled with internal efforts to re-ignite a sense of pragmatic hope.

But as we begin to develop a systemic, structural and holistic diagnosis of the current moment, doing so opens up greater insight into the possibilities for renewal and revitalization.

To do this, we will deploy a journalistic methodology co-designed in partnership by INSURGE and EXILE. Our approach is an adaptation of the principles of Euclidian geometry, using an analytical framework based on establishing axioms, which we use to explore further postulates, derive meaningful conclusions, and imagine possible scenarios — in a way that allows us to bypass dogmatic polarity, and contribute to a generative dialogue that can advance actionable knowledge.

In How the Trump regime was manufactured by a war inside the Deep State, we set out a systems analysis of how we got to where we are now, giving us insight into how a global systemic crisis threshold has ushered in a conflict at the heart of power.

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

Green economic growth is an article of ‘faith’ devoid of scientific evidence

Green economic growth is an article of ‘faith’ devoid of scientific evidence

Crack team that advised UN Global Sustainable Development Report settle a longstanding debate with hard empirical data

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For years, financial institutions and governments have been focused on the idea of ‘decoupling’ GDP growth from resource use. This has been driven by the recognition that to stay within the ‘safe limit’ of 2 degrees Celsius, we have to dramatically reduce our material consumption.

The goal is to keep our economies growing to sustain prosperity while reducing our actual resource use and material footprint. The bottom line is that without reducing our overall use of planetary resources, we are bound to cross the line into a dangerous climate. But is doing so consistent with the continued increase in economic growth?

The conventional belief has been most recently articulated in a recent book, More From Less, by Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist the MIT Sloan School of Management. Financial and other data, McAfee argued, shows we can actually easily reduce our material footprint while continuing to grow our economies in a win-win scenario.

But new scientific analysis by a group of systems scientists and economists proves that this contention is completely groundless. Far from being based on hard evidence, this sort of claim is instead derived from egregious selective readings of statistical data.

Decades of research on material flows confirm that there are “no realistic scenarios” for such decoupling going forward.

Combing through 179 of the best studies of this issue from 1990 to 2019 further reveals “no evidence” that any meaningful decoupling has ever taken place.

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

Capitalism is destroying ‘safe operating space’ for humanity, warn scientists

Capitalism is destroying ‘safe operating space’ for humanity, warn scientists

Source: Steemit

The COVID19 pandemic has exposed a strange anomaly in the global economy. If it doesn’t keep growing endlessly, it just breaks. Grow, or die.

But there’s a deeper problem. New scientific research confirms that capitalism’s structural obsession with endless growth is destroying the very conditions for human survival on planet Earth.

landmark study in the journal Nature Communications, “Scientists’ warning on affluence” — by scientists in Australia, Switzerland and the UK — concludes that the most fundamental driver of environmental destruction is the overconsumption of the super-rich.

This factor lies over and above other factors like fossil fuel consumption, industrial agriculture and deforestation: because it is overconsumption by the super-rich which is the chief driver of these other factors breaching key planetary boundaries.

The paper notes that the richest 10 percent of people are responsible for up to 43 percent of destructive global environmental impacts.

In contrast, the poorest 10 percent in the world are responsible just around 5 percent of these environmental impacts:

“These findings mean that environmental impact is to a large extent caused and driven by the world’s rich citizens.”

The new paper is authored by Thomas Wiedmann of UNSW Sydney’s School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Manfred Lenzen of the University of Sydney’s School of Physics, Lorenz T. Keysser of ETH Zürich’s Department of Environmental Systems Science, and Julia K. Steinberger of Leeds University’s School of Earth and Environment.

It confirms that global structural inequalities in the distribution of wealth are intimately related to an escalating environmental crisis threatening the very existence of human societies.

Synthesising knowledge from across the scientific community, the paper identifies capitalism as the main cause behind “alarming trends of environmental degradation” which now pose “existential threats to natural systems, economies and societies.” The paper concludes:

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

Europe must prepare for life after oil

Europe must prepare for life after oil

The COVID-19 pandemic is forcing us to leave the fossil fuel era behind. Europe needs to begin preparing for what comes next.

Oil prices have crashed. The most visible cause has been the measures taken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, which have triggered record lows in global oil demand. 

Yet the crisis also exposes structural vulnerabilities in our fossil fuel-dependent economic system, which requires us to rapidly transition to an alternative energy system if we are to avert economic collapse.

The most important scientific concept to assess and understand these vulnerabilities is ‘Energy Return on Investment’ (EROI) – the foundation of the emerging discipline of biophysical economics. EROI is designed to measure how much energy is needed to extract energy from a particular resource. What’s left is known as surplus ‘net energy’, used to support goods and services in the economy outside the energy system. The higher the ratio, the more surplus energy is left for the economy. That surplus is running increasingly thin. 

In the early 20th century, the EROI of fossil fuels was sometimes as high as 100:1: a single unit of energy would be enough to extract a hundred times that amount. But since then, the EROI of fossil fuels has gone down dramatically[1], as we are extracting fossil fuels from places that are increasingly difficult to reach. Between 1960 and 1980, the world average value EROI for fossil fuels declined[2] by more than half, from about 35:1 to 15:1. It’s still declining[3]:  latest estimates put the value at between 6:1 and 3:1.

The decline of fossil fuels’ EROI has acted as a background ‘brake’ on the rate of economic growth for the world’s advanced industrial economies, which has been slowing down[4] since the 1970s.

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

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Europe must prepare for life after oil

In the wake of the COVID-19 crisis, Europe must prepare for life after oil

For the first time in history, in the wake of the corona crisis, US oil prices have gone negative thanks to record lows in global oil demand. This pandemic has revealed deep-seated structural vulnerabilities in our fossil fuel-dependent economy. The most important scientific concept needed to understand these vulnerabilities is ‘Energy Return on Investment’ (EROI).

EROI measures how much energy is used to extract energy from a particular resource. What’s left is known as surplus ‘net energy’ which supports goods and services outside the energy system. The higher the ratio, the more surplus energy is left for the economy. That surplus is running increasingly thin.

In the early 20th century, the EROI of fossil fuels was sometimes as high as 100:1, meaning that a single unit of energy would be enough to extract a hundred times that amount. But since then, the EROI of fossil fuels has dramatically reduced. Between 1960 and 1980, the world average value EROI for fossil fuels dropped by more than half, from about 35:1 to 15:1. It is still declining – latest estimates put the value at between 6:1 and 3:1.

This has exerted a ‘brake’ on the rate of economic growth for the world’s advanced industrial economies, which has decreased since the 1970s. Europe is a locus-point for these trends. By the turn of the century, all conventional oil producers across the continent – except perhaps Italy – were past their peak production.

The pandemic was a pin that burst this oil bubble

Globally, conventional crude oil has entered a long plateau for the past decade and a half. To meet demand, the industry shifted to more expensive unconventional forms, with US shale supplying over 70% of global oil supply growth.

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

Nafeez Ahmed on Synchronous Failure and Post-Pandemic Systems Change

Nafeez Ahmed on Synchronous Failure and Post-Pandemic Systems Change

As the pandemic grows, governments and communities are not only struggling to minimize loss of life and protect our fragile healthcare and economic systems, they are wrestling with questions about how we can recover when this storm eventually passes.

But how many people are thinking about the larger context of this crisis? How many recognize that this pandemic—or some other shock to our interconnected and brittle global systems—could trigger a massive “phase change,” and utterly remake the world as we know it?

I spoke with investigative journalist and systems thinker Nafeez Ahmed about these critical questions.

Nafeez and I discuss frameworks for understanding how the pandemic relates to the larger, systemic environmental, energy, economic, and political challenges we face—including Thomas Homer-Dixon’s concept of “Synchronous Failure,” Joseph Tainter’s “Collapse of Complex Societies,” C.S. Holling’s “Adaptive Life Cycle,” and Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine.” But far from being an abstract, academic exploration, Nafeez and I explore the real-world implications of these forces at play, and provide a call-to-action when we re-enter a world that has been transformed by COVID-19.

Please give it a watch or if you’d rather give it a listen on your favorite podcasting app, we’ve also released the interview on Crazy Town. Oh, and share with your friends and loved ones if you find it worth a listen.

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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