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Editorial Note from the EiC

The material published in this “Discussion”—and the very reason for which we decided to publish it—requires a clarification on the part of the journal Management; therefore, I advise readers to peruse this foreword before embarking in the task of studying the often polemical statements and counter-statements contained in the Seibert and Rees paper, in the Diesendorf and Fthenakis et al. critique, and in the replies by Seibert and Rees.
Let me first reiterate that at Energies, in the over 12 years of my tenure as EiC, we have consistently made every effort to adopt a completely “unbiased publishing policy”. This means that any scientific opinion—controversial as it may be—on any topic falling within our journal’s scope is peer-reviewed with the utmost attention to its interest for the energy-conversion-systems community, to its scientific merit, to the methods of the research and to the appropriateness of the citations, conclusions, ethics, and academic style. Our record in this matter is immaculate and a source of great pride for us.
For a series of reasons, the original Seibert and Rees manuscript (S&R in the following) slipped through our system in spite of the warning signals given by two of our reviewers: it would be useless to explain the technical reasons of such a mistake here, but as the Editor in Chief, in the end, it is my own responsibility to enforce our publication standards; therefore, I must begin this foreword by asking our readers and our constituency to forgive me for accepting the original manuscript without requiring the authors to make some obvious corrections (that, in light of their response reported below, I believe they would not have accepted).

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

“The dream of a smooth energy transition is little more than a comforting shared illusion” – Pt. 1 of 2

“The dream of a smooth energy transition is little more than a comforting shared illusion” – Pt. 1 of 2

Moreover, says Dr. William Rees, even if it were possible, it would not solve climate change and would exacerbate the real existential threat facing society, namely overshoot. —

William Rees

“Climate-change and other environmental organizations urge governments to act decisively/rapidly to decarbonize the economy and halt further development of fossil fuel reserves.  These demands arguably expose:

    • ignorance of the role of energy in the modern economy;
    • ill-justified confidence in society’s ability to transition to 100% green renewable energy;
    • no appreciation of the ecological consequences of attempting to do so;
    • and little understanding of the social implications. 

Without questioning the need to abandon fossil fuels,

    • I will argue that the dream of a smooth energy transition is little more than a comforting shared illusion. 
    • Moreover, even if it were possible, it would not solve climate change and would exacerbate the real existential threat facing society, namely overshoot. 
    • I then explore
      • some of the consequences and implications of (the necessary) abandonment of fossil fuels in the absence of adequate substitutes, and
      • how governments and MTI [Modern Techno-Industrial] society should be responding to these unspoken biophysical realities.”

— Dr. William Rees, CACOR ZOOM Webinar 2021

Dr. William Rees is a population ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus, and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning.  His academic research focuses on the biophysical prerequisites for sustainability.

About CACOR — The Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR) was founded in 1970 as one of the first of now more than thirty national associations affiliated with the International Club of Rome.  CACOR is autonomous, independent, and nonpartisan. Its main objective is to further the sustainability of the global ecosystem including the survival of humanity.

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

Too clever by half, but not nearly smart enough

Too clever by half, but not nearly smart enough

We Are Already in Overshoot

We Are Already in Overshoot

COP-26: Stopping Climate Change and Other Illusions

Measured atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa Observatory.  Note: red = the monthly mean values; black = the same, after correction for the average seasonal cycle.
Measured atmospheric CO2 at Mauna Loa Observatory. Note: red = the monthly mean values; black = the same, after correction for the average seasonal cycle.

Do not expect significant progress from COP-26 on climate change mitigation.  There are fundamental barriers that prevent the deep and rapid changes that scientists advocate.  Most countries adhere to economic growth policies – which create ecological overshoot.  Unless and until we accept that we must live within ecological limits, then climate change will not be adequately tackled. Energy and resource consumption must be addressed through controlled economic contraction.

The world in 2021 was buffeted by an unprecedented barrage of extreme weather events. This is the leading edge of the climate catastrophe that lies ahead should world governments remain fixed on our present global ‘development’ trajectory.

The good news is that the recent uptick in violent weather has increased pressure on participants in COP-26 finally to implement the kind of determined measures that will dramatically lower GHG emissions and put global heating on hold; the bad news is that whatever is agreed to at COP-26 is unlikely to make any positive difference.

There have been 25 COP meetings on climate change since 1995 and several international agreements to reduce carbon emissions, including the ‘legally binding’ 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement of 2015. Nevertheless, atmospheric GHG concentrations have  increased unabated during this entire 25 year period — CO2, the principal anthropogenic GHG, has ballooned exponentially from ~360ppm in 1995 to almost 420 ppm in 2020 — and mean global temperature has risen by ~1 oC.  History suggests that what should emerge from COP26 cannot emerge from COP26.

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

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Energy Transition Tale

Pulling Back the Curtain on the Energy Transition Tale

PDF White Paper

https://aad34399-d41b-4ad9-8d9d-5a2916094de2.filesusr.com/ugd/d8f080_433f3a6554b34231b6c6af71c437d625.pdf

To Save Ourselves, We’ll Need This Very Different Economy

To Save Ourselves, We’ll Need This Very Different Economy

What would ‘getting serious’ about the survival of civilization look like?

The pandemic is a big problem. Climate change is an even bigger problem. But the meta-problem is ecological overshoot.

Plagues and heat waves — along with plunging biodiversity; fishery collapses; soil and land degradation; land, water and sea pollution; resource shortages, etc. — are mere symptoms of a much greater planetary malaise. Ecological overshoot means there are way too many people using vastly too much energy and material resources and dumping too much waste.

In more technical terms, humanity’s consumption of even renewable resources and our production of wastes exceeds the regenerative and assimilative capacities of the ecosphere. This is the biophysical definition of “unsustainable,” and a harbinger of pending systems collapse.

Avoiding the collapse of one’s civilization would seem to be job one for political leaders. And yesterday they received yet another “code red” reminder of what is at stake from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Yet few politicians have even heard of overshoot. Concern about its implications has yet to penetrate economic and developmental policy circles.

It therefore seems fair to ask: What accounts for such political deafness? One obvious earplug is the neoliberal economics dominant in the world today. Its adherents assume that:

    • The economy is separate from, and can function independently of, the biophysical “environment.”
    • Important relationships between variables change predictably and if they deviate from desirable comfort zones, can be reversed.
    • The “factors of production” (finance capital, natural capital, manufactured capital, human capital) are near-perfect substitutes. For example, human ingenuity — technology — can make up for any potentially limiting natural resource.

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

If humanity’s critical planetary overshoot is not corrected deliberately, nature will impose a chaotic implosion

If humanity’s critical planetary overshoot is not corrected deliberately, nature will impose a chaotic implosion

If we wish civilization to continue, human beings must learn to live more equitably, well within the means of nature” – William Rees. —

No 2709 Posted by fw, February 14, 2021 —

“So, if I can just summarize and put the choice before us –.

1/ Climate change is indeed a serious problem. We must deal with it.

2/ But it’s a mere symptom of a much greater disease, which is the generalized overshoot of the human population above and beyond the long-term carrying capacity of Earth. We cannot solve any of these problems in isolation, and doing so would be futile because the others would take us down. They are a collective issue under the umbrella of overshoot.

3/ Well, we are in that critical overshoot, and the present trajectory resembles a plague phase of a one-off population cycle. And if it is not corrected deliberately, it will crash.

4/ We may or may not already be on some critical tipping point, not only in climate but in other ways as well.

5/ In my view, in coming years, there’s no question that the human enterprise will contract.

6/ But, as an intelligent, planning-capable, moral species, we can theoretically make a choice between —

6(a) Insistence on “business as usual”, which risks, in my view, a chaotic implosion imposed by nature, followed by geopolitical turmoil and resource wars;

6(b) Or we can come together as a society, realize the flaws in our currently globally-shared constructed vision of reality, accept what our science is telling us, and, in that context, cooperate internationally toward a well-planned orderly and cooperative descent toward a socially just sustainability for all.

7/ So, human beings must learn — if we wish civilization to continue – to live much more equitably, well within the biophysical carrying capacity, well within the means of nature.” —William Rees

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

 

By William Rees – Climate change isn’t the problem, so what is?

By William Rees – Climate change isn’t the problem, so what is?

 

Thanks to friend and retired blogger Gail Zawacki at Wit’s End for bringing this excellent new talk by professor William Rees to my attention.

Rees discusses our severe state of ecological overshoot and the behaviors that prevent us from taking any useful action to make the future less bad.

Rees thinks there are two key behaviors responsible for our predicament:

  1. Base nature, which we share with all other species, to use all available resources. Most people call this the Maximum Power Principle.
  2. Creative nurture. Our learned culture defines our reality and we live this constructed reality as if it were real. “When faced with information that does not agree with their [preformed] internal structures, they deny, discredit, reinterpret or forget that information” – Wexler.

I don’t disagree with Rees on the existence or role of these behaviors, but we also need Varki’s MORT theory to explain how denial of unpleasant realties evolved and is symbiotic with our uniquely powerful intelligence, and other unique human behaviors, such as our belief in gods and life after death.

 

Some interesting points made by Rees:

  • The 2017 human eco-footprint exceeds biocapacity by 73%.
  • Half the fossil fuels and many other resources ever used by humans have been consumed in just the past 30 years.
  • Efficiency enables more consumption.
  • The past 7 years are the warmest 7 years on record.
  • Wild populations of birds, fish, mammals, and amphibians have declined 60% since 1970. Populations of many insects are down about 50%.
  • The biomass of humans and their livestock make up 95-99% of all vertebrate biomass on the planet.
  • Human population planning has declined from being the dominant policy lever in 1969 to the least researched in 2018.

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

William Rees: What’s Driving The Planet’s Accelerating Species Collapse?

Spoiler alert: It’s us

The data regarding planetary species loss just gets more alarming.

Today’s podcast guest is bioecologist and ecological economist Dr. William Rees, professor emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. Rees is best known for his development of the “ecological footprint” concept as a way to measure the demand a particular population places on the environmental resources it needs to survive.

Since the beginning of modern agriculture (around 1800), human activity has increased demand on planetary resources at an exponential rate. More energy has been expended — and more resources consumed — in the past 40 years than in all of human existence beforehand. That is placing a greater and greater strain on ecosystems that are now dangerously depleted:

At the dawn of agriculture, just ten thousand years ago, human beings accounted for less than 1% of the total mammalian biomass on the planet. Today, there’s been a sevenfold increase, roughly speaking, in the biomass of vertebra species on the planet — but most of that is human-induced. Today, human beings account for about 32 – 35%of the total biomass of mammals, a much greater biomass than at the dawn of agriculture. But when we throw in our domesticated animals and our pets, humans and their domesticated animals amount to 98.5% of the total weight of mammals on planet Earth.

So we’re engaged here, through sheer growth, in the scale of the human enterprise in what ecologists refer to as “competitive displacement”. This is a finite planet. There’s a finite flow, a limited flow, of photosynthetic energy through the planet which we share with millions of other species. Now, on a finite planet with limited energy flow, the more any one species takes the less is available for everything else.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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