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  • Writer's pictureSol J

Climate change - destruction or distraction?

There's a lot going on - maybe it's time to stop doing and start thinking

Climate change, spiralling global debt, political tensions, mass extinction, food scarcity, civil unrest - it seems the list of challenges faced by humankind is never ending and growing faster than we can even account for it. How can we possibly address all of these problems at once? It starts with looking for common causes.

"Reality is nothing more than a fragile collection of socially reinforced illusions" - Tim Ferriss

I was recently quizzed at a public presentation by a panel member about whether I agreed with the IPCC report on climate change. It was a trick question. I had loosely called the scientific method into question (but not the science itself) and had inadvertently left the door open for a fight. Fortunately it was a little off topic and I was able to deflect the question by pointing out a localised solution rather than discussing the global-level details of the report (which she probably knew better than I), so we didn't end up bogged down in a side debate.

But my response was more concerned with allowing her to save face than actually taking on the argument. Because what I find most perplexing and to be truthful, tiring, about the whole climate change debate are the glaring assumptions that are hiding in plain view.

While the Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison waxes lyrical about "having a preference" for net zero by 2050 and the IPCC make predictions about extreme sea level events regularly until the end of the century, have they actually thought about their comments in a reasoned and rational way?

The IPCC is the leading global think tank on climate change and their report, which is incredibly detailed and has engaged hundreds of world leading experts in almost every science imaginable, makes some pretty damning indictments on humanity. Amongst their "code red" statements are that "Stabilizing the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions".

And yet nowhere in the IPCC report has any modelling whatsoever been conducted forecasting a depletion date for fossil fuels, the driver of CO2 emissions that the entire exercise is based on. It appears to have completely receded into the background. One has to assume from their projections that every single scientist involved honestly believes that fossil fuel fuels have the capacity to keep pouring forth from the earth as they are now, like some sort of magic pudding, for all eternity.

Let that sink in for a moment. The core driver of the entire climate change model - fossil fuel use - has been summarily ignored. Not a single scientist was engaged in the IPCC report to forecast the primary variable in the whole debate???

I mean really folks, come on. How can we possibly speak about the impacts of carbon emissions past the future point when we are no longer able to access any fossil fuels? Such suggestions are preposterous and are the elephant in the room.

Fossil fuel depletion in the early 21st century was flagged as an issue as far back as the 1970s - I can remember reading about the predictions back then as a kid, which claimed that liquid fossil fuels would be almost exhausted by the time I was my fathers age. Well, now I am almost that age and so far as I'm aware we've been burning through it as fast as we can ever since. My father was a scientist and I was taught that the purpose of science was to ask questions and that science is a process of enquiry. So either my father misled me or this is not good science because this matter is clearly not settled. Climate change alarmism has done us no favours.

Until any of the scientists involved in the IPCC report can prove to me that there are enough liquid fossil fuels to pump CO2 into the atmosphere for the next 80 years then as far as I am concerned, any predictions about climate after the expiration of fossil fuels are meaningless and irrelevant. The expected depletion date is a known variable, as is the dependence of all energy systems on oil.

It is relatively easy to demonstrate that the depletion date for fossil fuels is much sooner than the end of the century and much sooner even than 2050. It doesn't matter how much coal or gas is left, the critical dependency is oil, as all other energy sources are dependent on it for extraction. Once oil stops everything else stops and nothing can take its place in our present energy supply chains, so oil depletion is the limiting resource to our sustainability, not climate change as we have been taught.

Mr Morrison will easily find his preference for net zero satisfied well before 2050, in fact it's likely to be well before that and probably more like 2030. He doesn't need to chase this objective at all, it is coming straight at him - fast. Thousands of climate change scientists worldwide have arguably wasted their careers chasing a mirage and predictions much beyond 2035 are hoax that has played right into the hands of politicians and the media.

What was never explained in any of those kids science books was what the world would look like approaching the bottom of the barrel. If we take a look around us, it isn't hard to see that a pattern is emerging. Could it be that all our problems are somehow linked? Are we approaching a general societal collapse and we have failed to connect the dots?

Probably better if you're sitting down at this point. We aren't approaching a societal collapse, we are in collapse now. All of the global threats we identified at the start of this entry are directly related to the breakdown of our energy supply systems. All of them. There is a general dependency relationship which can be broadly summarised as the following:

Energy -> Sustainability -> Economics -> Politics -> Culture

Each of the elements in this chain is dependent on the one preceding it and if any one starts to break down then all others after it will follow. We can see that energy is essential to maintain our ability to access basic needs and that once those are satisfied we are able to build a stable economy and then a politic forms to organise and manage that economy, with an emergent culture that binds it together. This roughly corresponds to Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs, which we cover in greater detail in another blog.

At the individual level, it can be difficult to see this causal relationship since we interact with all levels simultaneously but generally, the more fundamental the level at which things break down (i.e the further to the left in this chain of dependency) the more compounding effects we will observe. Until the problems with the basic layers are addressed, every effect on top of that is some sort of compensation mechanism required to delay or otherwise shift a societal impact.

So corruption, civil unrest, social inequity and escalating international tensions are all a result of a failing financial system with its inherent inflationary money printing policies and debasement of currencies. This in turn is a result of a faltering economy and inflation is the symptom, not the cause. When everything becomes a bubble it's because money has devalued so much that it can't buy anything. Money is a promise of future value, in other words future productive work, which implies the requirement for energy. Underpinning all of this is the net return on energy and if the available energy is continually trending toward zero, the future work to pay back the debt cannot be guaranteed, economic output becomes impossible, money loses its value as a guarantee and a sustainability crunch is the result.

As this process grinds to the end point and energy returned on energy invested vanishes, almost all of the energy being expended is involved only in obtaining it and the final few years of "thermodynamic oil collapse" will consist of huge unavoidable emissions simply to avoid war, famine and disease. This has been on the horizon since the 1980s, was well underway by 2000 and has taken a sharp turn since 2015. There is absolutely no excuse for not acknowledging this phenomenon.

We are well advanced in this collapse and the process is likely to have reached its conclusion by around 2030. No presently operating technology can avert this decline and no amount of attempting to manipulate any of the mechanisms resting on top of the energy layer can prevent it. There is no safe haven for either the elites or the poor and no "specific asset that historically does well in uncertain times". The answer lies in a reasoned intellectual understanding of the problem and new technologies, such as nGeni.

The objective to shoot for when designing a solution is total Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI). Whatever we implement must have a high EROI, ideally around 30:1, including the energy cost of building and implementing it. If you need to convince yourself without doing any complex analysis, pick any existing energy technology - solar PV, wind, nuclear, it doesn't matter - and see if it can generate enough energy to build the next energy project of the same type and capacity whilst providing for our present energy needs. This obviously must include all the mining, transport, manufacture, installation and maintenance, as well as having enough energy to support all the staff, their families and the communities that provide their necessary support services.

Notice above that people and human labour are part of the global energy supply chain. We estimate that nearly 2 billion people worldwide are involved just in the process of bringing oil to the point of use. Supporting all these people carries a tremendous energy cost with a corresponding carbon footprint. When we are having discussions about reducing carbon emissions then we are talking about eliminating the energy use of that pool of 2 billion people (recall that all "renewable" energy is subsidised by fossil fuel EROI and therefore has a carbon footprint).

If any discussion about reducing carbon emissions is not in the context of somehow increasing efficiency of the supply chain by capturing new net energy from somewhere then we are necessarily talking about eliminating those people as a way to maintain sustainability. Personally I'm still out to lunch whether the global ruling elite can't see this or whether they can see it and simply don't have the courage to come out and say it.

As we saw before there is a causal dependency of every societal layer that rests on top of energy, so the only way devastating impacts to society and the planet can be averted is by focusing overall global energy efficiency replacing reliance on energy reserves with access to high efficiency free energy. Only then will we be able to transition completely off fossil fuels, with a corresponding drop in carbon emissions.

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