Tuesday, February 17, 2015


David Herbert
[Audiobook version] [En français] [In italiano]

This blog is dedicated to the idea of presenting the big picture—the biggest possible—of what is going on in the world. The abiding areas of interest that make up the big picture have included the following:

1. The terminal decay and eventual collapse of industrial civilization as the fossil fuels that power it become more and more expensive to produce in the needed quantities, of lower and lower resource quality and net energy and, eventually, in ever-shorter supply.

The first guess by Hubbert that the all-time peak of oil production in the US would be back in the 1970s was accurate, but later prediction of a global peak, followed by a swift collapse, around the year 2000 was rather off, because here we are 15 years later and global oil production has never been higher. Oil prices, which were high for a time, have temporarily moderated. However, zooming in on the oil picture just a little bit, we see that conventional oil production peaked in 2005—just 5 years late—and has been declining ever since, and the shortfall has been made up by oil that is difficult and expensive to get at (deep offshore, fracking) and by things that aren't exactly oil (tar sands).

The current low prices are not high enough to sustain this new, expensive production for much longer, and the current glut is starting to look like a feast to be followed by famine. The direct cause of this famine will not be energy but debt, but it can still be traced back to energy: a successful, growing industrial economy requires cheap energy; expensive energy causes it to stop growing and to become mired in debt that can never be repaid. Once the debt bubble pops, there isn't enough capital to invest in another round of expensive energy production, and terminal decay sets in.

2. The very interesting process of the USA becoming its own nemesis: the USSR 2.0, or, as some are calling, the USSA.

The USA is best characterized as a decomposing corpse of a nation lorded over by a tiny clique of oligarchs who control the herd by wielding Orwellian methods of mind control. So far gone is the populace that most of them think that things are just peachy—there is an economic recovery, don't you know—but a few of them do realize that they all have lots of personal issues with things like violence, drug and alcohol abuse, and gluttony. But don't call them a nation of violent, drug-abusing gluttons, because that would be insulting. In any case, you can't call them anything, because they aren't listening, for they are too busy fiddling with their electronic life support units to which they have become addicted. Thanks to Facebook and the like they are now so far inside Plato's cave that even the shadows they see aren't real: they are computer simulations of shadows of other computer simulations.

The signs of this advanced state of decomposition are now unmistakable everywhere you look, be it education, medicine, culture or the general state of American society, where now fully half the working-age men is impaired in their ability to earn a decent living. But it is now particularly obvious in the endless compounding of errors that is the essence of American foreign policy. Some have started calling it “the empire of chaos,” neglecting to mention the fact that an empire of chaos is by definition ungovernable.

A particularly compelling example of failure is the Islamic Caliphate, which now rules large parts of Syria and Iraq. It was initially organized with American help to topple the Syrian government, but now threatens the stability of Saudi Arabia instead. This problem was made much worse by alienating Russia, which, with its long Central Asian border, is the one major nation that is interested in fighting Islamic extremism. The best the Americans have been able to do against the Caliphate is an expensive and ineffectual bombing campaign. Previous ineffectual and expensive bombing campaigns, such as the one in Cambodia, have produced unintended consequences such as the genocidal regime of Pol Pot, but why bother learning from mistakes when you can endlessly compound them?

Another example is the militarized mayhem and full-blown economic collapse that has engulfed the Ukraine in the wake of American-organized violent overthrow of its last-ever constitutional government a year ago. The destruction of the Ukraine was motivated by Zbigniew Brzezinski's simplistic calculus that turning the Ukraine into an anti-Russian NATO-occupied zone would effectively thwart Russian imperial ambitions. A major problem with this calculus is that Russia has no imperial ambitions: Russia has all the territory it could ever want, but to develop it it needs peace and free trade. Another slight problem with Zbiggy's “chessboard” is that Russia does have an overriding concern with protecting the interests of Russians wherever they may live and, for internal political reasons, will always act to protect them, even if such actions are illegal and carry the risk of a larger military conflict. Thus, the American destabilization of the Ukraine has accomplished nothing positive, but did increase the odds of nuclear self-annihilation. But if the USA manages to disappear from the world's political map without triggering a nuclear holocaust, we will still have a problem, which is that...

3. The climate of Earth, our home planet, is, to put it as politely as possible, completely fucked. Now, there are quite a few people who think that radically altering the planet's atmospheric and ocean chemistry and physics by burning just over half the fossilized hydrocarbons that could possibly be dug up using industrial methods means nothing, and that what we are observing is just natural climate variability. These people are morons. I will delete every single one of the comments they submit in response to this post, but in spite of my promise to do so, I assure you that they will still submit them... because they are morons. [Update: Yes indeed they have, QED.]

What we are looking at is a human-triggered extinction episode that will certainly be beyond anything in human experience, and which may rival the great Permian-Triassic extinction event of 252 million years ago. There is even the possibility of Earth becoming completely sterilized, with an atmosphere as overheated and toxic as that of Venus. That these changes are happening does not require prediction, just observation. The only parameters that remain to be determined are these:

1. How far will this process run?

Will there still be a habitat where humans can survive? Humans cannot survive without plenty of fresh water and sources of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, all of which require functioning ecosystems. Humans can survive on almost any kind of diet—even tree bark and insects—but if all vegetation is dead, then so are we. Also, we cannot survive in an environment where the wet bulb temperature (which takes into account our ability to cool ourselves by sweating) exceeds our body temperature: whenever that happens, we die of heat stroke. Lastly, we need air that we can actually breathe: if the atmosphere becomes too low in oxygen (because the vegetation has died out) and too high in carbon dioxide and methane (because the dead vegetation has burned off, the permafrost has melted, and the methane currently trapped in oceanic clathrates has been released) then we all die.

We already know that the increase in average global temperature has exceeded 1C since pre-industrial times, and, based on the altered atmospheric chemistry, is predicted to eventually exceed 2C. We also know that industrial activity, thanks to the aerosols it puts into the atmosphere, produces an effect known as global dimming. Once it's gone, the average temperature will jump by at least another 1.1C. This would put us within striking range of 3.5C, and no humans have ever been alive with Earth more than 3.5C above baseline. But, you know, there is a first time for everything. Maybe we can invent some gizmo... Maybe if we all put on air-conditioned sombreros or something... (Design contest, anyone?)

2. How fast will this process happen?

The thermal mass of the planet is such that there is a 40-year lag between when atmospheric chemistry is changed and its effects on average temperature are felt. So far we have been shielded from some of the effects by two things: the melting of Arctic and Antarctic ice and permafrost, and the ocean's ability to absorb heat. Your iced drink remains pleasant until the last ice cube is gone, but then it becomes tepid and distasteful rather quickly. Some scientists say that, on the outside, it will take 5000 years for us to run out of ice cubes, causing the party to end, but then the dynamics of the huge glaciers that supply the ice cubes are not understood all that well, and there have been constant surprises in terms of how quickly they can slough off icebergs, which then drift into warmer waters and melt quickly.

But the biggest surprise of the last few years has been the rate of arctic methane release. Perhaps you haven't, but I've found it impossible to ignore all the scientists who have been ringing alarm bells on Arctic methane release. What they are calling the clathrate gun—which can release some 50 gigatons of methane in as little as a couple of decades—appears to have been fired in 2007 and now, just a few years later, the trend line in Arctic methane concentrations has become alarming. But we will need to wait for at least another two years to get an authoritative answer. Overall, the methane held in the clathrates is enough to exceed the global warming potential of all fossil fuels burned to date by a factor of between 4 and 40. The upper end of that range does seem to put us quite far towards a Venus-type atmosphere, and the surviving species may be limited to exotic thermophilic bacteria, if that, and certainly will not include any of the species we like to eat, nor any of us.

Looking at such numbers has caused quite a few researchers to propose the possibility of near-term human extinction. Estimates vary, but, in general, if the clathrate gun has indeed gone off, then most of us shouldn't be planning to be around beyond mid-century. But the funny thing is (humor is never in poor taste, no matter how dire the situation) that most of us shouldn't be planning on sticking around beyond mid-century in any case. The current oversized human population is a product of fossil fuel-burning, and once that's over, human population will crash. This is called a die-off, and it's something that happens all the time: a population (say, of yeast in a vat of sugary liquid) consumes its food, and then dies off. A few hardy individuals linger on, and if you throw in a lump of sugar, they spring to life, start reproducing and the process takes off again.

Another funny aspect of near-term human extinction is that it can never be observable, because no scientist will ever be around to observe it, and therefore it is a non-scientific concept. Since it cannot be used to do science, the scientists who throw it around must be aiming for an emotional effect. This is quite uncharacteristic of scientists, who generally pride themselves on being cool-headed and prefer to deal in the observable and the measurable. So, why would scientists go for emotional effect? Clearly, it is because they feel that something must be done. And to feel that something must be done, they must also feel that something can be done. But, if so, what is it?

Always first on the list is the effort to lobby governments to limit carbon emissions. This has not been a success; as to one of the many reasons why, consider point 2 above: the USA is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to carbon emissions, but the rotting corpse of America's political system is incapable of any constructive action. It is too busy destroying countries: Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine...

Second on the list is something called geoengineering. If you don't know what it is, don't worry; it's largely a synonym for mental masturbation. The idea is that you fix things you don't understand by using technologies that don't exist. But given many humans' irrational belief that every problem must have a technological solution, there is always some fool willing to throw money at it. Previous efforts along these lines involved the idea of seeding the oceans with iron to promote plankton growth, or putting bits of tin foil in orbit to reflect some of the sunlight, or painting the Sahara white. These are all fun projects to think about. How about using nuclear weapons to put dust into the atmosphere, to block out some of the sunlight? Or how about nuking a few big volcanos, for the same effect? If that's politically difficult, how about something politically easy: a limited nuclear exchange? That will darken the skies, bringing on a mini nuclar winter, and also reduce the population, which will cut down on industrial activity. There are enough nuclear weapons to keep the planet cool for as long as it takes us all to die of radiation poisoning. This geoengineering solution, along with all the others, is in line with the popular dictum “If you can't solve a problem, enlarge it.”

And so it seems to me that all the talk about near-term human extinction is just so much emotional hand-flapping designed to motivate people to try things that won't work. Still, I believe the topic is worth pondering, for a simple reason: what if you don't want to go extinct? We've already established that human extinction (whenever it might be said to occur) will never be observable, because no human will be around to observe it. We also know that population die-offs happen all the time, but they don't always result in extinction. So, who will be most likely to die, and who might actually make it?

First on the list are the invisible victims of war. By now lots of people have seen photographs of piles of dead Ukrainian soldiers left to rot after another failed attack, or videos of residents of Donetsk expiring on the sidewalk after being hit by a government-lobbed artillery shell or mortar. But we don't know how many children and women are dying in childbirth because the government has bombed maternity clinics and hospitals: such casualties of war are invisible. Nor will we be shown footage of all of the Ukrainian retirees expiring prematurely because they can no longer afford food, medicine or heat, but we can be sure that many of them won't be around a year hence. When it comes to war, there are just two viable survival strategies: refuse to take part; and flee. Indeed, the million or so Ukrainians that are now in Russia, or the million or so Syrians who are no longer in Syria, are the smart ones. The Ukrainians who are volunteering to fight are the idiots; the ones who are fleeing to Russia to sit out the war are the smart ones. (However, the Russians, who are volunteering to protect their land and their families from what amounts to an American invasion, are clearly not idiots. They are also winning.) In this sense, war is a Darwinian process, delivering extinction to the foolish.

Next on the list of extinction episodes to avoid happens in major cities during a heat wave. It's happened across Europe in 2003, and resulted in 70,000 casualties. In 2010, a heat wave in the Moscow region (which is quite far north) resulted in over 14,000 deaths in Moscow alone. The urban heat island effect, which is caused by sunlight soaked up by pavement and buildings, produces much higher local temperatures, driving them over the threshold for heat stroke. While the fossil fuel economy continues to operate, cities remain survivable because of the availability of air conditioning; once it shuts down, urban heat wave extinction episodes will become widespread. Since 50% of the population lives in cities, half of the human population is at risk of extinction from heat stroke. Therefore, if you don't want to go extinct, don't spend your summers in a city.

The list of places you don't want to be if you wish to avoid extinction gets rather long. You wouldn't want to live in California, for example, or in the arid southwestern states, because there won't be any water there. You wouldn't want to live along the coasts, because they are likely to be flooded by the rising oceans (they will eventually rise over 100 meters, putting all coastal cities underwater). You wouldn't want to live in the eastern half of North America, because, paradoxically, a dramatically warmer Arctic region causes the jet stream to meander, producing increasingly fierce winters, which, minus fossil fuels, will cause widespread deaths from exposure. Even now, a bit of extra snow, which is likely to become the new normal, has caused the entire transportation infrastructure of New England (where, luckily, I am not) to roll over and play dead. Nor would you want to live in any of the places where the water source comes from glacial melt, because the glaciers will soon be gone. This includes much of Pakistan, large parts of India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam and so on. The list of places where you wouldn't want to be if you don't want to go extinct for this or that reason gets to be rather long.

But the entire northern half of Eurasia looks quite nice for the foreseeable future, so if you don't want to go extinct, you better start teaching your kids Russian.


Dammerung said...

I wonder if it's really /as bad as all that./

Sea levels rising 50, 100 feet; that I can believe. The ocean becoming increasingly acidic and radioactive, altering the ecosystems of the sea; that I can believe. Global temperatures being warmer, making some places more habitable for humans and other places less; that I can believe.

But a run-away chain reaction that results in a Venusian atmosphere I have a lot of trouble with. After all, we had a conspicuous lack of probes and et cetera monitoring Venus when it heated up, and ancient accounts are full of mentions of strange astronomical phenomena surrounding Venus, such as it being described as possessing a cometary tail. While I understand you're looking for a broadest case possible, it seems to me like we have far too little astronomical information, only having had planetary science for a few hundred years at most, to believe that such a sweeping possibility is inevitable.

Isabella said...

My daughter works as an upper middle level production manager for Shell. She tells me of her new venture, which is supervising the production of liquified natural gas off the North West Coast of Western Australia that "Shell see's this as where the future is. Drilling for gas underneath oceans." If Shell sees this as the future, it gives an at least first glance support for the theory of peak oil, and us now being past easy extraction, or even any extraction.
I wonder if you have any comment on two things.
I did hear - but it may have been internet rumour - that Chevron and some other oil concern rushed in to Ukraine following the Poroshenko coup d'etat, but left shortly after, quietly. It was said they had found nothing worth trying to work in the place!!
Finally, I wonder though, those who studied the peak of oil - did they also look at a peak of gas? Is there anything like it? I can't find it on an internet search.

tom said...

Your final remark about the attractiveness of Northern Eurasia may help to explain the Americans' apparent interest in destabilizing its governments, weakening its economies, and later - who knows - taking the nicest bits for themselves.

Walter said...

But if we try "putting bits of tin foil in orbit to reflect some of the sunlight," what will we use for our tin-foil hats?

Helix said...

Actually, the Eastern US may be a fairly decent place to be unless it succumbs to devastation or fallout from a nuclear exchange. The Eastern US is naturally wooded -- a source of building material and fuel for heat -- and has adequate and reasonably even rainfall throughout the year. Plus it is elevated once you're off the coastal plain. The primary downside is that it's heavily populated, so in a die-off event, one may have to live with some hard choices. But you will fare much better here than in many other places, such as in coastal cities anywhere.

Kevo Downunder said...

Good morning from NZ Dimitry.
As our biosphere unravels and fascism spreads like the virus it is I believe it is time for you to feature on Professor Guy McPherson's radio show Nature Bats Last on prn.fm, past shows are archived there. Collapse as you both know whell is coming and I think a lively discussion between you both will make for a great show.
You can contact Professor McPherson at guymcpherson.com
I am part of Guy's international organising team and brought him our to NZ for a very successful speaking tour late last year.
Here is an interview I did discussing collapse for a NZ based Radio program.

Augustine said...

The American populace never grew beyond civics class at 6th grade in their understanding of the state or politics. Is it coincidence that that's also when public schools teach children to masturbate? Perhaps the traditional belief that masturbation makes one stupid has some merit.

MoonShadow said...

I'm not going to debate the particulars of global warming with anyone who has made up their mind; however, your statements about ending up like Venus are unscientific, Dmitri. Both the Earth & Venus are (almost completely) closed systems. There just isn't enough carbon in the Earth's system to end up like Venus. Since hydrocarbons are a high energy state of matter, and therefore not stable, it's a fair assumption that any carbon and oxygen in the system would be found together as carbon dioxide in the early years of Earth. So while we may yet destroy the Earth's environment for ourselves, a permanent 'tipping point' for the Earth (on a geological time scale) is not a scientific scenario.

AntEater said...

Not to be too much of a depressant, but as the Greenland ice melts off it will effectively desalinate the north Atlantic ocean. This is expected to have the unfortunate side effect of shutting down the Gulf Stream current. This, in turn, will turn the climate of northern Europe into something that will resemble the equivalent latitudes in Canada - not a great climate to support a large population.

Edward said...


This is in fact what has everyone worried-- a runaway process. In fact the global warming scenarios usually discussed in the press are the best case scenarios. The deniers like to talk about how we aren't certain of this and that. That can cut both ways and as more has been learned about the climate the picture has gotten worse.

The earth actually started out with a CO2 atmosphere and Venusian climate. About a billion years ago bacteria appeared that began a process of changing the atmosphere to an oxygen one. So in another billion years, if we manage to destroy most life, complex organisms might again emerge here...

I don't know what would be a successful precedent for tackling global warming. As far as I am concerned it is a WWII level emergency. If only global warming carried a gun and threatened to join Al Qaeda.

Anyway, welcome to your Soylent Green future.

Patrick DeBoard said...

Thank you, Dmitry, this was a moving post. The media generally is so full of ka-ka, that when I read the clear truth about things, it deeply satisfies me. I think you have accurately summed up the world situation, and especially the American situation. You're the best! Patrick

Joy said...

Having entered my 60th year, which is far beyond any life expectancy prior to the 20th century, I can view these changes with equanimity. Personally, I don't think that the climate will get any worse than the Eocene thermal maximum. But that would be a very different world.

Life will adapt as it has done before. What humans persist will be smaller, more nocturnal, and living subsistence lives in high latitudes eating things we cannot imagine eating now. This is neither good nor bad, just a natural process. Even Aldous Huxley in 1928 understood that industrial society was unsustainable, as did Henry Ford. Now it is obvious to anyone with two neurons.

What is to be done? Nothing in particular. Love your friends and family. Fight your enemies. Laugh, cry, f*ck, sing, dance. We are all mortal anyway. On the individual level, same as it ever was.

Rhisiart Gwilym said...

I second Patrick's post. This - the climate part - is a deeply perturbing matter though. But even so, it's always satisfying to get packets of straight, undiluted truth; especially when delivered with the Orlov style: one of the best around right now, especially for wringing actual LOLs out of this ultimately-desperate situation, as this post did for me. Remarkable! :)

Arnold Snyder said...

Never fear, Dmitri. Apparently the morons at the CIA who just f'ed up Ukraine think they're going to be doing strategic climate control: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-02-17/forget-hacking-cia-accuses-russia-manipulating-worlds-weather

james cole said...

Your insight as to the methane threat is all too real. Russian arctic sea research has been engaged just recently in researching the methane releases from the shalowl arctic seas off of the north Siberian coasts to the east. This area experienced a fast growing release through methane plumes rising through the sea bed. YES, these are NEW plumes and growing exponentially. The scientist in charge, a Russian Woman, has made it clear to all in Russian government, that this is a brewing disaster. She knows Russia is a world fossil fuel producer, but feels she needed to make it clear to the highest levels what these plumes mean. On land the Arctic Tundra is melting, this releases both methane and CO2. As the permafrost melts faster and faster, the measured levels of methane in the air off arctic Russia and Canada show readings equal to the air over New York City!
To sum up, you are 100% right to sound the alarm bells. It is an extinction level event IF NOTHING is done. And you are even more right when you explain the 40 year time lag and the global dimming effect, both of which mask an already total melt down atmospheric chemistry. Time will catch up to us in around 20-30 years, and then the disasters will be so widespread, and heat waves in cities so deadly, even the fools and idiots who proclaim global warming a hoax will be unable to lie any more. Keep up your good work. I enjoy your high intellect expressed in your writings.

rapier said...

On methane, RealClimate which is not AGC skeptical to say the least had this.

"In conclusion, despite recent explosions suggesting the contrary, I still feel that the future of Earth’s climate in this century and beyond will be determined mostly by the fossil fuel industry, and not by Arctic methane. We should keep our eyes on the ball."


In other mutterings,
Oil and NG burning are certain to decline as the century goes on so on that alone one can be confident, if that's the right word, that the rise in atmospheric CO2 is fated to slow. However there is coal so,,,?

Then how much CO2 is sequestered in trees, or peat for that matter? It is imaginable that at some point during worst case scenarios that anything that can be burned will be.

On war my biggest concern is nuclear.

On Americans I doubt we are dumber or less aware of grand realities than anyone else. All humans are flawed. It's our overwhelming pride however that is probably unusual in all history and bodes ill for us and everyone.

Unknown said...

I think both Guy and Dmitry's views are the same. But would love to see Guy featured on cluborlov.


Danogenes said...

Dimitri, be careful of to much prediction. Climate is a chaotic system. Sure, large scale drought in the southwest and the Amazon is baked in. But the winters on the US east coast are managable with good stoves and wood heat. Not great, but managable. Then the summers have water and much can be grown. So its a reasonable alternative. The cities are toasted as you suggest, but we need to knock about 5 billion of us off the planet to gain a steady state capacity. Such massive die off could be a good thing, unless you are one of the dying. But like I said it is a chaotic system.

Nathan said...

Dmitry, you are clearly far more interested in the sea steading life than one tied to any particular land mass. But I am intrigued by your closing comment about the future attractiveness of Northern Eurasia. What is Russia's current stance on immigration and how would Westerners fare there? As an Australian of English descent, would the average Russian in the street simply write me off as American?

Elizabeth Farrelly, in her book "Blubberland", puts the case for North Western Australia as an excellent place to enter the brave climate altering 21st Century. Today there would be less than half a million people in an area twice the size of the Indonesian archipelago, and 400,000 of them are in the appropriately named city of Darwin. So, should we move to the Top End of Oz, or to Russia?

warden said...

It is believed that the runaway greenhouse effect on Venus was caused when the temperature became hot enough to thermally decompose carbonate rock. That cannot seem to happen here on Earth because the planet is 2/3 ocean. Increased surface temperature means increased rock weathering means increased transport of carbon dioxide to the deep sea. (Venus has no deep ocean basins.)

Dmitry might be referring to the Medea Hypothesis:


The Medea Hypothesis has a completely different physical mechanism, namely, the lack of sufficient temperature gradient between equator and poles shuts down ocean circulation. This leads to anoxic oceans, which leads to hydrogen sulfide production, which leads to mass extinction. There seems to be evidence for this process for all previous mass extinctions except the most recent K-T extinction, which seems to have been caused by an asteroid. If Peter Ward is correct in his hypothesis, then the article's argument is sound in conclusion but distracted by the Venusian analogy.

The following excellent video lets Dr. Peter Ward present his evidence and conclusions:


don said...

Just read this article on Mercola.com entitled, "Antibiotic Resistance Will Kill 300 Million People by 2050."
After reading Dmitry's essay and that one, I am feeling a bit hopeless about the future for all of us, and the planet. It was fun while it lasted.

Gary Flomenhoft said...

Gaia has maintained the earth's equilibrium temperature between 12C and 22C for 2 billion years, just fine without humans.

99.9% of all species that have ever existed are extinct. The average life span of a mammal species is 1 million years. Homo Sapiens are around 200,000 yrs old. Expiration date?

Most of the CO2 that is in the ground used to be in the air. That is where it came from.

100 million years ago the CO2 level in the air was 5500 ppm.
There will be no runaway greenhouse effect.

CO2 only becomes toxic to humans at 5% concentration which would be 50,000ppm.

60 million years ago the CO2 level was 3500ppm.

34 million yrs ago it dropped below 1000ppm for the first time and the ice caps formed.

About 23 million yrs ago it dropped below 300ppm where it has remained ever since, up to recently where it is now above 400ppm. the entire life span of humans CO2 was never above 300.

Bottom line is the earth will survive just fine without humans. Even at 22C large parts of the earth will be habitable if any humans manage to survive. Probably further north though (like northern Eurasia). The climate may be unstable for awhile. Then we'll have a chance to screw it up again.

As a friend of mine says, the sole functions of humans in the scheme of things is to put the stored CO2 back in the the air for the benefit of plants.

One other point. Hubbert was smarter than you think. In his 1976 essay, "Exponential Growth as a transient phenomenon in human history", Hubbert said world oil peak would be around 1995 (between 1990-2000), BUT "...oil production could be curtailed by the exporting nations to somewhat near the present rate. Were that to occur...curve...would be displaced...10-15 yrs." IE: 2005-2015. Pretty dead on!


abelhas said...

thankyou. I see that many commenting don't grasp the severity of our situation, or perhaps they do, but cannot face the despair that any honest appraisal of climate change inevitably triggers. As you explain, we are experiencing the effects of our collective actions from 40 years ago, mitigated by the ice cubes still melting, and the cloud of smog we still produce. Paradoxically, to live a low impact lifestyle, prepare for collapse or even just to enjoy life waiting for extinction, takes money, which involves taking part in the industrial system that has created the nightmare, for many of us a system of low pay slavery, burning energy doing meaningless things. If only governments could see the sense of citizens income, almost like a human set aside scheme.

Robert Callaghan said...

We sell remote video planes that shoot hellfire missiles that literally burn people alive.
Then we freak out when someone loses their head on video.
The people of the world have to organize to take control of earth from our nations.
We have to end borders, putting all lands into rewilding food and pasture ecosystems.
We are not meant to stare at video screens 8 hours per day.
Our real job is to take down borders, rewild livestock, bio-char soil and grow organic food.
We are too afraid of change to take control from these people,
Life is not a video game, do you want to watch people burn alive?
The Remedy:

Smashed said...

It *might* not take 40 years for CO2's full effect to be felt, see Climate Central's story: CO2 Takes Just 10 Years to Reach Planet’s Peak Heat, for example.

Robert Magill said...

To put the problem in a perspective I can relate to, and show the futility of all green efforts consider:
The number of motor vehicles in use worldwide in 2010 is put at 1 Billion.
The prediction for 2020 is 2 BILLION. Plus offroad units.
'nuf said?

Alfred1860 said...

I was going to comment yesterday but didn't want to waste my breath after reading your threat of deleting comments. Now that I see what has been posted, here goes.

What I don't understand about the AGW crowd is that if things are as dire as you say, we're already screwed. The chances of us reducing human C02 output by any significant amount (e.g. greater than 20%) are absolutely nil, unless one thinks the situation is bad enough to merit killing off a few billion people.

I've had this argument with my brother, who has installed a solar hot water system on his house. He likes to lecture anyone who will listen about AGW, yet despite his solar hot water offsetting his power consumption, his monthly power bill is more than double mine. He heats his house with oil, I use wood. I grow about 40% of my own food, and buy another 50% from local (within 100 km) producers.

I try to live a fairly self-sufficient lifestyle because I enjoy seeing the fruits of my own labour and I want to prepare for the inevitable collapse of the West, but who I am to deny a Chinese or Indian peasant a lifestyle that might have a carbon footprint of 50% of the average Westerner, as opposed to their current 5% or less? Until all of the AGW folks reduce their personal carbon footprint to practically zero, I don't think they are in any position to lecture.

We humans have of course created many problems for ourselves, like draining aquifers, filling the ocean with plastic, destroying topsoil and having it wash out to sea, and filling our biome with toxic persistent chemicals. To me these thing will be far more difficult to adapt to and overcome than a warming earth, and are orders of magnitude more "solvable" than preventing accumulation of atmospheric CO2, yet we never hear about the global emergency posed by such things.

We have adapted to changing temperatures and climates throughout our history, without the benefit of any technology to speak of. We will continue to adapt to that, but adapting to the consequences of letting the other things I mentioned continue unabated will be much more difficult.

Wolfgang Brinck said...

We all go extinct as individuals. Only some of us are still giving birth and as long as birth rates exceed personal extinction rates the species persists. I don't see my own eventual extinction as a tragedy and so I cannot view the extinction of the entire human species as a tragedy.
A few years back we had a pre-extinction party and everyone who came had a good time. The general theme of the party was that given the current species extinction rate on earth, we stand a pretty good chance of going extinct ourselves.
Obviously, you cannot have a party after the extinction so we did the sensible thing and had the party before the extinction. I doubt whether anyone who came to the party other than ourselves really believed that the human species was in danger of going extinct but that did not matter. We did our part and had the wake. At some point, parties will no longer be possible. It is imperative that we party while we can.

Nick Johnson said...

Mr. Orlov perhaps you haven't heard yet, but none of this matters because we're going to Mars!

colinc said...

@ warden

Thank you very much for that link to the excellent, must-see lecture by Dr. Peter Ward. It is amusing that his closing observations are exhibited by the "stats" for that video... available for more than a year yet has fewer than 600 views. This elicits the immortal words of Mr. T, "I pity the fools!"

@ Wolfgang Brinck

Indeed, no time like the present to party hardy as insufficient action is likely to persist.

ArtS said...

Climate change denialists:

You make the Koch Brothers proud.

What do you want your legacy to be?

I am an atheist, but I am concerned with my legacy.

You can go to your graves happy to have defended the status quo from considering the societal changes needed to preserve our planet for future generations.

Good job!

Hans Zandvliet said...

On this blog I presented a step-by-step method to do your own Hubbert's Curve calculation: http://collapseofindustrialcivilization.com/2014/04/25/do-the-math-of-peak-oil-and-convince-yourself/
The calculations are based on carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, as published by CDIAC (an EIA institution). In this article I calculated the global peak of CO2-emissions from Liquid Fossil Fuels (2010), but you can calculate the peak from Gaseous Fossil Fuels in the same way (I did so as well and arrived at 2016). So give it a try and convince yourself.

James said...

Eastern U.S.? Imagine a few days during the summer with temperatures at 122F, 95% humidity and the grid works only intermittently and goes down completely on days of extreme demand. The human body can stay alive for just a few hours under these circumstances without being well underground, like in a cave with a good circulation. We have a lot of caves in Kentucky, but we've got a lot of cave men too. Alternatively on days when electricity is available you could freeze many dozens of freezer blocks and create your own cooler. Tomorrow night the temperature will go down to -17F in Kentucky. Once again you might need to find a good cave. Good luck with all of that. The future is in sight. Wish you the best.

O said...

One thing I have learned about USSA's comments on Russia,ie CIA and weather,and virtually every comment out of Porochenko's orifice,is that it is the exact opposite and so obvious that a person could set his clock by it.So now we know USSA haarps the weather for their masters.

MoonShadow said...

@James. I, too, live in Kentucky on 13, mostly wooded, acres. I also have a small cave on my property. Get one if you can, they are useful for just about all of the future scenarios, including status quo. 55 degrees F in the heat of summer, as well as the depth of winter. There is also the Louisville Underground, and maps of the Mammoth Cave network exist, which stretch (human passiblely) over 100 miles N/S across central Kentucky. Some of us are more ready than others, you people who live on the Eastern seaboard better get a boat.

Tarvos T said...

You are quite right to dismiss the ignorant bluster of the deniers of climate change via human action. When the survivors of the upcoming climate chaos write the history of our idiocy the present day deniers will not be spared. I believe, however, that we ‘believers’ will fare worse in the future’s eyes.

In my suburban corner of the southeastern United States it is not the deniers who offend me, it is the believers. I have tried, without a single success, to get family members, friends, and co-workers to ACT as if climate change is real. For example, not a single one will hang their clothes to dry. They’ll harangue the deniers mercilessly then toss another load of socks into their electric dryer. As if burning coal to dry clothes has no connection to their beliefs. While most could car pool everyone has their own excuse as to why it isn’t practical for them and end up driving alone in their 4+ passenger vehicles. Vacations typically aren’t considered vacations unless it involves a flight somewhere. And when I suggest that they reduce their electric consumption to a few reading lights once the sun goes down (instead of powering their televisions, game consoles, and computers in an orgy of consumption until they drop from exhaustion), they look at me as if I’m a lunatic.

Perhaps I need to surround myself with a better class of believer, but I happen to think it takes more than recycling newspapers and voting Democrat to reign in the chaos we are saddling ourselves with. Sure, we ‘believe’ the science, but we deny any uncomfortable or inconvenient connection to our own behavior.

Excoriating the anti-science deniers is satisfying and occasionally great fun. But we who know the truth need to do more than wait around for others to catch up with us.

Pelle Schultz said...

As a biologist (and one who started off as a plant geneticist), my expectation is that a combination of factors will lead to a massive human die-off within the next 100 years. I don't find this overly surprising or unprecedented given the history of biological life on this planet. What may surprise is the rate at which it occurs. I cannot think of a single colleague of mine who doesn't believe that humans are already well beyond our carrying capacity.

I'd imagine the process goes something like this (and not necessarily in this precise order):

1) A combination of interrelated environmental factors including but not limited to AGW, widespread pollution, lack of fresh water and die-off of agronomically important species (pollinators anyone?) leads to widespread famine. For another strong contributor, see #2.

2) Insufficient/expensive fossil fuels lead to destabilization, first of the more vulnerable countries (overpopulated, poor public health systems, in the middle of current and/or future deserts), then the (former) first world. One somewhat overlooked contributor will be the loss of energy-intensive agriculture with its heavy use of farm machinery, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, as well as the long supply chains.

3) The instability created by #1 and #2 will lead to serious conflicts, with refugees dying by the tens of millions due to starvation and (formerly preventable) disease. One possibility here is that some of it goes nuclear which either worsens the descent or quickens the extinction.

The best hope at this point is that the new dark age doesn't lose all of the worthwhile gains made until now, and that the new equilibrium is both sustainable and gets re-established quickly (as in within a few generations).

Or we can all be a little crazy and hope for the good kind of singularity, if that is even possible.

Spanish fly said...

'How about using nuclear weapons to put dust into the atmosphere, to block out some of the sunlight? Or how about nuking a few big volcanos, for the same effect? If that's politically difficult, how about something politically easy:a limited nuclear exchange?'

Yeah, it's a good idea. The 3rd World War is the solution. An American president (worse tan Obama? Yes we can!) can save us from the climate change...

Tomuru said...

Take care, you seem to be seeing the darker side to things. That's not a productive road. If everyone throws up their hands and just gives up nothing happens. Climate change will be terrible but there will be places that do well and those that turn into deserts. It's important to look for solutions you can implement. I plant trees. Usually fruit and nut trees so there will be food in my environment. I am moving to a lower carbon footprint. I already gave up the car for public transport. Yeah, it's inconvenient but a lot less expensive. There's no fuel bill, no maintenance, no insurance, no price tag. Lots of other folks live this way and not by choice. Maybe if enough people will start doing something instead of complaining and arguing changes will occur.

jetstove said...

I will not argue except to say that this is your domain and you have the right to censor any discussion you wish.

You are a survivor but have somehow forgotten what it means to face high odds and survive or even thrive. I would suggest you have achieved as much as you could hope for and are now weighed down by the mass of your own success.

Want to make a difference? Start a community of like minded people, generalists, who build things to last; who use technology for themselves and not for the enrichment of the oligarchy.

Mister Roboto said...

Whenever a particular Facebook friend of mine and his friends start cheering on the idea of arming Ukraine (with offensive, not just defensive, weapons, no less), I always have to fight the strong temptation to chime in with "I hope your fallout shelters are well stocked!" As for me, when those sirens go off, I'll just start walking towards nearby General Mitchell airport (which the military also uses, so of course it will be a target) and hopefully get vaporized instantly. Only the ignorant or the insane would actually want to survive a nuclear war!

spigzone said...

Fukushima? No mention of the Pacific ecosystem currently being decimated? Or that as run away global warming throws civilization into chaos dozens of nuclear reactors and associated spent fuel pools, which require a fully operational civilization decades to decommission, will inevitably go the way of Fukushima, turning the northern hemisphere, and eventually the southern, into a radioactive hellscape. Both run away global warming and multiple Fukushimas are already 'baked into the cake'. So it goes.

Andrew Olmstead said...

When the heat gets high enough surface rocks break down and release carbon directly into the atmosphere. It happened on Venus, it could happen here. If the carbon we dug up causes clathrates to melt, we'll have a runaway Venus scenario.

Sparks McCoy said...

This has got to be one of the best (and funniest) summaries of the current global situation out there. Unfortunately it won't be funny for long, how things keep chugging along anywhere in the world is beyond me, are we powered purely by denial at this point?

Seamus Padraig said...

Dmitri, during the recent Ebola outbreak I had a rather dark thought. What if, instead of a nuclear war, our rulers decide to engineer a germ that specifically targets human beings?

Nukes, after all, would irradiate the atmosphere, kill livestock and poison the environment. They also have a pesky tendency to destroy capital. Germs? Not so much.

They could develop a vaccine, administer it to themselves and a certain number of other people, too. (This could be done, in some cases, without the recipients of the vaccine even knowing it--when you get your measles, mumps or tetanus shots, for example.) Then, they could release this new germ into the atmosphere somehow (air, water, whatever), sit back, and watch their little creation go to work.

Think about it. It would solve an awful lot of problems at once: global warming, financing retirement systems, ever-increasing unemployment and political instability. With machines to do most of the work, they don't really need that many of us anyway. We're now just a bunch of 'takers' in their eyes.

Oh--it could also solve their little Russia-problem. You know, those obstinate Russkis who seem to have some sort of problem with NATO's plan for global expansion!

Anyway, just a thought. I leave you alone now and get back to my nightmare...

KUEL of Planet X said...

Thank you Dr. Strangelove.

Ien in the Kootenays said...

Always a great read, even the comments. Since a cull of our species in overshoot is inevitable, I find myself cheering for a vigorous, fast acting infectious disease. Why? Because in the face of such a foe people can pull together and be kind to each other. I would rather live through a fierce epidemic than through a long time of starving, marauding bands of people desperately fighting each other for scraps of food and water. Of course we will most likely end up with all four horsemen. Meanwhile, here and now, we enjoy the day, cultivate the garden, and try to be kind.

Mark Ferrara said...

Great collapse porn fix Mr Orlov! I will combine the "urban sombrero" with one of those neck air conditioners. Free shipping, yay!

Of course, being realistic is not the same as being pessimistic. If you (or your readers)are not familiar with Morris Berman's work, check it out.
Thanks for your blog,

MoonShadow said...

@spigzone, the Pacific ecosystem is not "decimated", not even in the proper meaning of that term (a 10% drop, not as dramatic as it is often used). Both radiation & toxins have been part of our natural environment for millions of years, what matters most is the concentration. While I'd be wary about eating seafood caught within 500 miles or so of Japan, generally it's not dangerous to eat out of the Pacific. You'll get more radiation sitting next to a concrete block wall, or sitting under a flurocent light than you will from the Pacific ocean during the same time frame. You'll get much more sitting in the sunshine on a California beach. The type of radiation also matters, but that isn't the issue with Fukushima.

D. Mitchell said...

I live in the south east where temperatures can and do reach 108 F regularity and up to 122 F. Without electricity there are a couple options on those days, head down to the creek and get colder, go into the root cellar which is at least 3 foot under ground, take a shower for hours, hit the pool, or go for a drive really fast.

Without fossil fuel, you can still hit the creek and the root cellar. Mud still works as a great sunblock and body coolant.

While I agree Eurasia may be a great place to relocate to, so long as those methane burps aren't bad enough to turn it into a scorched landscape, the southeast US is not bad so far. I briefly seriously considered what would be needed to emigrate to Russia because I felt it was strategically located for any future calamities. The methane problems give me pause. Where we currently are, we are 700 feet or over 200 meters above sea level, we have plenty of fresh water, we have few people with in 50 miles, and we aren't foreigners trying to learn a whole new culture to fit in. In a crisis they are less likely to attack us because we are "different" since we come from America.

My kids will learn Russian, and German, and Chinese. Only because I'm not certain this is the perfect place to settle yet.

How welcoming are the Russian people to outsiders anyway? That needs to be considered if you plan to move there.

Isabella said...

Thank you for your kind response to my query re Peak Gas. I will take your word for it.

Anselmo said...

I request your permission to translate some of your posts on the "foro crashoil"(*) )dedicated to the discussion of issues related to peak oil.


Dmitry Orlov said...

Anselmo, permission granted.

Tim Bloom said...

While I appreciate your essay, you may want to be more cautious when offering flippant solutions. When I voiced the "limited nuke war" scenario at the first age of limits conference as a very good reason not to ask "our leaders" for solutions, I cautioned those listening not to ever type something so evil, even as a joke, onto the internet. As you watch a child grow, you may discover that it's best to err on the side of caution when it comes to not giving him/her ill-fated ideas in jest. I do hope that the nutters who control the world's nukes have already decided against it.

This may seem a strange fear for such a simple irony, but the same research models that can predict, for example, the outcome of a limited exchange in the sub-continent, could certainly be used to plot a course of action to find and maintain a "preferred" level of global dimming that would effect "manageable demand destruction" in-line with "reasonable resource constraints". It's not the stupid putz's who worry me, it's the clever geniuses who will end it all. Careful what you feed them.
Interesting research indeed: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2013EF000205/full

Robert Scheide said...

Just stumbled across your blog and you grabbed my interest since my thinking and yours on this topic run in parallel.

Climate Change and peak everything are upon us, doing anything about seem to be impossible.

This link to my latest post on climate change has 3 graphs embedded showing co2, temp, and glacier melt .http://thetigercage.blogspot.com/2015/01/so-you-dont-believe-man-is-affecting.html

This graph of co2 vs temp http://www.southwestclimatechange.org/climate/global/past-present
shows that for 400,000 years co2 and temp rose and fell in sync, till now.
as temp curve has reached a peak and started a decline , co2 shoots straight on up, this has never happened before.

The oceans are becoming more acidic probably do the reaching co2 saturation leaving co2 to go to atomsphere instead of into the ocean.

A quick look around the world shows blaring signs that something is tragically gone wrong. Glaciers melting, Artic ice disappearing, rain forests cut down, Great Conveyor slowing down, weather patterns changing from norm, putting some locations in flood conditions while other are in severe drought (with promises that it will get worse instead of better.

Glad to have found your blog and to see so many quality comments.

Hiruit Nguyse said...

Would love to see you interview Natalia Shakhova and Igor Semilitov on the subject of arctic methane.

Toro Loki said...

You are in the Kootenay's? We are almost neighbors. You sound like the kind of neighbor that I want.
Like you I try to enjoy the day. Got to get my new garden started. Try to be kind...:)
And as I said to our Archdruid friend a while back... When those boys on horses come along I'll offer them some homemade beer and send them on their merry way.

Isabella said...

Just copied from RT "US energy giant Chevron is terminating its operations in Romania due to poor exploration results and prolonged protests by environmentalists.The withdrawal from this fracking project will mark the end of the company’s shale gas exploration in Europe."

I don't think the protests would bother them on their own. They're big enough to pull strings. It really does look as though a lot of places have passed their "peak" and are into "gone".

Ian Graham said...

Canada is in the northern Hemi too, it's always curious to me how americocentric thinking usually leaves us out of the picture. Michael Klare did not, in his recent political analysis piece reposted on Resilience.org about a chessgame move by USSAians to commandeer all north am energy reserves under one market hegemon based on DC. I don't relish the consequences, but our Canadian dictator Harper is right on board with the plan. Even he lobbied er BO to approve the Keystone spigot.

KitschWitch said...

I think Blubberland is either-out-of-date or the author was ill-informed regarding the best places to see out climate change in the southern hemisphere.

All of tropical Australia, including the north-west, will be much hotter e.g. extreme increase in days >40C.

NZ and Tas are the best options.

As for why these are not mentioned by some commentators 1. most are north-based and northo-centric 2/ there is much less land mass in the southern hemisphere. Even though the population densities are currently small, the suitable land masses are not huge. And while NZ has plenty of good soil, Oz, including Tas, does not.

bill.everett said...

@ colinc "that video... available for more than a year yet has fewer than 600 views." But 8 months later, 2,021 views. Slowly gaining traction.

@ Dmitry "the entire northern half of Eurasia looks quite nice for the foreseeable future, so if you don't want to go extinct, you better start teaching your kids Russian." Started teaching my young kids Russian more than 15 years ago.