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Mon Dec 24, 2012, 09:16 AM

Climate change: Confessions of a Peak Oiler

Ugo Bardi is a well-known name to anyone who had been around the Peak Oil community for the last half-dozen years. It's fascinating to read this story of his journey back from peak oil to climate change, one that mirrors my own virtually word for word.

Climate change: Confessions of a Peak Oiler

My impression, at that time, was that the position of the climate concerned was untenable. Not that I became a climate change denier; not at all: the physical mechanisms of climate change have been always clear to me and I never questioned the fact that adding CO2 to the atmosphere was going to warm it. But the novelty of the concept of peak oil, the discovery of a new field of study, the implications of a decline of energy availability, all that led me to see depletion as the main challenge ahead.

That belief of mine would last a few years, but no more. The more I studied oil depletion, the more I found myself studying climate: the two subjects are so strictly related to each other that you can't study one and ignore the other. I found that climate science is not just about modern global warming. It is the true scientific revolution of the 21st century. It is nothing less than a radical change of paradigm about everything that takes place on our planet; comparable to the Copernican revolution of centuries ago.

So, step by step, I went full circle. If, at the beginning, I was more worried about depletion than about climate, now it is the reverse. Not that I stopped worrying about peak oil, I know very well that we are in deep trouble with the availability not just of oil, but of all mineral resources. But the recent events; the melting of the polar ice cap, hurricanes, droughts, wildfires and all the rest clearly show that the climate problem is taking a speed and a size that was totally unexpected just a few years ago.

Climate change is a gigantic problem: it dwarfs peak oil in all respects. We know that humans have lived for thousands of years without using fossil fuels, but they never lived in a world where the atmosphere contained more than 400 parts per million of CO2 - as we are going to have to. We don't even know if it will be possible for humans to survive in such a world.

I largely agree with his conclusion that Peak Oil may be making the problem of climate change worse, as we are driven by urgent necessity into the use of dirtier, more high-carbon fuels like tar and coal. In the end though, the denouement of the human experience depends entirely on the under-acknowledged dwell time of CO2 in the atmosphere and the unexpected rapidity of the heating that it's causing. Peak oil was interesting for a while, but as Ugo says so clearly, that isn't what's going to cause us the most grief in the coming centuries.

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Reply Climate change: Confessions of a Peak Oiler (Original post)
GliderGuider Dec 2012 OP
CRH Dec 2012 #1
NoOneMan Dec 2012 #2
GliderGuider Dec 2012 #3

Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 05:40 PM

1. Actually in 2003- 04 I wrote about the trilogy,

threatening our future, population, peak oil, and climate change. Which one would get there first, I didn't know, but the three together, spelled collapse, if nothing was done. Ten years after, nothing has been done, BAU, and more science has been released. I was never a stalwart of hope in government, therefore I have not been disappointed. My refrain is similar to many, and surprising to none, who have followed the progression. I can't believe how fast our come-up-ance, has daily reminded us, of our destiny of collective past transgression.

It is almost surreal today, in the present. Yesterday the highest priority was fuel, today, it is burning it. The three 'forces' of the apocalypse have not changed, just their order; population the foremost cause, forcing the energy to support, - fossil fuels; realizing the result - environmental contamination and climate change. The end game, an environment that won't support the specie of cause. Brutal to say it, but just deserts for an arrogant specie that viewed itself above the holistic communion that made it possible.

Peak oil was not an error, just in the wrong order with the wrong limits. In retrospect, the true peak oil should not have been based on consumption, but rather the resulting pollution of hydro carbons; that set us on an irreversible trajectory of atmospheric warming, that is resulting in a loss of compatible environment. That peak dare I say, was near the first warnings; back in the fifties, give or take a decade.

We were all late to the party, because the science known back then, was ignored except within a very small group in the 'scientific' community; and their voice was easily over shadowed or over shouted, by the nuclear hysteria, and consumption, and a misplaced belief, in government.

We chose war and the fight against communism, rather than, progression into a sustainable lifestyle. As a specie, we lost to the 'fear' politics instills, and the comfort consumption provided. The epitaph, is our departure.

edit: no change in context, just spelling

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Response to GliderGuider (Original post)

Mon Dec 24, 2012, 11:35 PM

2. The more I learn about climate change....

 

The more peak energy went from a bad thing to a thing that can't come quick enough (in the context of it eventually leading to a collapse and a reduction of emissions)

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Response to NoOneMan (Reply #2)

Tue Dec 25, 2012, 12:16 PM

3. Yes, that's the view from my end of the ship too.

Unfortunately the corollary is:

"And it's not coming fast enough."

I think that system complexity is going to play a large role in the eventual breakdown, but I've given up trying to predict specific triggers. There are too many candidates, and my attention always seems to be grabbed by whichever one I've discovered more recently.
  • Oil supplies/transportation/global supply chains;
  • Global financial complexity and shenanigans;
  • The spreading failure of Eurostates;
  • Increasingly destructive weather events;
  • Spreading global-scale droughts;
  • Declining grain harvests triggering spreading famines;
  • Regional and international wars over climate refugees, water and food.
And hanging over it all is the specter of nuclear weaponry and the potential for the failure of nuclear reactors and the associated pools of glowing goop.

In a system this primed for brittle failure, it would also only take one large natural catastrophe to trigger it. If that doesn't happen, the system has proven to be just resilient enough to keep limping along for another decade or two until some inner event cascades out of control. Smoke it while you got it.

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