Ecology and the environment

I was thinking a little more about the Ecomodernist manifesto and I realised that one problem I have is that I’m simply a physicist. I don’t really understand ecology, or how we can look after the environment while also having continued economic growth and while continuing to improve the standard of living of people on the planet. I should clarify that when I say “I don’t really understand” I don’t mean that I don’t think it’s possible; I really just mean that I personally don’t understand how we would go about doing it.

View1I have, however, lived in and seen some remarkable places on this planet. In case it isn’t obvious by now, I’m South African. In fact, I see myself as African and certainly identify with Africa more than with any other region. I was born in Cape Town and spent the first 10 years of my life living on a mountainside overlooking a large bay. My brother and I would bring home snakes that my mother would then let go into the bushes next to our house. I went to stay with a friend whose father was the head game ranger at the local game reserve. They had an injured Lynx in their garden and I remember waking up to find two bat-eared foxes wandering around the bedroom. We could see whales from the veranda of the house where my parents still live.

We moved to Durban – on the east coast – when I was about 10. I saved up to buy a paddleski (a fat surfboard that you sat on, rather than stood on), but when I finally had enough money I ended up buying one that was too small and so got a cheap surfboard from a friend, and took up surfing instead. I still surf, but it’s a damn site harder in the North Sea than in the Indian Ocean, and being closer to 50 than I would like to admit doesn’t help either. Surfing off Durban you’d see dolphins now and again, and a friend on a paddleski once shouted that he could see a fin, but didn’t tell me – till I’d paddled like mad for the beach – that, whatever it was, it was very small.

I used to go shark diving on a reef about 5 miles off the KwaZulu-Natal south coast. When the water was clear, it was amazing to be doing your 5 metre safety stop while watching 10 or 20 sharks circling below you. My wife wouldn’t dive during shark season, but I had great pleasure – during one dive – pointing out the large grey objects just behind the two pretty fish she was admiring. Admittedly, she then ran out of air a good deal faster than was normal, so the dive was somewhat shortened.

As a student we used to go hiking in the mountains and would regularly spend time at one or other of the various game reserves. One of the most memorable was staying in a bush camp; a set of small bedrooms on stilts, a kitchen, and a large veranda overlooking a river; all just in the middle of the bush. You’d spend your early mornings and late afternoons walking, and the rest of the time napping or watching the animals coming down to the river. We tracked lion (the paw prints were first seen around our cars), we had a crocodile rush out of the bushes in front of us on one walk, we sat a few yards away from a white rhino and its calf, and ran away from a black rhino.

Albatross4While doing my PhD I did 3 trips to the Antarctic, including one where I over-wintered. Standing on the helicopter deck watching wandering albatrosses gliding behind the ship is one of my fondest memories. Having Adelie penguins follow you around the bay ice is another. When the old South African base was deemed uninhabitable (being under 20 metres of ice can do that), and the new base wasn’t yet ready, we spent some time on Marion Island; a volcanic, sub-Antarctic island that was mainly used as a weather station, and whose main occupants were many types of petrels, penguins, mice, and wandering albatross chicks sitting on their mud nests.

WandererChickI’ve also lived on the East and West coasts of the USA and now live in Scotland. I’ve had the priviledge to see some of the most amazing places on this planet, and to have had many unforgettable experiences. I might only be a lowly physicist, but I find it hard to believe that the natural world doesn’t have some kind of intrinsic value, as well as being crucial for our own survival. I don’t know how we can develop a future that is good for both us and for the natural environment, but whatever we do, I just hope we don’t stuff it up.

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347 Responses to Ecology and the environment

  1. I *thought* the picture was from the Western Cape! Cape Hangklip? How beautiful it is. We still miss it terribly, and we’ve been out of SA for nearly 30 years (5 in England; 25 in Oz). Just one sample, of course, but in the 25 years we’ve lived in the mountains outside Melbourne, we’ve gone from a couple of snowfalls a year to none, the summer heat now extends a month later into the autumn and starts a month earlier. In 25 years! But of course it proves nothing by itself.

  2. Nick,
    No, that’s actually Muizenberg. Cape Hangklip would be out of shot to the right. Yes, I also miss it. It’s been almost 20 years in my case and I still regret that my children won’t experience what I did as a child.

  3. Rachel M says:

    What type of sharks were they? I’m guessing not great whites. Reef sharks?

    One of the things I miss about Australia are the animals (including the human animals that make up my family 🙂 ) Britain is a bit lacking in wildlife which is why I’m very supportive of rewilding here. But even then it will never be quite the same as the very unusual wildlife Australia has which is so unlike anywhere else on the planet. Which makes stories like these even more depressing:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-31359188

    I’m not scared of snakes but I don’t think my mother would have been very pleased if I’d brought them willingly into the house 🙂 Although it is quite common to find snakes in your house in Australia, even in the city.

  4. They were Ragged Tooth Sharks (more commonly called Raggies). Quite large, but fairly docile and I think they’d also gather on the reef during mating season, so they were even more docile than normal.

  5. Nan Morrissette says:

    Not a physicist, nor any kind of scientist, I still try to read as many papers/blogs/articles from that arena as possible. With a bit of time, I can usually understand the gist of the writing, if not every bit of detail. Charts are often helpful, as I work best with visual information, being an artist (and musician.) I was struck today by one aspect of your message: reading about others’ personal experiences of living in the world is also a very valid means of delivering data regarding climate change. Each of us is familiar with a small bit of the planet. Some, like you, have been able to know more places than others. But everyone reading about other peoples experiences of living in the natural world, and painfully, heartbreakingly watching it be polluted, destroyed or ruthlessy expolited, will relate. Your story resonates with my story, and mine will resonate with some other stranger’s. The amount of frustration, anxiety, actual fear (especially for the futures of my beautiful grandchildren) and deep sadness, are emotions all thinking people are facing.

  6. Some people ‘get’ wildlife and some people just don’t. You’re right that it is probably down to our upbringing. Although I was brought up in the back streets of a rather filthy 50’s Sheffield, I was very fortunate to have parents who were both teachers. As a result every weekend was spent in the hills and valleys of the Peak District—the nearest countryside was only a 20 minute bus ride away—and long holidays were spent away from home, camping. As a result when I wasn’t at school I was always very close to nature. I’m sure this ‘black and white’—or should that be ‘black and green’— upbringing is what gave me my environmental sensitivity.

    To me it’s common sense that harmony* with nature is an utter necessity for the continued existence of our species on this planet. Maybe it’s ideological but it will take a lot to convince me otherwise. [ *I use that word deliberately.]

  7. john,
    Yes, I did wonder if some people have simply not had a genuine wildlife experience and so simply don’t appreciate it in the way that those who have.

    To me it’s common sense that harmony* with nature is an utter necessity for the continued existence of our species on this planet.

    Yes, it seems like common sense to me too.

  8. Nan,
    Thanks.

    But everyone reading about other peoples experiences of living in the natural world, and painfully, heartbreakingly watching it be polluted, destroyed or ruthlessy expolited, will relate.

    Yes, I think you’re right that people telling others of their experiences can have a positive impact.

  9. More properly called a Caracal, but commonly called a Lynx. You’ve educated me, though, in that it isn’t actually part of the Lynx family.

  10. OPatrick says:

    it isn’t actually part of the Lynx family

    Clearly trying to demonstrate your lack of expertise in ecology! It is, of course, not part of the Lynx genus, but they are in the same family.

    I’ve always remembered the classification system using the, regrettably, unforgettable mnemonic ‘Kev, please come over for group sex’. Even more regrettably I think that will now forever be altered by a single letter for me in the future.

  11. OPatrick,
    Oh, so wrong on more than one count 🙂

  12. BBD says:

    johnrussell

    As a result every weekend was spent in the hills and valleys of the Peak District

    Me too. Macclesfield lad that I am.

  13. BBD says:

    ATTP

    I really enjoyed reading this post. Thank you. And yes, some things are at least as important as grrrrowth. I don’t really see how unending grrrrrowth can work in a finite world either. Perhaps TBI knows?

  14. John Hartz says:

    ATTP:

    You describe yourself as a “lowly physicist”. Does that mean there are “middling” physicists? “Highly” physicists?

  15. akanaja says:

    Lovely post! I’m also slightly jealous. No matter how well travelled we are, it seems we still get slightly jealous when hearing of places other people have lived that we haven’t (Antarctica and South Africa still on my bucket list, and as an ecologist/biologist, I hold out hopes that someone will pay for me to go to those areas).

    Most folks in my profession recognize that economic growth is tied to ecological integrity in the long-term. Our big problem–and this is just my uninformed economic opinion–is that our economic growth is based on short-term gain, while ecological matters require long-term thinking. E.g. some forests reach ecological maturity at 200 and more years, but “maturity” for a forester means you cut those trees at 60-80 yrs. This has resulted in some messes where a forestry plan says it’ll rotate forest cuts based on maturity (e.g. 60 yrs), while the biologists are thinking ecological maturity. So they sign off on it, and a few decades later there are no ecological mature forests, those species that depend on them are declining rapidly, and worse, the mindset of bureaucracy is “we’ve always done it this way”, and they’re reluctant to change.

    As well, those forests are not returning as quickly or in the form they originally were (due to many interacting ecological and forestry mechanical factors), foresters are cutting forests that weren’t slated to be cut for another 20-40 years, they eventually run out of the type of trees the mill was built to process, and the equipment must be upgraded to take new types of wood, or more likely in the case of large outfits that have vast tracts of land, they move on and leave a dying mill community behind. Short-term economic growth over 50-80 years, but then long-term economic decline due to a destroyed forest system that won’t regrow to sustainable harvest levels for a century or two if left alone—-and it won’t be left alone because the “junk” wood (scraggly birch/poplar) is cut and chipped for biomass so the forest won’t even reach a forester’s definition of maturity; and associated species nosedive.

    Northern Canada has many communities that have experienced an economic downturn and are dying because the forestry harvest was done based on short-term thinking rather than long-term thinking. Incidentally, there are a few communities who did long-term planning, and their economy is still okay long after “neighbours” (in the Canadian geographical sense) became ghost towns. One of the forestry scientists I worked with said, only half tongue-in-cheek, the best thing for us to do is to burn all of Northern Ontario forests to the ground and start over next century using long-term ecological thinking because that will result in long-term steady economic supply.

  16. John Hartz says:

    ATTP: Thank you for all that you have done, are doing, and will do!

  17. guthrie says:

    If it were up to me ecology would be part of the curriculum at school, although I’m not sure how effective that would be. It is however a complex subject and one that most people handwave over because it is difficult.
    One thing I’ve pointed out a few times is that you don’t see the Ecology equivalent of Spencer or Curry; ecologists are curled up in a ball in the corner crying to themselves because they’ve got an idea of the damage we are doing and will do, not out peddling propaganda to the media about how everything will be fine.

  18. Since this post is about ecology and the environment, and interesting thing about the Western Cape that I should probably have mentioned is the fynbos. This is the name given to the shrubland that you find on the mountainsides and it is – I think – one of the most diverse on the planet. Something like 9000 different species.

  19. @akanaja

    A forester friend of mine was telling me about a trip he made to France where he worked with a group of monks. These monks had a large area of woodland as part of their monastery which they tended and from which they earned a living. They kept records for every single stand of trees and told him that one area of oak trees was on its fifth rotation, each rotation being around 200 years before the trees reached maturity and could be felled for timber. Thus their records went back over 1,000 years and it would take three monk-lifetimes per cycle for oaks. He remarked how immaculate the trees were and what superb high-value timber they were producing, These monks were experts, each possessing the knowledge of generations.

    Makes our efforts at woodland management look pathetic. Short-termisim? Pah!

  20. Pingback: Rice terraces in Yunnan – Stoat

  21. Rob Nicholls says:

    I love this post. “…I find it hard to believe that the natural world doesn’t have some kind of intrinsic value, as well as being crucial for our own survival.” That really resonates with me. It would be great if the sense that non-human living things and ecosystems have intrinsic value (and are not just there for us to use and destroy as we see fit) was shared by more people.

    I suppose this may not be commonly part of people’s value systems in an increasingly consumerist and corporately-influenced society (getting our society to act as if poorer humans have intrinsic value or rights seems hard enough, and the stretch to valuing other living things seems more difficult still) and I’m not necessarily expecting everyone to change their values in time to tackle climate change and other ecological crises, so I guess there needs to be, for example, a non-infinite price on carbon emissions, better than no price at all. But it really needs to be a high price (of course with tweaks to ensure progressivity) and there needs to be an agreed overall limit to emissions or else we’re just risking wrecking everything while deluding ourselves that we’re internalising costs, and there needs to be acknowledgment that costs can never be properly internalised as the intrinsic value of ecosystems under threat cannot ever be stated monetarily, even if the risks to the ecosystems under threat could be calculated accurately, which they can’t be).

    I like guthrie’s suggestion of teaching ecology at school.

    I remember a comment on a climate blog once to the effect that economics is a subset of ecology, but that few economists realise this. I don’t know whether ecology, and perhaps just as importantly, the sense that living things and ecosystems have their own worth (as opposed to just having utility based on what humans can get from them or are prepared to pay to stop them being destroyed) is taught in many mainstream economics courses. My suspicion is not, but I may be wrong. Some dissident economists seem to suggest that the mainstream curriculum is often very narrowly neo-classical, and teaching about (and framing positively) the idea of the inherent worth of living things and their environments might be a bit off-message if that is the case. I realise there are economics schools where these things are taught and framed positively, but I don’t know how much this has impinged on the mainstream or iinfluenced those in power yet.

    I like John Russell’s emphasis on the word ‘harmony’ as well. Being in harmony with nature seems to me hard to define, but it also seems to be an odd thing to be so stridently against that you feel you have to tell people that you’re rejecting it in a manfesto.

  22. akanja,
    Thanks for the comment.

    Antarctica and South Africa still on my bucket list, and as an ecologist/biologist, I hold out hopes that someone will pay for me to go to those areas

    Both beautiful places. Would certainly recommend visiting both if you get the chance. South Africa may be easier than Antarctica though 🙂

  23. Rob,
    Thanks. I think John’s use of harmony was to counter what was said in the Ecomodernist Manifesto.

    In this, we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse.

  24. Rob Nicholls says:

    Thanks ATTP, yes, I thought that was the case, and that’s why I liked John’s deliberate use of the word ‘harmony.’

    The phrase that you put in bold above is the one I was thinking about too; it suggests to me a lack of acknowledgment of humanity’s limitations and dependence on nature.

    Happy Anthropocene to one and all!

    John Russell and BBD, I lived in Manchester for a few years and I spent a lot of happy days walking in the peak district. I remember there was always a little lizard basking in exactly the same place at a particular point on one of the footpaths out in the middle of nowhere, every time I went there. (I don’t know if it was the same lizard each time). And in summer in one place there were green tiger beetles, which I think are awesome.

  25. BBD says:

    Ok, wrong county, I know, but nowhere has a monopoly on blue remembered hills.

    Into my heart an air that kills
    From yon far country blows:
    What are those blue remembered hills,
    What spires, what farms are those?

    That is the land of lost content,
    I see it shining plain,
    The happy highways where I went
    And cannot come again.

    – W. H. Auden

  26. Willard says:

    Anecdotes. That’s just great.

    I’m out of here.

    Joking. That was your bestest, AT.

  27. JCH says:

    I thought surely a good shark would eat a socialist tyrant right off.

  28. Brandon Gates says:

    BBD,

    I don’t really see how unending grrrrrowth can work in a finite world either.

    Neither do I, but so long as it’s still operative that’s what people are going to want.

  29. BBD says:

    Drill baby, drill.

  30. Brandon Gates says:

    One WHUTTER bird-dogs many of my precautionary principle comments with: Drill here, drill now. Drill early, and often!

    Next time he does, my response will be: Yes! Geothermal wells, drill baby drill!

  31. Eli Rabett says:

    Jeff Harvey, who is an ecologist, points out continually, that the major ecological effect of humans on the world has been to simplify the ecology.

  32. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Nice post. Enjoyable read. I spent about a month driving through Namibia and then down to Cape Town about six years ago. A spectacular trip – animal watching-wise and landscape-wide. (We thought of continuing the drive on to Antarctica, but just ran out of time 🙂 ), Did some nice hikes around Cape Town and experienced the fynbos first-hand. Beautiful. The wine wasn’t too shabby, either.

    I can certainly see how spending time in South Africa would imprint preservation of the natural environment as a priority. I’ve done quite a bit of hiking in various parts of the globe and the beauty of South Africa certainly ranks near the top.

  33. BBD says:

    Brandon G

    Next time he does, my response will be: Yes! Geothermal wells, drill baby drill!

    I had imagined that geothermal was an effectively infinite resource until MacKay set me straight:

    The difficulty with making sustainable geothermal power is that the
    speed at which heat travels through solid rock limits the rate at which heat
    can be sustainably sucked out of the red-hot interior of the earth. It’s like
    trying to drink a crushed-ice drink through a straw. You stick in the straw,
    and suck, and you get a nice mouthful of cold liquid. But after a little
    more sucking, you find you’re sucking air. You’ve extracted all the liquid
    from the ice around the tip of the straw. Your initial rate of sucking wasn’t
    sustainable.

    If you stick a straw down a 15-km hole in the earth, you’ll find it’s nice
    and hot there, easily hot enough to boil water. So, you could stick two
    straws down, and pump cold water down one straw and suck from the
    other. You’ll be sucking up steam, and you can run a power station. Limit-
    less power? No. After a while, your sucking of heat out of the rock will
    have reduced the temperature of the rock. You weren’t sucking sustainably.
    You now have a long wait before the rock at the tip of your straws
    warms up again. A possible attitude to this problem is to treat geothermal
    heat the same way we currently treat fossil fuels: as a resource to be mined
    rather than collected sustainably. Living off geothermal heat in this way
    might be better for the planet than living unsustainably off fossil fuels; but
    perhaps it would only be another stop-gap giving us another 100 years of
    unsustainable living? In this book I’m most interested in sustainable energy,
    as the title hinted. Let’s do the sums.

    The TLDR is that geothermal isn’t a universal panacea. Which is a bitter pill.

  34. BBD says:

    Whoops. To be clear, this is the quote from MacKay:

    The difficulty with making sustainable geothermal power is that the
    speed at which heat travels through solid rock limits the rate at which heat
    can be sustainably sucked out of the red-hot interior of the earth. It’s like
    trying to drink a crushed-ice drink through a straw. You stick in the straw,
    and suck, and you get a nice mouthful of cold liquid. But after a little
    more sucking, you find you’re sucking air. You’ve extracted all the liquid
    from the ice around the tip of the straw. Your initial rate of sucking wasn’t
    sustainable.

    If you stick a straw down a 15-km hole in the earth, you’ll find it’s nice
    and hot there, easily hot enough to boil water. So, you could stick two
    straws down, and pump cold water down one straw and suck from the
    other. You’ll be sucking up steam, and you can run a power station. Limit-
    less power? No. After a while, your sucking of heat out of the rock will
    have reduced the temperature of the rock. You weren’t sucking sustainably.
    You now have a long wait before the rock at the tip of your straws
    warms up again. A possible attitude to this problem is to treat geothermal
    heat the same way we currently treat fossil fuels: as a resource to be mined
    rather than collected sustainably. Living off geothermal heat in this way
    might be better for the planet than living unsustainably off fossil fuels; but
    perhaps it would only be another stop-gap giving us another 100 years of
    unsustainable living? In this book I’m most interested in sustainable energy,
    as the title hinted. Let’s do the sums.

  35. BBD says:

    Sigh. And we have robots on Mars…

  36. BBD says:

    Eli

    Jeff Harvey, who is an ecologist, points out continually, that the major ecological effect of humans on the world has been to simplify the ecology.

    Ah, where did all the megafauna and all those English bee species go?

  37. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP says “I find it hard to believe that the natural world doesn’t have some kind of intrinsic value”

    Obviously it depends on how one defines “value”. If it is measured by how much one is willing to pay for it, then for me its value is high. But what is the cause of that value? It is my perception that creates value, thus it is in the eye of the beholder. There’s a strong spiritual component as well but I suspect discussion of which is verboten here.

    BBD says: “we have robots on Mars…”

    I don’t have a robot on Mars. I suspect you also do not have a robot on Mars. Not much glory for you, I think, and none for me.

  38. Brandon Gates says:

    BBD,

    This is where my standard stump speech for geothermal vs. solar vs. nukes general begins:

    http://www.eia.gov/forecasts/aeo/pdf/electricity_generation.pdf

    47.90 geothermal
    66.30 conventional combined cycle natural gas
    80.30 wind (onshore)
    84.50 hydro
    96.10 advanced nuclear
    95.60 conventional coal
    130.00 solar PV

    Figures are estimated total levelized cost without subsidies in $/MWh (2008 dollars) for new installations deployed in 2019. External costs from putative environmental impacts are not included.

    The first objection usually is, “47.90? That can’t be right!” May not be, however, the problem I most read about with geothermal is the up-front capital risk. Failure rate for a new well is about 20%, and we mostly hear about the failures, especially when Obama and loan guarantees are involved (Solyndra!!!): http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/03/business/a-us-backed-geothermal-plant-in-nevada-struggles.html

    Industry is, as industry tends to be, more optimistic about its chances:

    https://pangea.stanford.edu/ERE/pdf/IGAstandard/SGW/2007/sanyal1.pdf

    http://www.geo-energy.org/reports/Environmental%20Guide.pdf

    Cooling rate is discussed more in the first whitepaper, their levelized cost estimates are based on a 30 year production lifespan. The second link, more of an extended brochure, notes that the Geysers in California has been going for 45 years now (albeit from multiple wells), and with wastewater injection they expect to get another few decades out of it.

    I’ve read various places that one way to treat geothermal heat is something to be mined, but there are some interesting notes to that — do a rotation, because the heat will come back to a “depleted” well. And unlike an oil well, in tens of years rather than millions.

    A thing to hope for, perhaps bank on, is that deeper wells are looking more feasible. This is one of those things that we should be able to make happen, though it will probably require prying the “blocking minority’s” fingers off the public purse-strings to get it done.

  39. Adam R. says:

    When I was a boy, my friends and I could explore the bayous of Houston, TX and encounter a rich ecosystem supporting myriad species of birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians and mammals, all living in a mysterious and fascinating green world of slow streams winding among towering trees festooned with Spanish moss.

    By the time I entered college, our particular bayou had been graded smooth, channelized and paved with concrete, the better to drain the ever-expanding megalopolis.

    I am reminded of that sickening, heedless destruction for the sake of greed every time I see reports of what is happening to the last great forests left today. I feel the same sense of anger and loss now as I did then, but alas, too few of our fellow humans seem much concerned. “Lions? Elephants? Gorillas? They can still live in zoos, can’t they?”

  40. izen says:

    In Ecomodernist thought the interlocking complexity of Ecology is replaced with the singular simplicity of ‘Nature’.
    Quotes-
    ” we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse.”

    “The more likely scenario, however, is that local tourist operators will preserve that bit of the Great Barrier Reef that attracts tourists. After all, that’s what they do with Venice, ski slopes, and sandy beaches.”

  41. Roger Jones says:

    “The more likely scenario, however, is that local tourist operators will preserve that bit of the Great Barrier Reef that attracts tourists. After all, that’s what they do with Venice, ski slopes, and sandy beaches.”

    Which algal-covered bit of the Reef structure is that? Do they truly not believe the blitzkrieg that coral reef ecologies are facing? (I built a bleaching model years ago that we still use sometimes – it is officially scary)

  42. victorpetri says:

    @ATTP
    Nice blog.

    How can you be so uncertain about our coexistence with nature when you see ample evidence all around you that we are doing so quite nicely?

    Economy and environment/nature are not simply negatively correlated, they are submissive to the Kuznet curve, nature has low priority in a developing country, but once countries get developed, nature gains more priority and economic growth is spend to conserve nature.
    That’s why air and water is cleaner than it has been in over 50 years in Europe and the US, many animals are returning and expanding (wolfs, bears, bisons, salmon, beavers, storks, all type of birds etc). Nature’s reserves are expanding. The UK has the most forest as it has had in the last 500 years, e.g.
    So European and American economies have been growing, while the environment and nature have been improving. Meanwhile they also produce more (resources and manufacturing) than in the past, so it is not as if they export environmental damage.
    I think we are doing very well, and I hope we can tackle the challenge of Global warming as well. Last year the new capacity of renewable energy installed was equal to that of the total fossil fuel industry, and it is growing rapidly as well.

    I do disagree with the idea of intrinsic value for nature, I am very much a humanist, human well being is all important to me, nature just one factor to tweak. Being a geophysicist with a geology bachelor and an interest in space, has provided me a sense of relativism both in spatial and temporal sense. With near infinite time, and with over 99% of species that have ever lived that have become extinct already before mankind came to be, and an estimated 60 – 200 billion planets that are able to support life in this galaxy, I don’t really see how there is intrinsic value to the nature that is now. However, since I am very fond of the nature that is now, I do want to conserve nature, but for our sake.

  43. victorpetri says:

    ps.
    Wow what an amazing read, the ecomodernism manisfesto. Surprisingly agreeable, nothing cringeworthy, humanisticly inclined, realistic, not a doomsdayfest.

  44. vp,

    How can you be so uncertain about our coexistence with nature when you see ample evidence all around you that we are doing so quite nicely?

    Really, that’s what you took from this post?

  45. victorpetri says:

    “How can you be so uncertain about our coexistence with nature ”
    That is your main point, You say it in your introduction:
    I don’t really understand ecology, or how we can look after the environment while also having continued economic growth and while continuing to improve the standard of living of people on the planet. I should clarify that when I say “I don’t really understand”
    And end with it:
    I don’t know how we can develop a future that is good for both us and for the natural environment, but whatever we do, I just hope we don’t stuff it up.

    So it is quite sensible for me to conclude your blog was on this.

  46. Roger Jones says:

    Victor, I’ve just been chasing down some critiques of Lomborg’s 2001 book and have just come across a paper that surveys the global biological conservation literature that suggests we aren’t doing so well. Another paper that suggests the best Kuznets curves for pollution in US states are in those with the more environmental organisation members rather than being correlated with higher income. This points to direct political influence of environmentalism on environmental gain. Modern development economics is highly humanistic and environmental – the old model of stuff it up first and let it improve later is increasingly being rejected in developing countries. Another paper by Kallis, Allier and Norgaard says the real problem is paper assets, real debts, pointing to the role of gambling using finance (the biggest global ponzi scheme imaginable) and the creation of real debt through crisis that has an environmental cost (DOI 10.1108/17422040910938659). They are right and that problem is getting worse.

    Following up on your last point – nature can have no intrinsic value beyond human perception of value. The economic meaning of intrinsic value places value in what something is, not what it does. So by being fond of nature and wanting to conserve it, you are allocating it intrinsic value, opposite to what you think you are doing.

  47. victorpetri says:

    Ow, and with this: “when you see ample evidence all around you that we are doing so quite nicely” I did not mean your biography of the different locations you describe. I meant the examples I mention later, e.g. returning wildlife and forests, sorry for the confusion.

  48. vp,

    With near infinite time, and with over 99% of species that have ever lived that have become extinct already before mankind came to be, and an estimated 60 – 200 billion planets that are able to support life in this galaxy, I don’t really see how there is intrinsic value to the nature that is now.

    I thought I might comment on this a bit. Sure, there is no universally defined intrincis value, but there is value to us – those of use living on this planet now and living the lives we now live. If we want to take some kind of Darwinian approach, then we have nothing to worry about. Nothing we can do will probably destory life on this planet and there’s probably little we can do to actually threaten our own extinction. As you say, there are also an abundance of planets out there. The problem, though, is that this isn’t what people are concerned about. People are concerned that what we are doing is going to make it harder for us to continue living as we do and to increase the general standard of living of people on this planet. This isn’t about us as a species, but is about us as a civilisation.

  49. victorpetri says:

    @RJ
    I’ll quote Goklany “I am no more convinced than he is about the inevitability of progress” and that the book had stated “a democratic society, because it has the political means to do so, will translate its desire for a cleaner environment into laws, either because cleanup is not voluntary or rapid enough, or because of sheer symbolism. The wealthier such a society, the more affordable — and more demanding — its laws.”

  50. vp,

    That is your main point, You say it in your introduction:

    No, I didn’t. I simply said I don’t know how we can continue economic growth, improve general standards of living, and do so in a way that still values the environment. So, it was a future perspective and – as I explained at the end – was illustrating my ignorance of how we would do it, not that I thought it wasn’t possible.

    So it is quite sensible for me to conclude your blog was on this.

    No, it wasn’t really but I rarely succeed in convincing people that they’ve misunderstood me, so you stick with it if you wish.

  51. Andrew Dodds says:

    @Eli –

    Indeed. What people think of as ‘pristine’ nowadays means ‘human dominated but yet to be totally obliterated’. Even in deepest Amazonia.. never mind Antarctica.. human influence dominates.

    Africa is an interesting case, because the apparently wild/unspoiled nature seen in the 20th century may be a product of Rinderpest as much as anything else..

    It’s worth pointing out that much of the initial transformation of ecosystems was done by people who were far more ‘in harmony’ with nature. The hunters who removed most of the megafauna, the cottage ironworkers who removed much of the forest, the small scale, organic farmers who transformed most of the planet one field at a time .. all done with very primitive technology.

    For a technophile / techno-possible-cornucopian (have to have a conditional in there) such as myself, the answer is that we have to shrink the physical footprint of humanity. And that means more concentrated energy sources (yes, nuclear); it also means using energy and biotechnology to completely change the way we produce food, and that the physical economy must be as closed-cycle as possible. And large areas of the planet have to be left alone. Not farmed or harvested ‘sustainably’, but tourist only.

  52. entropicman says:

    There are pragmatic reasons for maintains a functional biosphere. Little things like maintaining a breathable atmosphere.

    Photosynthesis is not immediately noticed, but its absence would create problems. Yet nobody seriously considers the possibility when running out civilisation. The continuing functioning of our atmospheric processing equipment (ie. the biosphere) is taken for granted.

    A graphic example would be a nuclear submarine. Considerable time, effort, machinery and power is devoted to maintains a breathable atmosphere. No rational submariner would even consider damaging the oxygen generator.

    Possible endpoints for our own atmospheric meddling? Read about the Canfield Ocean

  53. victorpetri says:

    @ATTP

    It seems that you go in auto-attack mode anytime I post a comment.
    Anyway, I liked your blog, just wanted to paint a picture of how we can have economic growth whilst at the same time have improving nature, as has been the case for a couple of decades in the West.

  54. vp,

    It seems that you go in auto-attack mode anytime I post a comment.

    Attack? Why attack? I think you’ve misinterpreted what I was saying and have pointed out why. Why do you regard it as an attack?

    just wanted to paint a picture of how we can have economic growth whilst at the same time have improving nature, as has been the case for a couple of decades in the West.

    But I don’t think you have. You’ve asserted that everything has been going fine and that you can see no reason why it won’t continue to do so. If you want to believe that that’s fine, I’m just not sure how you’ve really painted any kind of picture of how we can have economic growth whilst still improving nature. The only thing that seem remotely like that is the idea that if we become wealthy we will want to preserve nature and so will pass laws to do so. Fine, but that seems to be the standard “let’s not actually consider this issue in any detail, let’s just assume that we will do sensible things when the times comes, despite that fact that we’ve explicitly decided not to actually consider this issue”.

  55. Rachel M says:

    Victor,

    That’s why air and water is cleaner than it has been in over 50 years in Europe and the US, many animals are returning and expanding (wolfs, bears, bisons, salmon, beavers, storks, all type of birds etc). Nature’s reserves are expanding. The UK has the most forest as it has had in the last 500 years, e.g.
    So European and American economies have been growing, while the environment and nature have been improving. Meanwhile they also produce more (resources and manufacturing) than in the past, so it is not as if they export environmental damage.

    You might want to read the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment:

    Three major problems associated with our management of the
    world’s ecosystems are already causing significant harm to some
    people, particularly the poor, and unless addressed will substantially
    diminish the long-term benefits we obtain from ecosystems:
    ■ First, approximately 60% (15 out of 24) of the ecosystem
    services examined during the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
    are being degraded or used unsustainably, including fresh water,
    capture fisheries, air and water purification, and the regulation of
    regional and local climate, natural hazards, and pests. The full
    costs of the loss and degradation of these ecosystem services are
    difficult to measure, but the available evidence demonstrates that
    they are substantial and growing. Many ecosystem services have
    been degraded as a consequence of actions taken to increase the
    supply of other services, such as food. These trade-offs often shift
    the costs of degradation from one group of people to another or
    defer costs to future generations.
    ■ Second, there is established but incomplete evidence that
    changes being made in ecosystems are increasing the likelihood
    of nonlinear changes in ecosystems (including accelerating,
    abrupt, and potentially irreversible changes) that have important
    consequences for human well-being. Examples of such changes
    include disease emergence, abrupt alterations in water quality,
    the creation of “dead zones” in coastal waters, the collapse of
    fisheries, and shifts in regional climate.

    and more:

    The structure and functioning of the world’s ecosystems
    changed more rapidly in the second half of the twentieth
    century than at any time in human history. [1]
    ■ More land was converted to cropland in the 30 years after
    1950 than in the 150 years between 1700 and 1850. Cultivated
    systems (areas where at least 30% of the landscape is in croplands,
    shifting cultivation, confined livestock production, or
    freshwater aquaculture) now cover one quarter of Earth’s terrestrial
    surface. (See Figure 1.) Areas of rapid change in forest land
    cover and land degradation are shown in Figure 2.
    ■ Approximately 20% of the world’s coral reefs were lost and
    an additional 20% degraded in the last several decades of the
    twentieth century, and approximately 35% of mangrove area was
    lost during this time (in countries for which sufficient data exist,
    which encompass about half of the area of mangroves).
    ■ The amount of water impounded behind dams quadrupled
    since 1960, and three to six times as much water is held in
    reservoirs as in natural rivers. Water withdrawals from rivers
    and lakes doubled since 1960; most water use (70% worldwide)
    is for agriculture.
    ■ Since 1960, flows of reactive (biologically available) nitrogen
    in terrestrial ecosystems have doubled, and flows of phosphorus
    have tripled. More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer,
    which was first manufactured in 1913, ever used on the planet has
    been used since 1985.

    and:

    ■ The number of species on the planet is
    declining. Over the past few hundred years,
    humans have increased the species extinction
    rate by as much as 1,000 times over background
    rates typical over the planet’s history (medium
    certainty). (See Figure 4.) Some 10–30% of
    mammal, bird, and amphibian species are
    currently threatened with extinction (medium to
    high certainty). Freshwater ecosystems tend to
    have the highest proportion of species threatened
    with extinction.
    ■ Genetic diversity has declined globally,
    particularly among cultivated species.

  56. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    If we don’t want to preserve nature then, well, we don’t, and it doesn’t matter, apparently, because we wouldn’t care.

    But returning to: cleaner air, cleaner water, more abundant wildlife, return of many large mammals and birds, increasing forest cover, more nature reserves, swimmable rivers, less polution, decarbonising economic growth. These are all measured facts in the West, most are decade long trends, when we had economic growth as well.
    You’re the one armwaving, screaming wolf. I am not saying it will be fine, whatever (where did I say this? It must be the auto-attack mode speaking, everything I say is assumed to be the worst), I am saying you can look at reality (the past) and see how economic growth and an improving nature have gone together.

  57. entropicman says:

    The whole category of ways in which we benefit economically, spiritually or physically from ecology has become known as ecosystem services It is a long list.

  58. vp,

    If we don’t want to preserve nature then, well, we don’t, and it doesn’t matter, apparently, because we wouldn’t care.

    What? How can it not matter? It’s as if you think that somehow we are independent of the natural world. I don’t think we are.

    You’re the one armwaving, screaming wolf.

    Where? If you want to know why I respond to your comments as I do, this is the perfect illustration. A statement of what I’m supposedly doing that you don’t bother quantifying and that is somewhat insulting.

    I am not saying it will be fine, whatever (where did I say this? It must be the auto-attack mode speaking, everything I say is assumed to be the worst), I am saying you can look at reality (the past) and see how economic growth and an improving nature have gone together.

    Yes, I know, this is what I thought I suggested you had said. Okay, maybe you didn’t say it would be fine, but you did say that you look at the past and see how economic growth and improving nature had gone together. Therefore, I assumed that you meant continued economic growth would be good for nature. I don’t think this is true, but I fail to see how I misinterpreted what you were suggesting.

  59. vp,

    cleaner air, cleaner water, more abundant wildlife, return of many large mammals and birds, increasing forest cover, more nature reserves, swimmable rivers, less polution, decarbonising economic growth. These are all measured facts in the West, most are decade long trends, when we had economic growth as well.

    Whether or not this is true, I also think you miss a point. It’s clear that there have been periods (and continue to be) where we drive economic growth at the expenses of nature. We may then go through a period where we realise the value of nature and rectify much of what we’ve already done. However, the idea that economic growth and protecting the environment goes together does not seem to be something that one can regard as always being true.

  60. Rachel M says:

    Optimism is a nice quality. I like to think I’m a fairly optimistic person. But I’m not optimistic by ignoring the facts:

    Source for both images is:
    http://www.millenniumassessment.org/documents/document.356.aspx.pdf

    It’s true that temperate forest cover is increasing which is a good thing. But most other global indicators of ecosystem health are in decline. How can we possibly change this if we ignore that there’s a problem in the first place?

  61. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    ” However, the idea that economic growth and protecting the environment goes together does not seem to be something that one can regard as always being true.”
    No, hence the Kuznet curve.
    And rightfully so, in early development people have other priorities than conserving nature, such as eating.. And the point is, although environmental protection, by and large, comes at the cost of economic growth, this is a price we are willing to pay, and as can be plainly shown, we can still have economic growth then. This is because our economy is not simply a derivative of nature’s bounty, but a construct of our ideas and our knowledge.
    “What? How can it not matter? It’s as if you think that somehow we are independent of the natural world.”
    I agree with the eco manifesto:
    Current and future generations could survive and prosper materially on a planet with much less biodiversity and wild nature.
    But to be clear, I do want to conserve nature, because I like it.

  62. Rachel M says:

    Water quality in about a quarter of New Zealand’s lakes and rivers is declining mostly due to dairy farming:
    https://www.niwa.co.nz/publications/wa/water-atmosphere-1-july-2010/how-clean-are-our-rivers

  63. victorpetri says:

    @Rachel,

    You were aware that I was talking about the West, right?

    Btw, I am always surprised by the incredibly low number of known extinct species. About a 100 for the 20th century, about 800 since 1500. Before I learned this, I would have guessed it to be higher.

  64. Andrew Dodds says:

    @aTTP

    Yes, China has had just a few issues with pollution to go with its economic growth.

    And in the west, it was certainly not growth that lead to a cleaner environment, it was the (shock! horror!) government passing and enforcing laws against acute pollution that did it.

  65. izen says:

    @-victorpetri

    All you say about the improvements the rich developed societies have made to their environmental impact are true. And deserve due credit and consideration in estimating how much impact the increasing wealth of other societies will have.

    Unfortunately the improvements made, and the increased value given to the environment is almost entirely a local effect. And confined to correcting past damage rather than protecting extant systems.

    Modern intensive agriculture allows more food to be grown on less land. Reducing impacts, making room for more land to be ‘set aside’ allowed to return to its (entirely fictitious) ‘Natural’ state.
    But it does nothing to solve the bigger issue of a changing climate displacing any stable ‘natural’ state it could achieve, and probably impacting the simpler managed ecology of intensive agriculture as well.
    Bees come to mind….

    An example.
    The same person who suggested that the loss of the GBR could be offset by setting aside a protected theme park version for the tourists, also suggested that the major change that overfishing and acidification are having on the oceans could be offset by fish-farming because it could be carried out in a controlled environment.

    This I think is the actual form of the separation between human enterprise and ‘Nature’ that is implicit in the statement –
    “In this, we affirm one long-standing environmental ideal, that humanity must shrink its impacts on the environment to make more room for nature, while we reject another, that human societies must harmonize with nature to avoid economic and ecological collapse.”

    The notion that fish-farming is a viable alternative if the ocean ecology is reduced to plankton and jellyfish is unlikely to be realistic.

  66. victorpetri says:

    @AD
    “Yes, China has had just a few issues with pollution to go with its economic growth.
    And in the west, it was certainly not growth that lead to a cleaner environment, it was the (shock! horror!) government passing and enforcing laws against acute pollution that did it.”

    That is an incomplete assessment.
    It was growth (shock! horror!), because thanks to economic growth, people having their basic needs met, they then had room to care about their environment and they urged their governments to tackle pollution.
    Similarly in China, after prioritizing growth for so long, the government is now starting to tackle pollution, because the people demand it.

  67. John Hartz says:

    I cannot help but note that victorpetri provides absoutely zero documentation when he makes assertions such as:

    Btw, I am always surprised by the incredibly low number of known extinct species. About a 100 for the 20th century, about 800 since 1500. Before I learned this, I would have guessed it to be higher.

    Source please.

  68. Sam Taylor says:

    VP

    re extinct animals, actually quite a thorny subject. For anything to be declared extinct it has to have not been seen for something like 30 years, so anything which has gone extinct since somewhere in the mid 80’s still won’t have been ‘classified’ yet. Plus, how % of species do we keep that close tabs on? Mostly they’re things like big charismatic animals (think panda bears), which when they get close to extinction we put tremendous effort into conserving. Unsexy species of insect, or plant are of much less interst to us. Plus, species more likely to go extinct are those with smaller populations, which of course means that it’s more likely that these species are going to be unknown to science and much harder to keep tabs on.

    There’s also likely an extinction debt, insofar as when habitat is destroyed species don’t immediately go extinct, but can scratch out a living for a little while. Most recent estimates put current extinction rates at something like 1,000 times above background ( http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12380/abstract ) which isn’t quite end Permian levels, but we’re getting there.

    Those interested in a well written account of the current extinction might enjoy Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent book.

    Anyway, the main problem I see with the eco-modernist nonsense is that we’ll just run into more progress traps, and we’ve no guarantee of solving them. The green revolution might have proven Paul Ehrlich wrong, but now we’ve got about 5 billion more people to feed and we’re once again running into declining yields. We’re good at solving short term problems, but terrible at thinking about their long term consequences. When twinned with human nature (I believe that we’re largely predictable animals on the large scale) the eco-modernist proposals are a sure way to condemn ourselves and much of the biosphere to an unpleasant and ugly end. We might be clever, but we are by no means wise.

    I don’t know how many people here are familiar with the work of West and Bettencourt ( see eg http://www.pnas.org/content/104/17/7301.abstract ) but insistence on growth and innovation always leads to an accellerating treadmill and a seemingly inevitable finite-time singularity, leading to collapse. If you’re playing a game you can’t win, might be a good idea to think about switching games, no?

  69. VictorP is simply trolling. His “just wanted to paint a picture of how we can have economic growth whilst at the same time have improving nature, is unadulterated bollocks. Where’s his evidence to back it up, other than his general impression? For instance the idea that the UK now has more forest cover than it had 100 years ago is only superficially true. It doesn’t account for the fact that the quality is much reduced. Much of the forest is stands of commercial conifers lacking in biodiversity, and young deciduous woodland is badly damaged by pests and disease. At the same time we have lost much ecologically-irreplaceable ancient woodland. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-26340039

    VP’s arguments remind me of the sort of arm-waving that claims that tropical tree cover is as extensive as it’s always been, carefully avoiding to say that much of that tree cover is now actually ecologically-dead oil palm plantations (still, technically, ‘trees’). Stand in some remaining Borneo rain forest and the whooping, clicking, buzzing, ticking and singing of the wildlife is deafening. Walk just a few 100 metres sideways into an oil palm plantation and the cacophony fades away until it’s totally silent. I’ve done that; I know.

  70. Rachel M says:

    Yes, Victor, I know you’re referring to the west but I can’t see any evidence to suggest that what you’re saying is correct. Did you get your information from Matt Ridley? Temperate forests have increased in some places but not all. Have a look at the article linked to. And where have large mammals increased? Australia is a developed country and it is fast losing its mammals.

    As for water quality, in New Zealand it is declining. I think what may have happened in many developed countries last century is pathogens have declined due to better sewerage treatment while nitrates have increased.

    I’m not sure about the US but there’s some info here:
    http://www.usgs.gov/blogs/features/usgs_top_story/the-quality-of-the-nations-groundwater/

    They say:

    Concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, and nitrate, indicators of human influence on groundwater quality, increased from the 1990s to 2010 in shallow groundwater in many parts of the Nation.

  71. Eli Rabett says:

    The giggles will start when those whose recreation is hunting and fishing figure out that there will be none of that in ecomodernist Biosphere 3. BTW, look how well Biosphere 2 turned out.

  72. Eli Rabett says:

    And you, you over there. Leave those snakes alone, they belong to Nature.

  73. This view would seem to be quantifiable. Does anyone know if it has actually been addressed in any way?

    Current and future generations could survive and prosper materially on a planet with much less biodiversity and wild nature.

    Eli,
    You sound like my mother 🙂

  74. Carl says:

    Yes, jet around and see the wildlife. Obviously none of you bunch actually think that human CO2 emissions represent any problem.

  75. Roger Jones says:

    ATTP. Not quantifiable. And listen to your mother.

  76. Roger,
    Thanks, and of course 🙂

  77. Carl,
    Just thought I would post your comment as an illustration.

  78. John Hartz says:

    Here’s an excellent source of information about the extinction of life on planet Earth.

    Good morning. Welcome to The Sixth Extinction! A website about the current extinction or biodiversity crisis. Extinction is a natural feature of evolution because for some species to succeed, others must fail. Since life began, about 99 percent of the earth’s species have disappeared and, on at least five occasions, huge numbers have died out in a relatively short time. The most recent of these mass extinctions, about 65 million years ago, swept away the dinosaurs and many other forms of life. However, despite such catastrophes, the total number of living species has, until recently, followed a generally upward trend.

    Today, the extinction rate is increasing rapidly as a result of human interference in natural ecosystems. Primates, tropical birds, and many amphibians are particularly threatened. For the foreseeable future, this decline is set to continue because evolution generates new species far more slowly than the current rate of extinction. A new and current mass extinction commonly referred as The Sixth Extincion.

    http://www.petermaas.nl/extinct/index.html

  79. victorpetri says:

    @john hartz
    It’s on here, the site mentioned by attp, I assumed people read it as well:
    http://www.ecomodernism.org/manifesto/ But I have read it elsewhere as well.
    @ST
    It is a thorny subject, what I find to be controversial is the species-area relationship that tend to overestimate extinction rates, that tends to be used so much.
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v473/n7347/full/nature09985.html
    It does not tend to work well on continental scale.
    @jr40
    Rate of deforestation is declining
    http://web.utk.edu/~mtaylo29/pages/global%20deforestation%20rate%20declining.html
    http://earthinnovation.org/our-work/case-studies/amazon-deforestation/

    @Rachel
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_pollution_in_the_United_States
    And on water, I’ll look for a source on that, but I know here in Europe many places where you weren’t allowed to swim due to pollution, are so clean that you can swim there now.

  80. Eli Rabett says:

    Current and future generations could survive and prosper materially on a planet with much less biodiversity and wild nature.

    In one sense we already are and have been since about 12000 years ago, OEOE Biosphere 2 was had a lot less biodiversity and wild nature and that did not end well so there are limits and we may be nearing a few dozen of them.

  81. Joshua says:

    Personally, I think that there are some really interesting, complex, and important arguments here. It is true that “nature” was never static, and so from a philosophical perspective I can understand calls to not reflexively reject change. At it’s heart, I think that is an interesting question that, perhaps, runs throughout much of the “Manifesto.”

    What’s unfortunate, however, is that IMO the “manifesto” is presented as if it lies outside of the political and ideological context in which it is to be received. Within that context, it would be nice to see a good exchange where the varying perspectives are exchanged (take note, Victor). In fact, the whole notion of a “manifesto” strikes me as polemic at its very root. It is a one-sided exposition that only superficially engages counterarguments (the one that jumped out at me was the facile way that it dealt with the impact of development on water – for example, questions related to agricultural development and the diversion of water resources to crops for animal feed). It isn’t an invitation to a dialogue, by its very nature. Looking up synonyms for manifesto I see “platform” and “mission statement.” It isn’t unreasonable to me that the “Manifesto-ers” would anticipate a harsh and vitriolic reaction; in that sense, I can understand why they feel a need to make a policy statement, but ultimately (IMO), the question should be how to avoid sameolsameol.

  82. Sam Taylor says:

    Except there’s more recent evidence that deforestation is actually accelerating, not declining, see eg the recent work of Kim: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2014GL062777/full?campaign=wlytk-41855.5282060185

    Also, the paper I referenced doesn’t invoke the species area relationship.

  83. victorpetri says:

    @ST
    That would be sad news, although the link you post does seem to indicate a deceleration after 2005.
    “Also, the paper I referenced doesn’t invoke the species area relationship.”
    Maybe not, but it is often used.
    @Joshua
    It is what it is.
    You can read e.g. Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline, a book that might as well lay at the heart of this initiative. A very readable book, which goes more in depth to this manifesto on many issues.

  84. VictorP: “Rate of deforestation is declining”

    Yep, the rate of deforestation is declining. But doesn’t the rate we lose things always decline as we run out of it? And what is meant by ‘declining’? You completely avoided my point that many of the areas classified as ‘forests’ are not ecologically-rich ‘old forest’ but are actually oil palm and rubber plantations which are — in the case of palm oil — chopped down and replanted every 30 years.

  85. Joshua,
    I think you make a good point. It’s clear that nature isn’t static and that there isn’t an easily defined “ideal” for the natural world. On the other hand, we’re really not truly seperate from nature (or, at least, I think this is true) and so it would seem sensible to be able to consider our place in nature and what impact our actions will have on the natural world (and I realise that my terminology isn’t ideal, but hopefully it is obvius). It does seem, though, that there are some who think that we can regard ourselves as completely outside nature and that we can somehow compensate for any changes to the natural world. It’s not clear to me that the latter is true, and it would be interesting to know if we could somehow determine some point at which the changes we’ve made would almost certainly have a negative impact on our ability to survive. This is what motivated my question here, but Roger’s response suggests that it isn’t possible to actually quantify.

  86. victorpetri says:

    @jr40
    “But doesn’t the rate we lose things always decline as we run out of it?”
    That’s not the reason, there still is plenty to have a high declination rate.

    ” You completely avoided my point that many of the areas classified as ‘forests’ are not ecologically-rich ‘old forest’ ”
    Well that’s a pity. Still however, I found it encouraging news. You seem to be allergic to good news, or you might not know something is good new even if it would hit you on the head.
    http://www.fao.org/forestry/30515/en/
    This year the fao comes with a new report.

  87. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    I’d like to quote William McDonough from his Ted talk:
    “So what are our intentions, and what would our intentions be — if we wake up in the morning, we have designs on the world — well, what would our intention be as a species now that we’re the dominant species? And it’s not just stewardship and dominion debate, because really, dominion is implicit in stewardship — because how could you dominate something you had killed? And stewardship’s implicit in dominion, because you can’t be steward of something if you can’t dominate it.”
    Placing ourselves outside of nature puts us away from nature’s mercy, its dog eat dog harshness, and leaves us to dominate and be its steward. We are the salt of the earth.

  88. vp,

    You seem to be allergic to good news, or you might not know something is good new even if it would hit you on the head.

    You seem capable of seeing it everywhere, which is nice.

    The rate of deforestation shows signs of decreasing – but is still alarmingly high.

    which – in case it’s not clear – is from your link.

    Look, it’s one thing to see silver linings and to be positive about our ability to address whatever we might face. Completely ignoring that there are risks or that we may actually be doing something that could be damaging just seems naive, to me at least.

  89. victorpetri says:

    Link to that, it’s a nice TED talk btw:

  90. vp,
    I’ve not really got a particularly good idea what you’re trying to suggest by your quote. It’s clear that we dominate nature. It would be naive to suggest otherwise. None of that means that we are incapable of making stupid decisions about how to dominate the natural world. I have a feeling that you’re reading far too much into this post and rather making up what you think my views are. Maybe you could stop doing that?

  91. victorpetri says:

    @ATTP
    “The rate of deforestation shows signs of decreasing – but is still alarmingly high.”
    I did read that to but come on:

    I am not a lunatic, this is just positive development, live with it.

  92. vp,

    I am not a lunatic, this is just positive development, live with it.

    Maybe you could try acknowledging the points that others are making too. Just a thought mind you. Maybe also consider that your attempts to highlight only positives and no negatives is simply the intellectual inverse of over-riding alarmism. As I said above, I think you’re reading too much into this post and interpreting my views in ways that are not consistent with what I write or with what I actually think. Any chance you could try and not do that?

  93. victorpetri says:

    @ATTP
    My point is that we shouldn’t want to be part of nature, because in general living in nature and living by nature’s rules, sucks, it plainly does. Furthermore, if we want to steward nature, this can only be done correctly from above it, not when being a part of it. We need dominate and steward it.

  94. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    Luckily, the response I got here from everyone was fair, unprejudiced and not at all interpretative of my views.

  95. vp,
    I can’t remember if I used the specific term “part of nature” but if I did I certainly didn’t mean going back to living in the veld, hunting antelopes and running away from lions. I simply meant that we live on a planet with a biosphere which influences the atmospheric composition. We eat fish and other animals. Insects pollinate our plants. We may not be part of it as we were thousands of years ago, but I fail to see how we can regard ourselves as completely separate and uninfluenced by nature. Yes, we dominate it. Yes, we will have to steward it. However, none of that means that we’re incapable of stuffing it up. That we dominate and will have to steward it is kind of the point. Doing it in a way that is optimal is not going to happen by accident, though.

    Quite why you think that I was suggesting that we somehow immerse ourselves back in nature is completely beyond me.

  96. vp,

    Luckily, the response I got here from everyone was fair, unprejudiced and not at all interpretative of my views.

    Brilliant excuse.

  97. jsam says:

    A lower rate of increase to praise the thinnest kid at fat camp. Real good news is more than just still getting bad but a bit more slowly.

  98. snarkrates says:

    I love “magic of the marketplace” glibertarians, because in the same breath they’ll say we are too dim to manage something as simple as an economy and wise enough to manage something as complicated as ecology.

  99. izen says:

    @-victorpetri
    “That is an incomplete assessment.
    It was growth (shock! horror!), because thanks to economic growth, people having their basic needs met, they then had room to care about their environment and they urged their governments to tackle pollution.”

    That, is an incomplete assessment. Sometimes, even before economic Grrrowth, people could recognise the pollution and damage to their environment, and would urge their government, or divine monarch, tyrant or caesar, to tackle the problem.
    Sometimes government would detect damage unremarked by the general populace because of its larger scale overview and would be motivated to take action because of the detectable social and economic harm continued suboptimal practises would cause.
    The feudal city-states of the 11th Century were rife with regulations driven by both forces.

    However, often attempts to regulate activities that were identified as damaging the environment would be opposed by the economic interests that were causing the problem. For a topical example of this, the public in the US seem to care about the danger of exploding rail trucks carrying oil, and drinking water sources contaminated by coal ash. Probably because of recent rather major problems that have damaged the environment, and endangered lives. Campaigns are being mounted to improve regulation…
    However the respective industries are lobbying hard to prevent or dilute any such increased regulation.

    The various improvements in environmental conditions that certain Western nations have made over the last five decades have been made in the face of persistent opposition. It is difficult to avoid the suspicion that this Panglossian exegesis of recent history is anything more than the lastest, rather familiar tactic, That of claiming credit for any past improvements and asserting that negates the need to actively seek further regulatory action. In a Ground-hog day type repeat of the arguments for denial and delay seen in Lead, Asbestos, SOx, CFCs, DDT…
    I would suggest that success in all of the previous cases may have required an ‘availability cascade’!
    (grin)

  100. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    ==> “It does seem, though, that there are some who think that we can regard ourselves as completely outside nature and that we can somehow compensate for any changes to the natural world.”

    Actually, from what I’ve seen I think that is a misconception. From what I can gather, the eco-modernist ideology is tied to a belief that a meaningful distinction between humans and “nature’ doesn’t really exist. The thinking seems to be that the impact that we have on our environment is not meaningfully (and objectively) distinguishable from a natural process of change. The environment always has and always will change irrespective of our actions.

    That, of course, doesn’t settle the issue of weighing net benefits of our impact – but it does create, IMO, an interesting counterargument to a perspective that human impact is necessarily anti-nature or a perspective that changing the natural environment as the result of our impact is “bad” in some objective sense. Or course, as with all of these issues, those perspectives that I’ve just describe are mostly caricature – and IMO don’t exist in reality near as much as folks like those who wrote the “Manifesto” seem to think.

  101. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    ==> “t was growth (shock! horror!), because thanks to economic growth, people having their basic needs met, they then had room to care about their environment and they urged their governments to tackle pollution.”

    I link to Amartya Sen a lot, because I think his work addresses this issue in an interesting way. IMO, the mechanism of causality that your describe between economic growth ===> environmental protection is simplistic. There are many other factors involved. Perhaps there is another causal mechanism in play, where economic growth is a moderator or mediator between a causality between freedom/civil society and environmental protection. I’m not suggesting that the causality is actually that simple either – just giving that as a hypoethtical to outline the many possibilities that you have ignored.

  102. John Hartz says:

    Two points about the “rate of deforestationn” graphic posted by victorpetri above.

    1. It is for the Amazon forest only.

    2. It ends in 2011.

    What is the source of this graphic and what does the blue line represent?

  103. Joshua,

    From what I can gather, the eco-modernist ideology is tied to a belief that a meaningful distinction between humans and “nature’ doesn’t really exist. The thinking seems to be that the impact that we have on our environment is not meaningfully (and objectively) distinguishable from a natural process of change. The environment always has and always will change irrespective of our actions.

    Possibly. In some sense this has to be true and we can certainly regard ourselves as simply part of nature and therefore that anything we happen to do is natural. That, however, doesn’t preclude the possibility of naturally doing something particularly stupid.

  104. John Hartz says:

    Speaking about what’s happening in the Amazon rainforest…

    The amount of carbon the Amazon’s remaining trees removed from the atmosphere fell by almost a third last decade, leading scientists to warn that manmade carbon emissions would need to be cut more deeply to tackle climate change.

    Trees in untouched areas of the forest have been dying off across the basin at an increasing rate, found the study*, published in Nature on Wednesday. Meanwhile the tree growth produced by higher CO2 levels in recent decades levelled off.

    The authors said this may be because the Amazon’s seasonal weather variation had become more extreme. They also suggested more CO2 in the atmosphere was, counterintuitively, leading to trees dying younger.

    Dr Roel Brienen of Leeds University said the Amazon was responsible for one-fifth to one-quarter of carbon sequestered on land, so any decline in its efficiency as a carbon sink was of consequence to efforts to combat climate change.

    Amazon’s trees removed nearly a third less carbon in last decade – study* by Karl Mathiesen, The Guardian, Mar 18, 2015

    *Long-term decline of the Amazon carbon sink, R. J. W. Brienen, et al, Nature 519, 344–348 (19 March 2015) doi:10.1038/nature14283

  105. VictorP: “You seem to be allergic to good news, or you might not know something is good new even if it would hit you on the head.”

    Yep, good news: I’m not beating my wife as much as I used to.

    Good news will be when we’ve halted deforestation. You don’t seem to get the very simple concept that re-planted forest is not the same as not chopping down old-growth forest in the first place. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old-growth_forest

    This article explains the issue very well: http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0826-hance-primary-forest-policy.html

    Despite the many unique characteristics of primary forests, these long-untouched ecosystems have not been given special status by many conservation initiatives or under current climate change groups working to stem forest loss.

    “The definition of ‘forests’ as agreed under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change does not distinguish between primary forests, logged forests, young re-growth forests and plantations forests,” explained Mackey. “The definition includes vegetation canopy as low as two meters. We need formal definitions of forests that recognize these differences.”

    Even more worryingly, the new study found that only 22 percent of the world’s standing primary forests are currently protected, this amounts to only five percent of the world’s pre-agriculture forests. Even those found in protected areas are not wholly secure as many countries are opening up, and in some cases even abolishing, protected areas for mining, logging, fossil fuels, and other industries.

    So: we’re continuing to lose high-ecological-value old-growth forest at the same or faster rate than ever, and destroying the habitat of millions of animals from bears to wolves and leopards to orang utans, but—good news—we’re planting a narrow selection of low ecological-value young trees at an increased rate, thus creating a reduced rate of loss of forest cover. So that’s good news?

  106. Joshua says:

    ==> “That, however, doesn’t preclude the possibility of naturally doing something particularly stupid.”

    Agreed. Not at all. On the other hand, it suggests that humans changing the environment isn’t inherently anti-nature, or “bad.” That’s a tough nut to crack when you’ve gone for hikes around Stellenboch or watched whales and ostriches at the Cape of Good Hope, seen the wildflowers in West Coast National Park….

  107. Joshua,

    On the other hand, it suggests that humans changing the environment isn’t inherently anti-nature, or “bad.”

    Sure, but isn’t that because defining something as being “bad” requires some kind of framework. If we simply regard nature as being all encompassing, then there is no easy way to define some kind of morality. It would seem that the one factor that does distinguish us from nature is our sense that we can define frameworks in which something can be regarded as “good”, “bad’, ……

  108. John Hartz says:

    More disconcerting news about what’s happening to the Amazon rainforest…

    Cattle-ranching, logging, mining, highways, hydroelectric dam projects, oil and gas, soy, oil palm. . . These are what first come to mind to many people when thinking about how the Amazon is being destroyed, but what about chocolate too?

    NGO Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) released a report on 7 April mainly about monoculture oil palm plantations, which it describes as a “major new threat to Peruvian forests.” The report, Deforestation by Definition, focuses on the Romero Group, Peru’s “largest economic actor”, and what it calls the “Melka Group”, a network of 25 companies recently established in Peru and controlled by businessman Dennis Melka, a major player in the destructive oil palm industry in Malaysia.

    According to EIA, two “Melka Group” companies have illegally deforested an estimated “nearly 7,000 hectares” of mainly primary rainforest in Peru over the last three years, and others have acquired at least 456 “rural properties” and requested the government set aside another 96,192 hectares.

    Can Peru stop ‘ethical chocolate’ from destroying the Amazon? by David Hill, The Guradian, Apr 17, 2015

  109. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    I’m a little stuck here because I’m trying to engage from a perspective that I haven’t really read in depth and don’t fully understand. I can just say that I’ve read some stuff that is somewhat related to the kind of ideology suggested by the “Manifesto,” and found myself thinking through some of my previously held conceptions about the impact of humans on nature, from a mindset that the two entities were distinct from one-another. I do think that there’s some interesting stuff out there about an evolution in the thinking of some about “conservation” or environmentalism.” Keith Kloor has had a couple of interesting posts on related topics. This one:

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/collideascape/2015/01/09/crisis-conservation-largely-ignored-media/#more-14222

    And I found this article he linked interesting:

    http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/bridging-conservation-divide

    And also this one:

    http://ensia.com/features/is-conservation-extinct/

  110. Joshua,
    Interesting, thanks. Those, though, seem to be illustrating how difficult it is to come up with an accepted motivation for conservation because of whether or not nature has some kind of intrinsic value or simply has a value that is related to how changes would directly – and quantifiably – impact us.

  111. John Hartz says:

    Joshua & ATTP:

    Keith Kloor may not be the most credible source on this topic, or any other topic for that matter.

  112. Joshua says:

    John –

    ==> “Keith Kloor may not be the most credible source on this topic, or any other topic for that matter.”

    That looks like the argument (ad hom) I typically see from “skeptics.” I certainly have had my disagreements with Keith (take a look at the comment thread in his “farewell” post that’s up now) – but he wrote an article that, IMO, presented a range of interesting views on an interesting topic.

    I find it interesting to observe different streams in these discussions. The “hippie-punchers” are an interesting stream, IMO, because at the root they present some very challenging arguments. That, of course, doesn’t excuse their polemics.

  113. Joshua says:

    Anders –

    Re: your 7:07. Yeah. Those articles were kind of on a different topic. I’ll look around and see if I can find something that is more precisely on point.

  114. Joshua,

    take a look at the comment thread in his “farewell” post that’s up now

    Yes, I did see that.

  115. Eli Rabett says:

    One is tempted to recycle dsquared on Iraq, wrt Kloor on anything

    It is a policy backed by Kloor
    It is significant enough in scale that Eli would have heard of it (at a pinch, that Eli should have heard of it)
    It wasn’t in some important way completely f—ed up during the execution.

    And no, this is simply an observation of past performance.

  116. GSR says:

    I am not in the least bit spiritual. I live in Australia and frequently have to work in the out-back. It bores me and I get this weird ‘vastness’ claustrophobia. But when I visit Africa I feel like I’ve come home, yet everything is unfamiliar. I can’t explain it. I first traveled to the front-line states in 1985, worked in Cape Town and the Western Cape on a 3 month project in 2007 and I holiday there whenever possible.

    My 12 year old son was taught to surf at Muizenberg where you lived as a child. His teacher was an RSA surfing champion. I love the joint. If it’s a choice between Paris and the Cape then it would be the Cape every time.

  117. Andrew Dodds says:

    @Joshua

    Speaking as a hippie-puncher..(well, more like tickler)

    I sometimes think that there is (c-word alert) a comfortable consensus amongst the more green people that some combination of renewables, a bit of efficiency, better insulation, organic farming et. al. could fairly easily fix our problems. And it often comes with fairly awful statistics – the classic ‘Project X will power Y homes’ with no other context (capacity factors, cost per kWh, scalability, etc..) Or ‘percent of new capacity installed’. Or ‘X percent of electricity is renewable, and wind+solar are growing at Y percent a year’. Or conflation of ‘total energy’ and ‘electricity generation’.

    Explaining that farming itself is a priori extremely destructive of the environment no matter how you do it seems a non-starter, despite being trivially true.

    And this stuff is important, because the failure to be rigorous and realistic when looking at energy means bad policy and ineffective solutions. It means wiping out rainforests to produce palm oil for biodiesel; chopping down Canadian forests to fuel UK power stations. Germany replacing it’s nuclear plants with lignite burning. Trivialising the storage problem – like claiming that Denmark can cope with very high wind power percentages whilst completely ignoring it’s use of Norwegian hydro storage.

    But if I point this stuff out, I often feel that I’m immediately placed in the ‘He-is-skeptical-of-us-therefore-must-be-climate-skeptic-therefore-must-be-wrong-even-if-we-do-not-know-why’ bucket, and hence safe to disregard.

  118. entropicman says:

    Andrew Dodds

    In Northern Ireland the moderate political parties have withered, leaving the two extreme parties dominant. This may be a normal evolution in political debates.

    The whole debate about human futures has also become polarised. Whether you are considering climate change, population or resources; there is a tendency for extreme camps to form. Anyone not a member of one camp is perceived as a member of the other camp.

    That leaves the rational centre struggling. Point out the problems with BAU and you are labeled an alarmist. Point out the nativity of the Green position and you are a denier.

    Personally I see no solution. We cannot sustain intensive agriculture without fossil fuels and we cannot sustain a high population without intensive agriculture.

    When the fossil fuels run out or climate change makes their use too dangerous our population will drop perforce..In my more optimistic moments I hope that this transition might be managed. The pessimist in me expects the Four Horsemen to do the job!

  119. Sam Taylor says:

    Andrew,

    Current farming practices are, indeed, pretty harmful. But that’s because they’re basically descended largely unchanged from the slash and burn that our ancestors used to do back when they were first starting out. Grasses like wheat do particularlly well in recently ravaged ecosystems, for example in areas that have recently been flooded or had a fire grasses are often the first things to take root, before things like brambles and later trees come in and take over. As such modern farming is preticated on keeping the land in a state of near-disaster so that grasses can keep flourishing, which is obviously bad news.

    A few people have been looking at alternative methods, which work within more complete ecosystems and focus on encouraging positive feedbacks by building biodiversity and soil health, rather than depleting them, and incorporating natural services as much as possible. Some of the results that the permaculture people like Geoff Lawton and David Holmgren have achieved have been extremely impressive. The USA evern has a government agroforestry program looking at similar areas. Of course, the problem here is scale. Not only of the size of transition which would be required, but of the damage which has been done in areas with poor soils (Africa, China) which have been highly degraded.

    Anyway, I think that taking the complete opposite tack to eco-modernism, and trying to work within natural systems and to help strengthen them (it’s amazing how much faster topsoil can be produced when humans help ecosystems along) and make things more productive and biodiverse that way. Of course, I think that there’s zero chance of this happening due to the fundamental nature of what humans are, and how human nature is likely to constrain the routes that we will take. More likely we’ll go full on eco-modernism because we want to have our cake and eat it, this will (unsurprisingly) not result in less CO2 or richer ecosystems and eventually we’ll screw things up bad enough that there’s going to be a very nasty population haircut. Maybe afterwards people might be wise enough to take a different tack. But today, as a species, while we are certainly very clever, we display precious little wisdom.

  120. verytallguy11 says:

    entropic,

    In Northern Ireland the moderate political parties have withered, leaving the two extreme parties dominant. This may be a normal evolution in political debates.

    More optimistically OTOH, the positions of those “extreme” parties is certainly more moderate than it used to be, and arguably more moderate than that of the previous moderate parties at the time of the troubles.

    Rather more pessimistically, your fears of the four horsemen may be well founded; it’s a truisim that eventually our way of life will become sustainable. The only thing we can exert control over is how we get there.

  121. I guess that if the ecomodernist philosophy is that we’re simply part of nature and that we can interact with nature in any way we like (dominate and steward) that it also includes the possibility that we do such a bad job that there is ultimately some kind of self-correction. My personal view is that it would be disappointing if the only known intelligent species in the universe can’t assess our impact on our environment in such a way as to try and avoid a possible self-correcting outcome.

  122. entropicman says:

    Verytallguy11

    At least Sinn Fein and the DUP are doing “jaw-jaw” at the moment instead of “war-war”. Describing them as moderate may be an exaggeration. 🙂

    I live in Northern Ireland. When the Assembly formed it rapidly became apparant that as practical administrators they were marginally competent. It almost makes me nostalgic for direct rule.

  123. Sam Taylor says:

    ATTP

    This, of course, raises the question of whether a species which knowingly ended up destroying the capacity of its home planet to sustain life could be descrbied as “intelligent”.

    I always think that it’s worth pointing out that we’re biologically and psychologically identical to the Easter Islanders. These are people who knew with absolute certainty the exact point at which they were cutting down the last tree on their island, and went ahead and did it anyway. We’ve got good form.

  124. JWhite says:

    Show how attentive I am. I thought you were British.

  125. Sam,

    This, of course, raises the question of whether a species which knowingly ended up destroying the capacity of its home planet to sustain life could be descrbied as “intelligent”.

    Good point. That’s one reason I particularly like the Monty Python song I included at the end of this post.

    And pray that there’s intelligent life somewhere up in space
    ‘Cause there’s bugger all down here on Earth

  126. entropicman says:

    aTTP

    I see no alternative to self-correction. We have gone too far down the dead end of a high energy use, high population global civilization. In doing so we have burned the family silver during the oil age .

    Note that in a number of areas the self-correction is already under way. Rwanda collapsed into genocide under the pressure of famine. Syria, Iraq and Yemen have collapsed into civil war under the stress of drought. When population exceeds resources people do not cooperate, they splinter into groups fighting to survive.

  127. victorpetri says:

    Humans are underrated.

    Human mankind’s rapidly improving lives are proof of our wisdom. That we altered our surroundings to suit our needs, and make our surroundings threat poor and energy and resource rich, is proof of our intelligence.
    Proof of wisdom is not necessarily people agreeing to your philosophies or organic farming/sustainability/topnotch soil conditions.
    Comparing mankinds collective endeavour, the 10s of thousands of years of ongoing progress, to Eastern Islanders is an unusable oversimplification (although not as poor as the bacteria in a Petri dish comparison).
    The fact that we are 7 billion and rising, is precisely because we have been dodging and mitigating nature’s self-correcting ways.

  128. victorpetri says:

    @entropicman
    Ahum, food production per capita is higher than ever (as well as energy production).

    Hunger and malnurishment is trending downwards:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hunger

    And we have never lived in such peaceful times as now:
    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/foreigners/2014/12/the_world_is_not_falling_apart_the_trend_lines_reveal_an_increasingly_peaceful.html

    If you will see conflicts in Rwanda, Syria and Yemen as conflicts caused by capacity constraints of system Earth, you misinterpret the cause and you can hope to solve it.

  129. victorpetri says:

    If you will see conflicts in Rwanda, Syria and Yemen as conflicts caused by capacity constraints of system Earth, you misinterpret the cause and you can *never* hope to solve it.

  130. Willard says:

    > If you will see conflicts in Rwanda, Syria and Yemen as conflicts caused by capacity constraints of system Earth, you misinterpret the cause and you can hope to solve it.

    Yet:

    So in choosing to spend that $10 billion on renewables, we deliberately end up choosing to leave more than 70 million people in darkness and poverty.

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9176251/let-them-eat-carbon-credits/

    Will you share your concerns about the Lomborg Collective’s underestimation of human ingenuity and Grrrrowth, vp?

  131. entropicman says:

    Victorpetri

    We are coming to the end of a transient golden age fuelled, in the most literal sense, by oil.

    Regrettably this is not sustainable for much longer. Your world view is based on the economic fallacy that you can continue indefinitely on finite resources.

    On the link between war and population, there is a historical theory that all wars are ultimately based on population pressure.When your population outgrows the local resources you invade your neighbour and take his.

    The modern situation can be a little more subtle, but the basics are the same. Food shortages lie behind the civil wars I mentioned. Resource shortages fuelled Japanese expansion in Asia. Hitler sought lebensraum and reliable oil supplies. Both Iraq wars were about oil supplies. The current friction with Russia derives from their economic dependence on fuel sales and desire to secure the wheat production of the Ukraine.

    As populations increase and resources become more limiting you will we a lot more of this sort of thing, on all scales.

  132. Andrew Dodds says:

    @JWhite

    If he plays Cricket then he’s certainly English. A surprising number of South Africans are..

  133. Ken Fabian says:

    My own impression was that the authors of the ecomodernist manifesto have found Environmentalism severely wanting, it’s failure to put up acceptable pathways to low emissions the main reason we still don’t have and such pathway, the mainstream, having “tried nothing and all out of ideas”.They are generously offering up an improved, more pragmatic and accommodating kind of Environmentalism, called Ecomodernism.

    It’s a much better kind of Environmentalism that recognises it’s a waste of time trying to fix climate change with any of the inadequate tools at our disposal so we should wait, maybe until we have fusion.

    It is a practical kind of Environmentalism that is willing to lift the entire world out of poverty using as much coal as it takes – gloves off – in the certainty that the resulting prosperity will see them fix the climate problem far easier than us, probably using fusion.

    Ecomodernism is Lukewarmism keeping alive the illusion that it’s up to Environmentalism to deliver acceptable climate solutions . It’s their fault we can’t fix it, just as, for old school denialism, it’s Environmentalism’s fault there’s all this angst about climate and emissions. Consistent at least.

  134. victorpetri says:

    @entropicman
    In any meaningful sense, theoretically available energy on planet Earth is infinite.
    https://humansrunderrated.wordpress.com/2012/10/02/the-infinite-resource/
    You make the fallacy that you do not understand that the predominant resource for our economy is in fact an infinite resource with no known theoretical bounds. This resource is namely our brains and the collective knowledge that they represent.

    So if there is a link between population pressure, how come violence has been in constant decline and has been declining since biblical time:

    How do you explain that the correlation is the exact opposite, namely, the higher the population, the less violence there has been?

    And how come that Germany now, with much more inhabitants, and fewer resources, is not aching for new Lebensraum.

    Finally, resource have become less scarce with time.
    https://gailtheactuary.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/per-capita-consumption-of-various-fuels_line.png%3Fw%3D640

    As can be seen from declining prices.

    In fact, if you take rising prices as an indication that the market indicates there is scarcity, there is only one resource that has become scarcer structurally, that resource is human labor, for which the price paid (wages) has structurally risen.

  135. vp,

    You make the fallacy that you do not understand that the predominant resource for our economy is in fact an infinite resource with no known theoretical bounds.

    A bit of an exaggeration, surely?

  136. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    What is? That human brains is the predominant resource determining the size and growth of the economy? Or that is has no known theoretical bounds and can be considered infinite?

  137. Willard says:

    > In any meaningful sense, theoretically available energy on planet Earth is infinite.

    And beyond, if we start to tap into the purest energy of all: Grrrowth. With the Improbability Drive, scientific-oriented writers could hitchhike their way into the most distant galaxies:

    The next supernatural step would be to develop Grrrowth drives. With such drives, not only the energy of planet Earth would be available, but the energy of all the planets, all the galaxies. All the worlds, possible or not, could fit into each of these drives. Infinities upon infinities is therefore available to us.

    There is a well-known theorem about the distance between theory and practice: the distance is shorter in theory than in practice. This is why the theorical approach suffices to tap into Grrrowth. It’s the ultimate shortcut by which humans prove yet again their superiority upon reality.

    Thank you.

  138. vp,
    I think suggesting that it is infinite is an exaggeration.

    Okay, I’ll make a more serious point. I agree broadly with the position that I think you’re presenting. In other words, I agree that our brains (intelligence) give us the ability to solve virtually anything and to work in whatever environment we might encounter. That, however, requires actually using our brain. It requires actually considering the implications of what we do. It requires making decisions that reduce the risk of there being extremely damaging and harmful consequence of our actions. Simply saying, we have a brain, everything will be fine, is not really illustrating that we’ll use it wisely. Pointing out that we have the ability to do virtually anything, doesn’t really indicate that what we are doing is sufficient.

    In a sense this is my problem with Matt Ridley’s basic argument, which appears to be an argument saying that we shouldn’t be concerned because everything will be fine. Sure, everything could be fine, but the likelihood of it being fine is much higher if we actually consider what we should be doing rather than simply assuming that it will be fine because we have such large brains that we can solve any problem we might face.

  139. Willard says:

    > So if there is a link between population pressure, how come violence has been in constant decline and has been declining since biblical time:

    While the stats about biblical times may deserve due diligence (auditors are onto contemplating bibleaudit.org as we speak), the shortest answer I know is projectile weapons:

    Culture-led gene-culture coevolution is a framework within which substantive explanations of human evolution must be located. It is not itself an explanation. Explanations depend on such concrete historical evolutionary factors such as the control of fire, collective child-rearing, lethal weapon technology, altruistic cooperation and punishment, and the mastery of complex collaboration protocols leading to an effective division of social labor.

    http://www.umass.edu/preferen/gintis/BBS-Richerson-CulturalGS.pdf

    I’m not sure it suffices to answer the question-begging and causally conflicted claim from vp, but that’s the shortest I know. Pharaohs might have had a tougher time building pyramids had their people been in possession of loaded Smith & Wesson’s. Plants with machine guns might also have changed the history courses.

  140. BBD says:

    VP’s shtick ignores the consequences of warming. It is a partial, self-serving rhetoric that is logically incomplete and so falls flat.

    This was just as true the last time that VP aired his utopian fantasies here.

  141. BBD says:

    Andrew Dodds

    But if I point this stuff out [wishful thinking about energy and agriculture], I often feel that I’m immediately placed in the ‘He-is-skeptical-of-us-therefore-must-be-climate-skeptic-therefore-must-be-wrong-even-if-we-do-not-know-why’ bucket, and hence safe to disregard.

    Yes, and it is extremely frustrating.

  142. If he plays Cricket then he’s certainly English. A surprising number of South Africans are..

    So, you’re calling a South African, who lives in Scotland, English? 🙂

  143. victorpetri says:

    To be clear, my point was that our economies are in no finite way constraint by planet Earth at the moment. Considering how much solar energy, nuclear fission energy and even potential fusion energy there is, we are talking about amounts that in any reasonable timescale can be considered infinite. The main constraint we have now, are that of lack of knowledge, e.g. the lack of knowledge to harvest and store solar energy efficiently. This lack however, is resolving ever faster. I reacted on comments that seemed to see a link between population growth and resource shortage and violence, which in reality at the very least does not exist, and imo is the exact opposite; the more people we are, the least scarce resources become (because we have more of the main resource that matters, namely our brains).

    Now to your comment. You say, by not using your brain, I’ll say, you mean not using it to come to the same conclusion as you do. Global priorities differ, as can be read in the manifesto, coal plants can and have been a very effective way to obtain energy and lift millions out of poverty, as happened e.g. in China. I do not consider this to be irrational, or lack of brain use, quite the opposite. And I am glad we could not stop them as well.
    And the “Don’t worry, it will be fine”-saying, I know for example that Ridley (although I get tired of defending him) explicitly wrote that this was not his position in his Rational Optimist book.
    For me personally, it is more a can do attitude, and a historical appreciation of problems we faced and tackled.
    The opposite of “Don’t worry, it will be fine” might as well be fatalism, displayed by some here who are more confident than Nostradamus of the impending apocalypse, I think this even more damaging since you deprive yourselves from happiness until doomsday as well.

  144. vp,

    You say, by not using your brain, I’ll say, you mean not using it to come to the same conclusion as you do.

    No I do not mean this. Jeepers, will you ever stop misrepresenting what is said here, or is that just a bit too much to ask?

  145. victorpetri says:

    @Willard

    Wow, I have been honoured by an actual reply from grrrowth/climateball Willard.
    And one I agree to as well, amazing.

  146. Sam Taylor says:

    Oh, good, VP has been reading Julian Simon. This is always fun.

    Comparing mankind to the easter islanders clearly IS a valid comparison, because (it turns out) they are mankind. They’re a perfect example, on a small scale, of what man can do to his environment in relatively short order. And besides, you make the classic error of assuming that the arrow of ‘progress’ always points in one direction. If you were to look back in history, you would find very few human societies that have managed to persist for a long time. Usually, through a combination of greed, stupidity and ignorance, they manage to collapse themselves through mechanisms like resource depletion, wealth concentration and so on. This leads to times of plenty, followed by times of hardship. It’s been far from a one way street. The only two large complex societies which we know of that didn’t completely collapse were the Chinese, thanks largely to insanely deep deposits of rich soil meaning that it was almost impossible for them to deplete it over a few thousand years (though they’ve managed now), and the Egyptians, who relied on a sustainable annual replenishment of their fields by the Nile floods, and never over-built because of those same floods. We’re currently repeating many of the same mistakes that people like the Romans and Inca made, in terms of over exploitation of resources and the structure of our societies, but on a vastly larger scale. History repeats itself, but the price always rises.

    As for the Julian Simon nonsense, that’s basically all based on some pretty shoddy economics, which for some reason is still hanging around today. Namely the Solow Residual, which asserts that economic growth is essentially caused by exogenous magic aka human cleverness. If you properly account for energy in your production function (See the work of Ayers and Warr or Kummell), then you come to the not at all surprising conclusion that, actually, cheap energy has been responsible for most of the economic growth since the end of WW2, and that Simon was spouting a load of hogwash. Given that most of the cheap stuff has now been burned away, it seems increasingly likely that the golden age of the post war years was a one off, and is unlikely to be repeated, no matter how hard we try to make ourselves feel good about how big and special our brains are. Simon just extrapolated an anomalous trend which had persisted for a few decades and assumed that it would last forever. Also, of course, recent trends in oil prices also run counter to Simon’s logic. It’s taken 3 or so years of $100 oil to squeeze something like 4mbpd extra out of a load of source rocks. Far from a time of plenty.

    Much recent work in behavioural psychology, combined with insights which can be gleaned from history, also puts the lie to the tedious “ultimate resource” line about the brain. Yes, we are certainly clever. But we are also very limited and predictable. Given the chance to make large, complex societies, they always end up highly stratified and unequal, and usually with huge environmental strain. We always seek status, usually through displays of consumption. Given the choice between a certain loss, or a gamble with a lower expectation value but the chance to walk away without a loss, we take the gamble. We’ve got heuristics and cognitive biases out the wazoo. We’re terrible at spotting long term, slow moving threats. We can’t do statistics for toffee. We’re ice age hunters wearing suits, basically, and it kind of shows.

    Not that I disagree that at the moment we’re generally being nice to each other, and that things have gotten cheaper by and large. But I expect that trend to reverseduring my lifetime, and as things like freshwater and energy constraints and climate change kick in, it might get worse fairly rapidly. The middle east and Africa will be a barometer, and currently they look terrible.

  147. vp,
    Okay, here’s another serious point. I’ll agree with this

    Considering how much solar energy, nuclear fission energy and even potential fusion energy there is, we are talking about amounts that in any reasonable timescale can be considered infinite.

    but, solar has baseload problems and isn’t effective everywhere, nuclear fission is expensive and has high regulatory costs, and fusion doesn’t yet work. We have an expanding global economy that needs energy and can easily gain this energy through burning coal. If, however, we continue to burn more and more coal, we could have another degree of warming by the mid-2100s and could reach 4 degrees C by 2100. Whether or not the impacts of such warming would be damaging or not is not absolutely certain, but most would argue that there are risks associated with even 2 degrees C and that 4 degrees C may be quite severe. What do we do?

  148. victorpetri says:

    OK attp, I do hope you read the rest of my comment as well as I have seldom explained my point of view this well.

    sorry for the misinterpretation, to get it right:
    Would you say China, building 1 coal plant a week is or is not using their brain?
    Are they:
    ” a species which knowingly ended up destroying the capacity of its home planet to sustain life could be descrbied as “intelligent”.”
    Because in my view they just have different priorities, and are not less rational.

  149. vp,

    Would you say China, building 1 coal plant a week is or is not using their brain?

    Well, that’s not really a relevant question, IMO. My point was that your argument seems to be that we have this infinite resource called a brain. I agree, our capabilities are quite remarkable. None of that, however, means that we can’t use it to do something foolish, or stupid, or ultimately damaging. I don’t disagree with your basic point that we have the ability to do amazing things. I’m simply pointing out that that same ability allows us to do what might ultimately be extremely stupid.

    Of course, people may use their brains to make different decisions to what I might make and – quite often – more sensible ones. The existence of a brain, however, does not preclude the possibility that what we’re doing now is not in our long-term best interests. I don’t really think that you’ve actually addressed this point at all.

  150. Marco says:

    “None of that, however, means that we can’t use it to do something foolish, or stupid, or ultimately damaging”

    A certain quote of a certain Albert Einstein comes to mind – something about human stupidity and the universe being infinite, although he wasn’t too sure about the latter (being infinite)

  151. victorpetri says:

    @ST
    The arrow of progress in principle points in one direction, you could not name more than a couple of countries where people now do not have it better than in any time in the past. Roman civilization might have collapsed, but Romans and other Italians are more numerous and have it better than ever. It is cyclical thinking, which is what needs to be changed (although mankind is wired thinking cyclically and cannot think exponentially very easily).
    In fact, looking at big history, complexity has been growing since the beginning of time 13 billion years ago http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_History .
    Cheap energy is a direct consequence of human ingenuity, of course. When oil was first produced in 1860s it was the most expensive as it has ever been: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_of_oil#/media/File:Crude_oil_prices_since_1861.png
    Our resources have become more affordable with time as well. Just as our food has.
    http://www.ejsd.co/public/journal_article/11

    As for the future, being almost solely controlled by our brain (much like computerpower, unlike fossil fuels), solar energy prices have been in constant decline,

    Peak Oil has died a silent death in any reasonable person’s mind, I think the more reasonable worry is, there is too much of it and it is too cheap to decarbonize the economy properly.

    If the trend would reverse in our lifetime, it would be the first reversal for mankind since the dawn of time, but I have another interesting behavioural psychological factoid for you, people are inclined to think the time they live in is something special.

  152. vp,

    I think the more reasonable worry is, there is too much of it and it is too cheap to decarbonize the economy properly.

    Yes, exactly. What do you think people here are concerned about, the price of eggs?

  153. victorpetri says:

    @Marco
    Although Einstein probably did not say that.

  154. Andrew Dodds says:

    @entropicman

    There are ways to turn coal into oil, both directly from mined coal and (even worse) underground coal gasification, which would make even subsea coal deposits possible to utilize.

    Liquid fuels should be available, as long as we don’t care about utterly f**ing (technical term) the climate. I really would not rely on fossil fuel shortages to restrict use..

  155. Willard says:

    > I have been honoured by an actual reply […] And one I agree to as well, amazing.

    Then you also agree that violence may still increase due to population pressure, because pressure, after all, is something like a “force applied perpendicular to the surface of an object per unit area over which that force is distributed” (thy Wiki), and not just a contentless number to be abused by econometry.

    To show you how Grrrowth is above any kind of pressure, see how easily it can take one earth and create another one:

    Given a solid ball in 3‑dimensional space, there exists a decomposition of the ball into a finite number of disjoint subsets, which can then be put back together in a different way to yield two identical copies of the original ball.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banach%E2%80%93Tarski_paradox

    From there one can make as much earths as there are Star Trek holodecks.

    That shows the infinite power of Grrrowth.

  156. Willard says:

    More seriously, Victor Petri, saying something like:

    Germany now, with much more inhabitants, and fewer resources, is not aching for new Lebensraum.

    makes me struggle to respond to you seriously. Start here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_I#Background

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II#Background

  157. Sam Taylor says:

    VP

    Cheap fossil energy is not a consequence of mankind’s ingenuity. It is a consequence of geology, biology and physics. Figuring out how to extract and burn the stuff is all we can lay claim to, last time I checked we weren’t making more oil. I don’t think I ever said that things haven’t got cheaper, I just said that if you do your production functions properly then you understand that this is mostly due to cheap energy. So when I look over that paper, I don’t disagree with their findings, but I do disagree with their suggestion that it’s all down to “technology and innovation”. Technology is just a vector to leverage energy use. Of course, we do learn and get better at things, this is true. But innovation has been slowing recently ( see Strumsky et al http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/sres.1057/abstract ) as it gets more costly, and we hit diminishing returns.

    The view from the oil industry (which I work in) doesn’t really agree with the notion that peak oil is dead. If anything the price volatility of recent years is exactly what you’d expect from a commodity which is transitioning to scarcity. Industry capital expenditure has been increasing at 10% annually since about 2005, compared to aneamic increases in production over the same period. The transition from low cost high productivity conventional wells, to high cost low productivity shale wells and expensive tar sands and deepwater projects is exactly what peak oil theory predicts. Currently the marginal barrel is priced somewhere around $80-100, which is pretty close to the most that western economies can afford to pay before they lapse into recession. If you’ve an hour, then this talk by Steve Kopits from last year shows the current parlous state of the oil industry ( http://energypolicy.columbia.edu/events-calendar/global-oil-market-forecasting-main-approaches-key-drivers ). Bear in mind this was back when oil was $100, and even then most oil companies were still getting killed. I think it’s better than 50/50 we see $100 a barrel again before 2020, and possibly even above $150.

    As I’ve said before, plenty of complex societies have collapsed and disppeared (there’s a reason nobody speaks Sumerian any more). We’re a short term thermodynamic blip. In the really long run, the second law of thermodynamics points to no complexity whatsoever.

  158. Sam Taylor says:

    @Dodds

    Evidence shows that coal to liquids costs more energy than the fuel ends up yielding, see eg here ( http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/8/2/786 ). Probably makes it extremely unecomonic, unless you’re in a Germany in WW2 type situation. This, plus the extremely large amount of water required for the process (not to mention HUUUUUUGE environmental footprint), is likely to limit how widely it would be feasible to scale the process.

  159. John Hartz says:

    Sam Taylor: Thank you for your insightful comments and bringing this comment thread back to reality. My eyes glaze over when commenters like victorpetri spout platitude after platitude after platitude.

  160. Andrew Dodds says:

    @Sam

    I would admit to be genuinely puzzled about how you could get negative EROEI for CTL. The implication would be that the coal itself had a negative EROEI… or we have the trivial case that 1 Joule of coal energy gives 0.4 joules of oil energy, which is simple thermodynamics.

    (I’m not a fan of the technology, but that does not mean I think that it couldn’t work)

  161. Sam Taylor says:

    @Andrew

    The gist of the paper is that the entire process, from mining the coal to getting out the liquid at the end, is a net energy sink. Which in general is exactly the opposite of what you want from your fossil fuels, and would probably make it prohibitively expensive on a large scale.

  162. izen says:

    @-victorpetri
    “Although Einstein probably did not say that.”

    The version I know –
    Hydrogen is not the most common element in the universe, there is far more human stupidity.
    -is attributed to Zappa.

    Of course the concentration of stupidity is not uniform.
    It looks from the evidence that it is unlikely the Easter Island / Rapa Nui inhabitants cut down the last tree. The archeology shows that they significantly reduced tree cover in an expansion of lithic agriculture to cater to population pressures. But the ‘last tree’ was probably cleared by others…
    Polynesian island populations actually have a good record of ecological management. There are records of islands abandoning pigs (despite the social value) because they require more resources per calorie than other crops.

    The collapse of the Rapanui island society was almost certainly the result of depredation by European disease and slave traders. Any timber was a bonus…

    The balance between stewardship and dominion has not always been environmentally constructive in Western colonial expansion. Perhaps that history of errors should give you pause, before you assert that all such mistakes are minor or avoidable with just a bit more Grrrowth!

  163. izen says:

    @-Sam Taylor
    “Evidence shows that coal to liquids costs more energy than the fuel ends up yielding, see eg here ( http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1073/8/2/786 ). Probably makes it extremely unecomonic, unless you’re in a Germany in WW2 type situation”

    You don’t liquify coal to extract energy. It is done to produce an energy storage medium that is convenient for use in transport. And for some reason, (burnt in bulk by previous generations? denied access by conflict!) liquid hydrocarbons are not available.

    It only makes sense (economic and functional) if there is;
    a) Surplus cheap energy that can be used to manufacture a liquid hydrocarbon from coal.
    b) A need for the energy density and handling convenience of a liquid fuel because no better energy storage (battery,TeQh,) has been developed.

    The most likely reason for making liquid fuel from coal is the continued use of heat engines for transport. From motorcycle to planes and ships.

  164. Michael 2 says:

    Slate is not a reliable source of factual information. (Neither, for that matter, is Salon, Scientific American and a great many other sources starting with “S”).

  165. Eli Rabett says:

    So if there is a link between population pressure, how come violence has been in constant decline and has been declining since biblical time:

    30 Years War
    US Civil War
    WWI
    WWII
    and oh yes, a considerable number of merry little wars since then

  166. entropicman says:

    Andrew Dodds

    “Liquid fuels should be available, as long as we don’t care about utterly f**ing (technical term) the climate. I really would not rely on fossil fuel shortages to restrict use..”

    All coal iquifiation would do is delay the collapse, unless their effect on sea levels cancels it out by costing us agricultural land even faster.

    I am not RELYING on fossil fuel depletion. I hate the prospect. Unfortunately I have looked at this from every direction I can think of, and see no realistic prospect of our civilisation or our high population getting far past 2100. The only escape might be to get colonists into space and start harvesting the solar system, but that is looking unlikely. I have a persistent image of a man who dug a deep hole and is now stuck at the bottom because he got chilly and burned the ladder for firewood.

    I have read Jared Diamond’s book “Collapse”. All high civilizations to date have either grown beyond their resources, destroyed their environment or seen it change naturally beyond their ability to adapt. I see no credible reason why we should do better.

  167. Meow says:

    Sure, everything could be fine, but the likelihood of it being fine is much higher if we actually consider what we should be doing rather than simply assuming that it will be fine because we have such large brains that we can solve any problem we might face.

    Except that we’re not smart enough to solve AGW now because the only possible approaches cause economic doom doom doom.

  168. verytallguy11 says:

    On the implications of fossil fuel resource depletion on climate change: we can’t rely on it

    http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/climate-change-can-seneca-collapse-save.html?m=1

  169. So if there is a link between population pressure, how come violence has been in constant decline and has been declining since biblical time:

    30 Years War
    US Civil War
    WWI
    WWII
    and oh yes, a considerable number of merry little wars since then

    I don’t have a dog in this fight …

    …but I did run across this some time back:

    It’s largely estimate of course.

    But I wondered about the pre-colonial murder rates and fire arms.
    One would have to continue one’s murderous rage even with the added
    process of loading one’s musket.

    Evidently we’ve gotten at least a little more civil over the years.
    The baby boom does show up.

    Similar trends to lower levels in Europe:

    http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/06/long-term-trend-in-homicide-rates.html

  170. Joshua says:

    Sam Taylor –

    Just an FYI – I enjoy and learn from your comments…

  171. That doesn’t include wars of course, which Niall Ferguson says are sadly genocidal underneath:
    http://www.amazon.com/The-War-World-Twentieth-Century-Conflict/dp/0143112392

    Not a huge amount of activity on the war front but history doesn’t bode well.

  172. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    As I stated above, I think that underlying some of your comment are some important considerations that deserve due diligence – in a similar sense that I think that what the “Manifeseto-folks say deserves due diligence.

    But when you say stuff like the following, I think that you undermine the important questions that you raise.

    ==> “coal plants can and have been a very effective way to obtain energy and lift millions out of poverty, as happened e.g. in China.”

    Have you read this?:

    Do you think that Sen’s thesis deserves due diligence? If so, how do you think that his thesis relates to your coal plants = lifting people out of poverty line of reasoning?

  173. entropicman says:

    Verytallguy11

    Great!

    We can burn fossil fuels until our civilisation goes into Seneca collapse.

    Or we can stop burning fossil fuels and trigger an earlier collapse.

    Hobson’s choice. 😦

  174. Joshua says:

    ==> “Evidently we’ve gotten at least a little more civil over the years.”

    Imagine that. Even though we’re on the “road to serfdom.” Even though we are being subjected to an increasingly tyrannical government that is growing enormously and stealing from the productive people to distribute resources to the moochers. Even though we have turned into godless, socialistic states where the Judeo-Christian values of our (slave-holding) Founding Fathers have been cast aside as Christians have been viciously persecuted (and don’t get me started on that War on Christimas).

  175. Joshua says:

    Sam Taylor –

    Curious how you, also, reconcile this:

    ==> “If you properly account for energy in your production function (See the work of Ayers and Warr or Kummell), then you come to the not at all surprising conclusion that, actually, cheap energy has been responsible for most of the economic growth since the end of WW2”

    With the thesis of Development as Freedom…

  176. verytallguy11 says:

    Entropic,

    or, (bear with me here, this is dangerously radical…) we could (drum roll…)

    decide that we should invest in low energy technology, sustainable energy sources and manage a transition without any collapse at all, at the same time improving our health, wellbeing, and natural environment.

    Nah, you’re right, it’ll never catch on.

  177. Sam Taylor says:

    @Josh

    I’ve not read it, so I don’t really know what its central thesis is. I’ll have a peek on a wiki I guess.

    @Izen

    The paper includes the mining of the coal within it’s system boundaries. That is to say, the process of mining the coal, processing the coal and the liquidising the coal takes more energy to produce a unit of the liquid than there is in the coal liquid itself. That is not necesarilly a trivial result, because it is of course entirely possible that the mining, processing and liquidising could still yield a fuel with more per unit energy than it took to produce. This is different from just saying that it takes energy to liqudise coal, which is obviously true and would be a facile thing for a paper to bother showing. What this implies to me is that it would be an exceedingly difficult and expensive process to bootstrap, or do on any significant scale. Some people have proposed CTL as a large scale liquid fuel replacement (I’m not one of them), but I think this result suggests it might not pan out, that’s all. At least with Canadian tar sands you get something like 5 barrels of energy out for every 1 you put back in!

  178. entropicman says:

    Verytallguy11

    It won’t catch on.

    We don’t have the metals, especially copper, or enough energy to produce enough renewable solar panels or wind farms.

    We need to generate 15 terawatts from renewables to sustain our current populationand almost twice as much to support the 12 billion expected by 2060. The only way to get enough material is to start mining asteroids.

    That I why I regard the Green approach as naive.

  179. BBD says:

    Yup, ~30TW.

    We’ve got a problem.

  180. Joshua says:

    Sam Taylor –

    I think you’d find it interesting. It seems to me like an important book, and it’s what I think of whenever I read a “skeptic” arguing that cheap energy = fewer starving children in Africa = let’s build more coal plants = “evironmentalists” are statist/fascist/authoritarians perusing a oneworldgovernment indifferent to starving children = promoting renewables is evil = ACO2 mitigation is economic suicide.

  181. John Hartz says:

    entropicman:

    What is the source of your “12 billion (humans) expected by 2060.” Also, what are the major assumptions underlying this forecast? Finally, what is the error bar of this forecast?

  182. BBD says:

    Side note:

    For some inexplicable reason I attributed a quote from A Shropshire Lad upthread to Auden instead of A. E. Housman. Weird and wrong. Sorry.

  183. verytallguy says:

    entropic,

    Current world copper output 18 million tonnes per year: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_copper

    Wind energy requires 4 tonne per MW, 120MT for 30TW, or about 7 years worth of world copper production: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copper_in_renewable_energy#Overview_of_copper_usage_in_renewable_energy_generation

    So unless my unchecked wiki figures are off by an order of magnitude or two, doesn’t seem like the biggest problem we have to solve…

  184. Sam Taylor says:

    Ah, ok.

    Bear in mind that I’m largely talking about economic growth at a very coarse scale when I bang on about the production functions. This is just because most cobb-douglas functions only include capital and labour as inputs, and neglect energy, leading to the Solow residual to explain growth. When you include energy then the residual goes away, and suddenly you don’t need to invoke exogenous magic in order to explain economic growth. To be honest it does worry me a bit, because the implications for a transition to a renewable society is maybe rendered a bit more painful by this, as those sources of energy are generally pricier than fossil fuels at their cheapest. But ff will get more expensive anyway, so not much we can do.

  185. Eli Rabett says:

    Hmm, war deaths are not homicide. Turbulent Eddie evidently only buys retail.

  186. Eli Rabett says:

    Oh yeah, for what it’s worth aluminum is mostly produced using hydropower electric GEAFB

  187. entropicman says:

    John hartz

    I think that 12 Billion figure came from the UN, via Science .

    Good news. I misremembered the date. We have till 2100.

  188. entropicman says:

    Verytallguy11

    Good news about the copper. Now try getting figures for neodynium.

  189. Ken Fabian says:

    Doesn’t the Ecomodernist manifesto make the point that there are effectively no limits to growth – that a history of continuing growth in a finite world is the empirical evidence that proves there are no such limits? I think this is sloppy logic at best. Others finding such assertions compelling might consider the resemblance to Ponzi schemes, which have a consistent history of growth, wonderful growth… until they don’t anymore.

    No limits is nonsense and, at worst these people do know it, just as they know that they are providing intellectualised excuses for continuing delay and inaction, not building a case for better and more effective action. I really don’t get any sense of urgency in this manifesto despite climate being a global problem that is cumulative and has irreversible consequences.

  190. Michael 2 says:

    verytallguy11 says “we should invest in low energy technology, sustainable energy sources and manage a transition without any collapse at all”

    So why haven’t you done all that? As Master Yoda says, there is no “we”. Do, or do not. How about next week Monday? If you, personally, can do all that; hope exists for anyone else. If you cannot do it for your own household, then why should the problem magically solve itself on a larger scale? I know one person that accomplished all this, more or less, but he was already financially independent so spending $60 kilobucks for solar and several hundred thousand for Tesla automobiles (2) and Leaf (2 more) wasn’t that big a deal. Can you do that? I certainly cannot.

  191. Michael 2 says:

    Entropicman says “All high civilizations to date have either grown beyond their resources, destroyed their environment or seen it change naturally beyond their ability to adapt. I see no credible reason why we should do better.”

    “We” aren’t going to do better. You might do better, I might do better. Very few extinctions of Homo Sapiens exist. Societies collapse, individuals sometimes do and sometimes don’t. This is how natural selection will choose the next generation of human beings. They are likely to be Amish and Buddhists. Choose your abode carefully. I have.

  192. John Hartz says:

    The findings described in the following article should give us all pause…

    Plants may not protect us against climate change by Tim Wogan, Science News, Apr 20, 2015

  193. Vinny Burgoo says:

    BBD, the true Land of Lost Content is, of course, the world-famous museum of packaging/consumerism in Craven Arms:

    http://www.lolc.org.uk/page19.html

    (Its website seems to be from a bygone age, too. Bud Uglly version 2.0?)

    If that attraction is closed – and it usually is – you could try Flounder’s Folly, which was built by Julie Christie in the 1960s as a means of keeping an eye on local unemployment. Great views of the Blue Remembereds, too. Open to the public at lunchtime on one Sunday a month.

    Nobody bothers with the other local attraction, the Discovery Centre, because nobody has yet discovered what it’s for. It was built by Tony Blair with EU money – literally with EU money. The turf on its trendy eco-roof rests on millions of copper eurocent coins that were hammered into shape by the hooves of horses skilfully directed by a team of Olympic dressage champions led by Princess Anne. This wonderful event wasn’t filmed and all that glorious and expensive copper has long been hidden by great clumps of shaggy weeds, so what was the point? The building beneath the lost copper roof houses five or six full-time employees and some paintings by local artists.

    In short, the blue remembered hills are best seen from a distance. Tourists should probably go elsewhere.

  194. John Hartz says:

    `Two more study study results that do not bode well for the future…

    Carbon Brief takes a look at two new studies on microscopic algae. One suggests a boost in growth in the Arctic could speed up sea ice melt, and the other says microalgae are already showing signs of adapting to warmer oceans.

    Tiny marine plants could amplify Arctic warming by 20%, new study finds by Robert McSweeney, The Carbon Brief, Apr 20, 2015

  195. Michael 2 says:

    Sam Taylor says “But today, as a species, while we are certainly very clever, we display precious little wisdom.”

    In fact, as a species, we display exactly 100 I.Q.

    Obviously (or maybe not) what matters is the wisdom (or intelligence) of human leaders. It is not necessary for all humans to be wise, nor is it possible, since the word is inherently relative to one’s personal experience and expectations.

    This is why Democracy is so bad; it is the worst form of government except for all the others 🙂

  196. Michael 2 says:

    John Hartz reveals “a boost in growth in the Arctic could speed up sea ice melt”

    I wonder what is the confidence interval of “could”?

  197. Michael 2 says:

    “we’re planting a narrow selection of low ecological-value young trees at an increased rate,”

    Old forest is relatively carbon neutral; uptake of carbon dioxide is offset by decomposition.

    New forest aggressively takes up carbon dioxide. Therefore, global warmists ought to be strongly in favor of new forest even if old forest must be cut to pave the way (and stop the decomposition).

  198. Michael 2 says:

    victorpetri says “My point is that we shouldn’t want to be part of nature, because in general living in nature and living by nature’s rules, sucks, it plainly does.”

    The argument is futile. You and I are inescapably part of nature; for nature is simply “what exists” on this planet. You cannot violate the rules of nature; it is not possible to violate the rules of nature as doing so will cause your own extinction or that of all life (or some parts thereof).

    Everything you do is inherent to your DNA; you evolved to do what you do and you really have very little choice to do anything else. Good DNA (and good behavior) is what persists to future generations, bad DNA (and behavior) is what does not persist to future generations.

    Unless you believe in Dog, that is, higher purposes, Manifest Destiny, things like that. I do, but most here do not.

  199. Michael 2 says:

    John Hartz quotes Victorpetri who claims “I am always surprised by the incredibly low number of known extinct species.” John then asks: “Source please.”

    I’ll second that request. I would like to see a list of actual extinctions.

  200. Brandon Gates says:

    entropicman,

    I see no credible reason why we should do better.

    The only thing I dislike worse than mediocrity is apathetic mediocrity.

  201. Andrew Dodds says:

    @Ken –

    Not as I see it.

    Working on the basis that population seems to be self limiting – growth is slowing down and is certainly not exponential – and energy use per capita shows asymptotic behavior – basically, once you have heating, cooling, refrigeration, cooking and transport, your further energy use is pretty minor – there is no reason to expect exponential growth in energy use. And this is what we observe.

    I would argue that actually driving an Ecomodernist manifesto would take far greater and more direct government action than we have at the moment. The private sector cannot make the investments required on its own and the current approach of trying to prod it into doing so with indirect instruments (Carbon taxes, carbon credits, FiTs, grants, etc..) is not only too slow but also fails the joined-up test.

    I’m not sure if the authors see it that way, though..

  202. victorpetri says:

    Somewhat related to population pressures and violence, crowds actually are more likely to suppress violence, than escalate it:
    http://www.economist.com/node/13176759
    “observation was that bystanders frequently intervene in incipient fights. The number of escalating gestures did not rise significantly as the size of the group increased, contrary to what the bystander effect would predict. Instead, it was the number of de-escalating gestures that grew. A bigger crowd, in other words, was more likely to suppress a fight.”

    @Johua
    I did not read it, from the wiki it looks as a book I could agree with:
    “Sen views free markets as an essential method of achieving freedom.”
    Anyway, the coal plants build in China seems one of the few free market decisions made there (in the sense that it is the cheapest when externalities are exclude), so although I think it would make an interesting read, I fail to see the relevance.

    @Michael2
    On the extinctions,
    As I already said, it’s quoted directly from the discussed topic, namely the ecomodernist manifesto, which I assumed people read as well. I suggest you give wiki a go.
    On the new forest vs old forest:
    Interesting idea, create a new Silurian age, when a lot of the organisms that broke down plants did not exist yet. My guess would be that it would not be feasible on the scale needed. And a hell of a lot of beautiful forest would need to go, probably.

  203. verytallguy11 says:

    Michael2,

    So why haven’t you done all that? As Master Yoda says, there is no “we”

    A tragedy of the commons cannot be solved by personal action.

    London smogs were not solved by householders manufacturing their own smokeless fuel…

    That’s not to say that individuals can’t help things of course, but fundamentally the structure of the economy needs to be changed to make it easier and cheaper to make the right coices. Today it’s easier and cheaper to make the wrong choices.

  204. vp,

    in the sense that it is the cheapest when externalities are exclude

    Indeed, although it’s not that hard to be the cheapest if you don’t have to include all the costs in the price.

  205. victorpetri says:

    @Sam Taylor
    I am surprised that you work in the oil industry (as do I), but seem to be unaware of the resource pyramid.
    I will try and explain why when resources are distributed as a pyramid, ingenuity can cheapen resource extraction. Although this is of course a simplification, it is conceptually very useful.

    So this is the resource pyramid. The oil on top is of prime quality, achieved through unlikely and lengthy purification processes; it is both very pure and highly accessible, think of the oil that surfaced in Texas beginning of the 20th century. Going downwards in the pyramid, oils of lesser quality and/or lesser accessibility are found, but these are also more plentiful, e.g. deep sea oil drilling. Further down oil has had practically no purification and remains within the so-called source rock, e.g. the Canadian tarsands.

    Now if our technology was stagnant, and with technology I mean to combined human effort to explore, produce and extract oil with improving techniques and ideas, when this would be stagnant, the increasingly less accessible and less concentrated oil would become ever more expensive to extract. But technology is a variable as well, and it is changing exponeniantly. Then, our ability to extract oil will be related to two variables: the physical reality of how oil is present within Earth; the pyramid, versus our improving skills to find and extract oil. If we empty the pyramid faster than our technology would improve, prices rise, spurring investment in new technology (e.g. offshore drilling/deep sea drilling/new seismic acquisition methods/fracking), and by effect lowering the cost of extraction again.

    Finally, I do not know for what company you work, but the following graph shows that for shale oil, one of the more expensive types of oil, 80% of available resources are break even between 50-80, and this is coming down (thanks to technology).

    I think it is quite possible we won’t see North of 80 dollar per b oil in the coming 10 years.

  206. BBD says:

    @ Vinny

    In short, the blue remembered hills are best seen from a distance. Tourists should probably go elsewhere.

    You can never go back:

    πάντα χωρεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει

  207. BBD says:

    vp

    I am surprised that you work in the oil industry (as do I)

    And here was me thinking you were in the snake oil business.

  208. BBD says:

    vp

    Why do you flatly ignore physics and cost externalities arising despite this being pointed out to you over and over again?

    Your argument is incomplete and so fails. Try listening this time.

  209. victorpetri says:

    @BBD
    I was not responding to you.
    Why don’t you listen, when I have so many times already accepted the need to include externalities?
    Why do you feel the need to point this out over and over, despite me agreeing with you? Perhaps you should try listening?

  210. Andrew Dodds says:

    @vp

    It’s an interesting ‘pyramid’ when the bricks at the top – consisting of the very easy supergiant fields of the middle east – are much bigger than the bricks at the bottom. Some may say that the pyramid is the wrong way up. At least for liquid and gas extraction.

    Oh, and the price of oil is determined by many things, the actual marginal cost of adding capacity being almost a bit player at times.

  211. BBD says:

    vp

    I was not responding to you.
    Why don’t you listen, when I have so many times already accepted the need to include externalities?
    Why do you feel the need to point this out over and over, despite me agreeing with you? Perhaps you should try listening?

    You did this last time. When confronted with your incomplete and self-serving rhetoric you started to claim – falsely – that it was not incomplete and self-serving.

    There’s a word for that.

  212. victorpetri says:

    @AD
    Well, there is a logic to the pyramid, the highly accessible and very pure oil on top (e.g. Texas oil), could only be there through very unlikely purification and migration processes for it to flow practically onto farmer’s land (where they initially were considered a nuisance).
    Whereas, at the bottom you have gigantic reserves, shale oil, that have not been purified or migrated, but simply are the source rock.
    Here is one with natural gas, for the US

  213. BBD says:

    Physics. Externalities. Ignored AGAIN.

    We cannot predicate future energy source development on what you are peddling here.

  214. BBD says:

    Andew Dodds

    Agreed. The pyramid inversion is typical of the corunutopian energy fantasist.

  215. victorpetri says:

    @BBD
    Could you please stop interrupting a potentially interesting discussion, if you have nothing but your rudeness to offer?

  216. Sam Taylor says:

    VP,

    The current carnage in the shale patch, and indeed the industry finances, say otherwise. Even with 3 years of $100 oil the shale industry has displayed a consistent negative cash flow. The financial results from Q1 this year are going to make for fun reading. In a recent speech, the CEO of Schlumberger had the following to say on how amazingly technology is progressing in the shale plays:

    “After having doubled the horizontal length and number of stages per well in the past five years, while also significantly increasing volumes of water and proppant per stage, the average well production has still not improved noticeably.”

    There was also the nuggest that shale and deepwater, while accounting for 12% of production accounts for over 40% of industry capex, and the fact that slb estimate that shale breakeven is in the $70-90 range. Frankly, I’ll take their estimate over a sell-side anaylsts, especially since I doubt that those prices are full-cycle. Technology is not “changing exponentially” (it never does!), and certainly isn’t in the shale plays. The only reason price have fallen is competition (through wage cuts and redundancies, of late), not technology. Shale is largely a financial play, brought about by a combination of low interest rates and stable high oil prices. Now that volatility has returned we’ll get to see what it’s really made of.

    The resource pyramid is a nice heuristic, but you neglect 2 factors. One is EROI, which is poor for tar sands and likely negative for hydrates. The other is the fact that prices for energy cannot rise arbitrariliy high to continually spur new innovation. Energy seems to have a much higher output elasticity than it’s cost share, which is why decreasing resource quality and increasingly difficult geology are going to win this one eventually. If oil prices much above $100 slow the economy, as they seem to have done in recent years, then that puts a limit on the quality of resouce that will be viable to extract. I would remind you that we’ve had seriously impressive improvements in oil industry tech over the last few decades (3D seismic is borderline miraculous), yet the rate of increase in production of crude and condensate has slowed significantly in the last decade or so, and conventional supplies appear to have peaked. Given the huge cuts currently underway in upsteam activities (which were already being planned when oil was $100), we’re likely to bump into a significant shortfall towards the end of the decade. Unless peace spontaneously breaks out in the middle east or something.

  217. BBD says:

    VP

    Your argument is incomplete and self-serving and you are denying it. Start exhibiting a little more intellectual honesty or expect criticism. And stop whining.

  218. Andrew Dodds says:

    @vp

    Ummm. Why is that diagram a pyramid, when the tip represents the same amount as the next layer down.. it’s just wrong. And how much shale oil is there? Do we correct for EROEI?

    And the big, onshore oil fields represent a large chunk of the total resource, presenting them as a small fraction is just wrong. There are single fields in the ME that have more recoverable oil than this ‘gigantic’ shale oil.

  219. entropicman says:

    Micheal2

    As a species we will probably survive. We are designed by evolution as opportunist hunter gathered. A few

  220. entropicman says:

    Damn tablet keypad!

    As I was saying, A few hundred million humans may well survive indefinitely as hunter gatherers or subsistence farmers, but we have only one chance at a high tech global civilization.

    If we, as a civilisation, mess this up there is no second chance. All the easy access copper, tin, iron, coal and oil are gone. Without them the path we followed is blocked.

  221. victorpetri says:

    @ST
    I’d rather trust an object source, and not an oil services salesman.

    Here you can see how technology has changed the cost curve in 5 years time (for you: source Schlumberger, among others)

    Technology is changing exponentially and it always has. EROI is implicitly accounted for, since your energy input is simply part of your costs. EROI is not a static variable, it is changed by technology as well.

    And, despite the fact we are emptying the pyramid, and ever more people need energy, per capita energy production, and per capita fossil fuel production has been increasing:

    The finite Earth theory by itself simply cannot explain this.

  222. jsam says:

    When your costs exclude the cost of pollution then you are citing backdoor subsidised cost.

    The earth is not infinite. Willful stupidity is.

  223. entropicman says:

    Remember too, that rate of production is not an indicator of remaining reserves. Whether you empty the barrel quickly or slowly, you still empty it. A that point you go from full flow to nothing with very little warning.

  224. victorpetri says:

    @jsam
    Wrong subject, try again.

    The earth is not infinite, your lack of understanding of my point of view is.

  225. Okay, maybe we can tone this down a little.

  226. BBD says:

    It’s like talking to a brick.

  227. verytallguy11 says:

    VP

    And, despite the fact we are emptying the pyramid, and ever more people need energy, per capita energy production, and per capita fossil fuel production has been increasing

    Sounds remarkably similar to what happened to Newfoundland Cod, and what will inevitably happen eventually to any finite resource.

    http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/seneca-cliffs-of-third-kind-how.html

    I suppose the right thing to do in these circumstances is exactly what you seem to suggest: aggressively invest in technology to accelerate depletion and maximise the impact of the inevitable crash.

  228. victorpetri says:

    Cod is not a finite resource, it’s a renewable..

  229. verytallguy11 says:

    BBD,

    frustration aside, “It’s like talking to a brick” doesn’t exactly tally with “Okay, maybe we can tone this down a little.” and does detract from your very valid points.

  230. verytallguy11 says:

    VP,

    “Cod is not a finite resource, it’s a renewable..”

    Perhaps you could address the point rather than engage in semantic quibbles.

    [for sake of completeness, if (rate of depletion is) >> (rate of renewal) then a renewable resource is effectively finite]

  231. Sam Taylor says:

    VP

    For goodness sake, that cost curve agrees with me saying that breakeven for shale is in the $70-90 range, thus needing an oil price in the region of $100 to sustain it. I’ve never denied that the growth has been impressive, but whether there’s much more room for production growth from US shales at the moment is an open question. Going to depend on just how far they can take downspacing and refracking. I note that you didn’t bother responding to whether people can long term afford shale oil, which is the issue! I mean, christ, if oil was a million dollars a barrel presumably we’ve just dig massive trenches to deep kerogen deposits and form bucket chains to get it. Technical improvements can improve EROI, but only so much. Fracturing source rocks still takes a lot of energy, as does steam separating Canadian tar sands, wheras extracting oil from sandstone reseroirs under natural pressure takes much less.

    The ‘finite earth” theory (whatever the hell that is) explains the growth in energy sources perfectly adequately, in that it’s a positive feedback loop enabled by easily accessible stores of fossil energy. Which is why I’ve been banging on about production functions including energy the whole time, another point you’ve studiously ignored.

    Finally, tediously, technology isn’t exponential, despite what Ray Kurzweil wants you to think. It’s best modelled sigmoidally. See eg Marchetti ( http://phe.rockefeller.edu/docs/Marchetti%20Ausubel%20Intl%20Journal%20of%20Anthropology%20June%202012.pdf ) or Garrett ( http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1002/2013EF000171/full#eft223-bib-0027 ), and the Strumsky link I poseted above showing the declining pace of innovation. The consequences of this are spelled out in the recent work of West and Bettencourt ( http://www.pnas.org/content/104/17/7301.full ).

    Also, not lost on me is the irony that you’re using images from Gail Tverberg, who’s one of the biggest peak oil doomers on the internet.

  232. Cod is not a finite resource, it’s a renewable..

    Technically, fossil fuels are too.

  233. victorpetri says:

    @vtg
    it’s not semantics, it’s an interesting fact that no so-called finite resource has ever run out, whilst the only resources we did run out, were actually renewables.

    I’ll explain again:
    To be clear, my point was that our economies are in no finite way constraint by planet Earth at the moment. Considering how much solar energy, nuclear fission energy and even potential fusion energy there is, we are talking about amounts that in any reasonable timescale can be considered infinite. The main constraint we have now, are that of lack of knowledge, e.g. the lack of knowledge to harvest and store solar energy efficiently. This lack however, is resolving ever faster.
    So to summarize,
    What is finite: Earth, fossil fuels, resources
    What is infinite: human knowledge and creativity (no known theoretical bounds)
    What is practically infinite: the potential energy available to us on planet Earth (which must be unlocked first, which we can do with the infinite resource of human knowledge)

    Example: Fusion from deuterium from the Earth’s oceans alone would be enough to power the global economy for ~75 billion years (at current powerusage). Why can’t we now? Lack of knowledge. When can we? When we have obtained that knowledge.

    Other concept: Global per capita energy use has been growing as long as we can measure it, this is due to the fact that our energy uptake is primarily dominated by our growing body of knowledge and technology. Operating within a finite earth constrained with near infinite amounts of energy available, it has continued to unlock ever larger portions of that near infinite amount of energy. At the moment practically all energy sources are growing, with renewables growing spectacularly hard, especially solar (which might be the resource that is bounded to knowledge the most and to finite earth constraints the least).

  234. victorpetri says:

    @ST
    I disagree on a declining pace of innovation,
    http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21569381-idea-innovation-and-new-technology-have-stopped-driving-growth-getting-increasing

    “one of the biggest peak oil doomers on the internet.”
    That’s exactly why I like to use it as a source.

    ” I note that you didn’t bother responding to whether people can long term afford shale oil, which is the issue!”
    High prices are and have been spurring innovations into fossil fuel production, and many other technologies, such as solar, batteries and electric cars. This is why, e.g. global capacity of added renewables was equal to that of fossil fuel capacity in 2014. imo high oil prices were a direct cause of the financial crisis, and we have been in the difficult process the last 6-8 years on innovating ourselves out of this resource shortage.

  235. vp,

    Considering how much solar energy, nuclear fission energy and even potential fusion energy there is, we are talking about amounts that in any reasonable timescale can be considered infinite.

    Yes, I certainly agree with this in principle. However, if we don’t start utilising these soon, there is a risk that the impacts of climate change will become severe before we’ve had an opportunity to take advantage of these resources. Also, climate change is largely irreversible on human timescales. Simply pointing out that there are possible solutions doesn’t mean that we will choose to develop and utilise them in time. You’ve already suggested that the free-market solution in China is to use coal and to ignore the externalities. If this is what we’re likely to end up doing, how do we get to the point that where we’re using these essentially infinite resources?

  236. verytallguy11 says:

    VP

    it’s not semantics

    yes, it is. My assertion trumps yours ‘cos I’m taller than you 😉

    But here is your fundamental mistake

    Why can’t we now? Lack of knowledge. When can we? When we have obtained that knowledge.

    There are some things this is true of. But there are some things subject to fundamental constraints which knowledge cannot overcome.

    The law of conservation of mass
    The laws of thermodynamics
    The speed of light is constant to an observer.

    These things are what tell us we need to reduce our usage of fossil fuels.

    They are entirely indifferent to your Panglossian rhetoric.

  237. victorpetri says:

    @ATTP
    I agree with you, as I said the far more reasonable worry on oil and gas, that there is too much of it, and it is too cheap. (to which you responded something about eggs).

  238. vp,

    to which you responded something about eggs

    Well, yes, because you managed to make it sound like people here didn’t realise that a reasonable worry is that oil and gas is too plentiful and too cheap. That’s a fairly obvious concern, that is exaccerbated if we decide to ignore externalities.

  239. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    I am sorry, but you commented on a reply I gave Sam Taylor, to which I tried to explain why I thought peak oil was not a problem (to which I added that oil being too cheap and plentiful was the more reasonable worry). For some reason I have the feeling you misinterpret my comments quite often, are my comments unclear, is my dunglish (dutch english) bad or do certain presumptions lead you to assume the worst of my comments?

  240. but you commented on a reply I gave Sam Taylor, to which I tried to explain why I thought peak oil was not a problem

    Okay, fair enough. Apologies.

  241. Sam Taylor says:

    “Cod is not a finite resource, it’s a renewable..”

    As I’m sure you’re aware, ecosystems like cod fisheries are best modelled as nonlinear systems which are capable of abrupt state shifts. In the case of the grand banks cod fishery, this was an ecosystem which was massively over-exploited until such a tipping point came along. Despite being left well along for quite a while now, catches continue to decline and the damage has been long term, possibly permenant. On the upside, cod is a significant predator of lobster, and lobster catches have gone through the roof, presumably explaining the proliferation of £20 lobster joints in central London.

  242. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    You seem to not appreciate what Sen’s argument really is, and it seems clear that what you’ve done is cherry-pick even from the wiki write-up.

    Here is the very first part:

    His book argues that economic development entails a set of linked freedoms:

    political freedoms and transparency in relations between people
    freedom of opportunity, including freedom to access credit; and
    economic protection from abject poverty, including through income supplements and unemployment relief.

    A state of poverty will generally be characterised by lack of at least one freedom (Sen uses the term unfreedom for lack of freedom), including a de facto lack of political rights and choice, vulnerability to coercive relations, and exclusion from economic choices and protections. From this, Sen concludes that real development cannot be reduced to simply increasing basic incomes, nor to rising average per capita incomes. Rather, it requires a package of overlapping mechanisms that progressively enable the exercise of a growing range of freedoms.

    Yes, he views “free markets” as an essential method for achieving freedom – but in your cherry-pick, you skipped right over those other elements. Here, from Amazon:

    Freedom, Sen argues, is both the end and most efficient means of sustaining economic life and the key to securing the general welfare of the world’s entire population. Releasing the idea of individual freedom from association with any particular historical, intellectual, political, or religious tradition, Sen clearly demonstrates its current applicability and possibilities. In the new global economy, where, despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers–perhaps even the majority of people–he concludes, it is still possible to practically and optimistically restain a sense of social accountability.

    Sen is critical of approaches to development that emphasize growth in a simplistic manner.

    You know, Victor – it’s hard to engage in good faith exchange of perspective if someone ignores anything that doesn’t confirm their biases.

    Try reading this:

    https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/sen-development.html

    And this

    https://www.nytimes.com/books/99/11/28/reviews/991128.28zakarit.html

  243. Willard says:

    > Could you please stop interrupting a potentially interesting discussion, if you have nothing but your rudeness to offer?

    Even rudeness can be potentially interesting, vp, at least as much as peddling over and over again ingenuity and infinity. Arguing from ignorance can potentially become boring too.

  244. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    This work outlines the need for an integrated analysis of economic, social and political activities, involving a variety of institutions and many interactive agencies. It concentrates particularly on the roles and interconnections between certain crucial instrumental freedoms, including economic opportunities, political freedoms, social facilities, transparency guarantees, and protective security. Societal arrangements, involving many institutions (the state, the market, the legal system, political parties, the media, public interest groups and public discussion forums, among others) are investigated in terms of their contribution to enhancing and guaranteeing the substantive freedoms of individuals, seen as active agents of change, rather than as passive recipients of dispensed benefits.

    Look at that 2nd sentence, and then look again at why I think that your excerpt from the Wiki entry looks like cherry-pick?

    Here’s more:

    Expansion of freedom is viewed, in this approach, both as the primary end and as the principal means of development. Development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency. The removal of substantial unfreedoms, it is argued here, is constitutive of development. However, for a fuller understanding of the connection between development and freedom we have to go beyond that basic recognition (crucial as it is). The intrinsic importance of human freedom, in general, as the preeminent objective of development has to be distinguished from the instrumental effectiveness of freedoms of particular kinds to promote freedoms of other kinds. The linkages between different types of freedoms are empirical and causal, rather than constitutive and compositional. For example, there is strong evidence that economic and political freedoms help to reinforce one another, rather than being hostile to one another (as they are sometimes taken to be). Similarly, social opportunities of education and health care, which may require public action, complement individual opportunities of economic and political participation and also help to foster our own initiatives in overcoming our respective deprivations. If the point of departure of the approach lies in the identification of freedom as the main object of development, the reach of the policy analysis lies in establishing the empirical linkages that make the viewpoint of freedom coherent and cogent as the guiding perspective of the process of development.

    https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/sen-development.html

  245. victorpetri says:

    My reaction:
    I did not read it, from the wiki it looks as a book I could agree with:
    “Sen views free markets as an essential method of achieving freedom.”
    .. so although I think it would make an interesting read, I fail to see the relevance.

    Your reaction:
    “You know, Victor – it’s hard to engage in good faith exchange of perspective if someone ignores anything that doesn’t confirm their biases.”

    I did read the wiki and I didn’t cherry pick, I just don’t disagree with anything I read, as well as I do not see anything that disagrees with what I say, so I try to explain that I fail to see the relevance.
    Sorry, haven’t read the book, looks interesting though. Wiki’s are not optimal to gain knowledge.

  246. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    ==> “I did read the wiki and I didn’t cherry pick, ”

    Not sure what else to say. It looked like a cherry-pick to me. I gave you my reasoning, specifically when I asked you to look at the 2nd sentence from that excerpt.

    You concluded with:

    ==> “I fail to see the relevance.”

    The book is about the causalities related to growth.

  247. Willard says:

    > I fail to see the relevance.

    It matters for your claim that we ought to include externalities, vp. Some might even be tempted to see in your failure to see the relevance that you’re only paying lip service to them.

    One does not simply pay due diligence to externalities while peddling ingenuity and infinity in a Mordor that obeys the laws of physics.

  248. Willard says:

    > Wiki’s are not optimal to gain knowledge.

    Neither are books:

    People who skim online articles are just as cultured as book snobs

    http://qz.com/385512/people-who-skim-online-articles-are-just-as-cultured-as-book-snobs/

    (I only read the title, BTW. TL; DR.)

    If you know the optimality conditions of the learning problem, please share. We can become rich.

  249. Sam Taylor says:

    VP,

    Of course, you neglect the fact that monocultures (which the current lobster situation in some fisheries is starting to resembly) are inherently much less stable than polycultures. The current explosion of the lobster population is the perfect breeding ground for lobster killing diseases. If/when the lobster population collapses, I assume you’ll enjoy eating the starfish and worms that they’ll stop eating.

    Anyway, the main innovation of the last decade or so has been the zero interest rate (which Hubbert predicted, oddly enough), which has served to make the more expensive forms of energy affordable for a time, though at the same time encouraging ponzi-like bubbles such as the shale industry. I like that you linked to an article which quoted Kurzweil, whom the data specifically disagrees with when it comes to technological change that isn’t silicon chips (see eg the work of Smil). Besides which, as I keep benging on about, everything in that article is made redundant when you properly factor in energy costs. I mean look at this paragraph:

    “in the 1970s America’s growth in real output per person dropped from its post-second-world-war peak of over 3% a year to just over 2% a year. In the 2000s it tumbled below 1%. Output per worker per hour shows a similar pattern, according to Robert Gordon, an economist at Northwestern University: it is pretty good for most of the 20th century, then slumps in the 1970s. It bounced back between 1996 and 2004, but since 2004 the annual rate has fallen to 1.33%, which is as low as it was from 1972 to 1996”

    Correlates nearly perfectly with the oil shocks in the 70’s and the OPEC opening the taps in the mid 80s’, price of oil collapsing, then supplies tightening in the mid noughties when conventional oil peaked out. Plus more recent data from the IMF is pretty pessimistic in this regard. Garrett ( http://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/6/655/2015/esdd-6-655-2015.html ) has also showed that rates of innovation have been slowing in recent times, just to keep banging my head against the wall.

    We at least agree that high oil prices were a causative factor of the crisis, but I think we’re much more likely to see continued high energy costs putting a damper on the global economy, combined with lots of market volatility, than we are to see innovation forever driving us on to a glorious new tomorrow.

  250. victorpetri says:

    @Joshua
    ” The book is about the causalities related to growth.”
    And as I said, it looks like a very interesting book.

    Why does everyone have a beef with me?
    I think the assumption that people, having their basic needs met thanks to economic growth, are more likely to care about environmental issues, is very reasonable, and is not a odds with any book by Sen. I think the freedom to act as independent agent, equality in data access (transparency) with property rights and no form of coercion is enormously important for capitalism and free markets to work properly, only then people are able to enter into those transactions that they seem are beneficial to them, ensuring that all transactions made are mutually beneficial.
    Also, I think that on a more conceptual level, economic growth comes from our collective knowledge to use energy to decrease entropy, but this is on a whole different level of discussion.

    I was not attempting to cherry pick, I just failed (and are probably still failing) to understand you properly.

  251. jsam says:

    Bricks have a purpose.

  252. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    ==> “Why does everyone have a beef with me?

    I can’t speak for others. I have a beef with your argument that Sen’s work isn’t directly relevant to the questions of the relative value of economic growth.

    This is where I came in to the discussion with you:

    ==> “coal plants can and have been a very effective way to obtain energy and lift millions out of poverty, as happened e.g. in China.”

    Sen’s work is directly related to your argument that coal plants…have lift[ed] millions out of poverty in China.

  253. BBD says:

    Why does everyone have a beef with me?

    Because you refuse to acknowledge that your arguments are self-serving and incomplete. Which is – speaking of rudeness – a naked insult to your readers’ intelligence.

  254. BBD says:

    There – perfect example. Chinese coal. You blather about ‘millions and poverty’ while everybody else recognises a more nuanced picture with millions and respiratory disease and CO2 and physical climatology.

  255. victorpetri says:

    @ST
    Really, we have been flying drones using our brains alone, we use 3d printing to print living cells into a working kidney, we are about to cure blindness, can use our brains to use prosthetic arms, made a lame man walk, put a machine on Mars, landed a machine on a comet, made enormous progress in genetech and even finally created a floating skateboard http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-hoverboard-kickstarter-20141021-story.html
    In the last couple of years alone, among many many others, and name only zero interest?

    However, I do agree with you, cheap energy fuels economic growth, BUT human ingenuity fuels cheap energy. Time will tell:
    http://www.bp.com/en/global/corporate/about-bp/energy-economics/statistical-review-of-world-energy/review-by-energy-type/renewable-energy/renewable-power-.html

  256. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    ==> “..However, I do agree with you, cheap energy fuels economic growth,…”

    Sen’s work is also directly relevant to that statement.

  257. BBD says:

    VP

    I think the assumption that people, having their basic needs met thanks to economic growth, are more likely to care about environmental issues, is very reasonable, and is not a odds with any book by Sen.

    If fossil fuels are used to any significant extent to produce this future prosperity, the physical consequences and their economic impacts will undermine and quite possibly even destroy that prosperity.

    Your argument is incomplete and so fails.

  258. victorpetri says:

    So China chose to ignore externalities and got dirt cheap energy from coal, this did not help China to lift millions out of poverty?? Do we accuse them to be “infinitely stupid” or was this in fact a rational decision, made through a differing assessment of priorities.
    Why don’t you argue with Sam, who does seem to understand that cheap energy fuels economic growth?

    @BBD
    And you, you just take a small sample of my comments and blather on and on, without even halfway attempting to understand what I say. Just like with that China comment, you have no idea at all why I said that and what I meant by it, no idea at all. That doesn’t stop you to nag on and on endlessly, like a broken record, and attribute all kinds of things to me, that I never ever said.

  259. Willard says:

    > I think the assumption that people, having their basic needs met thanks to economic growth, are more likely to care about environmental issues, is very reasonable, and is not a odds with any book by Sen.

    You’re a fast reader out of sudden, vp, and this is not the assumption that is disputed. One assumption that is disputed lies behind this latest armwaving:

    Time will tell.

    Peddling ingenuity and infinity does not substantiate this appeal to ignorance very well in a rational inquiry. Sure, if you want to sell pop-sci books, that could work. If you ever want to turn your stories into a book, may I suggest The Techno-Poptimist for a title?

  260. BBD says:

    And you, you just take a small sample of my comments and blather on and on, without even halfway attempting to understand what I say. Just like with that China comment, you have no idea at all why I said that and what I meant by it, no idea at all. That doesn’t stop you to nag on and on endlessly, like a broken record, and attribute all kinds of things to me, that I never ever said.

    You cannot defend your flawed argument and now resort to a combination of misdirection, dishonesty and mind-reading.

  261. vp,

    So China chose to ignore externalities and got dirt cheap energy from coal, this did not help China to lift millions out of poverty?? Do we accuse them to be “infinitely stupid” or was this in fact a rational decision, made through a differing assessment of priorities.

    I don’t think that’s the point. The point is simply that if you ignore externalities then fossil fuels will continue to appear cheap despite the fact that there are costs that will be incurred in the future. Therefore our ability to develop alternatives is hampered by the fact that many of these alternatives are fully costed but are trying to compete in a market in which their competitors are not. Not only does that create an unfair advantage for one product over another, it almost guarantees delaying implementing a solution because the alternatives need to end up being cheaper than fossil fuel systems that are not priced at their full cost.

  262. BBD says:

    It was actually an entirely self-serving decision arrived at by ignoring the welfare of the people in favour of short-term and massive economic gain for the elite that runs China.

    The typical Chinese worker remains disadvantaged, impoverished and exploited. They never saw the big money and they never will. The environmental consequences – all negative – are already strongly apparent for many Chinese citizens.

  263. Michael 2 says:

    ATTP says “Not only does that create an unfair advantage for one product over another…”

    Precisely the point, although I would delete “unfair”. Is there such a thing as a “fair” advantage?

    I go to a hardware store and nearly everything is “made in China”. The quality is adequate and the prices tend to be amazingly cheap. I still usually prefer the premier brands but they are becoming difficult to find as they exit the market.

    The result of all this is that China has indeed lifted hundreds of millions of its people out of poverty while putting some Americans into poverty.

    50 years ago the same phenomenon was “made in Japan”, once meaning cheap and poorly made.

  264. Joshua says:

    ==> “Why don’t you argue with Sam, who does seem to understand that cheap energy fuels economic growth?”

    I did take it up with Sam – and I didn’t find his response very useful.

    ==> “The point is simply that if you ignore externalities then fossil fuels will continue to appear cheap despite the fact that there are costs that will be incurred in the future.”

    That’s part of it. My point about Victor’s argument is also that it ignores the interrelationship and direction of the various causal mechanisms related to growth and freedom. I think that the cheap energy = fewer starving people simplistic argument undermines some important considerations that the “Manifesto-ers” bring to the table.

  265. victorpetri says:

    @attp
    I agree, but if we return to the very comment that initiated all this, and which escalated so much that BBD is foaming from the mouth and is nearing a stress induced heart attack.

    It’s about this I do not consider China’s use of coal plants to alleviate poverty by means of cheap energy is lack of brain use. It’s not due to infinite stupidity, but due to a differing of priorities.

    This is what I said, nothing more, nothing less.

  266. vp,

    It’s about this I do not consider China’s use of coal plants to alleviate poverty by means of cheap energy is lack of brain use. It’s not due to infinite stupidity, but due to a differing of priorities.

    Well, yes, but I was referring to our ability as a species to use our brains in some idealistic sense that would allow us to consider more thoroughly the consequences of our actions, not simply that we think before doing something. I realise that the Chineses were not being stupid when they decided to develop coal plants and that they have certainly gained in doing so (although not everyone as BBD indicates). However, the scientific evidence would suggest that if every developing nation were to do the same as the Chinese (coal with no externalities) we would be in deep trouble by the mid- to late-21st century. Each decision may have been fine on it’s own and be what was best for whoever was making the decision; collectively it will probably be a disaster. So, how do we resolve this without disadvantaging those countries who would like to develop their economies and help those in poverty? That’s the difficult decision that I was referring to when I said “using our brains”.

    Essentially, everything we do will require some element of using our brains and deciding on an optimal pathway, or what we consider to be best at the time. However, that doesn’t mean that the sum total of what we do will end up having been optimal. It seems quite plausible to me that we will continue to make all sorts of decisions, none of which are necessarily poor ones by themselves but which, collectively, will end up doing more harm than good. In a sense reality and pragmatism (or politics) gets in the way of making what might be the best possible decision.

  267. BBD says:

    I agree, but if we return to the very comment that initiated all this, and which escalated so much that BBD is foaming from the mouth and is nearing a stress induced heart attack.

    Anything but defend your incomplete argument which does not take into account the NEGATIVE consequences of fossil fuel use now (eg in China) and in the future, globally.

    Focusing only on the positive and blanking the negative results in a skewed, nonsensical rhetoric sometimes called ‘blather’.

  268. Joshua says:

    ==> ” China’s use of coal plants to alleviate poverty by means of cheap energy ”

    And again you state this, without dealing with the complexity that underlies this simplistic line of reasoning.

  269. BBD says:

    It’s about this I do not consider China’s use of coal plants to alleviate poverty by means of cheap energy is lack of brain use. It’s not due to infinite stupidity, but due to a differing of priorities.

    I didn’t say it was stupid, I said it was self-serving and ruthless.

  270. Andrew Dodds says:

    BBD –

    There was also the small matter of ‘Most Favoured Nation’ trading status from the US to China. Certainly in the first phase of growth.

  271. BBD says:

    I think the freedom to act as independent agent, equality in data access (transparency) with property rights and no form of coercion is enormously important for capitalism and free markets to work properly, only then people are able to enter into those transactions that they seem are beneficial to them, ensuring that all transactions made are mutually beneficial.

    China isn’t a democracy.

  272. BBD says:

    AD

    So there was. But VP isn’t very hot on nuance or realpolitik.

  273. Willard says:

    > if we return to the very comment that initiated all this, and which escalated so much that BBD is foaming from the mouth and is nearing a stress induced heart attack.

    Yet another peddler who exploits BBD’s comments to rip off his shirt.

    Speaking of China, under what circumstance does McConnell’s message to foreigners to do less on climate change coheres with vp’s peddling? Here’s Brian’s hint:

    The Republican mantra has been the US shouldn’t move forward without the cooperation of other countries:

    Now McConnell is trying to stop that cooperation.

    What’s even screwier is that even if you think the American interest isn’t in cooperating, but rather that the US should take a free rider position and let other countries do most of the work of combating climate emissions, then McConnell’s statement to foreigners is still a bad idea. Trying to get them not to do the work just makes things worse for us.

    http://rabett.blogspot.com/2015/04/under-what-circumstance-does-mcconnells.html

  274. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    How would you figure Iran into your simplistic argument that access to cheap energy = higher standards of living?

  275. anoilman says:

    Victorpetri: “Why does everyone have a beef with me?”

    You’re a geophysicist working for oil and gas right?
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/talk-politics-not-science/#comment-40407

    And you think its wrong for people who work in oil (such as yourself) to speak out against oil. Right?
    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2014/12/16/talk-politics-not-science/#comment-40452

    I consider all of your drivel pretty much irrational. As long as oil or carbon are being discussed, you cannot speak rationally about it. That is what I’m hearing from you. You have been very clear about this.

    Now tell me all about growth in a world with global warming, and hugely expensive oil. Oh and did you read that China is looking at building a 2GW solar power (PV) power plant this year?

  276. victorpetri says:

    @anoilman
    What I literally said: I personally think people who work in oil, but declare it to be the root of evil are hypocrites, luckily I hold no such position.

    Just what I need, one more rude person that tells my how irrational I am, that I blather and drivel, and that I need not to be taken seriously, and who assumes anything that I write is not worth reading to begin with, so does not bother to make a single effort in understanding my view.
    I find that many here are quite close minded.

  277. victorpetri says:

    @Joshua
    OK, perhaps you missed it, but I replied to you this:
    I think the freedom to act as independent agent, equality in data access (transparency) with property rights and no form of coercion is enormously important for capitalism and free markets to work properly, only then people are able to enter into those transactions that they seem are beneficial to them, ensuring that all transactions made are mutually beneficial.

  278. anoilman says:

    victorpetri: But that’s not how the real world works. Pollution is considered free in your world. Its not.

  279. victorpetri says:

    @anoilman
    Wrong, please try again

  280. vp,

    I personally think people who work in oil, but declare it to be the root of evil are hypocrites, luckily I hold no such position.

    But you have no problem advocating for fossil fuels while arguing that scientists/experts should not be activists in areas where they have specific expertise? I’m constantly amazed as to why you’re always surprised by how people respond to you here.

  281. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    ===> “I think the freedom to act as independent agent, equality in data access (transparency) with property rights and no form of coercion is enormously important for capitalism and free markets to work properly, only then people are able to enter into those transactions that they seem are beneficial to them, ensuring that all transactions made are mutually beneficial.”

    If you read Sen, I think you will see a Nobel-prize level argument that your description places government and other societal institutions in a much more passive role than what can be demonstrated in an empirical analysis of what correlates with development.

    But even if we take that description of yours, I think that excerpt above is not consistent with a simplistic cheap energy = lifting people from poverty type of argument.

    That’s why I keep asking you to address the simplicity of that argument.

    Don’t you agree that cheap energy is only one element in the chain of inter-related causal mechanisms that lift people from poverty? One of those elements would be agency in control over environmental degradation, of the type that occurs as the result of burning coal, would it not? If so, then how is it meaningful to exempt negative externalities, those related to climate change as well as others, from arguments about how to lift people out of poverty?

    When I see this,

    ==> ” China’s use of coal plants to alleviate poverty by means of cheap energy ”

    It seems to me to create a very simplistic equation of cheap energy = poverty alleviation. It appears to me as a relatively useless simplification, and likely something that is crafted only for rhetorical purposes rather than to promote serious discussion. Not that you should necessarily care what I think, of course.

  282. afeman says:

    Brrrrrrains! for Grrrrrrowth!

  283. victorpetri says:

    Come on, that’s no contradiction.
    I am not a researcher that needs to maintain an objective and impartial stature when representing the results of a study.

    Hypocrite: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

    If your stated belief is that fossil fuels are the root of evil, and you work in the oil industry, you by the very definition of hypocrite, are a hipocrite. There is not much controverse here, it’s straight up to the very definition.

  284. Come on, that’s no contradiction.

    Well, of course you think this. And this kind of illustrates the point. Who gets to decide?

    I am not a researcher that needs to maintain an objective and impartial stature when representing the results of a study.

    Sure, but what about when they’re not actually presenting the results of a study? I’m not suggesting that they should be advocating while presenting their work at a conference. I’m suggesting that they have as much right to speak out as anyone else and that we should not be trying to silence experts.

    If your stated belief is that fossil fuels are the root of evil, and you work in the oil industry, you by the very definition of hypocrite, are a hipocrite. There is not much controverse here, it’s straight up to the very definition.

    Who says they’re the root of all evil? Either this is a strawman (which I think it is, since I’ve never heard anyone really say this) or you’re implying that someone who works in the oil industry has actually said that it’s the root of all evil.

  285. Mal Adapted says:

    There’s now a word for what Victor Petri is doing here: he’s sea lioning.

  286. BBD says:

    Come on VP. Free markets don’t exist. See eg. Ha-Joon Chang 23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalsim. This is just basic stuff now. The invisible hands are shaken over deals in back rooms you do not normally get to see until after the deals are done.

  287. BBD says:

    I prefer ‘blathering’ Mal A, because VP isn’t asking questions, just talking too much and not listening.

  288. Willard says:

    To accuse vp of blathering begs to be demonstrated.

    It’s easier to show that he’s peddling:

    (1) repetition of talking points
    (2) avoidance counterpoints
    (3) exploitation of ad homs for (1)
    (4) when all else fails, shirt ripping

  289. verytallguy says:

    Willard, can you provide a citation for “shirt-ripping”? I fear admitting my ignorance, but I have no idea what it means!

  290. John Hartz says:

    victorpetri/Michael 2:

    Please document the source of your assertion that China’s use of coal plants has alleviated poverty by means of cheap energy?

  291. Victor Petri says:

    @Joshua
    “places government and other societal institutions in a much more passive role than what can be demonstrated in an empirical analysis of what correlates with development. ”
    Careful now, there are many sea lions about.
    “Don’t you agree that cheap energy is only one element in the chain of inter-related causal mechanisms that lift people from poverty? One of those elements would be agency in control over environmental degradation, of the type that occurs as the result of burning coal, would it not? If so, then how is it meaningful to exempt negative externalities, those related to climate change as well as others, from arguments about how to lift people out of poverty? ”
    Yes, I agree. Yes, it would (and this is happening at the moment in China). It is meaningful in the sense that an early development economy is likely to prioritize economic growth ahead of negative externalities.

  292. BBD says:

    Willard

    Yes, actually peddling is much better.

  293. BBD says:

    It is meaningful in the sense that an early development economy is likely to prioritize economic growth ahead of negative externalities.

    Something increasingly difficult to do because of the cumulative and persistent effects of CO2 emissions. A point you have yet to acknowledge despite repeated prodding.

  294. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    ==> “Careful now, there are many sea lions about.”

    You’re going to have to translate that for me as a response to my comment.

  295. Michael Tobis said something in a blog comment today that I sometimes stress, but sometimes forget.

    Those of us who say “Keep it in the ground!” argue that the climate system cares very little about how fast we burn it; to a good approximation only how much of it we burn matters. This is a matter of physics and chemistry, not politics.

    And this is an important point. I think there are three scientific points to bear in mind/stress

    • One the scale of decades, it doesn’t matter how fast we burn it, it just matters how much.
    • At any instant in time, the best we can do is halt all emissions which would roughly lock-in what we’ve already done.
    • Climate change is largely irreversible on human timescales.
  296. anoilman says:

    Folks, I never actually said that fossil fuels are the root of all evil.

    However, I understand that CO2 pollution its causing (which is currently free to do) is now becoming detrimental to our biosphere.

    I note that vitorpetri’s talking points are simply propoganda, and completely predictable. His behavior is trollish too. He just responds to the easiest thing to respond to over and over. Shirt ripping what ever…

    Victorpetri: What do you think about China building a 2GW solar PV power plant? That’s like 4 coal power plants!

  297. Eli Rabett says:

    Cod is not a finite resource, it’s a renewable..

    That’s what they said about dodos and Whigs, but Eli repeats himself.

  298. Willard says:

    > Willard, can you provide a citation for “shirt-ripping”?

  299. Michael 2 says:

    victorpetri “Cod is not a finite resource, it’s a renewable.”

    It is both. It is finite with regard to instantaneous volume and if you were to use the entire volume then it would not renew. Its renewability is highly dependent on how much cod already exists. Consequently an optimum sustainable harvest exists; below that harvest you simply allow other fish and whales to do the harvesting; exceed the optimum and you start to run out of cod and the renewal rate will decline.

  300. Michael 2 says:

    entropicman “As a species we will probably survive. We are designed by evolution as opportunist hunter gathered.”

    Yes, exactly. I concur with your assessment that the precursors of a technological society, easy oil, coal and metals, have already been harvested. The significance which you notice but others might not is that if the human race descends back to the stone age, it will almost certainly stay in the stone age more or less forever with no lucky discovery of bronze and other easily discovered and smelted metals.

    I occasionally introduce a counterbalance to an extreme argument coming from either direction. All people are not going to die, but all people are also not going to live. Humans have gotten to 7 billion in number thanks to a huge energy subsidy or endowment that is about to come to an end. More importantly, the distribution of people is not optimum for alternate energy. The whole point of oil in particular is that it is portable and opens up formerly uninhabitable regions of the world to human settlement.

    With the demise of oil, many places on earth must return to being uninhabitable. But the residents of those places will either migrate or die, and if they migrate they bump into people already occupying the preferred destinations. That will lead to wars.

    The escape from all this requires some magical thinking. Solar power is abundant but not uniformly distributed. Regenerating liquid fuel from solar power is possible and would permit continued human habitation of otherwise uninhabitable places. But the processes for doing that are complex, haven’t been tested on a large scale, and may need a bit of help beyond what a free market economy is designed for.

    So, while a science fiction utopian society is certainly possible, even with available technology, it is unlikely. Still, it seems possible to “seed” the new society on a small scale and as the rest of the world destroys itself, this “seed” takes over; just as Homo Sapiens Sapiens took over from Neanderthal; but for a while, both existed.

    Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy partly informs my ideas on such things. The old WAYS will die, not necessarily the people using the old ways; and new ways will arise. But new ways start from seeds, just as all complex things must start simple. I doubt it is possible to migrate 7 billion people to a new way. You start with a tiny kernel, like a religion, and if it is a better fit for the environment it will supplant all other systems.

    That is why attempting to change the world will fail. You do not change complex systems; you start a new one. Norway, for instance, might be the seed of a new way for they have abundant hydropower and considerably less reliance on petroleum while at the same time harvesting large quantities of petroleum.

    The United States of America is not merely a modification of previous systems; it was designed from scratch, taking the best ideas of Roman, Saxon, English, French ideas especially that of John Locke. It required protective boundaries — the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans and even then barely succeeded. If the United States fails, which seems to be the case, can it arise again? No, it cannot, for it is already “occupied” by the very persons causing it to fail.

    You’ve mentioned Ireland. It also has naturally protective boundaries and might succeed where other nations are likely to fail. Iceland is an obvious candidate for trying new ways on a medium scale and is climatically nearly identical to Ireland’ bleak in a beautiful way but you sort of have to have it in your DNA to like it. I loved Iceland but it was and is quite often rather bleak.

  301. verytallguy11 says:

    Thanks Willard – I think…

    Perhaps to further my education in matters of torsowear split asunder, perhaps a citation to someone climateballing in said manner?

    (bear with me folks, I have a feeling everyone else is several steps ahead, but I’ll get there, I promise )

  302. Willard says:

    > perhaps a citation to someone climateballing in said manner?

    My favorite is of course Grounskeeper Willie himself:

    The parallel between the moral issues involved in Charlie Hebdo and those trying to silence free speech in the West is not perfectly congruent. But it is close enough to be useful.

    Alarmists have called for skeptics to face Nuremburg trials, go to prison, ad absurdium. Alarmists have killed their children and then themselves in a chilling echo of Jonestown. Alarmists have committed suicide by cop at the Discovery Channel headquarters. They trash archaeological treasures, agitate against cheap energy for the poor in South Africa and tell skeptics ‘we know where you live.’ The issue is serious enough to warrant comparison with what happened in Paris, if not exactly the same.

    http://neverendingaudit.tumblr.com/post/107946916374

    ***

    Recently, there has been this moment in the “you killed my brother” episode at Groundkeeper’s:

    It never occurred to me that I should suck up to the smarmy hypocrites comprising the Konsensus. They’ve attacked me just as they’ve attacked the people mention above. They have attacked me, not despite my support for those policies, but because of it. Because I do not call for drastic emission cuts, it doesn’t matter what else I advocate. I am become Denier, slayer of worlds.

    https://thelukewarmersway.wordpress.com/2015/04/17/revisionist-history-at-attp/comment-page-1/#comment-7280

    Shirt ripping is just another name for violent victim playing.

    ***

    MT’s comments in that thread shows how Love & Light operates.

  303. Michael 2 says:

    verytallguy11 says “A tragedy of the commons cannot be solved by personal action.”

    Sure it can and it must start with individuals. You are a person and you are trying to persuade others. That is a personal action. A man of principle can take actions not waiting for others; then when he becomes socially and legislatively active is not seen as a hypocrite. Al Gore’s huge house, money making scheme and jetting around the planet pretty well erases his credibility.

    ALL action starts as “personal action”.

    Napoleon Bonaparte was almost a nobody; but he seized some initiative in the “Time of Troubles” and became emperor of France for a while. Herr Schicklgruber was even more of a nobody. I find it amusing that anyone seriously challenges the “Great Man Theory”:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Man_theory

    Without John F. Kennedy, would the outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis have been different? It is nearly certain. For lack of a “great man”, other calamities arise.

    “London smogs were not solved by householders manufacturing their own smokeless fuel…”

    Nor by turning out the pigs. A better example is to describe how London smogs were solved rather than how they were not solved (an infinite list). What you’ll find is that somewhere in all that, a human person with a name started the process, enrolled some sponsors, and eventually produced the desired changes.

    “fundamentally the structure of the economy needs to be changed to make it easier and cheaper to make the right coices.”

    Sure, and who are you to decide what is the “right choice”? Anyway, that one sentence describes nearly the entire reason for resistance to just about everything.

    “Today it’s easier and cheaper to make the wrong choices.”

    And easier still to sit in front of a computer whining, hoping someone else will act.

    So I act for myself. I have LED illumination, a short commute to work, timers on fans, superior insulation on a small house that is no larger than I need.

    Does it change my neighbors? Not much; but it does persuade my friends and kin. The tragedy of the commons cannot entirely be avoided. There’s 7 *beeeeliion* humans and most of them don’t care what you think about anything; half of them are searching for today’s meal.

  304. Joshua says:

    That’s quite a thread there, willard.

    Tom is positively hilarious, and Shub’s comment about Isis is one for the ages.

  305. verytallguy11 says:

    Thanks Willard.

    For me, it’s rather an obscure reference. Maybe it’s obvious to others.

    That’s the first time I’ve been to Fullers blog. Kind of like a straight to DVD version of Judith’s. Not pleasant. Weird how ATTP banned him, can’t imagine what he did to deserve that.

  306. Joshua,
    Yes, it’s quite a thread. Shub’s reason for why it’s okay to use Isis was also quite something. “Isis” – fine as long as you don’t actually compare the person to Isis???? I was tempted to call him a “climate change denier” just to see the response, but I really can no longer be bothered.

    MT’s comments in that thread shows how Love & Light operates.

    Indeed.

    I also thought this comment was moderately amusing.

  307. Weird how ATTP banned him, can’t imagine what he did to deserve that.

    I keep telling people, it wasn’t me it was Rachel…..well, and then me.

  308. Willard says:

    More shirt ripping:

    The ‘consensus’ disease, and the naive belief of too many scientists that we need to speak ‘consensus’ to power, is slowing down scientific progress. Lennart Benngtson’s recent saga is another case in point [.]

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/ecology-and-the-environment

    Whining is boring.

  309. verytallguy11 says:

    Bad Rachel 😉

    The whole Charlie Hebdo thing reminded me why it’s best to avoid Judith’s too.

  310. vtg,
    Well, except Judith’s is the only one I have left. Had some decent conversations there, but it does have it’s moments.

  311. verytallguy11 says:

    Each to their own ATTP. I think you may have been wrong on stratospheric cooling btw; even if the troposphere is in a “pause” due to internal variation, I think the stratosphere should continue to cool as Co2 rises.

    Heat into stratosphere is solar, heat out is by Co2 emission. Roughly at least.

    But maybe that’s not what you really meant. Or maybe I’ve misunderstood dome tty hing.

  312. I think you may have been wrong on stratospheric cooling btw; even if the troposphere is in a “pause” due to internal variation, I think the stratosphere should continue to cool as Co2 rises.

    I’m not sure. My understanding is that if you add CO2 and the system warms, then that increases the effective emission height, which – given the form of the temperature profile – warms the troposphere and cools the stratosphere.

    If you add CO2, but there is some kind of pause in warming, then that would produce an energy imbalance, which is because the effective emission height has risen, but there’s been no accompanied warming since the temperature has yet to respond. That would seem to suggest that the emission height has risen but the temperature profile has yet to change and so the troposphere will not have warmed and the stratosphere will yet to cool.

    It could be that I misunderstand something, though. I know that Turbulent Eddie pointed out that stratospheric cooling was a consequence of CO2 forcing, not CO2 warming, and although Eddie can be wrong on many things, he does seem to get some of these things right.

  313. entropicman says:

    michael2

    Ireland still has a strong pastoral tradition and might revert to a pastoral low tech culture fairly easily. The population density is fairly low, so the transition might even be relatively painless.

    The east coast of the USA would be a bloody disaster if it tried.

    I like your idea of Norway as the seed of a post oil age society.

    I don’t get much chance to discuss this in detail. You might well find a few islands of tech around a core such a functioning nuclear power station, surrounded by peasant farmers. Hunter gatherers in less productive areas and a lot of country with no permanent population at all.

    Niven,’s Lucifer’s Hammer gives some flavour of this.

    Ultimately the problem is that doctors, scientists, technicians and other specialists are an expensive luxury only supportable if there is a surplus beyond subsistence. I suspect a big factor in what the future looks like will be the number of regions which can afford to maintain such people.

  314. Michael says:

    John Hartz asks “victorpetri/Michael 2: Please document the source of your assertion that China’s use of coal plants has alleviated poverty by means of cheap energy?”

    “Since initiating market reforms in 1978, China has shifted from a centrally planned to a market based economy and experienced rapid economic and social development. GDP growth averaging about 10 percent a year has lifted more than 500 million people out of poverty. All Millennium Development Goals have been reached or are within reach.”
    http://www.worldbank.org/en/country/china/overview

    “Last month China became the world’s largest energy user, after its appetite for power more than doubled in the last decade. Most of the demand comes from the nation’s huge manufacturing operations”
    http://www.theguardian.com/business/2010/aug/16/chinese-economic-boom

    “Coal makes up the bulk of China’s energy consumption (70% in 2005), and China is the largest producer and consumer of coal in the world. As China’s economy continues to grow, China’s coal demand is projected to rise significantly. Although coal’s share of China’s overall energy consumption will decrease, coal consumption will continue to rise in absolute terms. ”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_China

    Cheap energy facilitates production which in turn facilitates enrichment of workers; but neither of these steps is guaranteed. China is simply an example where the government has decided to pursue enrichment through production (manufacture) which of course depends on cheap energy, coal mostly.

    Some of the larger cities boast multiple power stations. I was trying to find an example that I saw on Google Earth but China is a big place and I don’t remember the example city. Power distribution is somewhat limited so its more effective to distribute power generation among customers (factories).

  315. Victor Petri says:

    @anoilman
    Victorpetri: What do you think about China building a 2GW solar PV power plant? That’s like 4 coal power plants!

    Well, that’s great. It touches on many things I have discussed, namely that a country that gets more developed, is bound to take pollution more seriously. That I said that renewable energy’s newly added capacity in 2014 was equal to that of all fossil fuels together. That as a energy source, solar is possibly bound by Earth’s finiteness the least, and by mankind’s knowledge the most, which is why it has been rapidly expanding.
    Finally, it made me a boatload of many, since I am heavily invested in solar, This ytd alone my solar stocks rose 30%.

  316. Victor Petri says:

    Btw, did you ban my account?
    I find that very unfair, I have been much more polite than the people I have been debating.

  317. vp,
    Nope, but let’s not play the ref.

  318. verytallguy11 says:

    ATTP,

    I still think you’re wrong. Which probably means I’ve made a mistake. I’ll try again.

    Definitions:

    1) The tropopause is the boundary between the troposphere and stratosphere
    2) C(CO2) is the absolute concentration of CO2 in kmol/m3 or equivalent at a given point in the atmosphere
    3) QS(abs) is the heat absorbed at any given height in the stratosphere (W/m2 or equivalent)
    4) QS(e) is the heat emitted at any point in the stratosphere (W/m2 or equivalent)

    Assumptions (these are all noddy 1st order and obviously there is more nuance):

    1) The troposphere is dominated by convection.
    2) The stratosphere as dominated by radiation, and from here radiation escapes direct to space

    From (1) it follows that the temperature gradient in the troposphere is set by the lapse rate, (g/cp for dry air, 9.8K/km)

    The boundary condition for the tropopause is the height at which radiation starts to dominate. This is expected to be set by radiative gases, notably CO2, and will stay at a constant emissivity and therefore absolute concentration (kmol/m3) of these gases. As the relative concentration (ppm) rises, the pressure for a given absolute concentration falls, so the height of the tropopause rises, but its temperature stays constant, maintaining heat balance as its emissivity stays constant too.

    Note that the absolute rise in height of the tropopause is very small, only 100m for a 1degC rise in surface temperature, a negligible proportion of the total height of the atmosphere.

    The stratosphere is entirely unaffected by the movement of the tropopause, other than starting a few metres higher in altitude. In the stratosphere, however, at any given height, there is a heat flux in, QS(abs) which is caused by the absorbance of UV by ozone primarily. There is also a heat flux out, QS(e) which is a function of temperature and emissivity at a given height. Emissivity is a function of C(CO2). At steady state:

    QS(abs) = QS(e)

    Under rising CO2, QS(abs) remains constant, so QS(e) must also remain constant. But the emissivity has risen, as C(CO2) has risen, so the temperature must fall. Independent of events in the troposphere.

    If there is a “pause”, this “pause” may have many and varied causes. Ocean heat uptake may change, ultimately affecting convective heat transport. Solar forcing may change. Aerosol forcing may change. Measurements have errors associated. But the only factors which should change the stratospheric temperature are those that affect radiation in the stratosphere.

    If a “pause” were caused by ENSO and other ocean changes there should be little or no effect on the stratosphere
    If a “pause” were caused by a change in surface or tropospheric albedo, there should be little or no effect on the stratosphere
    If a “pause” were caused by volcanic aerosols (which absorb LW radiation in the stratosphere) the temperature will rise relative to what would be expected
    If a “pause” were caused by solar forcing, the stratospheric temperature should fall as QS(abs) falls.

    But if nothing has changed in forcing agents other than CO2, the stratosphere should respond by cooling regardless of whether the surface has heated or not.

    Obviously this is far more simple than the reality, but I think it’s reasonable to 1st order.

    It is heartening that others much more expert have also struggled to explain this…

    Why does the stratosphere cool when the troposphere warms?
    — gavin @ 7 December 2004 – ()
    This post is obsolete and wrong in many respects

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/why-does-the-stratosphere-cool-when-the-troposphere-warms/

  319. vtg,
    I quite possibly am still wrong. I was basing it on this kind of idea in the RealClimate post

    In the case of the Earth, the solar input (and therefore long wave output) are roughly constant. This implies that there is a level in the atmosphere (called the effective radiating level) that must be at the effective radiating temperature (around 252K). This is around the mid-troposphere ~ 6km. Since increasing GHGs implies an increasing temperature gradient, the temperatures must therefore ‘pivot’ around this (fixed) level. i.e. everything below that level will warm, and everything above that level will cool.

    so, when you add GHGs, you push the effective emission height up and the whole profile shifts up, warming the troposphere and cooling the stratosphere. If the warming was due to a solar forcing, then this wouldn’t happen because the effective emission height wouldn’t change, but the temperature at that height would which would push the temperature profile to higher temperatures at all altitudes (troposphere and stratosphere).

    However, if – as you say – the stratosphere is cooling because we’re adding more of something that increase the radiative efficiency in the stratosphere (and I do remember reading something about this) then the stratosphere would indeed cool even if the troposphere does not warm. In fact, I’ve just been reading this which seems to confirm that what you suggest is dominant. Oh well, can’t be right all the time 🙂

  320. verytallguy11 says:

    M2

    Sure it can and it must start with individuals. You are a person and you are trying to persuade others. That is a personal action. A man of principle can take actions not waiting for others; then when he becomes socially and legislatively active is not seen as a hypocrite. Al Gore’s huge house, money making scheme and jetting around the planet pretty well erases his credibility

    Yeah, Al Gore is fat 🙂

    Seriously, though, I think may actually agree. Personal action can be powerful in persuading others. It cannot, however, solve the problem. That requires societal action.

    I’m not going to get into a “mylifestyle is greener than yours” contest with you; what I would say is that a greener lifestyle can be much better than thoughtlessly following the norm. Or to put it another way, I enjoyed my cycle to work this morning.

  321. verytallguy11 says:

    ATTP,

    Eli has a related post up, it would be interesting to get his take. I tried but can’t seem to get through his comment form system 😦

  322. Stoat’s post would seem to suggest that you’re right, but does beg the question as to how much of the earlier cooling was due to ozone depletion and how much was due to increasing GHGs.

  323. Andrew Dodds says:

    @M2

    I suggest that you read War and Peace as an antidote to your Great Man theory..

  324. anoilman says:

    Victor “I am incapable of saying anything negative about fossil fuels” Petri:

    All of China’s new coal power plants have also been brought up to Western standards (with western equipment) for emissions. (Sulfur, particulates, etc.) With all their old ones getting phased out, and their coal emissions declining, they are also cleaning up what emissions they do have.
    http://cleantechnica.com/2015/03/13/china-coal-consumption-co2-emissions-drop-2014/

    Check out 3 gorges dam! 22.5 GW capacity! And the price is suspiciously close to solar.

    M2: Thanks for the links to old data. The biggest source of growth in China has been its one child policy. And you might want to take a look at that link about emissions since they are now on the decline. If I recall, pundits against the US/China emissions deal were complaining that China is already on its way to reducing emissions. So, you know, the laggards are the Americans.

  325. Joshua says:

    oily –

    ==> ” The biggest source of growth in China has been its one child policy. ”

    What an interesting statement. Have you seen any analysis along those lines?

    As politically-incorrect as might be the implications, that perspective certainly speaks to the facile use of China to argue that cheap energy = fewer starving children in Africa China = let’s build more coal plants = “environmentalists” are statist/fascist/authoritarians perusing a oneworldgovernment indifferent to starving children = promoting renewables is evil = ACO2 mitigation is economic suicide.

  326. Joshua says:

    BTW – I hope you don’t mind me calling you “oily.” Won’t do it if you object.

  327. Michael 2 says:

    verytallguy11 “Personal action can be powerful in persuading others. It cannot, however, solve the problem. That requires societal action.”

    Agreed; but how do you get to “societal action”? You either have a dictator that dictates it or you have broad-based social agreement, subscription, “buy-in”, or whatever. Both require persuasion but in the former you need only persuade the dictator.

    Highly persuasive people have charisma, an “aura” that is almost supernatural. I felt it when Ronald Reagan came to Iceland. It was powerful and profound.

    Such persons are the missing link between dictatorship and trying to convert at least half of 7 billion people to any kind of idea.

    In the short term you need only persuade a legislature; but over the long run you’d also better persuade the electors of such legislatures.

  328. John Hartz says:

    Hot off the press and directly related to the omgoing discussion betwen ATTP and VTG…

    A very new paper currently in press shines light on climate feedbacks and the balance of energy flows to and from the Earth. The paper was published by Kevin Trenberth, Yongxin Zhang, John Fasullo, and Shoichi Taguchi. In this study, the authors ask and answer a number of challenging questions. Their findings move us a big step forward in understanding what is happening to the planet now, and how the climate will evolve into the future.

    So, what did the scientists do? First, they used measurements at the top of the Earth atmosphere to count the energy coming into the Earth system and the energy leaving the planet. The measurements were made by satellites as part of the Clouds and Earth’s Radiant Energy System project (CERES for short). By subtracting one energy flow from the other, they found what is called the Earth’s energy imbalance. Most studies show that the energy imbalance is in the range of 0.5 to 1 Watt per square meter of surface area, which is causing ongoing global warming.,

    Changes in water vapor and clouds are amplifying global warming by John Abraham, Climate Consensus – the 97%, The Guardian, Apr 23, 2015

    PS – I also posted the above on the comment thread to ATTP’s new post, Testing the IRIS Hypothesis

  329. John Hartz says:

    victorpetri: Thank you for the documentation re the growth of China’s economy.

    I note that the World Bank defines poverty to be an income of less than $1.25 per day — a rather low bar indeed.

  330. anoilman says:

    Joshua: “What an interesting statement. Have you seen any analysis along those lines?”

    Its been a while, and my brain can be kinda jumbly. I’ve read snippets of that many times over the last few years. And no… I don’t mind being called ‘oily’.

    China obviously says its one child policy was introduced for economic reasons;
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/One-child_policy

    However, there is debate here (namely the birth rates were on a downward slide before that);
    http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2011/10/27/chinas_touting_of_1_child_rules_draws_challenges/

    I think this best explains it;
    http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2010/09/china-population-wang
    “The era of uninterrupted supplies of young, cheap Chinese labor is over.”

    The implications of all this will be profound. Chinese labor costs will go up, and manufacturing will return to the west. (We’re already seeing a reverse of outsourcing.) Chinese will be in our cycle of growth, name mergers and hunting for the next big thing.

    Now glimpsing into our crystal balls, what will it be like back home? Menial labor will be returning, as our goods could be manufactured competitively to Chinese goods. The other implication is that goods are all going to start costing a lot more. I believe some would call this the end of growth, but I don’t see it that way. It will however have a huge impact on our economic landscape.

    So is growth driven by energy prices, or access to cheap labor? Low energy prices would not prevent the massive reverse landslide of menial labor.

  331. Michael 2 says:

    John Hartz “I note that the World Bank defines poverty to be an income of less than $1.25 per day — a rather low bar indeed.”

    And completely meaningless in the absence of associated cost of living. If living costs only a dollar a day, then $1.25 is very comfortable.

    Around Washington DC poverty is probably on the order of $30 to $50 per day. Climate change will alter this.

  332. Andrew Dodds says:

    @aom

    All other things being equal, it may be a good thing..

    One of the problems of outsourcing, or having outsourcing available, is the effect on investment. Basically, given a choice between lowering costs by shifting the same factory overseas, or investing in new manufacturing tech to make your existing employees more productive, most managers choose the first option. But it’s the second option that actually generates long term growth – the first just shifts returns around.

  333. victorpetri says:

    @anoilman,

    I am not really sure why you direct that comment at me. And I am perfectly capable of naming the disadvantages of fossil fuels, I only differ from most here to see fossil fuels as a net positive to mankind.

    The one child policy is a one time benefit, the reaping of the demographic dividend, that will soon be over, when it will start to inflict long term economic damage, when it needs to come to terms with one of the most rapidly aging populations in the world.

    @AD
    I don’t agree that the first option you state “just shifts returns around”, the fact that imported products are cheaper, is beneficial to an economy in itself.
    Contrary to what most people think, it is imports that bring the greatest benefit, not exports — which are the price we have to pay to get the imports. At the centre of the debate lies David Ricardo’s beautiful yet counterintuitive idea of comparative advantage — that it will always pay a country (or a person) to import some goods from another, even if the first country or person is better at making everything. Cheap imported goods create more demand for local services and hence more growth and jobs in the importing country.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparative_advantage

  334. anoilman says:

    Andrew Dodds: I think the issue is that the whole concept of growth is pretty distorted when you consider that we are all living off cheap Chinese labor. I actually moved a manufacturing line from Canada, to the US, to Mexico, and finally to Taiwan. It was all to reduce labor costs. Our modems were taking 15 minutes (really, f’ing long in manufacturing terms) to calibrate, so we needed to reduce the costs of engineers and technicians who ran the line. In 100k quantities labor is your biggest expense by far. (I’ve also worked with outsourced software teams in India. Its not worth it unless you have a huge huge team, because of the excess management/travel costs.)

    So, now that the outsourced labor on the wane (soon to reverse), and energy prices are going up, what does that mean for GROOOWTH? If you were money, wanting to get bigger, where would you go? How would you do it? Demand lower taxes back home? Remove regulations to reduce costs? Construct monopolies to inflate prices?

    victorpetri: I agree that the one child policy is a one time thing, but I’m so sure why you’re negative about it. China is merely in line with the rest of the developed world.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sovereign_states_and_dependent_territories_by_fertility_rate

    I don’t really like outsourcing myself. On one hand it only benefits larger businesses. On the other hand, it has a pretty corrosive affect on the biggest employers, namely small businesses. The smaller businesses get all the competition with Chinese labor costs, without any benefits. [Arguably you can pay your workers less because their money goes further, but that’s not exactly growth, since its clearly unsustainable.]

  335. John Hartz says:

    anoilman:

    So, now that the outsourced labor on the wane (soon to reverse), and energy prices are going up, what does that mean for GROOOWTH? If you were money, wanting to get bigger, where would you go? How would you do it? Demand lower taxes back home? Remove regulations to reduce costs? Construct monopolies to inflate prices?

    Create and manufacture robots.

  336. Joshua says:

    Victor –

    ==> “The one child policy is a one time benefit,..”

    But how does it relate to a simplistic statement such as:

    ==> ” China’s use of coal plants to alleviate poverty by means of cheap energy”

    I’ve asked the question now a couple of times. Do you not see that I’m asking you about the logic there, that suggests that coal plants were the “means” of alleviating poverty? There were many factors that went into alleviating poverty in China. I can’t help but think you are avoiding that point.

  337. anoilman says:

    John Hartz says: “Create and manufacture robots.”

    Only after taxes are less than zero. Waste not want not!

    Joshua: Higher wages due to leveling population will certainly create wealth in China. Education is a huge one. Rule law (pretty iffy here). Private property (also pretty iffy).

    In fact, here’s the 6 killer apps for prosperity;

    Energy isn’t in that mix. I wonder why?

  338. victorpetri says:

    Joshua

    How does this simplistic statement
    ==> “Do you not see that I’m asking you about the logic there, that suggests that coal plants were the “means” of alleviating poverty? There were many factors that went into alleviating poverty in China. I can’t help but think you are avoiding that point.”

    Relate to to my agreement here:
    ==> “Don’t you agree that cheap energy is only one element in the chain of inter-related causal mechanisms that lift people from poverty? One of those elements would be agency in control over environmental degradation, of the type that occurs as the result of burning coal, would it not? If so, then how is it meaningful to exempt negative externalities, those related to climate change as well as others, from arguments about how to lift people out of poverty? ”
    “Yes, I agree. Yes, it would (and this is happening at the moment in China). It is meaningful in the sense that an early development economy is likely to prioritize economic growth ahead of negative externalities.”

    And here:
    “@Joshua
    OK, perhaps you missed it, but I replied to you this:
    I think the freedom to act as independent agent, equality in data access (transparency) with property rights and no form of coercion is enormously important for capitalism and free markets to work properly, only then people are able to enter into those transactions that they seem are beneficial to them, ensuring that all transactions made are mutually beneficial.”

    And here:
    @Joshua
    “I think the assumption that people, having their basic needs met thanks to economic growth, are more likely to care about environmental issues, is very reasonable, and is not a odds with any book by Sen. I think the freedom to act as independent agent, equality in data access (transparency) with property rights and no form of coercion is enormously important for capitalism and free markets to work properly, only then people are able to enter into those transactions that they seem are beneficial to them, ensuring that all transactions made are mutually beneficial.
    Also, I think that on a more conceptual level, economic growth comes from our collective knowledge to use energy to decrease entropy, but this is on a whole different level of discussion.”

  339. BBD says:

    That’s right Victor. Just ignore everything that has been said that shows how woolly your thinking is and keep on peddling.

    And when people get fed up with your [Mod: I removed a few words. – Rachel] you can have a jolly good tone troll.

    And repeat.

    Ad nauseam.

  340. Pingback: Thin Ice | …and Then There's Physics

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