Limits to growth?

I’ve been doing some reading to try and better understand the debate between decoupling and degrowth. I should acknowledge upfront that I haven’t really grasped the complexities of these issues, so this post will probably be rather confused and rambling. However, the debate is essentially between those who think we can continue to grow the global economy, but can reduce resource depletion and the impact on the environment through decoupling, and others who regard this as essentially not possible and, hence, that we should actively reduce consumption and production.

What motivated this post was an extremely optimistic article by Michael Liebreich called The secret of eternal growth. The basic argument is that there is no real limit to growth and that we can utilise unlimited energy sources to both grow our economies and minimise our negative impacts on the environment. There are, however, a number of responses to this article. One by Tim Jackson, who is mentioned in Liebreich’s article, called how the light gets in, and another by Rob Dietz called the secret of eternal growth? It’s wishful thinking.

The latter response mentions Tom Murphy, who is a physicist who has written posts on economic growth, such as can economic growth last? and galactic scale energy. These posts approach the issue for the perspective of real physical limits, and suggest that unlimited growth is essentially impossible.

A criticism I’ve heard of this is that when people talk about unlimited economic growth, they don’t really mean growing forever, they mean for some reasonable time into the future. Liebreich’s article, however, certainly seems to essentially imply virtually unlimited, saying:

This is a real scientific expert on entropy proving that the economy can grow for as long as there is still a sun in the sky (which would give us about another five billion years).

As Tom Murphy’s posts point out, there are real physical limits to our energy usage on the surface of the planet.

As I understand it, the response to this is then that economic growth simply refers to economic activity which doesn’t have to be associated with ever increasing energy usage. I can understand that this is possible, but can you really have a economy that grows to the point where a vast majority of the activity is not associated with the use of any energy (I really don’t know the answer to this, so maybe it is possible)?

I can quite understand that it is probably possible to develop energy sources that have minimal impact on the environment and that minimise our depletion of resources. Similarly, we can also aim to minimise the impact of our economic activity on the environment, and on resource depletion, either by actually developing activities that don’t have much impact, or by using some of the available energy to minimise this impact (which is essentially what I think Liebreich is arguing for).

However, given that severe impacts are potentially going to materialise within decades, we need to start doing this sooner rather than later. This is really where I have a problem; I don’t see much evidence for this. I realise there has been some relative decoupling (the impact per unit of economic activity has decreased), but I see little evidence that we will get close to absolute decoupling anytime soon.

As I understand it, we can’t have economic activity that simply doesn’t have any impact on the environment, but we can choose to commit resources to minimising this impact (i.e., use some of the available energy to avoid increasing entropy, as Liebreich suggests). However, this would seem to have a cost and it seems to me that we mostly spend our time convincing ourselves that we shouldn’t yet pay this cost, or shouldn’t pay too much now because people in the future will be richer. So, my issue isn’t that I think we can’t continue to grow our economies while decoupling economic activity from environmental impact, I just think that we won’t.

Okay, this has got rather long, so I’m going to stop. As I said at the beginning of the post, I’m still trying to get my head around this whole issue. I may well be wrong about some of this, in which feel free to point it out in the comments. Similarly, I’m also interested in what others think about this topic.

Links:
The Secret of Eternal Growth – by Michael Liebreich.
How the light gets in – by Tim Jackson.
The secret of eternal growth? It’s wishful thinking – by Rob Dietz.
Galactic scale energy – by Tom Murphy.
Can economic growth last? – by Tom Murphy.
Decoupling vs degrowth – by Linus Blomqvist.
Towards Peak Impact – by Linus Blomqvist.
Here’s a simple solution to the green growth / degrowth debate – by Jason Hickel.

Advertisements
This entry was posted in Carbon tax, Climate change, GRRRROWTH, Policy, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

124 Responses to Limits to growth?

  1. I think once you set the perpetual motion machine running, then eternal growth just spins off as a side-effect. It’s not that complicated.

  2. The phrase “reduce resource depletion” is the tricky one. For non-renewable resources such as crude oil, one can only reduce the rate of resource depletion since depletion is a monotonic function that obviously trends in only one direction.

    However crazy Elon Musk may be, he certainly understands the situation, framed in a No Regrets policy

    Liebreich is a new voice on the scene who likely is echoing at least some of the work of Vaclav Smil and his 37 books on the topic of growth and limits to growth. Goes even further back than Smil of course.

  3. Keith McClary says:

    So, by 2100 we will be consuming 50 times as much “real” per capita GDP as today, which will consist of services provided by computer ‘bots’.

    “material efficiency and recycling will improve indefinitely”
    I guess that could mean asymptotically towards 100%.

  4. Greg Robie says:

    The alleged decoupling boarders on duplicity. The extremely complex and profitable financial “mechanisms” that blew up in the previous decade are yet present and (last I read – maybe three years ago) at five times their pre-crash levels. They are back – and bigger than ever – because they amount to bets and counter-bets in a dynamic where the too-big-to-fail banks, functioning as the house, never loose. But such grows GDP while using virtually no energy. Or the referenced decoupling without significant supporting data is propaganda AND a classic example of the truism: statistics lie, and liars use statistics.

    Or our basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing all require energy to come into being. How did the bicycling work for you this year?

    About a month ago I chatted with a person whose brother lived in a town in Greece that did not get electricity until 1978. Their’s was mostly a solar/human powered economy (read ~subsistence agrarian). Over 50% of humanity is urbanized. Imagine turning that clock back! And, when doing so, recall that we have a dozen years to reduce the global emissions 45% from 2010 levels to have a prayer at our ~50/50 chance that trusted conservative climate models are not too constrained and conservative.

    As you continue your due diligence regarding economics, consider the roles the two who just shared the Noble in Economics played in affecting the emission trends and policy dynamics of the past quarter century of – paraphrasing Kevin Anderson – pretending to care about [physics].

    sNAILmALEnotHAIL …but pace’n myself

    https://m.youtube.com/channel/UCeDkezgoyyZAlN7nW1tlfeA

    life is for learning so all my failures must mean that I’m wicked smart

    >

  5. David B. Benson says:

    Decades ago The Club of Rome sponsored “Limits to Growth”, written by a Meadows and two others. There are now updates and revistations. One is

    Update on limits to growth, finally!
    Joshua Spodek
    2017 Dec 26
    joshuaspodek.com

    Of course Gail Tverberg has plenty of little essays on her blog related to resource exhaustion, etc.

  6. Canman says:

    “I can quite understand that it is probably possible to develop energy sources that have minimal impact on the environment and that minimise our depletion of resources. “

    It’s been done! It’s called nuclear energy:

  7. I did read some data from the Worldbank. It showed that economic development on a global scale have been almost uninteruptedly growth since 1960. That is almost for 60 years. I can see no reasons why it should not continue for the next 60 years. On a global scale the economy is just as robust as a supertanker. It just goes on and on. The good news for the climate and environment is that the CO2-emissions have increased far less. The ratio CO2/GDP has improved quit a lot. If you take 1960 as 100 then 2015 is reduced to 55. It seems that it is possible to decouple economic growth and resources. There is some hope for the future. But there is still a lot to do.

  8. Pingback: Is Decoupling GDP Growth from Environmental Impact Possible? – wmconnolley: scienceblogs.com/stoat archive

  9. Canman,
    Yes, I realise that there are energy sources that would reduce our impact on the environment (although I don’t think nuclear is impact free) but we do need to actually implement them at scale and also (as I understand it) commit to using some of this energy to minimise our impact in other sectors.

    Raymond,

    It seems that it is possible to decouple economic growth and resources. There is some hope for the future. But there is still a lot to do.

    Relative decoupling certainly seems possible, but it would seem that we need to aim for absolute decoupling (or close), which does seem a great deal more difficult.

  10. Dave_Geologist says:

    Larry Niven got there first with his Pierson’s Puppeteer worlds. They had effectively unlimited clean energy (probably fusion), enormous populations and high-tech lifestyles. But they had to move their planets into interstellar space so they could dump the waste heat from their civilisation. They’d have fried if they’d stayed in orbit round a star.

  11. Dave,
    I haven’t read those. I am still trying to work out if Liebreich, for example, gets that you can’t simply generate unlimited energy on the planet’s surface. There will become a point where the waste heat becomes non-negligible, and if we’re expecting exponential growth, that stage will be relatively soon.

  12. Long-Term Global Heating From Energy Usage

    Even if civilization on Earth stops polluting the biosphere with greenhouse gases, humanity could eventually be awash in too much heat, namely, the dissipated heat byproduct generated by any nonrenewable energy source. Apart from the Sun’s natural aging—which causes a ~1% luminosity rise for each 10^8 years and thus a ~1ºC increase in Earth’s surface temperature—well within 1000 years our technological society could f ind itself up against a fundamental limit to growth: an unavoidable global heating of ~3ºC dictated solely by the second law of thermodynamics, a biogeophysical effect often ignored when estimating future planetary warming scenarios.

    The other global warming

    “What this means for humans is that this is the ultimate limit to growth,” said Dennis Bushnell, the chief scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center, who urged Chaisson to publish his idea. “As we produce more kilowatts, we have to produce more waste heat.”

    Chaisson’s prediction suggests we need to change our energy policy – not just by keeping emissions low, but by shifting toward power sources that don’t add new heat to the earth’s system.

    The culprits in the waste-heat problem are not only dirty fossil fuels like coal and oil, but also some “clean” power sources like nuclear and geothermal energy, which still add to the problem by pumping new heat into the atmosphere. The only way to stop waste heat-induced global warming, in Chaisson’s view, is to rely on energy that already reaches the earth’s surface: sunlight, and the wind and the waves that it powers.

    Although that latter point circles back to the point that Tim Jackson made. That is, that harnessing diffuse renewable energy actually requires a lot of energy and low-entropy materials. I don’t know what the material/mass implications of continuously harvesting (and partially storing), say, > 125 terawatts* of power and endlessly growing might suggest some limits of their own.

    * I just spitballed that number by taking the current equivalent of ~18 terawatts and growing by 2% for 100 years.

    I also liked this point that Jackson made: “Because we are intelligent does not mean that there is no such thing as limits. We cannot usefully ‘imagine’ the available carbon budget to be bigger than it actually is.”… carbon storage, notwithstanding, I would add.

  13. Canman says:

    ATTP: “Yes, I realise that there are energy sources that would reduce our impact on the environment (although I don’t think nuclear is impact free) but we do need to actually implement them at scale and also (as I understand it) commit to using some of this energy to minimise our impact in other sectors.”

    It’s been done!

  14. Ed Davies says:

    Canman, my back-of-the-envelope calculation says that if we tried to provide the final energy of the average EU28 citizen (never mind a North American or Australian) to all the world’s current population using nuclear we’d burn through the current known reserves of uranium in two years.

    2.8 kW/person (something I worked out previously: https://edavies.me.uk/2018/01/primary-final/).
    French nuclear energy production: 416.8 TWh/a (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_in_France)
    French uranium consumption: 9 kt/a (https://www.statista.com/statistics/264796/uranium-consumption-leading-countries/)
    World uranium reserves: 7.6 Mt (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_uranium_reserves)
    World population: 7 billion (actually, it’s a bit more now but I can’t be bothered to look it up).
    8760 hours in a year.

    >>> 7.6e6 / (9e3 / (416.8e12 / 8760) * 2.8e3 * 7e9)
    2.0499280381863554

    OK, more uranium would be found but enough to extend to the lifetimes of the reactors needed and their replacements? Maybe there’s an answer with fast breeders, thorium and so on but it’d be wildly misleading to say “It’s been done” about those.

  15. Also in response to canman. Yes, there is a country that implemented nuclear on a relative short timescale. However, if we wanted nuclear to be the dominant source of electricty within the next few decades, we would need to be building around 4000 nuclear reactors. We’re building about 60. This could change, but it’s a big ask. And, since you mentioned it last time, it’s also a big ask if you consider other alternative energy sources.

  16. Joshua says:

    Canman –

    It’s been done!

    In a completely different political environment than that which exists in the US.

  17. Steven Mosher says:

    ‘In a completely different political environment than that which exists in the US.”

    That will always be true for any solution.

  18. Willard says:

    I was waiting for BBD to recall that producing electricity isn’t the same as producing energy.

    Different scales. Different ballparks.

  19. Canman says:

    How many solar panels and wind turbines for each one of those 4000 reactors not built, along with land, ice throw range,dead raptors and bats, …?

  20. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    That will always be true for any solution.

    How’s it going with your libertarian buds, convincing them to centralize energy policy, have the government own and run energy production, and provide federal funding through taxes to make it happen? And hopefully you can convince the German government to get involved like in France also?

    I’m sure they can take a little time off from their howling about the dangers of socialism to get behind all of that.

  21. Willard says:

    > How many solar panels and wind turbines […] dead raptors and bats, …?

    You’re peddling that every time, Canman. It gets boring after a while.

    This is a GRRRRROWTH post. If you want to go nuclear, you missed the boat:

    https://andthentheresphysics.wordpress.com/2017/11/29/going-nuclear/

    You’ll see why Joshua mentions a problem you never meet.

  22. David B. Benson says:

    Limits to Growth: Antibiotic resistance is growing. That should limit human population density.

  23. Steven Mosher says:

    Joshua,

    I think you missed the point. No matter what any other country does succesfully
    you will always be able to say “but the USA is different”

    What would be the harder case to make is that an expansion of nuclear would require
    the level of government control and support that france has.
    in short, we only have 1 case to learn from. From the engineering perspective the expansion
    is feasible. From the political/economic perspective the level of government support you see in
    france is sufficient, but it remains to be seen if it is necessary.

    Regulatory relief might also aid.

    In any case I don’t think we have enough evidence to rule out a substantial increase in nuclear, but it won’t be easy. And yes, some scared cows might need slaying. I’d gladly offer
    up my anti tax cow, but I suspect that not too many greens would budge an inch. And from where I sit climate change is going to require the kind of compromise that tribalism precludes. Just
    my experience with them, gladly open to them changing their minds and approach, but
    they need to change their minds amongst themselves.

    I suspect that the wars over how best to decarbonize will always be tribal
    and in the end we won’t decarbonize fast enough.

  24. Steven Mosher says:

    In terms of cost my friend is working on this.

    quite cool. the work done on corrision and the flow of metal was very cool.
    never been in a nuclear lab, it was kinda fun

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/301365325_Small_modular_reactor_SMR_development_plan_in_Korea

    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/267618519_URANUS_Korean_Lead-Bismuth_Cooled_Small_Modular_Fast_Reactor_Activities

    hmm 50MW 200million so if you are a fan of distributed power it has some appeal.

    my sense is that if you want to benefit from learning curves and economies of scale then you dont want to be building Gwatt facilities.

  25. izen says:

    And back in the world of real-politik…

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-46122255

    Limit to growth around one star is when you build a Dyson sphere.

  26. Willard says:

    > I suspect that not too many greens would budge an inch.

    Hippies are powerless except when they are not. Then they’re very useful.

    One can punch the ones who protest too much.

  27. ATTP following along this trail, seems to me perhaps its time for a post on the feasibility of building a perpetual motion machine.

    “… missing was a much more fundamental division crying out for recognition. Specifically,
    the magisteria of Physical Reality vs the magisteria of our Human Mindscape. …” ;- )

  28. BBD says:

    Very disappointed to see Canman nuclear tr0lling again when only a couple of threads back he completely blanked and dodged this. Apologies for the repeat post but apparently it is necessary:

    Dear Canman, since you can’t or wont answer the question about why nobody serious thinks we can plaster the world in nuclear reactors over the next few decades, let’s hand the mic to the World Nuclear Association [cheers; clapping].

    One would expect the World Nuclear Association to provide the most optimistic view of nuclear potential by 2050, yes? Well, this is what it has to say (my bold):

    World Nuclear Association Harmony programme

    The World Nuclear Association has published its Harmony vision for the future of electricity, developed from the International Energy Agency’s ‘2°C Scenario’ (2DS) in reducing CO2 emissions*. This IEA scenario adds 680 GWe of nuclear capacity by 2050, giving 930 GWe then (after 150 GWe retirements from 2014’s 396 GWe), providing 17% of world electricity. Harmony sets a further goal for the nuclear industry, drawing on the experience of nuclear construction in the 1980s.

    * See section above on the 2015 edition of the International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Perspectives.

    The Harmony goal is for the nuclear industry to provide 25% of global electricity and build 1000 GWe of new nuclear capacity by 2050. The World Nuclear Association says this requires an economic and technological level playing field, harmonised regulatory processes to streamline nuclear construction, and an effective safety paradigm which focuses safety efforts on measures that make the most difference to public wellbeing. The build schedule would involve adding 10 GWe per year to 2020, 25 GWe per year to 2025, and 33 GWe per year from then. This rate compares with 31 GWe per year in the mid-1980s. The Harmony goal is put forward at a time when the limitations, costs and unreliability of other low-carbon sources of electricity are becoming politically high-profile in several countries.

    Source: WNA

    There it is, straight from the industry horse’s mouth: 25% of global electricity generation by 2050, and that only with certain favourable assumptions.

    Perhaps you can finally drop the nuclear tr0lling now that you know that not even the nuclear industry agrees with you.

  29. BBD says:

    Steven, also please NB.

  30. Dave_Geologist says:

    Limit to growth around one star is when you build a Dyson sphere.

    Niven got part-way there too with the Ringworld, izen.

    And I seem to recall one solution to Fermi’s paradox is that all the really advanced civilisations are already living on Dyson spheres, and all that we can see of them is the waste heat radiated from the outside of the sphere.

  31. BBD says:

    WRT Dyson Spheres, please see also Charlie Stross’s Accelerando. If you haven’t read Stross, it’s a treat 🙂

  32. The US went from zero to 20% nuclear in 20 years without centralizing control of electricity production or higher taxes or a carbon cap or tax. The idea that there is some sort of technical limit to 25% nuclear (as opposed to an arbitrary political cap) or that it’s impossible without socialism is belied by verifiable history.
    But, as the OP notes, the alternative is to tell people to give up their stuff and their wealth. You’re making that choice clear to the general population, right?
    Ironically, despite all the political gamesmanship, the left may ultimately decide this issue. Work up the numbers on whether you can meet all the promised health care, pension and social welfare benefits for an aging society with a decreasing economy. If Germany is going to pay out those pensions and benefits, it’s going to have to let its people make and sell Mercedes and BMW vehicles- more than they do today to cover the existing workers and pensioners.
    The fact that you can’t run those factories on solar panels or survive as a politician if you start shutting them down or making cars so unaffordable nobody buys them means either get serious about alternatives or watch even ally politicians ignore the problem.
    IMO the “limits to growth” folks get something fundamentally wrong about people. It’s not so much that they cling to “stuff” (though we certainly do) as much as it is that people are, by nature, problem solvers. If you tell them we must run the BMW factory with C02-free energy, three things are immediately obvious- 1. you can’t run the plant with solar panels, 2. you can with nukes and 3.Letting the plant close isn’t a serious option. They’ll pick #2, every time.

  33. Canman says:

    BBD, where do these serious people, who don’t think we can plaster the world with nuclear, and who’re hoping for 25% by 2050, think the other 75% is going to come from? I suspect they think a substantial portion will still come from fossil fuel. Does anyone seriously think we can get anywhere near 75% with wind and solar?

    Here’s a psychic projection:

  34. BBD says:

    Canman

    BBD, where do these serious people

    These serious people being the World Nuclear Association.

    So stop dodging the point at issue, which is that even the nuclear industry trade association itself only thinks nuclear might manage ~25% of world electricity supply by 2050 and that only with favourable assumptions. Sorry I keep repeating myself, but you don’t appear to be reading the words.

    So please, stop pretending that nuclear is going to be a silver bullet for decarbonising the electricity supply. It is evident that this will not be the case. Just ask the WNA.

    I suspect they think a substantial portion will still come from fossil fuel.

    That’s not the point at issue. The point at issue is that nuclear isn’t likely to manage more that 25%.

    I hope this is sinking in by now.

  35. The IPCC seems to see a bright* future for nuclear (how did yet another thread get, yawn, hijacked?), fwiw. (*Relatively, realistically…)

  36. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    it’s impossible without socialism is belied by verifiable history.

    I haven’t said, nor did I intend to suggest, that it is impossible without socialism.

    Lots o’ things are possible. For example, ending starvation in Yemen is possible, and yet I read people expressing concern on climate blogs about how poor children will starve if we invest resources in ACO2 mitigation – as if feeding children and mitigating ACO2 emissions are mutually exclusive, and the responsibility for starving children can be laid at the feet of hippies.

    Anyway, my point is that every country that has significantly more energy supply from nuclear than the US, with the possible exception of (socialist) Finland, has done so with massive federal subsidization and support – of a type which would meet with massive political resistance from the very same sector of the political landscape which often houses those who hippie- and socialist-punch to explain why we don’t have more nuclear, and who blame hippies and socialists for preventing a massive build-up of nuclear, to the exclusion of a large array of other formidable obstacles.

    Judging from history, it seems that socialistic and centralized policies supported through massive government support and federal funding is perhaps the most likely and/or efficient path for those who advocate for a massive build up of nuclear, so I find it interesting that many of those who advocate for a massive build out of nuclear spend much of their time railing against socialism and large federal involvement in funding policy options through highly centralized policies.

    So I’ll ask you if you have a realistic scenario whereby there might be massive nuclear build up in the US, without massive government funding and logistical support, that would result in the kind of funding needed to overcome the market disadvantages relative to other energy sources, and to result in investor interest despite the massive liabilities of investing with a relatively low return on investment that would play out over a very long time horizon?

    I have been asking this of nuclear advocates for a long time on climate blogs, and I haven’t gotten much in the way of response. Maybe I’m just unable to accept the compelling logic of the obvious answers – but why don’t you give it a shot?

  37. BBD says:

    can be laid at the feet of hippies

    Which are of course unwashed and very smelly.

  38. Canman says:

    BBD, just because the people of the World Nuclear Association are serious, doesn’t make them the last word in energy. I still think nuclear is the only source that has the potential to be a silver bullet for now. Maybe something else will be discovered, perhaps a better way to extract geothermal heat or space mirrors heating isolated desert pools of storage salt that can export electricity over fancy hyper efficient DC power lines.

    Right now the big story in energy is cheap natural gas. It’s lower in CO2, but still emits it. It’s also not clear to me how big the leaking methane problem is. But one thing that looks pretty clear to me is that it helps intermittent renewables with cheap easy to build turbines for backup and hurts capitol intensive nuclear. I believe nuclear should be given priority for research, demos and subsidies, because it can replace fossil fuels to a much higher extent than renewables. I also think nuclear’s concentrated nature and small footprint are greatly under appreciated.

  39. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    A quick Google netted the following:

    Perhaps that’s misleading w/r/t levels of federal support for our 20% nuclear?

  40. BBD says:

    Canman

    BBD, just because the people of the World Nuclear Association are serious, doesn’t make them the last word in energy. I still think nuclear is the only source that has the potential to be a silver bullet for now.

    So let’s get this straight. The WNA – and all the other energy experts – don’t know what they are talking about and some guy on the internet calling himself ‘Canman’ is a more reliable source?

    Can you please just confirm that this is what you are saying?

    Thanks.

  41. Joshua says:

    BBD –

    Which are of course unwashed and very smelly.

    All that much more reason to find them disgusting, and to blame them for children starving.

  42. Joshua- The US did a massive buildout of nuclear without nationalization or the French approach or whatever you were referring to in your comment to Mosher when you said the US wouldn’t centralize.
    Your pie chart is a hoot. A start date of 1950? You’re shocked that the US spent a lot of money on nuclear R&D during the dawn of the nuclear age when doing so determined whether your country survived the Cold War? You think we shouldn’t have spent money on nuclear R&D when the Navy needed nuclear carriers and subs? Maybe we should have put sails on the carriers and solar panels on the subs, eh?
    It’s overly simplistic (though less so than your absurd chart) but look at it this way:
    Reliable, cost effective, high output emissions free energy means you can replace coal and gas and have the functional capacity to get serious about electrifying ground transportation. Get serious about electrifying ground transportation and you put tremendous market pressure on battery improvements. With battery improvements renewables can function better at scale, particularly in areas dodgy for nukes due to geological or political reasons. That puts market pressure on more efficient renewables and larger scale versions of your improved batteries and that means you have a real shot in 30 years of replacing the nukes you’ll be decommissioning with high efficiency renewables with functional storage at actual competitive costs (instead of the current fairy tale costs tossed around by advocates.)
    Or you can keep doing what you’ve been doing for 30 years now- demanding mandates for expensive unreliable “alternatives” and penning excuses for why nobody uses them. I know which of those choices people would pick if they thought global warming was a serious issue.

  43. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    What is it with you boyz and paragraphing?

    Here’s a source with similar data, but which breaks the data down a bit more by year to address your concerns about aggregating data over such a long time period:

    From 1948 to 1972 the federal government spent $24.3 billion (2003 dollars) for research and development programs and almost double that amount, $49.1 billion, from 1972- 2003. During those same 30 years the federal government only awarded $24.8 billion for fossil fuels, and $14.6 billion for renewable energy technologies.

    Take a look at their chart with more recent dates also.

    https://www.taxpayer.net/energy-natural-resources/nuclear-power-subsidies/

    I certainly can’t speak to the accuracy of that site (they look suspiciously like libertarian extremists to me), but I suspect that their numbers approximate the truth well enough to clearly outline the problem that nuclear advocates just can’t seem to tackle – apparently you notwithstanding, given your latest response.

    Read my previous comment again. What is your scenario? Will this all be done without large-scale government support and funding, centralized policies? If so, where will the money come from? How will your plan be implemented? How will the public’s concerns for regulation be addressed?

    If not, how will ideological opposition from drown government in a bathtub types be neutralized?

  44. Willard says:

    > Your pie chart is a hoot.

    Where’s yours, JeffN?

    ***

    > I know which of those choices people would pick […]

    Not enough evidence. Too much certainty. False alternative.

  45. izen says:

    The problem with nuclear is scale and inflexibility.

    Big nuclear reactors, with at least two at each site, make it economically competitive IF the reactors are run at near full power almost continuously. Nuclear does not efficiently ramp up or down on demand. Rather like intermittent renewables (but opposite!) it may over-produce during low demand times and under-produce during high demand because it is constrained to a constant output by economics.

    As usual the unstated supposition is that the demand pattern is inviolate and unchangeable. That any change in our energy generation must also cater to an unchanging pattern of demand which will remain de-coupled from any price or quality message from the supply side.

    Over the last 200 years human society has radically changed its source and pattern of energy use. With contingent impacts on the fundamental ways human society is organised.
    AGW makes it inevitable that another radical change will happen. Whether it is managed with effective policy/economic options or forced by four horsemen is uncertain.

  46. Ken Fabian says:

    Liebreich seems to think people like me want world government and degrowth, when I don’t think I’ve ever seen climate as innately a Left issue or the solutions to be embodied by Green/Left/Socialist World government. Or think degrowth is even a viable option, let alone is fundamental to how I expect to address the climate problem.

    I think there is a major disconnect between who the climate ‘movement’ are presumed to be and who we actually are. Here I thought I was supporting commercial enterprise by wanting to see more solar and wind and batteries! I fully expect that whatever we do will be – has to be – at unprecedented, mind boggling scales and that capitalist enterprises to be doing it. I want binding international agreements between sovereign nations, entered into knowingly and willingly, not the end of nations.

    There is nothing innately anti-capitalist in wanting accountability for climate externalities or pushing for policy that advances a transition to low emissions. Freedom of business from unnecessary regulation is not the same as organised resisting of necessary regulation. Accountability may lead to regulation but I don’t see that as innately anti-capitalist.

    Is Liebreich another one who thinks it’s the fault of socialists and greenies – anyone and everyone but the egregiously bad choices of the Right itself – that the Right has resisted action on climate? Including resisting – fiercely – the pricing of externalities.

    The RE thing isn’t driven by extremist Left Environmentalists, no matter how much they might cheer it on. Nor any kind of extremists; it’s driven by concerned citizens from all walks of life up to and including and perhaps especially capitalist entrepreneurs. It will involve new industrial activity at huge scale and capitalists will be the ones doing it.

  47. BBD says:

    Agree with you, Ken F but wanted to pick this out:

    There is nothing innately anti-capitalist in wanting accountability for climate externalities

    Indeed, but whenever you lift the denial stone, beneath is revealed the scurrying of free market fundamentalism. Presumably this is either evidence of profound dishonesty on the part of those professing such beliefs or evidence that they do not understand what they claim to believe in.

  48. Joshua- now you want to go back to 1948. Why stop there, go back to the late 1930s so you can include the Manhattan Project. One thing that strikes me about that $24 billion (in 2003 dollars) between 1948 and 1970 is how cheap it was and the payoff. By comparison, the US government alone spent more than $30 billion on AIDS in just the year 2017.
    For just over a billion a year, we got aircraft carriers with unlimited range, submarines that can stay under water for a month (basically global naval superiority) protection from an expansionist USSR, clean, reliable, safe, inexpensive and abundant electricity for major US cities. That’s a pretty good deal.
    For $14.6 billion spent on renewables we bought the opportunity to tell people air conditioning, the internet, and washing machines are frivolities that need to go away in the 21st century. Good luck with that.

  49. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    An particular reason that you’ve only focused on the earlier spending outlined in the chart and the article?

  50. Joshua says:

    Or why you didn’t address my other questions?

  51. Izen said: “Big nuclear reactors, with at least two at each site, make it economically competitive IF the reactors are run at near full power almost continuously. Nuclear does not efficiently ramp up or down on demand. Rather like intermittent renewables (but opposite!) it may over-produce during low demand times and under-produce during high demand because it is constrained to a constant output by economics.”

    All of difficult variability issues that arise with various forms of power generation can be turned into an opportunity if we develop appropriately scaled DAC units in close proximity to the variable energy sources, so that there would essentially be no such thing as overproduction because energy produced at low demand times could/would be used to power DAC technology to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

    I am not crazy about nukes, but we have a lot of nuke energy on line and in production to come on line, so it makes sense to my mind to use this power source and make the most of the investment that has been made in this power source.

  52. It makes more sense to site the DAC units to the ultimate carbon storage locations. It’s cheaper to transmit electrons than it is to ship the staggering mass and volume of CO2 contemplated.

  53. However it is structured, the problem of power overproduction/variability can be solved by pushing excess power generation into DAC units. I think it is clear that we are going to have to do DAC or something similar and the “problem” of overproduction/variability is solved by powering DAC, right?

  54. Curious conversation, it’s as though some participants firmly believe the past is a guide to our future. Being an Earth Centrist and more intimately familiar with the changes our physical planet is experiencing these days, than I am with modern business and media driven machinations, I’m struck by how much is implicitly ignored in order to cling to our economic myths.

    In Canman’s words I scent an undercurrent of ‘too big to fail’, as if that guarantees success –
    despite all the history lessons that the too big does fail and tends to do great damage on the way down.

    As for all the optimism about nukes coming to our rescue, to start with, where are we going to find locations for all these society saving nuclear power plants?
    Coastal zones are beginning to radically change, everywhere.
    Next to major rivers? Hmmm, the future of rivers ain’t what it used to be either.
    What’s that leave, next to melting glaciers?

    Then of course the assumptions that supply chains and transportation networks can be counted on to remain in tact. Is that a realistic outlook?

    Skilled work force, that one depends on a stable society, but doesn’t our future promise ever more instability and intense refuge movements, not just from war zones, but from drought and natural disaster areas.
    Or?

    Nuclear power plants need years of planning, when the pressure is on for cheaper and faster, how many short cuts will be taken? Then what? Or when graft and greed makes certain critical promises and assurances meaningless?

    Of course, demanding we’ll actually need all these nuke plants implies faith in the future stability of our society. Yet, even ignoring the physical resources and ecological self-destruction issues, look around at the untold treasure and energy being spent on hate mongering, lathering up class resentments and misunderstanding between people. Guess I’m saying from my perspective seems we’ve become more intent of creating division than understanding – which will lead to chaos, not the stability needed for successful mass nuclear power distribution.

    In the midst of all these, deniable but unavoidable, natural trends promising increasingly difficult days in our future – we cling to the past not for what it can tell us about our future, but for comfort and avoidance of the cold truth of what we’ve done to our future.

  55. Canman says:

    BBD: “… So let’s get this straight. The WNA – and all the other energy experts – don’t know what they are talking about and some guy on the internet calling himself ‘Canman’ is a more reliable source?”

    It’s not “all other energy experts”, certainly not these guys:

  56. cc said:
    “In Canman’s words I scent an undercurrent of ‘too big to fail’, as if that guarantees success”

    At least part of the exploitation of the Bakken and elsewhere was motivated by at least an implicit “too big to fail” mindset. IOW, there is a momentum built in to our economy that requires a high level of oil production to maintain our lifestyle. As with the law of conservation of momentum, the oil has to come from somewhere, so in this case failure was averted by providing low-interest financing to the frackers in NoDak and Texas. Yet, this is a ratchet that won’t reverse course, and the challenge to extract will just get more difficult over time (cf Bethany McLean’s recent book “Saudi America” )

  57. Canman says:

    BBD, also, if this 25% nuclear gets built, how much of the other 75% will be non-CO2? How much will be wind and solar? Is there any other non-CO2 source that scales like nuclear, wind and solar?

  58. Willard says:

    Asking questions may not suffice to substantiate what you’ve been suggesting, Canman. Neither does your “but jacobson.”

  59. Canman, whether Jacobson is right or wrong doesn’t matter much. I watched a bit of that video and this part is true that nature doesn’t care about anything but objective reality :

    And so the objective reality is that we are experiencing massive depletion of high-quality fossil fuels, and something needs to take up the slack. Jacobson is diligently and sincerely doing his part in working out what part that renewables can play. While the other side is essentially pushing nuclear.

    Both sides realize that climate/resource change is the common issue that we need to work out.

  60. BBD says:

    It’s not “all other energy experts”, certainly not these guys:

    Who are fringe voices promoting a speculative technology. This was dealt with on the other thread so why you are posting it again escapes me.

    Nor have you answered my question, so once again, I will repeat myself for your benefit (with apologies to others present). And please, re-read what Willard just wrote.

    Once again:

    So let’s get this straight. The WNA – and all the other energy experts – don’t know what they are talking about and some guy on the internet calling himself ‘Canman’ is a more reliable source?

    Can you please just confirm that this is what you are saying?

    Thanks.

  61. BBD says:

    BBD, also, if this 25% nuclear gets built, how much of the other 75% will be non-CO2? How much will be wind and solar? Is there any other non-CO2 source that scales like nuclear, wind and solar?

    I’ve already pointed out that this is irrelevant to the fact that no plausible projections – not even the most optimistic by the WNA itself – get nuclear much above 25% of global electricity generation.

    That is the point I am still waiting for you to acknowledge and accept, unless you are a superior source of wisdom to any other known, online or IRL.

  62. Marco says:

    Canman, can you please list the credentials of Mike Conley and Timothy Maloney that makes them “energy experts”, other than writing a lot about thorium reactors as the next best thing after sliced bread?

    I’d love to see a thorium reactor that actually works and produces energy at a reasonable scale. We’ve been promised that for decades now. It isn’t there. Even the more optimistic experts I know (actual experts, working with it hands-on), say “first real commercial units in 20 years”. That’s at least 40 years too late, as it takes a lot of time to get them rolled out globally.

  63. Joshua “Any particular reason that you’ve only focused on the earlier spending outlined in the chart and the article?”

    The 24 years between ’48 and ’70 cost $1.01 billion a year on average and the 33 years between ’72 and 2003 cost $1.6 billion. Wanna know what federal spending was in 2003 to research climate change? $1.6 billion. Wanna know the average annual spend on climate change research for the 26-years between 1990 and 2016? A little over $1.6 billion eyeballing this chart from a site I know you’ll approve of.
    https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2018/06/13/452065/burning-the-data/

    The latter period has some pretty solid reasons for an increase in spending. Purely by coincidence, I’m sure, it covers the design and production of the Nimitz class carriers with an all new nuclear reactor. No reason for the federal government to be involved in that, right? It also covers the period with the fastest deployment of commercial nuclear power (which didn’t even exist until 1958). Outrageous that the feds would be studying this nuclear stuff being built around the country!

    In short, we got a whole lot out of results out of relative pittance in annual spending on nuclear R&D.

    Are you ever going to address some points or is this an entirely one-way discussion? Happier with the paragraphing?

  64. Canman says:

    BBD:

    Once again:

    So let’s get this straight. The WNA – and all the other energy experts – don’t know what they are talking about and some guy on the internet calling himself ‘Canman’ is a more reliable source?

    Can you please just confirm that this is what you are saying?

    Thanks.

    I make no claims to being a more reliable source than experts, but that doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with them and argue against them. I’m just stating my opinions.

    Your welcome.

    Expertise is certainly something to be valued and considered, but it’s also not the be all and end all — especially when it comes to future predictions. e.g. Bill Gates claim that nobody will ever need more than 64k of computer memory.

  65. The post could be about whether the FIFA World Cup or the Super Bowl is the better sporting event, and Canman would make the key point that “only nuclear!” has any realistic chance of keeping the lights and televisions on. Probably link to that awesome YouTube video, too.

  66. BBD says:

    I make no claims to being a more reliable source than experts, but that doesn’t mean I can’t disagree with them and argue against them. I’m just stating my opinions.

    When ‘opinions’ are contradicted by expert knowledge, they are generally wrong. Specious crap about Bill Gates notwithstanding. It’s high time you grew up a bit.

  67. BBD says:

    [cont…]

    And the fact that you ‘disagree and argue against’ expert knowledge does mean that you consider yourself to be right and expert knowledge to be wrong. You can contemplate that hubris in your own time.

  68. Joshua says:

    Jeff –

    Happier with the paragraphing?

    Yes, much better, thanks.

    Wanna know what federal spending was in 2003 to research climate change? $1.6 billion.

    Do you really not understand how that is irrelevant to my point?

    Are you ever going to address some points or is this an entirely one-way discussion?

    I gotta hand it to ya’. You’ve got some serious stones.

    You have entirely ignored the points I’ve made, and failed to address questions, repeated questions, repeated more than once. And instead, you’ve focused your responses in irrelevancies. Oh, and straw men mixed with some guilt by association (e. g., “ we bought the opportunity to tell people air conditioning, the internet, and washing machines are frivolities “). Why would I address arguments you a foist on me that have nothing to so with the arguments I’ve been making?

    Go back. Read my questions. Address them, and then we’ll have something to talk about.

  69. Steven Mosher says:

    “Hippies are powerless except when they are not. Then they’re very useful.

    One can punch the ones who protest too much.”

    1. I wouldnt and didnt argue that hippies are powerless, quite the opposite.
    2. Punch them? no. I have not run into a hippy since the 60s. I have spent time with greens
    who oppose improvements in the safe storage of nuclear. when asked why? they were
    pretty clear. Safer storage means potentially more nuclear power plants built. Their
    objection that? Nukes are not solar or wind. weird.

    It is trivial to observe that there are dug in parties on all sides. That observation doesnt imply punching. Personally, I would much rather spank libertarians, you know keep the violence in the family were it belongs. Its more effective than spanking out of group people if your goal is change.

  70. Steven Mosher says:

    “Steven, also please NB.”

    duh.

    Of course the limits to rapid build out they note are contingent upon large plants 1GW
    and the production chain limits on large forgings.
    maybe you didnt read it, or what I wrote.

    Of course we should not try a small modular approach, because the industry experts who build
    GW facilities say that we can only get to 25% share, assuming their approach. And we shouldnt try
    because socialism will be required and libertarians wont stand for that. and we shouldnt try because its not a silver bullet.

  71. Joshua says:

    Steven –

    . I have spent time with greens
    who oppose improvements in the safe storage of nuclear.

    My guess is that they didn’t trust that the improvements were sufficient to meet a threshold that ehy considered to be sufficiently safe.

    Maybe if you looked at their opinions with charity, you’d realize why they weren’t “weird,” but instead based on reasoning different than your own.

    Your lack of charity, and willingness to embrace derogatory characterizations, suggests to me that you may not be aware of your prejudices. Perhaps, even, you might even try to get in touch with your inner hippie-puncher?

  72. Willard says:

    > I wouldnt and didnt argue that hippies are powerless, quite the opposite.

    Which is exactly my point. Environmentalists have little to no power. Contrast with a glimpse of MichaelL’s network:

    Prior to founding New Energy Finance Michael helped build over 25 companies as a venture capitalist, entrepreneur and executive. From 1995 to 1998 he was Deputy Managing Director of Associated Press Television and Founding Director of Sports News Television. He acted as Non-Executive Director of Interactive Investor and was UK Managing Director of a division of Groupe Arnault which managed a $700m VC portfolio. Between 1990 and 1995 Michael was an associate and manager in the London office of McKinsey & Co.

    http://www.liebreich.com/bio/

    There’s a big gap between what he did as a venture capitalist and the kind of argument he’s serving us right now.

  73. Joshua says:

    Colors
    Green
    Seats in the Senate
    0 / 100
    Seats in the House
    0 / 435
    Governorships
    0 / 50
    State Upper House Seats
    0 / 1,972
    State Lower House Seats
    2 / 5,411
    Territorial Governorships
    0 / 6
    Territorial Upper Chamber Seats
    0 / 97
    Territorial Lower Chamber Seats
    0 / 91
    Other elected offices
    156 (2018)[6]

    Amazing just how much power is concentrated in so few.

  74. David B. Benson says:

    A thread entitled Limits to Growth. So I mention the Club of Rome report by that name. No responses.

    Then I mentioned recent bacterial resistence to antibiotics. No responses about the population density effect that will have.

    Instead, the tired pro & con of nuclear power plants. Yawn.

  75. The truly goofy thing is that no one upthread (as far as I can see) is even outright objecting to nukes. Mostly more like, “Build as many as you can. Go for it. Just seems a bit blindered/naive given the urgency and scale. Peace, out.”

    I know there’s more than that to the conversation, but I suspect that when RealClimate and other venues weary of the same old, same old and ban the discussion, the unintended consequence is the nukeroaches scurry where they are still allowed. Mostly ruining things for most good faith participants.

    Look, wouldn’t we all be ashamed of ourselves if we somehow overlooked the clear evidence that nuclear could solve everything? I know I would be. Yet somehow, I don’t think the normal discussion hereabouts and elsewhere is in any risk of that…

  76. Willard says:

    I think it goes beyond that, rust.

    Paying due diligence to ML’s master argument requires more work than to go for the usual talking points.

  77. izen says:

    @-David B. Benson
    ” So I mention the Club of Rome report by that name. No responses. ”

    Probably because it is viewed as discredited. However correct in theory, in practise the dire warnings of imminent global collapse didn’t happen (yet). So it has poisoned the well for any attempt to prophecy significant disruption beyond the local and transient. However unjustified, the Club of Rome report is seen as clear evidence that timely adaption avoids avoids predicted collapse.

    @-“Then I mentioned recent bacterial resistance to antibiotics. No responses about the population density effect that will have.”

    While it wont be pleasant in an antibiotic free world, and death rates will climb, life expectancy will fall; it may not have much more than a 10% impact on population density. Populations which lack ready access to effective antibiotics still manage to maintain an increasing population density.
    Female education & autonomy seem to reduce population growth rates rather more effectively than increased mortality from infection is likely to do.

    Limits to growth is viewed as a ‘limit to energy’ problem because in most instances energy can be converted into whatever is required to overcome other limits. The ‘Green’ revolution that doubled global food production was largely a process of re-organising agricultural production on an industrial model so that fossil fuels were (indirectly, transport, fertiliser, weedkillers) converted to food.

    Fossil fuels will need replacing as the major prop to food production to avoid famine and cut CO2 emissions. All while the ecological infrastructure on which our agriculture is based is disrupted.
    We really need a way to convert Joules to calories.

  78. If you are talking about Michael Liebreich, he seemed to fold up like an accordion on Twitter on many key claims.

    Beyond that, curious, what is it about his “master argument” – and “due diligence” of same – that requires anything new?

    He “sez” stuff about “thermodynamics” and “Nobel-winners” – to do, what, pre-empt such criticism? – but mostly butchers all that (and some of that is why he seemed to withdraw on Twitter, as I recall).

    And again, on his other point, about technology uberness, is there something “master” or even subtle about that? Or even any of the “limits/thermodynamics”-antagonists who are not aware, and generally enthusiastic and hopeful for more of same? Just not seeing how it adds up?

  79. Willard says:

    > Beyond that, curious, what is it about his “master argument” – and “due diligence” of same – that requires anything new?

    I haven’t paid much attention to it, as I’m busy with an interesting gaslighting case over the tweeter. In any event, it’s the topic of the post. AT left some interesting links to read to delve into. Collating anything regarding GRRRRROWTH or ML could work for me. Links to past ClimateBall episodes too. Next time the “but growth” resurfaces or ML reappears in the news, I’d check back here.

    There’s no need to comment on everything every time. As the Auditor was wont to say, every single thread read the same when that happens

  80. Canman says:

    Hear’s something that suggests a nuclear powered corucopian future — Russia’s announcement of a nuclear rocket. Will the Donald allow a nuclear rocket gap?

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/11/15/russia-will-shape-the-future-of-spaceflight-announces-nuclear-powered-reusable-rocket-programme/

  81. verytallguy says:

    Hear’s something that suggests a nuclear powered corucopian future — Russia’s announcement of a nuclear rocket.

    Alternatively, here’s confirmation of a credulous present, and something that suggests climate “sceptics” are in fact climate gulls.

  82. BBD says:

    Steven

    maybe you didnt read it, or what I wrote.

    Of course we should not try a small modular approach

    /sarc

    So show me one. Sure SMRs might have potential, but commercial product is still in R&D. Which just might be why nobody thinks nuclear will get much above 25% by 2050.

    Maybe you should do the reading.

  83. David B. Benson says:

    izen, you couldn’t have looked at the limits to growth update which I referenced. So you appear to continue to wallow in ignorance.

    Regarding the lack of antibiotics, consider the great influenza pandemic of just a century ago.

  84. izen says:

    @-David B. Benson

    I have followed the Limits to Growth, Club of Rome story, including updates. Unfortunately none of that reverses the wide perception that the dire warnings of disaster were wrong, either over-hyped or adaption was sufficient to solve avoid threat. Club of Rome, Limits to Growth (perhaps unjustly) remains the public example of the Hippy Radicals who cried ‘Wolf’.

    Spanish flu is a good example of how little impact epidemics and famine has on population density. Although there is a brief downward blip in the growth rate after the 1919 Spanish Flu and the 1960 Chinese famine, it has no discernible effect on the rising numbers.

    Subsequent comparable epidemics and famines have done little to alter the exponential (until recently?) population growth. Historically pestilence and famine have been disruptive at the local and transient level but have little impact on the global growth of population, food and consumer goods/services.

    The circle to square is the persistence of existing systems with entrenched practises, with a need for rapid societal change in how we manufacture, distribute and use energy. The limits to growth of safe(r) means of energy generation with a transition to low emissions requires overcoming the inertia of the fossil fuel industry and its’ tame governments. At present there is very little evidence that the fossil fuel producers see any limits to their growth, and government regulation appears to back them up.

    https://cleantechnica.com/2018/11/15/oil-gas-companies-boast-few-long-term-low-carbon-ambitions-minimal-investment/

    https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/3066442/tempus-energy-wins-landmark-eu-court-ruling-throwing-capacity-market-in-doubt

  85. 1. Finland isn’t socialist. It’s a high tax compassionate capitalist country practicing democracy. Its economic freedom index is better than South Korea’s. Given that US and European socialists admire self described socialist regimes such as the ones in Cuba and Venezuela, I’m afraid the brand of socialism they want isn’t Finnish style compassionate capitalism.

    2. I keep reading all sorts of claims for nuclear power which ignore many countries lack the safety culture or politics to have nuclear power plants. For example, Nicaragua, Honduras, Somalia, South Sudan, and Iraq come to mind.

    3. It’s very clear to me we are running out of oil in a hurry, so prices will increase. And it’s also evident renewables are anemic. So i suspect the bigger problem is energy and climate change is a secondary issue which gets solved by lower population and the rise of technology to replace very expensive fossil fuels.

  86. BBD said about Canman’s assertion

    “Specious crap about Bill Gates notwithstanding. It’s high time you grew up a bit.”

    Canman claimed that Gates said that 64K of memory is all that is needed, but the legend is actually that 640K is all that is needed (i.e. segmented addressing). But even that is not true, as Gates claimed he never said that
    “I’ve said some stupid things and some wrong things, but not that. No one involved in computers would ever say that a certain amount of memory is enough for all time.”

    Skeptics say a lot of stupid things as this one from WUWT a few days ago lauding the many failures of fracking operations by comparing to computer firms:

    “Shale gas and oil exploration, development and production are new technology. Some companies are better at it than others, so using averages across the industry makes no sense in this immature, new business. In the early days of any high technology industry, many companies are created and only a few of the best thrive. How many people remember Apollo Computers or Digital Equipment Corporation? Judging the microcomputer industry based on these companies, or an average of all microcomputer companies in the 1980s, one could easily conclude that microcomputers have no future, but they would be wrong.”

    In fact, Apollo and DEC were legendary companies in the history of computing and were proof that minicomputers had a future. In fact these were the companies that showed Bill Gates how to scale memory addressing. As I recall, Gates hired Dave Cutler from DEC as the Windows NT architect due to his knowledge of 32-bit addressing schemes. Cutler and DEC didn’t like UNIX of course, and that’s where Apollo comes in, where that company and Sun pioneered UNIX networked workstations.

  87. Chubbs says:

    We are in a period of rapid change: technology, economy, energy, environment,, etc. I don’t think anyone’s crystal ball is very clear. What worries me is we don’t appear to have the capacity to anticipate and face up to anything that will upset the apple cart.

  88. Joshua says:

    Fernando –

    1. Finland isn’t socialist.

    Perhaps I’m guilty of hyperbole by describing Finland as socialist (without qualification)….

    …. but it’s pretty funny to see your objection then followed up by broad stroking “admiration” die Cuba and Venezuela.

    Perhaps you know some details about the level of centralization of energy policies in Finland?

    Regardless, I doubt that the relatively strong positive public support for nuclear energy in Finland was won by hippy- (or socialist-) punching.

  89. Chubbs said:
    “What worries me is we don’t appear to have the capacity to anticipate and face up to anything that will upset the apple cart.”

    One case that was anticipated was the Y2K transition. But even for that, many people claimed that the warning was not needed and their proof was that nothing bad happened to computer systems when the transition occurred !

    This is instructive as we are seeing the same scenario play out with limits to growth. The early warning was that conventional crude oil production would peak around 2005. If one looks at the data and subtracts out all the unconventional crude, biofuels, natural gas liquids, refinery gains, etc from the historical world production data, sure enough it’s the case that conventional crude oil production has clearly plateaued since 2005. But like with Y2K, who is willing to admit that the warnings were borne out? As it is, technology marches on, society adapts, and the global economy doesn’t care what anyone’s opinion is.

    If anybody wants to see what is contributing to the undulating plateau, that info is available.

  90. Dave_Geologist says:

    Regarding the lack of antibiotics, consider the great influenza pandemic of just a century ago.

    Antibiotics don’t work on viruses, David. Even working, brand-new ones wouldn’t help. A vaccine, of course, would. I’m afraid the genie is out of the bottle wrt the cheap, out-of patent antibiotics. Farmers will thwart any limiting-use efforts by physicians. BTW in my experience on my oil-industry travels, antibiotics are widely available in developing countries. Often over-the-counter when they’d require a prescription in the UK, and of dubious provenance (e.g. diverted from agriculture, repackaged past their sell-by date, etc.).

  91. Dave_Geologist says:

    Given that US and European socialists admire self described socialist regimes such as the ones in Cuba and Venezuela

    Actually Fernando, they really, really don’t. I guess you’ve never met any.

    They’re well-informed enough to know the difference between themselves and Castro or Chavez.

  92. BBD says:

    Since it’s come up, my late father – a research virologist for part of his professional life – would mutter darkly about the over-prescription and general abuse of antibiotics creating widespread antibiotic resistance among many bacterial pathogens. He believed it would result in serious problems ‘next century’. This was 30-odd years ago, and IMO, he was (as usual) probably correct.

  93. BBD says:

    Now I think about it, 40-odd years ago.

  94. Willard says:

    > Finland isn’t socialist.

    Of course it is, Fernando. Social democracies just mess up with your peddling. And even if you’d want to wedge socialism away from capitalism, you still have China to solve. There’s already a thread for you for that kind of peddling. Please continue it over there.

    ***

    OK. Let me kick something into this thread. I rather liked Tim Jackson’s take down. One good quote:

    The secret of eternal growth doesn’t exactly distinguish itself in this regard. Its generosity towards the environmental Kuznets curve is uninformed. Its grasp of carbon accounting is tenuous at best. Its attempted takedown of Jay Forrester displays all the mistakes that have haunted the Limits to Growth debate. But the crowning glory of the ghouls parade, and of course the thing that is absolutely meant to draw blood, is the claim that ‘when you scratch the surface of any of the seminal tracts of the degrowth movement, you find they are based on the same fake science, right through to the present day’.

    The source of this supposedly fake science is a 1971 book called The Entropy Law and the Economic Process written by the Romanian-born mathematician and economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen. Apparently, Georgescu-Roegen made the schoolboy error of mistaking planet Earth for an isolated thermodynamic system inaccessible to any inflow or outflow of energy instead of a closed system subject to a continuous inflow of high-quality solar energy. So says Liebreich.

    But that’s not even remotely true.

    https://www.cusp.ac.uk/themes/aetw/blog_tj_how-the-light-gets-in/

    Tim then goes on to show that Georgescu-Roegen and Herman Daly do not present (or need to present) the planet as an isolated thermodynamic system. ML’s storification suffers then from factual inaccuracy. More than that, it’s full of straw. Which is far from being required – we know how farfetched hippies can get sometimes.

    There are thus two models or the earth clashing – the physical view and the economic view. How do we reconcile the two? There lies the big question behind the GRRRRROWTH debate.

  95. Joshua says:

    [No more JeffN and Joshua talking past one another in an OT quote fest, please. – W]

  96. izen says:

    @-W
    “There are thus two models or the earth clashing – the physical view and the economic view. How do we reconcile the two?”

    Perhaps by noting that economics is only partially tied to the physical.
    The amount of stuff and energy matters, but the complexity of its arrangement is also a factor.
    As a result finely worked flint is now an economic irrelevance, but even more finely worked silicon with a trace of several other elements makes a $1000 phone.
    The physical is finite and thermodynamically constrained. The economic derives from the infinite combinations of those finite resources within thermodynamic constraints.

  97. I haven’t really been following this thread, but I get the impression that it might be moving off topic. Maybe we can try to bring it back to the general topic of whether or not there are limits, what they might be, and – even if there aren’t – are we actually going to do all these amazing things that Liebreich claims we can do, anytime in the near future?

  98. izen says:

    @-fernandoleanme
    “3. It’s very clear to me we are running out of oil in a hurry, so prices will increase. ”

    A brief skim of the oil business press indicates that is not their expectation.
    First, we are running out of oil that can be extracted profitably for less than ~$50 a barrel. But known reserves are not that limited, and production is currently exceeding demand.
    Second, if the price increases, demand falls. A dip in demand is already expected from the increase in EV transport. If scarcity drives a price increase, or just the viable cost of extraction, demand will fall faster as the economic advantages of alternatives grow.

    If a government mandated, centrally planned universal health service, free education, social welfare and an old age pension and care system is now called ‘Compassionate Capitalism’ what do we call capitalist systems that lack these basic social services ?

  99. izen, It’s taken me awhile to own up to it, Fernando knows what he is talking about when it comes to the oil business. Geological limits are different than the economic considerations, and like Dave the Geologist, Fernando understands the gamut from prospecting to production & consumption.

  100. Ken Fabian says:

    I’m more inclined to see the “natural” course of technological progress to be an S-curve rather than exponential, reflecting collectively the nature of progress of the parts. Limits look quite real to me. But whilst we are on the steep part of the curve, a lot remains possible.

    I suppose I took more notice of and reacted to Liebreich’s political assumptions than his thoughts on limits to growth.

    Like this – “Unless the free-trade, pro-growth, pro-trade right offers a coherent plan, it is ceding the argument to the degrowth, anti-capitalist, anti-trade left.”

    I for one would welcome the right offering a free-trade, pro-growth, pro-trade coherent plan even as I see market forces inducing some elements of solutions in spite of the lack of coherent plan. Is a coherent plan even possible whilst Doubt, Deny, Delay is the preferred Right response to the problems Liebreich is discussing? Like others who appear to offer ways for the Right to be constructive on climate and other environmental issues there doesn’t seem much reflection on the Right’s role in making the politics so intractable. There is pricing of externalities, which I thought the Progressive/Left/Green ‘side’ supported – like Australia’s Labor party with Greens and Independents, who I can’t see as (in practice) degrowth, anti-capitalist or anti-trade, introduced – and free-market ideologues of the right bitterly opposed.

    Plenty of in-principle calls from thinkers on the Right for pricing externalities or moves to create a circular economy for physical resources, but I don’t see much effort in practice. Outright opposition still dominates.

    I tend to think resource limits will be reflected – as per conventional wisdom – in market prices for commodities. That notion of a circular economy is hardly new but I think it will require things that free-market ideologues hate, like regulation. I like the thinking of people like McDonough and Braungart (Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things) but a lot of regulation and standardisation is needed for the materials and processes, to make the ones that can be truly recycled, back to their original quality the ones everyone uses. The division between “technical nutrients” (metals, plastics, chemicals) and biological ones is an obvious one, but retailers won’t package in biological based materials, that are biologically recyclable, unless they are made to somehow. Perhaps by pigovian means. Which is a problem for the free-market types.

    With respect to RE aiming for 100% of energy, limits do get raised as objections. Sometimes legitimately, but often not. Whatever we do has to be at enormous, unprecedented scale, whether it is burning fossil fuels to the limits of their availability and creating a consumer economy for 10 billion, who want to own their own well appointed home, plus own a car and have roads to drive wherever they choose. Or making a billions tons of batteries – and, perhaps, I hope, recycling their materials in a circular economy. Not enough Lithium or Cobalt? Maybe, or perhaps we will see successful alternatives – we are still on the steep part of the progress S-curve where energy storage is concerned. Or perhaps someone will develop printable high speed diodes and Optical Rectennas will make the need for storage for solar energy less necessary. (Optical Rectennas should be able to use IR down radiation from atmosphere and clouds and displace solar as we know it).

    Making do with less but having prosperity is a dilemma. I don’t know that we will ever see a modest lifestyle being more desirable than an extravagantly wealthy and wasteful one but that is probably what we need to be inspired to aspire to. Perhaps with virtual reality substituting apparent extravagance for the real thing?

  101. Jeffh says:

    Sigh. I see people like Izen and Raymond spewing out the same old ‘adaptation’/humans are exempt from the laws of nature canard. The fact is that the material economy continues to devour nature unsustainably. The evidence is there but many people selectively choose to ignore it. Collapsing insect populations, which are global in scale, the recent study showing a dramatic loss of wild animal biomass in the Amazon, the continued loss of genetic diversity. The issue is at what point we will pass tipping points. They are approaching, and its not a question of whether we will adapt but whether the complex adaptive systems that we depend upon will.

  102. Ben McMillan says:

    The question of whether endless economic growth is possible in a regime where resource or energy utilisation has an upper bound is essentially a definitional debate: comparing two economies in different eras requires a large number of somewhat arbitrary decisions about baskets of goods and relative value. Does it really make sense to assign a single number to describe how much better off we are than the Romans or the Victorians? How different will the lives of those who dwell in the 2100s be?

    Nordhaus has a nice paper on this talking about comparing the cost and efficiency of lighting between different historical periods:
    https://www.nber.org/chapters/c6064.pdf

    The people that are in charge of the definition of GDP have every interest in it going up rather than down: it would cause a lot of uncomfortable questions about the way things are organised if the figures suggested things were in fact getting worse. So no doubt it will continue to increase forever in the future but that has little to do with whether people’s lives will improve.

  103. Jeffh says:

    It seems to me in reading many of the comments in this thread that there is a tendency to completely ignore biodiversity and biophysical constraints when asking if endless economic growrh is possible or even desireable (e.g. see Ben’s comment above). A problem here is in defining exactly what economic growth means and what it entails. In his book ‘Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train’ (2000) ecologist Brian Czech correctly interpreted it as meaning a continual increase in per capita consumption and attendant waste production unless our economies become much more efficient than they currently are. The ecological costs of this increased consumption are all around us as I said above: the rapid erosion of genetic and species richness and huge ecological deficits among the developed nations as eco-footprint analyses by Rees, Wackernagel etc. have shown. Over a quarter of species of birds, mammals and amhibians are threatened with extinction, insect populations are in freefall across the biosphere and as a result we are pushing ecological systems towards a point beyond which they will be unable to sustain us in a manner that we take for granted. In a nutshell, we are living off a one time inheritance of natural capital to fuel this economic growth and are spending like there is no tomorrow.

    If the costs of economic growth factored in the effects on ecosystems and biodiversity via full cost pricing, then we would be paying a lot more for many goods and services than we are at present. Full cost pricing entails the internalization of valuing ecosystems and the services they provide that permit us to exist and persist (see Levin, 1999). Biodiversity represents the working components of our ecological life support systems, yet what I see even amongst many educated people is a brazen disregard for this as if the material economy were somehow separate from the natural economy. It is this disregard which stimulated Robert Costanza and colleagues to write their seminal 1997 Nature paper, one of the most important papers ever published in the journal in my opinion. It also encouraged a new generation of economists to take an ecological view of economics and to promote the idea of a steady state system in lieu of one obsessed with growth and all of the harm that entails for natural systems. But the most important point I, writing as an ecologist, is making here is that any rational discussion of economics and human welfare must factor in the effects on ecosystems across the biosphere,

  104. Ben McMillan says:

    I think most commenters are well-aware that there are hard limits on growth in physical quantities like energy usage and ecological services: however GDP is somewhat ambiguous and not a physical quantity so you can make it go up ad-infinitum by playing games with the definition.

    To simplify, ‘growth’ is fake news.

  105. Jeffh says:

    I read the piece by corporate crony Michael Leibreich and I honestly couldn’t decide whether to break up in hysterical fits of laughter or to fall on the floor in a sea of tears pounding my fist. His piece is unmitigated piffle, a feeble attempt to defend a political ideology that will quite literally kill us if we don’t rein it in. Leibrich champions neoliberal capitalism, but what else would you expect from a corporate hack? All neoliberalism has done is to speed our descent into the abyss by concentrating wealth and power more effectively than the slightly more egalitarian system thar preceded it. It is hardly ironic that its biggest defenders, like Leibreich, are beneficiaries of this ecocidal system. In his piece he makes an unconvincing argument that the planetary systems are not really closed because of the sun, a virtually limitless source of energy. Fair enough, but then he uses this information as some kind of defence of neoliberal capitalism, suggesting that infinite growth is possible and plausible. In his screed he suggests that climate change is the only real downside of the neoliberal experiment, probably because his consultancy advises his corporate clients in this area. However, like most entrepeneurs, Leibreich completely ignores vast amounts of empirical evidence that the current mutant form of capitalism is sending the planet to hell in a handbasket. I alluded to the terrifying trends in biodiversity above; this is the tip if an iceberg. Almost every developed nation maintains a per capita ecological deficit based on its consumption of resources and production of wastes. Nature is in retreat across the board as a result. Populations of vertebrates and invertebrates are in freefall, with far more species declining than remaining stable or increasing. Climate change will exacerbate other problems but it is far from the only anthropenic threar to biodiversity. Leibreich probably can’t tell an elephant from a dung beetle, so he merely ignores it. The sad thing is that the ruling elites are able to get trash from Leibreich in print and widely accessible because they own the media. Page after page of the mainstream media is therefore full of this nonsense.

    The bottom line is that the proceeds of growth tends to benefit the rich, especially under a neoliberal capitalist system. As economist Tom Athanasiou suggested over 20 years ago in “Divided Planet: The Ecology of Rich and Poor”, neoliberalism tends to aid the rising of yachts much more than rusty old rowboats. Unless we solve the equity dilemma and rein the current ststem in dramatically, the future is bleak.

  106. Eric Swanson says:

    I read Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen’s book “The Entropy Law and the Economic Process back in 1974 after returning to University to work on renewable energy after the OPEC/Arab Oil Embargo. The book Limits to Growth and other works, such as Howard T. Odum’s books Environment, Power and Society and “Energy Basis for Man and Nature” had a strong impact on my world view, which has continued until now. Later I followed Herman Daly, who started the The International Society for Ecological Economics, becoming a member for several years. These early writers looked at our basic ecological situation, with our development patterns based on fossil fuels, but did not consider the longer term problem of Climate Change, which may be the ultimate Limit to Growth.

    Having considered these issues for some 4 decades, I firmly believe that the degrowth approach is the only way forward. Present political considerations do not allow discussions of the ultimate problem, population growth, a subject that is taboo in the popular press because of cultural and religious concerns. Attempts by China and India to limit their population produced mixed results. In China, the one child per family may have reduced their population by some 300 million below what it would have been otherwise. That’s 300 million who didn’t need to be fed, clothed, housed and educated, allowing the remaining population to make a rapid leap in development to the point that their economy has grown to rival the U.S. and Europe.

    But resource limits, particularly oil, appeared in the middle ’80’s as conventional oil production appeared to peak. As the price of oil neared $150 a barrel, the U.S. economy experienced a massive contraction, but the linkage between high oil prices and the Great Recession have been downplayed with the rise of the new technology of fracking delivered more oil production, forcing prices down. These new technologies are only a temporary “fix” to the long term problem of fossil fuel depletion and do nothing to remedy the larger problem of Global Warming. The next round of depletion will be much faster and a scramble for the remainder is likely to be brutal. De-growth may be forced on humanity without any pre-planning when the next depletion crisis arrives. I’m not at all optimistic for the future of the Earth, given human nature, such as that seen in the current political situation in the U.S.

  107. Willard says:

    > It seems to me in reading many of the comments in this thread that there is a tendency to completely ignore biodiversity and biophysical constraints when asking if endless economic growrh is possible or even desireable (e.g. see Ben’s comment above).

    Ben cited William’s classic, Do Real-Output and Real-Wage Measures Capture Reality? The History of Lighting Suggests Not, in which he recalls Louis’ observation that kerosene “gave life to a few remaining whales.” I wouldn’t dare to say that ecologists tend to completely ignore what economists are saying, but it’s very tempting.

  108. izen says:

    Terminal pessimism about the future of human societies is misplaced. Or at least, unfalsifiable as a prior assumption.

    From the pragmatic point of view of science communication, the message that we need to transition to almost zero carbon emissions as fast as possible to avoid the negative consequences of climate change is difficult enough.
    Add that implicit, or even explicit in this scientific conclusions is ALSO the conclusion that growth is impossible and suicidal and degrowth is the way forward, does not make the control of cumulative emissions an easier sell.
    Not to a majority in society who understand growth and progress as synonyms.

    I am not discounting the threats posed by ecological collapse to our present human societies. I share some suspicions about the four horsemen being the most powerful instruments of policy change.
    But there are objections to the Cassandra narrative.

    Ecology can be over-enamoured with complexity, diversity and stability.
    History shows a pattern of change, specialisation and simplification. The most stable ecosystems, the ones around since Gondwanaland, have simplified, the most diverse have evolved recently on islands.
    Human societies have already gone through rapid climate change and the radical alteration of ecologies and genetic diversity. Some of which like the extinction of the mammalian and avian mega-fauna at the start of the Holocene humans may have played a part in.
    Agriculture, forest clearance and domesticated animals have resulted in very little of the land surface remaining in anything like the ecological state it was in during the last peak glacial period. It has been shaped by humans for most of the Holocene.
    How far forward does degrowth have to go, which ecological changes from the rise of pastoralism and cropping can we keep ?

    Human society is now radically different, and 6 billion persons larger than it was a century ago. More people are living above the level of abject poverty that have ever existed in the past, most can read and write. The majority are gaining access to information beyond the imagination of previous generations.

    There are practical technological developments that are theoretically possible within our present scientific understanding that would initiate major change in the way we organise human society and the way we interact with energy and ecologies. Super conductivity, artificial photosynthesis and genetic engineering are all technologies with potential for progress.

    Of course, simplifying the ecology, and maintaining adequate nutrition may result in soylent green…

  109. verytallguy says:

    Willard,

    It’s a great paper IMO.

    Jevon’s seminal may suggest it does not imply a decoupling of resource usage, however.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jevons_paradox

  110. Joshua says:

    izen –

    … the conclusion that growth is impossible and suicidal and degrowth is the way forward does not make the control of cumulative emissions an easier sell.

    Perhaps not. But another question is whether such messaging is indeed the explanation for why more progress in reducing emissions hasn’t been made – as many like to claim.

    My personal view is that selling such a message won’t work, but neither is it significantly counterproductive, and that people will face down reducing emissions only at the point where the existing energy paradigm is unambiguously harmful at the everyday level.

    But there are objections to the Cassandra narrative.

    How do those objections account for the price of tea in China?

  111. izen says:

    The price of tea in China was set by demand.
    Demand in the UK rose after government tax on other products from China caused the traders to switch to tea.
    Consumption of tea increased, which with sugar, and the boiling of water avoiding disease, played a role in enabling the industrial revolution.
    Unfortunately the traders paid the price of tea in China in opium so as the price of tea in the West fell, its cost in China rose.
    The Cassandra narrative is always incomplete.

  112. Jeffh says:

    Izen, you still don’t get it. I forgive you because there are clearly massive gaps in your knowledge and understanding on the importance of nature in not only sustaining humanity but in permitting our species to exist and persist. There are more people starving now than were alive less than a century ago. Hardly progress. The mutant form of capitalism called neoliberalism is concentrating wealth and power more than at any time in human history. Yet the equity dilemma underpins many of the most serious environmental and economic problems we face. Virtually every one of the developed nations maintains massive ecological deficits in their resource consumption and waste priduction, which can only be offset by theft – essentially reaching into poor countries and looting their resources. Planners in the rich quad know it, and this is why our elites pay lip service to poverty eradication in the south. They realize that if everyone on Earth lived like the average American or European that we would need another 2 or 3 Earth-like planets to sustain it. Even leaving out the south, the rich countries consume more natural capital than the planet replenishes sustainably. Globally, we go into deficit in September, and the date is being pushed back earlier every year. The evidence is all around us in rapid declines in genetic and species diversity, fraying food webs and ecosystems.

    You also fall into this technology trap, much like crossing your fingers and wishing for the tooth fairy, if you somehow think that this will rescue civilization. There are few technological substitues for ecosystem servives nor are there ever likely to be. Pollinators alone sustain our agricultural production, and the global decline in the abundance of keystone pollinators should be seen with absolutely the deepest concern, but these days data showing population collapses in a wide array of species are either ignored or greeted with collective yawns by politicians and our supine media. Biodiversity represents the working parts of our global ecological life support systems and we are piece by piece destroying it, simplifying ecosystems across the biosphere and thereby pushing themselves towards a point beyond which they will no longer provide the services upon which the material economy of civilization rests. Climate change may be the final nail in our coffin, but humans are waging an all out assault on complex adaptive systems that sustain us but whose functioning we still barely understand. It is a collective form of insanity and hubris. You can write all you like about ‘progress’ but the debt is growing. We are in deep trouble.

  113. Jeffh says:

    As an addendum, the objections to the Cassandra narrative generally come from those who are ecologically illiterate. People like Bjorn Lomborg, who embrace neoclassical economic theory and its by now discredited tenets of unlimited substitution, efficiency and human ingenuity in believing that there are no limits to economic growth. His idol, the late lamented Julian Simon, who sadly became something of a laughingstock when he ventured into ecology, once made the absurd remark that we now have in our possesion the knowledge and technology to support a growing human population for the next 7 bilion years. Simon hadn’t done the math. Based on his statement human biomass would have been expanding faster than the universe. Ouch.

    To be precise I am not a Cassandra but a realist. I am a professional scientist and an ecologist. I see the abyss into which we are approaching, as do the vast majority of my peers in the environmental and Earth sciences. Last year Bioscience published an update of the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, 25 years after the original document from the Union of Concerned Scientists to coincide with the Rio Summit on Biodiversity. It makes a sober read. Humans and nature are on a much more serious collision course than was the case even back in 1992. The prognosis, if we do not radically change course soon, is dire.

  114. So, Kate Marvel says in the NYT:

    Will We Survive Climate Change?

    Possibly. There is ‘no scientific support for inevitable doom,

    behind a paywall, so I am not sure exactly what she said, but I think there is some science that suggests doom. I know people get all excited and react badly to the doomsayers, but isn’t it more reasonable to consider the evidence and arguments for doom in a reasonable scientific manner than to simply slam the door?

    Mike

  115. The NYTimes article headline is sensational but the article itself is quite pedestrian.

    Hansen, Hayhoe and Marvel each say that we are not inevitably doomed and that suggesting so is self-defeating, self-fulfilling. We have every opportunity to make the changes and choices so as to avert catastrophic outcomes. Hansen, as I recall says something along the lines of “We have the capacity to choose a smart path and I remain confident that we will make smart decisions.”

    What is somewhat downplayed are the consequences of not acting or where BAU takes us.

  116. Francis says:

    I believe that Asimov captured the idea of limits to growth with the creation of Trantor. The Foundation books note that when the Empire collapsed the Trantorians did not do well.

    The US is an enormous food exporter and wastes up to 40% of all calories grown. But it’s worth noting that this production is based on water mining practices that are not sustainable either in California or above the Ogallala aquifer.

  117. izen says:

    @-jeffh
    ” I forgive you because there are clearly massive gaps in your knowledge and understanding on the importance of nature in not only sustaining humanity but in permitting our species to exist and persist. ”

    Thank you for your generosity.

    Can you help me understand the scale and historical context of the ecological changes that will impose change upon human societies?
    Are there credible arguments that it is worse than the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, or even near one of the 5(?) major extinction events ?

    If the PETM is a comparable event, what would ecologists advise is the minimum ecological system that we would need to preserve (or construct) to provide humanity with calories from sunlight?

  118. izen says:

    @-Francis
    “The Foundation books note that when the Empire collapsed the Trantorians did not do well. ”

    Most fled to the outer farming systems. Leaving it as the true centre of the scientists who shaped history to ensure civilisation arose again as quickly as possible after the inevitable collapse of the Empire.

  119. BBD says:

    Are there credible arguments that it is worse than the Pleistocene-Holocene transition, or even near one of the 5(?) major extinction events ?

    Actually, I think there are, when you consider that the rapidity rather than the absolute magnitude of environmental change is what makes modern warming and ocean pH shift so potentially dangerous.

  120. BBD says:

    The Cassandra narrative is always incomplete.

    Until one day, it isn’t.

  121. Willard says:

    > Jevon’s seminal may suggest it does not imply a decoupling of resource usage, however.

    Showing that something more is implicated in price schemes than wages and outputs is only one step into discovering externalities. Interestingly, thy wiki cites JamesB, whom may not be the best authority to define precisely and clearly a concept that may hinder his persistent fight for freedom. If this 1962 paper clarifies a concept that is said to be central to welfare economics, chances are it’s something economists know about since at least 70 years.

    Jevon’s paradox reminds me of this other paradox involving the philosopher Nancy Cartwright:

  122. verytallguy says:

    Simpson’s paradox is a new one to me. Always good to learn, thanks.

  123. Dave_Geologist says:

    The Foundation books note that when the Empire collapsed the Trantorians did not do well.

    Neither did Earth, IIRC it was a radioactive wasteland, with a few relics evacuated to underground sites on the Moon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.