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Days of Future Past

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Whispering Death by Deviant Art

"It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future." Yogi Berra.

Anticipating the future course of events for the coming years and decades of this century is both easy and hard. Easy because the broad outlines are already determined. Hard, because the specific ways in which causal variables (for example global warming and the economy) will influence one another is difficult to foresee accurately.

A good strategy is to keep the modelling as simple as possible, though no simpler. The simplest model involves only two variables: a independent variable ("IV"), and an dependent variable ("DV"). It can be graphed like this: IV-DV. Meaning that any change in the independent variable, CAUSES some corresponding change in the dependent variable.

For the IV I have selected human-caused (anthropogenic) climate change. For the DV, the global economy. Anthropogenic climate change is driven primarily by burning carbon-based fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas. These substances, coincidentally, power human civilization. Human civilization thus is dependent upon substances that, if overused, will destroy it. Like any addiction, the only cure is to stop using the harmful substance. Yet the business of running our economy is massively dependent upon these dangerous fuels.

Is global warming "real"? It is alleged that global warming is a hoax perpetuated by countless thousands of scientists for some reason or another. (1) Frankly, anyone who actually believes this garbage is a fool who well deserves to be a part of the mass extinction they are allowing. We know global warming is indeed real because we understand physics. Greenhouse gasses such as carbon dioxide have the effect of preventing solar radiation from escaping back to space after striking our planet. That is not opinion, it is easily verified physics. Without the greenhouse effect provided by our atmosphere, Earth would be about 140 F colder than it is!

Currently, the magnitude of excess heat buildup in our atmosphere is, per climatologist James Hansen: "The equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima bombs per day, 365 days per year."(2) Scientists refer to this excess energy as a "forcing". This because it forces the environment to behave differently from otherwise. Currently our excess radiative forcing amounts to about 3 watts per square meter (yard). This may not sound like much, but considering the scale of the planet, it is. All of the above can be easily determined using objective measurement.

Because the Earth is very inhomogeneous (different parts of it are very different: mountains, seas, rivers, icecaps etc.) the manner in which it responds to this forcing is less clear. But respond it does, per the laws of thermodynamics. Given increasing energy buildup, the result inevitably MUST be the progressive destabilization of the atmosphere as it is knocked out of energy balance. Ever-increasing destabilization of the atmosphere MUST wreak havoc with industry, agriculture, all of human civilization. THIS is our inevitable near-term future if we continue with business as usual. But it gets more complicated.

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Production of conventional oil peaked in the last decade. In 2010 the UN's International Energy Agency (IEA) confirmed this fact. (3, 4) Only energy-intensive production of ever-less-desirable fuel sources such as tar sands and "tight" oil and gas via fracking, has, for now, allowed for total (including nonconventional oil) production to remain about even with its peak in the last decade.

Fracked wells have steep decline rates--about 3 years and they are at least 90 percent depleted! Only ceaseless drilling allows for production to increase--for now. (5) Many analysts anticipate that the US boom in fracked oil will turn to bust for this reason later in this decade. My assessment is that fracked production will begin a relentless decline around 2016-17.

Further, all of this new unconventional oil required much more energy to produce and refine than did conventional oil. The energy return on energy invested (EROEI) for such oil is low, and falling. See my previous article HERE for much more on EROEI and its significance. However, to grasp the implications of EROI decline, at a time when conventional oil production has peaked, see this graph:



Net EROEI by David Murphy www.theOilDrum.com

Source: http://peakoil.com/generalideas/energy-part-ii-eroei

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Here's where things get REALLY bad! Even with all-out production, the net EROEI drops far faster than does production. This results in the worst possible outcome: massive amounts of additional carbon being added to the atmosphere corresponding with ever-diminishing amounts of net energy to actually power our economy. Global warming thus intensifies while our economy undergoes remorseless energy-derived contraction. Further, ever-intensifying climate change further destabilizes the economy and human civilization in general.

What I anticipate is that business-as-usual will continue until we are far down the energy decline curve in the 2020s. The economy has already stopped growing. The only way to maintain any semblance of growth is for sharp recessionary depressions to be followed by periods of relative regrowth. This regrowth will always be less than what preceded it. In fits and starts the economy will contract. Wealth and power will come to be ever more increasingly concentrated into fewer and fewer hands. Democracy will wither ever more.

This atrophy of democracy, already underway, will mean that those actors most invested in business-as-usual will become progressively more powerful. In turn, this will entail that no fundamental change in how our economy is powered will occur. Within a decade or so (depending on the timing and intensity of intervening recessionary depressions) we will begin to be assaulted by climatic events of unprecedented ferocity. Human civilization will begin to collapse. Unfortunately, because we waited until there was no longer sufficient available energy to power a transition to renewable energy, we will be unable to do so. Global civilization will then collapse in flaming ruins. Basically, it is the Apocalypse.

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http://www.MichaelPByron.com

Michael P Byron is the author of The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow: Your Guide to Personal Survival and Spiritual Transformation in a World Gone Mad. This book is a manual for taking effective action to deal with the crises of our age including (more...)
 

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Disclaimer: Anthropogenic climate change is settle... by Michael Byron on Monday, Jun 9, 2014 at 11:21:54 AM
For a revolution to work, we have to ha... by Wolperdinger on Monday, Jun 9, 2014 at 12:43:36 PM
True, and no candidates are visible. ... by Hosea McAdoo on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 9:25:40 AM
Josea,One of the other commentators, Patrick Walke... by Michael Byron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 2:09:22 PM
Thanks, agreed. ... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 11:42:48 PM
Michael, Warren has said repeatedly t... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 7:16:33 AM
Patrick,I'm fine with Sanders. However, if he runs... by Michael Byron on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:03:01 AM
Wolperdinger: well said! All I can add is that EAC... by Michael Byron on Monday, Jun 9, 2014 at 1:32:20 PM
Here's another essay, happily with far more empiri... by Robert S. Becker on Monday, Jun 9, 2014 at 6:23:47 PM
Robert, You, as another OEN author know that OEN ... by Michael Byron on Monday, Jun 9, 2014 at 8:23:33 PM
Thanks for your detailed and reasonable response. ... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 10:14:16 AM
Robert,I personally have been off grid for over 2 ... by Michael Byron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 1:57:49 PM
One other item: I have tried to comply with the st... by Michael Byron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 2:01:55 PM
It wasn't a serious dig. If you've been away that... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 2:43:57 PM
OK, understood. ... by Michael Byron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 8:30:03 PM
Robert, Seems you're never pessimisti... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 6:43:52 AM
P.S. to Robert: I see that apologist for Barack, ... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 7:22:18 AM
OMG. An ad hominem attack once removed?! Now I sh... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 9:54:21 AM
Robert,There is NO logical fallacy here, and I am ... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 10:19:22 AM
The logical fallacy is equating an indirect and/or... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 11:30:34 AM
"just as there's no fallacy in not trusting a cloc... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 11:44:13 AM
Gee, sorry I am not pessimistic enough for YOU -- ... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 9:45:43 AM
Robert, I by no means counsel pessimi... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 3:34:15 PM
Robert,I thank you for your comments here, and mor... by Michael Byron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 2:11:30 PM
Well, you admirably ran for high office and thus a... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 2:36:10 PM
Robert,Re my run against Issa as the Dem nominee i... by Michael Byron on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:19:01 AM
I'm ALSO trying to do something politically, and s... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 7:14:47 PM
Patrick,I see it. We do need to try to assemble th... by Michael Byron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 8:39:39 PM
If you don't mind, I don't want to be dragged into... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 9:03:00 PM
Robert,Climate catastrophe is CLEARLY an iceberg--... by Patrick Walker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 9:32:21 PM
You are missing both the letter and spirit of what... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 9:15:45 AM
It's hardly "zealotry" if it's an attempt to get p... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 9:46:05 AM
Patrick, AND Robert,I am sorry to have inadvertent... by Michael Byron on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:24:57 AM
Not your doing at all. What you see in Mr. Walker ... by Robert S. Becker on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 11:26:01 AM
There is no "The Economy" any more. It used to be ... by Hosea McAdoo on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 9:32:02 AM
URL for the Hirsch Report is: http://www.netl.doe.... by Michael Byron on Monday, Jun 9, 2014 at 10:16:30 PM
Yes, it is tough to make predictions. Scientific ... by Philip Pease on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 10:22:38 AM
My dire prediction is based on today's reality tha... by Philip Pease on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 11:20:35 AM
Phillip,My assessment is pretty much congruent wit... by Michael Byron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 2:14:37 PM
For what it's worth, here's a piece on Warren Buff... by Robert S. Becker on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 12:11:32 PM
(Note: The repeated asterisks in my comment, are i... by Dan Baron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 4:32:09 PM
Dan,Cooler 1,000 feet below ground? Temperatures g... by Michael Byron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 8:41:48 PM
What really scares me, is that I already see the b... by Dan Baron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 4:34:14 PM
Don't give in to despair-ACT! ... by Michael Byron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 8:42:59 PM
Agree wholeheartedly. ... by BFalcon on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 11:45:38 PM
Thanks! ... by Michael Byron on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:25:42 AM
It's true, I feel despair. Maybe next, deciding wh... by Dan Baron on Tuesday, Jun 10, 2014 at 11:58:51 PM
Dan,The American Revolution may have only been sup... by Michael Byron on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:29:42 AM
DEEPEST REASON FOR PESSIMISM: READ JOHN WHITEHAD T... by Patrick Walker on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 8:00:51 AM
Whitehead's article is a "must read." ... by Michael Byron on Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 at 10:27:02 AM
A person doesn't have to be a genius to make corre... by Dan Baron on Friday, Jun 13, 2014 at 7:34:10 PM
Dan,you are correct re the two curves. Net Hubbard... by Michael Byron on Sunday, Jun 15, 2014 at 11:47:50 AM
Aha, Michael Byron, aka, Beau Bridges. I didn't kn... by Dan Baron on Friday, Jun 13, 2014 at 7:41:33 PM
I didn't know I was THAT smart either Dan! ... by Michael Byron on Sunday, Jun 15, 2014 at 11:48:40 AM
Now you know.You don't have to thank me. ... by Dan Baron on Sunday, Jun 15, 2014 at 2:49:55 PM
On the Hubbert plot, in a particular year the gros... by Dan Baron on Saturday, Jun 14, 2014 at 12:12:58 AM
Yes. ... by Michael Byron on Sunday, Jun 15, 2014 at 11:49:15 AM