Thursday 17 September 2009

News to Laugh About

Energy and climate crisis reading can be a grim affair - with a good reason. Still, it's sometimes useful to laugh a bit. With that in mind, here are some recent news articles that should create laughter in those who've done their homework.

If all of the above seems a bit harsh, mean or even unfair, that's because it's supposed to be. That's really the only way to laugh about this all. And that's what we all need every now and then.

Tuesday 15 September 2009

Petropolis - Tar Sands from Above

Check out a trailer / slideshow for a documentary 'Petropolis', which shows the size and scale of the burgeoning Alberta tar sands industry.

We've got plenty more of this coming in the future as we move from crude and condensates to non-conventional oil sources, including tar sands and oil shale.

Looks pretty nice, doesn't it? Surely the future dystopian steampunk movies will be shot on location in abandoned Alberta open pit tar sand mines.

A new proposal: change McCain's 'drill, baby drill!' to 'Mine, baby Mine!'

Monday 14 September 2009

Dennis Meadows on Limits to Growth & Solving Problems

Most people who talk about Limits to growth have never read the book that started it all 37 years ago. Most people who deride it, have not understood the arguments (or read the book) and are guilty of straw man argumentation. So, why not let Dennis L. Meadows one of the authors of the original book spell it out again in his commemorative lecture for the Japan Prize in 2009.

There are a few gold nuggets in his speech about our predicament and our ability to solve difficult problems that have a changing evaluation horizon. Short version: doesn't look good in the short term, but in the long term things might turn ok.

Thursday 10 September 2009

Doom porn #1 - Dan Miller - A Really Inconvenient Truth

Starting off with the much asked for doomer porn series is Dan Miller with his talk titled "A Really Inconvenient Truth". Apologies in advance to Dan Miller, who is by no means a doomer nor is his intentions to frighten people. Just tell it like it is and then work to find the solutions - both of which he's doing himself.

With that said, here's an hour worth of inconvenience for all of us on why IPCC estimates are actually the best case scenario and why it's unlikely that we'll end up in the best case scenario, but in something far worse.

What does this have to do with energy? Energy is food we eat (meat), mobility that moves us and our globalized stuff around (oil), our buildings (embedded energy) and thus, greenhouse gas emissions. Once oil and natural gas start going, what's left is coal and that's far, far dirtier in terms of climate change than the previous two. And that's the good stuff. Wait till we get to tar sands and oil shale. All of which won't be enough to mitigate the fall, but will still be burned and thus released into the atmosphere with no abandon.

This is why peak oil is such an important issue. It brings climate change related issues fast forward from the future to today - or actually, yesterday. We should have solved this stuff 15 years ago. We more than likely don't have till 2020 to start fixing, certainly not till 2050.

As you watch the video, ask yourself:
  • How do I feel?
  • Why do I feel like this?
  • Is there anything I can do to this emotion?
  • Is there anything I can do to stop the things causing this?

Tuesday 8 September 2009

Are we close(r) to a tipping point?

Tipping points have been discussed for the past years in many different contexts. There are those optimists believing in consciousness/awareness tipping points in humans around the planet - finally resulting in decisive and synchronized action on all the issues we face.

Then there are the scientists, who actually study the issue of tipping points and try to figure out if we can predict them with any useful likelihood before they actually happen. A case in point is a recent paper by Scheffer et al in Nature: “Early Warning Signals for Critical Transitions” (Nature, 3 Sept 2009, 461: 53-59).

"Complex dynamical systems, ranging from ecosystems to financial markets and the climate, can have tipping points at which a sudden shift to a contrasting dynamical regime may occur. Although predicting such critical points before they are reached is extremely difficult, work in different scientific fields is now suggesting the existence of generic early-warning signals that may indicate for a wide class of systems if a critical threshold is approaching."
In short: systems science based on computational models combining findings from physics and other natural science have uncovered that the climate and financial system may be heading for chaotic times.

In plain English: the shit just might the hit the proverbial fan soon.

Of course, it may just be millenial madness and a preliminary finding that turns out to be a fluke.

However, the squealing of the systems is clearly audible as we speak:
It's the same old story - on repeat.

When is it time for you and me to stop flying, stop driving that big car, stop eating meat, stop consuming like it's end of the world? If your first reaction is an excuse, a refusal or a denial - don't fret, it's only human and it will pass.

Still, it is fare to ask what kind of wake up signals do we require? Al Gore once again asks the same question (from 8:30 onwards).

"Didn't you notice the entire North Polar ice cap was melting? What were you all doing? Watching the American Idol?" - Al Gore, August 2009
So let's all turn on the TV, tune out. We all dare ourselves.