Si existe una razón por la que me hice de y sigo perteneciendo a la Asociación para el Estudio del Cenit del Petróleo (ASPO, por sus siglas en inglés) es la absoluta libertad de opinión de que gozan sus miembros, en una atmósfera de mutuo respeto general
Hay un solo punto común entre nosotros: la creencia en que los recursos de petróleo y gas natural son limitados; que sus perfiles de extracción siguen, más o menos, una curva en forma de campana que alcanza un punto máximo llamado pico o cenit (aunque se admite que puede tener forma de meseta) al que o a la que luego sigue un declive productivo irreversible, por el agotamiento natural de una fuente finita y que esto tendrá consecuencias importantes para la Humanidad. Esto ya ha sucedido y es aplicable a yacimientos concretos, a regiones, a provincias y a muchos países productores, pero los principales problemas y consecuencias llegarán cuando este fenómeno se de respecto de todo el mundo.
En el caso del petróleo y del gas, este cenit o meseta mundial ya está teniendo lugar y será pronto seguido por el del gas natural. Hasta aquí nuestro ideario común en ASPO. Sencillo.
Explicado así, da la sensación de que el principio del cenit del petróleo, enunciado primero por M. King hubbert en 1956 y seguido por Campbell y Laherrère (Disculpas, Jean, por no saber poner el acento en ocasiones previas) en 1998, debería ser obvio para todo el mundo. Sin embargo, resulta sorprendente constatar cómo este principio básico y de sentido común queda ignorado, ninguneado o es negado por la inmensa mayoría de los políticos al uso (no les gusta, al parecer, que se les llame “clase política”) y también por los principales medios de comunicación y desde luego por la casi totalidad de los ciudadanos. Incluso y para mi sorpresa, también por un increíble número de científicos y universitarios de las ramas de la Ciencia en todo el mundo, muchos de los cuales siguen creyendo que el petróleo y el gas “son infinitos” (ver los comentarios de Jeremy Legget más adelante, citando nada menos que a Tony Hayward, antiguo director ejecutivo de British Petroleum) o que no se ve cenit de ningún tipo en un horizonte previsible. De los economistas de la Tierra Plana ni hablamos aquí.
Dicho esto, por el presente declaro que me encuentro muy cómodo habiendo casi cumplido diez años en esta asociación que es ASPO, que es muy abierta para entrar o salir, no obliga a nadie y no exige subordinación o seguidismo a ultranza de políticas o catecismos de ningún tipo. Me siento orgulloso de pertenecer a una organización que ha terminado estando presente en más de treinta países con sus respectivas asociaciones nacionales, debido exclusivamente al esfuerzo personal y al tesón de sus miembros y que ha podido alcanzar este nivel de difusión con un presupuesto CERO en ASPO International, como constató su presidente, Kjell Aleklett en la Asamblea General de ASPO el pasado junio en Viena, al final de su X Conferencia Internacional.
Esta peculiar y creo que única característica de una organización sin ánimo de lucro es el mejor signo de su absoluta independencia, de la que me siento especialmente orgulloso en estos tiempos que corren tan mediatizados por el dinero.
A partir de aquí, los miembros de ASPO tenemos las naturales y hasta convenientes divergencias en muchos otros asuntos
Por ejemplo, existen dentro de ASPO partidarios del uso de la energía nuclear, como una alternativa potencial para el petróleo y el gas o al menos, como una forma de mitigar su declive post.-cenit; también hay, probablemente más críticos a esta alternativa dentro de ASPO, sin que ello afecte el principio general de la Asociación y la libertad para que cada uno exprese sus opiniones en pro y en contra de ello.
Hay partidarios de las energías renovables, también como fuentes de energía potenciales para reemplazar a los combustibles fósiles en diversos grados y otros que creen o creemos que no será posible el reemplazo en tiempo y forma de los actuales volúmenes de combustibles fósiles, de su densidad, versatilidad o variedad de usos y aplicaciones, para poder seguir manteniendo una sociedad mundial como la actual. Pero hemos podido exponer y debatir nuestras ideas y mantener nuestras diferencias, en una atmósfera de respeto mutuo.
Hay miembros de ASPO que están seriamente preocupados por el Calentamiento Global y el Cambio Climático y se posicionan sin fisuras en los postulados del Panel Intergubernamental para el Cambio Climático, el PICC o el IPCC por sus siglas en inglés. Como hemos visto recientemente en un debate interno. Hay otros que muestran documentadas dudas sobre la credibilidad de los escenarios del PICC y sobre las consecuencias previstas por este organismo; o sobre las previsibles consecuencias para la Humanidad en particular y el ambiente en general, de que el clima mundial subiese dos o cuatro grados centígrados de temperatura. Hay diferencias en cuanto a la irreversibilidad del proceso. Opiniones varias sobre las emisiones de CO2 como efectos y sobre las causas que subyacen bajo esas emisiones, como es la propia quema masiva de combustibles fósiles. También hay diversas opiniones sobre las consecuencias sobre el Cambio Climático de quemar hasta la última gota posible de combustibles fósiles no convencionales y no sólo entre la gigantesca organización del PICC y la pequeña institución que es ASPO, sino incluso entre los miembros de ASPO.
Y finalmente, existen discrepancias incluso mayores en lo tocante a los aspectos e ideas sociopolíticas y sobre cómo abordar este asunto en ese contexto. No sólo dentro de ASPO, sino en la sociedad. Hemos visto como partidos de extrema derecha tomaban como bandera el concepto del cenit del petróleo, para incluirlo en sus programas políticos, como ha sido el caso en el Reino Unido. Hay grupos de extrema izquierda, como en España, que ven en el cenit del petróleo y del gas una oportunidad para reforzar sus creencias en una caída del capitalismo por la vía rápida. Hay incluso independentistas que utilizan el término de “cenit del petróleo y del gas” para promover sus objetivos y acelerar la búsqueda de una “independencia energética” en sus entornos. Existe una miríada de opiniones sobre cómo el cenit del petróleo y del gas están ya generando guerras por los recursos; de cómo el declive energético afectará a la sociedad; sobre quien caerá el primero o el último; sobre cómo se desarrollará el colapso y hasta qué niveles será posible colapsar.
En tanto que tratemos de seguir siendo serios y rigurosos en la simple acción común que nos hemos propuesto, no veo estos debates, en los que los miembros de ASPO expresan sus opiniones más variadas, como un problema, sino más bien como una muestra de la riqueza de ideas dentro de la organización, por un lado y por otro, de nuestras propias falencias y limitaciones humanas, incluso con niveles técnicos e intelectuales muy considerables. Y la pequeña y simple acción común es para ASPO la de elevar el nivel de conciencia general sobre el cenit del petróleo y el gas.
Y acabo. Lo anterior es para informar a nuestros lectores de que el 1 de octubre pasado, Jeremy Legget (ASPO Reino Unido) arrancó con una circular a los miembros de ASPO, en la que informaba de algunos encuentros interesantes con altos directivos de la industria energética, en compañía de Chris Skrebowski (ASPO Reino Unido).
A este comunicado ha seguido una serie de comentarios y respuestas, que son la mejor muestra de cómo opera de abierta y libremente esta Asociación internacional. Tan es así, que he pedido a los autores el permiso para trasladar a nuestros lectores este rico debate, a lo que han accedido amablemente. Debo agradecer a Jeremy, Louis, Mike, Ugo, Nate, y Jean, su generosidad para compartir en público lo que hasta ahora esta reducido a los socios de ASPO.
Por falta de tiempo para traducir, colocaré primero los mensajes en inglés, pidiendo disculpas a los castellanohablantes que no dominan ese idioma y procuraré ir traduciendo, en la medida de mis posibilidades, o agradeciendo a los lectores si hacen esa tarea por mí.
Les dejo con ello
Jeremy Legget. ASPO Reino Unido.
In 50 months from now greenhouse-gas concentrations go beyond the point where it would be "likely" we could keep global warming below the dire-danger threshold of 2 degrees, on current emission trends. It seems incredible to many people - though, I appreciate, not everyone on this list - that the world is not galvanised by this.
I have joined 50 worried people expressing dismay today<http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/oct/01/50-months-tackle-climate-change?intcmp=239> that world leaders are being so ineffective in the face of "one of the greatest threats to human progress", especially considering that "tackling it could be a huge economic opportunity."
Why is this happening? A key reason, as most of you know well, is that society currently allows the carbon-fuel incumbency - the coal, oil, and gas companies, their bankrollers, and their institutional supporters - to get away with a deeply dysfunctional defence of their narrow short-term interests. I see this daily in my vocation, but I have rarely seen it more clearly than at the recent FT Global Energy Leaders' Summit, where bosses from Exxon, Arch Coal, and (ex) BP opined on the question "Are We Entering A New Fossil Fuel Era." Yes, they said, provided we overcome a few issues of what they call "social licence." Not necessarily, I and Chris Skrebowski said, if those of us who care succeed in progressively removing your licences to operate, and/or if you have got the deliverable flow-rates wrong. I invite you to have a look at the arguments in the FT video<https://www.ft-live.com/ft-events/ft-global-energy-leaders-summit/sessions/panel-are-we-entering-a-new-fossil-fuel-era> of the debate.
The 50 worried people referred to above have all contribute prescriptions for the climate crisis in the Guardian<http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/interactive/2012/oct/01/50-months-climate-interactive> today. Mine<http://www.jeremyleggett.net/2012/10/%E2%80%98the-climate-clock-is-ticking-normal-isnt-working-what-should-we-do-differently%E2%80%99/> centres on progressively removing "financial licence" from the incumbency.
I hope this is of interest, wherever you stand on the science of radiative forcing in our thin atmosphere.
Best regards to all
Louis de Sousa. ASPO Portugal
In first place I must acknowledge that these are initiatives of a group of people genuinely concerned with our common future, with a profound sense of the fragility of our society and the environment that supports it. You thus have my utmost respect. I won't go here into the Science, asking Jean Laherrère or the EWG for their latests projections and running them through a CO2 concentration model is something in reach of everyone here. I would prefer to reflect on the timing, and most interestingly the place, from where these actions are coming.
Just 7 years ago the UK was still an oil exporter; since then, the unrelenting decline of the North Sea, that now also includes gas, has put an enormous pressure on the country's trade balance. One of the symptoms of this rapid economic shift is the budget deficit, that in
2012 should come at about 8% of GDP, the highest among all member states of the EU, and perhaps the highest in the world, apart from Iran.
From 2005 to 2011 oil consumption in the UK declined 15%, with Coal down by 25% in the same period. Gas consumption fell 15% in 2011 alone, and should post a similar decline this year. This means that at the end of 2011 the UK was already at, or very close to, the 20-20-20 targets regarding CO2 emissions; something that apparently went completely unnoticed. Coal usage in the UK has been up this year, filling in for the huge gap left by the North Sea gas in electricity generation. But between 2013 and 2015 European legislation is forcing the closure of 11 GW of coal based electricity generation capacity. On top of all this is the retirement of the larger part of the British Nuclear fleet along the next decade.
Were I British, my primary concern 50 months from now would be in first place the kingdom's economy; starting with the fundamental question of where an independent Sterling will be by then.
Whatever happens to global CO2 emissions during the next 50 months, the fact is that the UK is now irrelevant for the case, for it is the North Sea oil and gas decline presently commanding its fossil fuel - and economic - predicament. In different degrees of magnitude, the same is true for the majority of the OECD.
Putting CO2 concerns in the forefront, at a time when our economies are taking the full impact of a constrained world is, in my view, siding with the likes of Maugeri or Monbiot, that simply wish to push Peak Oil under the rug.
In any case, best wishes for your efforts towards a sustainable UK and regards,
Dr. Mike Haywood. ASPO Reino Unido
Climate change, resource depletion, species extinction and the pension timebomb are all an inevitable consequence of the Western Economic paradigm. We are the only species on the planet that relies on future generations to pay for the excesses of the current generation. This is the essence of the Western Economic debt based system. It requires infinite growth, infinite consumption and infinite population growth. We have now reached the tipping point. There is not enough wealth being generated to pay interest on the debt mountain. Collapse is inevitable.
Collectively, we are unable to make crucial decisions to change course, because we all have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
This is not a criticism. This is what we are. Until we change the economic system, collapse is baked into the cake.
“One thing to realize about our fractional reserve banking system is that, like a child’s game of musical chairs, as long as the music is playing, there are no losers.”................. Andrew Gause, Monetary Historian……
THE MUSIC HAS STOPPED PLAYING
Jeremy Legget. ASPO Reino Unido.
Thanks for the thoughts, Mike, Luis and the folks who have responded one to one.
I'd add this thought. Whatever our take on the drivers to the destination, the destination at some point has to involve a low carbon future energy supply. If you watch the FT debate you'll see Tony Hayward say that oil and gas are "infinite". He, a PhD geologist, says that with his peers listening and the video cameras on. We know otherwise.
This in a financial system that allows carbon companies to clock new reserves as assets at zero risk of impairment. If we get that risk recognised by the regulators, accountants, actuaries etc etc across the financial chain, then financial licence is diminished and progressively withdrawn. That will drive more capital to non-carbon energy by default. Then, maybe, we can get enough of a low-carbon infrastructure in place that - come the collapse (peak-oil driven or pure-debt-mountain driven as Mike says) - we can have a shot at renaissance beyond.
I recognise that there are many other factors. This financial delicencing is no magic bullet - there are none. But its a tool for those of us who still think anything can be done. If you are interested in more, please see www.carbontracker.org
Best to all.
Pedro Prieto. ASPO España.
Jeremy, my two cents.
I do agree that our future is a low carbon one. I am not surprised that PhD geologists could say, without any flush, that oil and gas are “infinite”, as I was not surprised that yesterday a Spanish politician said that the “bad bank” they are going to create to pour all the financial rubbish (basically real estate in the hands of the banks) in was not going to cost a single euro to the Spanish citizens.
I agree with the point of Luis. It is a pity that so much effort has been devoted to the effects of Climate Change and Global Warming (the effects) and so little to the burning of fossil fuels (the causes) and its dynamics of depletion. You and Chris have made a good job in opposing, in this important forum, to the ones prepared to burn the last drop of toxic energy assets or energy junk bonds. I sincerely appreciate this.
I see some dire problem ahead, however, to believe in a sort of “renaissance”. The first, is that this is the first time in history that we have to make a huge change of infrastructures, from the 510 EJ primary energy yearly consumption. And it is also the first time that we are trying to do it when the supporting main energy source (oil) to be relayed is already decreasing in volume, quality and availability.
When carbon took over biomass as the main energy source for mankind (somewhere in the beginning of the 20th Century), biomass, that initially supported coal in its early stage and expansion, was still growing in supply (mine beams, crossbeams for housings, railways sleepers, etc.). The world energy demand was at the level of 40 EJ
When oil took over from coal as the main energy source, somewhere in mid 20th. century or close to the sixties, coal was still growing in supply –and still is-; so the oil could start being supported by coal (steam locomotives to transport oil tankers in the Texas Railroad Commission, steam pumps, steam vessels, heat in early refineries, etc) The world energy demand was at the level of 120 EJ.
Now, we have to make the effort to change a 510 EJ ceiling world with renewables, when the main source (Oil) is clearly declining from its 35 percent global contribution with the greatest flexibility and suitability, density, etc. Gas also will likely start declining sooner than we can dream of having seen major changes implemented.
And last but not least, the conclusions we will soon draw, from a new perspective, with extended energy input boundaries to build up solar PV systems, lead to an EROI, that would hardly support the present societal system, should these systems have to take over oil and gas (and coal) in the given times and volumes. But this is another story. Soon in Springer.
Ugo Bardi. ASPO Italia
This letter by Jeremy is right on target. The situation has been changing rapidly during the past one-two years. If, years ago, one could say that oil depletion was the main problem, right now it is clear that climate change is trumping peak oil as a much more difficult problem. After all, our ancestors lived without oil for 100,000 years at least, but none of them lived in a world which was 2 (or even 4) degrees °C hotter than it is now. It is not evident that our species would be able to survive in such a world.
As ASPO, we have been very good in forecasting peak oil, much less good in understanding its consequences of peak oil. Some of us (myself included) thought that peak oil would mitigate, or even eliminate, the climate change problem. We thought that peak oil would have brought a smooth transition toward cleaner forms of energy, but that didn't happen. What's happening, instead, is that as soon as oil prices went up, oil companies abandoned all their investments in renewable energy and threw all the resources they had in exploiting “non conventional” oil; dirty and expensive oil which has been worsening the climate problem.
Non conventional oil is a colossal mistake that humankind has been making at the beginning of the 21st century. It may cost us the whole planet, and we don't have another one at hand.
So, I invite all of you to consider the new priorities that we are facing. There may still be a window of opportunity to reverse the trend. A few years at most that will decide humankind's survival. Many of us are starting to see the critical need for action and I hope that this message by Jeremy will help us to take the right path.
All the best
Nate Hagens. ASPO EE.UU.
Friends and colleagues,
allow me to add my own 2 cents of hubris to this discussion.
some key points:
1) The problems we see are manifold, but in reality are insignificant compared to average human problems for 99.999% of human time on this planet. We perceive them to be so dire because of the vast riches our current society has - our fears are regarding the 'delta' from today to tomorrow.
2) Global throughput (measured by real, (not nominal) GDP) is highly likely to have peaked. Declining energy productivity (lower aggregate EROI), instead of causing a belt tightening in the 1970s, caused us to go to debt to continue high levels of consumption. That led to lower and lower debt productivity (less and less GDP per addl $ of debt), to the point that central banks had to take over the model. In the US, our economy ex-government stopped growing in 2004. China, Russia, Brazil etc are following the exact same model (plummeting debt productivity). Once debt productivity goes below zero (as it is currently in US and probably in many european countries), we are simply transmuting wealth into income - and the timeline of continuing that strategy becomes very short. By far the largest challenge that the public and politicians will see in the next 12-18 months will be an economic one. Personally, I think 5 years from now the best case (if there are no major disruptions) is a 10-15% drop in global GDP. Worst case is.. worse. This trajectory originated from resource/energy constraints but is now largely due to credit constraints. Since 2007 quarterly growth (adjusted for defaults) is 94% correlated with aggregate credit growth. Once credit stops, growth stops - at this stage irrespective of oil prices.
3) one of the largest risks that goes mostly unrecognized on lists like these is globalization and its potential unwind due to liquid fuel shortages or more likely - currency/debt problems. A large part of our living standards are from decades of suppressing import substitution policies and continual offshoring to cheapest location for all sorts of trade goods. The result is a brittle, complex system of micro-components and supply chains - which if it breaks down sharply (as opposed to a gradual move over 10-15 years which would be healthy) creates a bigger risk to the environment/climate/biodiversity than any business as usual trajectory (low odds, but possible). Compared to even 30 years ago, no country is self-sufficient on basic goods, even those who are energy independent. China, Japan, Europe and others are all risks here. (and US and UK).
4) there is a huge amount of misplaced certainty on both sides of climate/environmental debate. (after all we are human). It is my opinion that a) economic challenges (sharply reduced GDP in coming years) is going to swamp climate discussions/strategies and b) if the numbers are as bad as Jeremy/Bill McKibben/James Hansen indicate ( I am not remotely qualified to say), this timeline/constraint cannot possibly be effectively responded to by capitalism or democracy. I am first and foremost an environmentalist. I am pro-human, pro-biosphere and am willing to make sacrifices in my life for future generations. I agree with Ugo that our decisions in next decade will impact countless generations of humans and other species in the future. But our challenges need to be tackled in sequence, or at worst, jointly.
5) Of the hundreds of thousands of well-intended, bright, pro-social energy/environmental/climate demographic, we urgently need to calve off a large amount of people/resources to work on a lower consumption future in lieu of a lower carbon future. yes we will eventually go lower carbon (we must), but our institutions, populations, policies are not remotely prepared for lower consumption, which is right around the corner.
I predict a convergence on all these ideas - people -even out of our own little choir - will eventually come to acknowledge that the world has had a slight resource problem, but it will probably come too late to matter.
As such, I think we have entered the machiavellian era on all these themes. Look at the responses so far on this list - we are all on the same team!! yet look at the disparity in viewpoints and focus. Facts are not going to move people off their deep convictions or high consumption lifestyles. Events will. Or just maybe marketing/cultural heroes. But those knifes cut both ways.
Dr. Mike Haywood. ASPO Reino Unido
Dear Nick (for Nate), Combining your first and third point, does not globalization and population growth create a “super problem” that overshadows all previous human problems (which were limited in impact)? I am 62 and in my lifetime, World population has more than trebled. Is not our collective presence so colossal now that error is a luxury we can no longer afford?
Dr. Mike Haywood. ASPO Reino Unido
Although your “50 months” refers to the time to reach the greenhouse gas tipping point, I predict the Global banking collapse will also happen within the same timeframe. When it happens, collapse could occur within a matter of weeks, if not days. The 2008 Northern Rock bank run is a classic example of how quickly trust in the system can evaporate. The likely consequences of a Global banking collapse are shown below1. You will note that some of these have already happened in Greece, Spain etc.
· Suspension of full banking activity for days
· Nationalisation of banks
· No or limited withdrawals from cash machines
· Credit/debit cards won’t work, only cash accepted in trading situations
· Petrol stations running out of fuel
· Rationing of essential goods
· Mass disorder, riots
· Internet outages
· Schools and universities closed
· Martial law imposed, curfews
· Rise in popularity of extreme political parties
· Total collapse of old order followed by a command economy and loss of personal freedom
· Near-total unravelling of the socio-political order.
· Local Resource wars
· Generational conflict
In light of this, how do you think the normal socio-economic infrastructure to which you refer, will react. ie politicians, regulators, actuaries, accountants, academics, industrialists etc, as their system collapses about them? This is such an uncomfortable scenario to envisage that most people on this mail list will deny it can happen. This is a completely normal response, which in itself makes collapse all the more likely, as the problem is not addressed. The good news is that greenhouse gas emissions are likely to fall dramatically, as energy demand plummets.
Nate Hagens. ASPO EE.UU.
Such a collapse is certainly possible (20%?) but still isn't probable in my opinion. I think odds of end of growth are very high (>90%), but many benign trajectories exist other than the one you layed out. Governments will get bigger as they will have to guarantee all sorts of things. Personal freedoms may be impacted but hedge funds etc will probably be 'declawed' in their ability to effect what you have described. We'll know soon enough. But preparing people for end of growth is a larger and commensurate goal with reducing carbon, and its not remotely happening.
One point I forgot to make yesterday, there are various estimates of fossil fuel company subsidies out there. Last night in the presidential debate both Obama and Romney referred to 2.5 billion $ FF subsidy (in US). 350.org
[*3] claims $750 billion globally but $650 billion of this is CONSUMER subsidies in poor countries - so $100 billion to FF companies directly or indirectly http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/international/
The highest reasonable estimate for big 5 (public companies as opposed to nationals) is about $50 billion http://priceofoil.org/fossil-fuel-subsidies/
A tidy sum. But in past few years central banks have subsidized our consumptive lifestyle to tune of $14 trillion+ http://tinyurl.com/8shtnee
[*6] ( 1 year old but all i have on this computer). This doesnt include soft guarantees either.
Sure there are some slimy characters at fossil fuel companies, and the more society needs liquid fuel we go to slower and dirtier forms of 'what is oil'. but the subsidies to fossil fuel companies are orders of magnitude smaller than the oil and coal consumption that central banks are now subsidizing to continue the illusion of a growth based economy. Jeremy, what is the carbon footprint of QE??
We can live a lower carbon footprint lifestyle, but it would come as part of a lower consumption lifestyle, not separate from it. And that would need serious sacrifice and planning. I am much more worried about human response/reaction to events than I am about the events themselves (energy, economy, environment)
Contraction and convergence...
Dr. Mike Haywood. ASPO Reino Unido
I agree with your analysis about the end of growth, but not your conclusion. The end of growth will precipitate the banking collapse with 100% certainty. Why?
The essence of all debt is that you (a person, business or Nation) can have something now but pay for it in the future with interest i.e. with more money which is more debt.
“That is what our money system is. If there were no debts in our money system, there wouldn’t be any money.”……. Marriner S. Eccles, Ex Chairman and Governor of the US Federal Reserve Board…..
Will not the end of growth precipitate a cascade of individual, corporate and sovereign debt defaults? Like the 2008 sub-prime crisis, would such defaults on debts not lead to a banking collapses Worldwide? The financial system is a cat’s hairball of interconnected financial products and Firms that must have growth and cannot be disentangled without choking the cat.
Jean Laherrère. ASPO Francia.
The statement by IPCC that the world will be 2°C higher on 2100 is based on 40 SRES flawed energy scenarios, which has been criticized by several ASPO members
and no one can prove that the modeling is correctly taking care of the clouds
The 4 scenarios of CRP for the next IPCC report are not better based on the same litterature, ignoring real energy data.
Even Hansen has claimed that the upper one is irrealistic!
Previous warms periods are called optimum and during the last one (the medieval warm period) basilics were built, when during the Little Ice Ace occurred the 100 year War and the Black Pest
Claiming that the world with 2°C will be worse is just a guess
Furthermore a recent paper claims that
"excluding that last millenium, there were fully "72 decades warmer than the present one, in which mean temperatures were 1.0 to 1.5°C warmer," and that during two centennial intervals, average temperatures "were nearly 1.0°C warmer than the present decade."
Kobashi, T., Kawamura, K., Severinghaus, J.P., Barnola, J.-M., Nakaegawa, T., Vinther, B.M., Johnsen, S.J. and Box, J.E. 2011.
High variability of Greenland surface temperature over the past 4000 years estimated from trapped air in an ice core. Geophysical Research Letters 38: 10.1029/2011GL049444.
Providing some background for their study Kobashi et al. (2011) write that, supposedly, "Greenland recently incurred record high temperatures and ice loss by melting, adding to concerns that anthropogenic warming is impacting the Greenland ice sheet and in turn accelerating global sea-level rise." However, they state that "it remains imprecisely known for Greenland how much warming is caused by increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases versus natural variability."
In rigorously exploring this question of recent warmth attribution, Kobashi et al. reconstructed "Greenland surface snow temperature variability over the past 4000 years at the GISP2 site (near the Summit of the Greenland ice sheet; hereafter referred to as Greenland temperature) with a new method that utilizes argon and nitrogen isotopic ratios from occluded air bubbles," as described in detail by Kobashi et al. (2008a,b). And what did they learn?
The eight researchers report that "the temperature record starts with a colder period in 'the Bronze Age Cold Epoch'," which they say was followed by "a warm period in 'the Bronze Age Optimum'," which was followed by a 1000-year cooling that began "during 'the Iron/Roman Age Optimum'," which was followed by "the Dark Ages," which was followed by "the Medieval Warm Period," which was followed by "the Little Ice Age" - which they describe as "the coldest period of the past 4000 years" - which was followed, last of all, by "the recent warming." For comparative purposes, they also note that "the current decadal average surface temperature at the summit is as warm as in the 1930s-1940s, and there was another similarly warm period in the 1140s (Medieval Warm Period)," indicating that "the present decade is not outside the envelope of variability of the last 1000 years." In fact, as shown in their Figure 1, a portion of which has been adapted and reproduced below, they say that "excluding the last millennium," there were fully "72 decades warmer than the present one, in which mean temperatures were 1.0 to 1.5°C warmer," and that during two centennial intervals, average temperatures "were nearly 1.0°C warmer than the present decade."
Nate Hagens. ASPO EE. UU.
A neuroscientist who didn't know anything about energy would say 'if so many people are so confident in their own beliefs, and the beliefs are mostly mutually exclusive, then the odds are high that EVERYONE is wrong"
Ron Swenson. ASPO USA
Jeremy and others,
To be clear, there are 10 Kinds of People in this world:
Those who know binary arithmetic and those who don't. Sticking with this binary theme, when it comes to Peak Oil / Coal / Gas, there are 10 kinds of people: those who get it and those who don't. On this, we are all simpatico.
How many ways are there to deal with Peak Oil?
This is where things get a bit messier. We don't all see the same path to a post-oil / post-carbon world. Just the same, I suggest that there are "10" (binary) = 2 (decimal) main camps within our ranks:
1. Keep the ball rolling (with conditions)
2. Stop burning fossil fuels. Period!
Plan A: Keep the ball rolling (with conditions)
· Alarm: There are those who would focus on ringing the alarm. Let others figure out what to do about it.
· Uppsala: Then there is the Uppsala / Rimini protocol: Wind it down gradually ... and please be orderly and rational as you go about it.
· Drill: Continue drilling; if you must, drill deeper and wider; if you must, turn to digging. Perhaps we can buy more time so that some clever people in the future will be able to figure out what to do (a.k.a., kick-the-can-down-the-road).
· Coal: It's mostly a liquids problem and there's still lots of coal. To avoid shortages, we can do coal-to-liquid. (Maybe you will add carbon sequestration to your brew, to be politically correct, if for no other reason.)
· Escape: There are those who worry a lot but they believe the chances for constructive change are close to hopeless. So keep your private jet topped up with fuel and be prepared to head for the hills when things go wrong in a hurry. Pray that there will be clean air to breathe and the ozone layer hasn't shattered by the time you get there.
I haven't covered all the bases, but you can see where this thread this is heading.
Plan B: Stop burning fossil fuels. Period!
This variation on the theme of peak oil is more succinct. It's pretty basic:
· Goal: For those of us mightily concerned about climate change and/or concerned about the fate of our progeny, curtailing the use of all fossil fuels is urgent. Conveniently, curtailment also solves the peak oil (gas/coal) challenge.
· Step 1: Okay, as a practical matter, we can't stop consuming oil altogether, not immediately, so at the very least, stop making artifacts dependent on oil (cars, trucks, diesel generators) or investing in infrastructure (roads, tunnels, airports, harbors) or drilling in the extreme. Every car, truck or plane that comes off the assembly line is like another cigarette ("cancer stick") to the smoker. These notions, as Jeremy points out, are not likely to be well received by the incumbency. ["Objection sustained, your honor."]
There are two ways to go about this. One is to undermine the incumbency. Thank you, Jeremy, for suggesting a profound way to do just that! The other is to abandon fossil fuelish artifacts and build radically different technology, not just repackaging the old (e.g., hybrid electric cars or google robotic cars) but a 10X solution, not as a be-all-to-end-all, but as a game changer just the same.
All of this (dream on, Swenson) of course begs the question: What are we to do for transport in place of oil?
If not oil, what? Pray tell, what if anything can be done?
It is in my nature to be forward looking and optimistic about the future. I cannot sit on my hands and mope about peak oil or climate change. I am here to get things done. [Just the same, what I'm about to say could be off the mark, and I'm prepared for that. If you think I'm wrong, please tell me about your solution. I'm open to other alternatives. But continuing on our current path is unacceptable to me.]
Not coal: Sheikh Yamani famously said, "The Stone Age did not end for lack of stone." Guess again, Sheikh. We are living in the Stone Age on Steroids[*8] . And you know what? We are still burning stones to run our civilization. How derriere is that?!
Not nuclear: Okay, I will concede nuclear to you if you are willing to keep it fair, and see to it that every country has nuclear. No more boycotts against Iran and North Korea, to name a couple "rogue" states. Oh, and I hope you can find some cooling water. Oh, and if you're building seaside, remember rising sea level or a tsunami might spoil your inlets, so be sure to prepare for that. Oh, and I hope you find a way to recycle or sequester your waste. No one else has.
Attitude: Two weeks ago in Berlin I arranged for and was privileged to hear a profound talk by Hans-Josef Fell (Green Party member of the Bundestag) speaking to a group of colleagues about the success of Germany's industrial policy for solar, wind and biomass-for-electricity. I say industrial because, as a consequence of Fell's political action, Germany has become the world's industrial leader in Solar Energy, creating a long-term alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear power, with significant export income for good measure.
Why did Germany turn to solar and wind? Because their primary source was a big country to their east with which they had had some bad luck over the years, and they didn't want to be held hostage to Mr. Putin's attitude if he chanced to wake up on the wrong side of bed one morning.
And of course we hear junk press proclaiming that the Germans are having problems with solar: there seems to be too much solar electricity on a sunny summer weekend in Bavaria. Oh, that we would have their problem! And just in case you are wondering where the next opportunities are to be found, you can be sure that the German's aren't wringing their hands, "Woe-is-me, we have too many solar panels." They will be the industrial force to reckon with, as utility scale storage comes of age. Case in point, Germans are negotiating right now with a friend of mine in California who has a Giga-watt-hour (small environmental footprint) storage technology in the offing.
Oh, that we could learn such lessons from the Germans and take our hands out of our pockets.
Substance: I find it quite disconcerting that many who argue for preserving (at least the best features) of humanity's modern way of life are thinking that this will require 500 exajoules (~500 Quads) or more energy per year. I am confident that we can double global energy services (resultant outcomes such as heat, light, mobility, etc., from energy conversion) with half the energy that we use now ... or even less. This of course can't be done with improving CAFE standards (for automobile efficiency in the USA), but can only be accomplished by abandoning the artifacts of the fossil fuel era, in the same manner that we abandoned the horse in the previous renewable energy period. We didn't feed kerosene to a horse to speed it up, nor will we get to our destination by switching from fuel tanks to batteries. We need solutions that are 5-10X breakthroughs, not 5-10% improvements.
On the question of electricity, the Germans (and now the Chinese) have figured it out -- Solar and Wind can do the trick. Maybe we're not there yet, but the goal is now in sight.
But how do you replace oil? Oil is such a dense resource and electricity is so feeble, or so proclaims ExxonMobile ("XOM"):
So it can well be argued that transportation is the most needy sector for change.
But what about this energy density requirement?
The electric car (powered by wind or solar) often comes up as a possible "sustainable" option. On this point I have to agree with XOM: We don't have the resources or time to waste, keeping the same form (the automobile) and converting incrementally to electric cars. The automobile as a form factor is too inefficient, serving only one person per machine. But guess what? If you take the dangerous fuel out of the vehicle altogether and feed the power by wire, then the "Energy Per Fillup" goes off the chart, leaving Gasoline / Diesel / E85 / CNG / Electric [batteries], per XOM's graph above, in the dust. Step aside XOM, INIST[*9] , our non-profit, is coming.
Where to start, then? Uppsala, as fate would have it.
In May 2002, I was busy demonstrating a breakthrough in sea-going wind propulsion, so reluctantly I wasn't able to make the first ASPO meeting in Uppsala. [My company Kiteship was working on Oracle's bid for the America's Cup at the time; we went on to set the world's record for the largest kite -- 420 sq meters -- to ever pull a traction load, in 2004. Our technology drastically cuts sulfur emissions too, when hooked to a cargo ship, FWIW.]
Well, to make up for missing the first ASPO meeting, I have been making pilgrimages to Uppsala frequently since those days. In fact I have been in Uppsala several days in the past two weeks, continuing our work to develop a solar transportation system there.
Yes, you heard it right. My team is working with the City of Uppsala, other cities and industry partners in Sweden, and several European banks (equally unenthusiastic about Mr. Putin's energy policies) to build an urban on-demand automated transportation network that will get you across town in half the time, powered 100% by solar (net metered).
It's not a catch-all techno-fix, as I hinted above, but it is a possible game-changer. If I'm right, Sweden will be exporting fossil-fuel free transportation instead of continuing the trend that started with shutting down the Saab factory in Trollhättan (last year) and a Volvo bus factory in Säffle (this week, no less). The changing marketplace is making it clear that companies cannot compete by offering one car per person, or a bus stuck in traffic along with one-person cars. With one podcar weighing one fifth as much as an automobile, delivering 20 or more trips per day, we will be able to leverage the productivity of a country whose population represents only 1 person in 800. Furthermore, having never subscribed to the Euro, Sweden is not hampered by Europe's growing deficit which coincidentally matches Europe's cost for imported fossil fuels. (Funny how that works!)
The origin point of ASPO is an appropriate starting point for getting off oil for transport. For one thing, the city's leadership has been listening to Kjell Aleklett and his team at the University. Peak oil is better understood in Sweden and in Uppsala in particular. Also, since Uppsala is at 60 degrees north latitude, when we get it up and running there, clearly it will work anywhere in the world, even in Seattle and London.
Jump on board!
This "train" is about to leave the station. What is our destination? Working with young people who want a future.
We are working with professors and students in several Universities in Sweden (and elsewhere in Europe) and in the USA to meet the Solar Skyways Challenge. Join us if you'd like, either within your university as a contestant or from outside, as an industry sponsor or privately. Read more about it at http://www.inist.org/challenge/[*10] .
I am not treating peak oil and climate change as theoretical or philosophical. I'm not saying remediation is going to be a cake walk. Nor is my own response based on hyperbole. Most of the pieces are already in place. If you are interested, I'd be happy to discuss this with any of you. My cell phone in Europe is +46 734 307 364 (Sweden); back in the USA on the 10th, my phone number +1 408 332 5375 (West Coast, Silicon Valley).
If my message comes across as self-serving, I haven't done my job. My objective is to convey basic principles by way of example. Like you, Jeremy, I am pushing for concrete, realistic, scalable responses to peak oil. As Mother Nature raises the threshold for intervention, I want to be sure there will be solid options on the table for humanity to weigh in the balance. As I pointed out above, if someone in this forum has a scalable non-fossil fuel alternative to oil for transport, I'm all ears.
Nate Hagens. ASPO EE. UU.
Regarding solar (and wind for that matter), there are 2 key things being overlooked:
1) Those who recognized early on that fossil fuels would become more expensive in energy and environmental terms - the"depletion scout team" if you will -had a knee jerk reaction of "we can replace them!!". But when we look at our future it is not sufficient to say 'does a technology work' or 'is it competitive with existing technologies?' -at our current juncture it needs to be asked, 'given our energy, economic, environmental constraints, does XXX plus other measures allow us to keep the system growing"? Because otherwise we first have to deal with an unwind of institutions and expectations that will quickly -at least in the 5-10 year term - cause energy to not be the limiting factor - which then initiates a cascade of other problems which are not being planned for. In the case of solar, the answer to these question is 'no'. Industrial solar - if you consider full system including battery - is down to ~15c per kWh - a huge improvement, due in large part to lower input costs from risk-heavy China -but still needs to be cut in half to be competitive. But the key overlooked point is that..... 'being competitive' is no longer a sufficient goal. Neither fossil fuels nor renewables, at todays prices can continue a growth based economy (from these levels). And if we are to grow from lower levels in the future, there needs to be planning on how that happens, and it won't come from market forces.
2) Solar and wind have large 'energy durations', i.e. the weighted average of their energy output is further away from the present than traditional fuel investments (think oil and nat gas). http://www.theoildrum.com/node/7147[*13] That makes the costs -and investment decision hurdles - of renewable energy very dependent on discount rates, which in a market economy are highly correlated to market interest rates. The government response to the financial crisis since 2007 - indeed the only response they could make in size, was to buy up and/or guarantee sovereign debt - without such support by ECB, BOJ, FED, etc. rates would have skyrocketed and killed our economies because investors wouldnt have the stomach for lower credit rating prospects without govt support. Paradoxically this ends up making renewables look much better than they otherwise would (e.g in purely biophysical, EROI analysis), because interest rates (discount rates) are artificially suppressed. If int rates went to pure capitalist levels (w/out government intervention), the gap in avg cost between renewable and nat gas/oil/coal generation would expand sharply and much of the solar production would collapse (and a fair amount of oil/gas/coal too), followed by much higher solar prices.
30 year rates in Germany are just over 2%. http://www.bloomberg.com/markets/rates-bonds/government-bonds/germany/
[*14] Same with other major countries - and these artifically low rates impact peripheral country discount rates as well.
On this point we get to the meat. In a globally interconnected system that is facing the end of growth, having government (in this case via lower interest rates) steer consumption towards ways that are better for environment/society is probably a very good thing. But all sorts of urgent 'peak oil keynesianism' projects can be pursued that are more consistent with a smaller, more local/regional/lower consumption future, which are not even on the drawing board. The subtle problem here, is that to artificially promote renewables, but within the context of an economy which still measures success by GDP and higher consumption
is diverting substantial resources away from what urgently needs to be planned for - mitigation of systemic and societal risks due to end of growth. Ive said this before but bears repeating here: we don't face a shortage of energy, but longage of expectations. The music on financial musical chairs will abruptly stop in not too distant future. Scaling wind and solar - in very long term - is good idea - we ultimately need to live off of solar flows and not our fossil bank account - but in near and intermediate term we have plenty of energy, just not enough to grow, and our 'knee jerk reaction', to expand gross energy while net energy is declining, in my opinion, will end up being a large misallocation of resources (and in this case, I would say the misallocation of "people" resources - those who recognize we need change and are willing to do something about it- are probably as important as the financial/capital allocations)
ps. building out renewables (e.g wind) was my 'knee jerk' strategy reaction too many years ago - it took me a while to see the larger picture
Kjell Aleklett. ASPO Suecia.
Kjell ofrece una interesante visión de Massdar City, la ciudad que acaba de visitar, durante una visita que hizo a Abu Dabi, invitado para dar una conferencia sobre el cenit del petróleo. Masdar City es la ciudad que ese emirato se ha propuesto crear y que bautiza como sostenible y con la intención de que sea autoalimentada con energía renovable al 100% para unos 45.000 habitantes. su visión es interesante.