The View From The Early 2030’s

The irresistible inertial force of economic growth is colliding with the immovable object of the limits of the Earth’s systems. Positive feedbacks in the climate system are now being triggered, much earlier than had been previously assumed, that will make it increasingly difficult for society to find an escape route. Even just two of those feedbacks (none of which are taken into account by the United Nations climate change scenarios), soil carbon emissions and Arctic Amplification, may rapidly outrun society’s ability to change course. By the early 2030’s we may have already passed the historic milestones of 450ppm atmospheric CO2 and 20C warming. Continue reading

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Climate Change Policy and The Super-Hero Syndrome

There is a genre of Hollywood “feel-good” disaster movie, where everything seems nearly hopeless until the end, and then suddenly, many times against all hope, the super-hero (or super-heroes) saves the day. Whether it be human heroes that blow up the Earth-killing asteroid just in the nick of time; good mutants that defeat the bad mutants just in time; bad mutants turned good mutants that destroy the stayed-bad mutants just in time; future humans and non-human allies that save the Galaxy from the Empire. Anyway, you get the general storyline. The bad people/organisms /things win for the first 95% of the movie then the good people/organisms/things win against all the odds in the last 5%. Continue reading

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The Lost Six Months In 2009 That Still Haunt Us

As President Obama started his first term in office he was provided with the kind of opportunity for real change that progressives had only been able to dream about for nearly a century. The deregulation of the financial industry had been shown to be a huge mistake, and the whole neoliberal project was being openly questioned. He had been elected on a ticket of “hope and change” and would never have a greater chance to be true to his claims of real change. In the 1930’s, then President Roosevelt had used the opportunity of a market and economic crash to tame the financial industry and prosecute many of the worst criminal offenders. Continue reading

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Trump: A New Face On The Same Old System

In modern times, the wealthy and powerful need some level of consent from the majority for the system that protects and enhances their wealth. As long as individual citizens believe in the system consent can be engineered, “by an elite of experts and professional politicians[1].” This is an apt description for the current alliance between the mainstream media (mostly owned by five conglomerates[2]) and the political/business/military elites. Between the mid-1940’s and mid-1970’s, enough ‘crumbs’ were allowed to trickle down to the non-rich, especially the white non-rich, to bind them to the system. With the onset of neoliberalism in the late 1970’s, the flow of crumbs stopped and vast amounts of the non-rich were left behind. Continue reading

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Rationing Will Be The Answer

As was shown in 2008, free markets work quite well until they don’t. At that point governments step in and take whatever measures are necessary to stop a complete collapse. Who even in 2007 thought that governments would print over $20 trillion dollars to stop what would have easily been a 1930’s-style crash? Those that expect a rapid collapse of civilization both underestimate governments readiness to act to forestall any social upheaval that threatens the rich and powerful, and the extent that wasteful economic activity can be rapidly stopped when required. Prior to World War 2, my grandfather ran a successful newspaper shop, with much of his profits coming from selling sweets (candies to those in North America). Along came WW2 rationing, sweets were deemed not to be critical, and he had to close up his shop. He was not allowed to sue for his lost “future profits”, he just had to deal with it. Continue reading

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100% Zero Emissions Electricity In Canada

If there is any country in the world that should be able to deliver zero emissions electricity, it has to be Canada. It has been blessed with a huge hydro-power endowment that can provide the dispatchable base-load power required to balance intermittent renewables. There is also the significant nuclear electricity generating capacity that can be kept in place until they can be replaced with the new renewables. Finally, it has many excellent sites for the situation of wind turbines. Given that the country is located in the lower-insolation north, there is much less possible benefit from solar (although solar water heaters would be a good addition). A real exception may be the summer months in the far north, during which that region receives greater insolation than the equator. Continue reading

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Methane Hydrates, The Next Shale Gas?

The talk a few years ago about an imminent peak in oil and gas production was proven incorrect by the technological strides made to access shale oil and gas resources. It seems that governments, exploration companies, and even the United Nations are striving to make the next technological leap – this time into accessing the gas resources available in methane hydrates. These are frozen combinations of gas and water that are stable at high pressures and low temperatures, found in Polar Regions and on the seabed (mostly shallow waters near continents and on continental slopes). Continue reading

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Our Current Situation And The Two World Wars: Capitalism, The State And War by Alexander Anievas

Alexander Anievas (2014), Geopolitics in The Thirty Years Crisis 1914-1945, University of Michigan Press

It is now inevitable that within the next few decades, humanity will be riven by crises created by the clash between its exponential growth and the Earth’s limits. The impacts may be greatly exacerbated, and the responses possibly crippled, by the way in which our modern societies are structured and operate. Alexander Anievas’ book covers a previous time when there was a fundamental crisis within the international order driven by the differing rates of capitalist development between countries in the first half of the twentieth century, and the internal and international conflicts that ensued. This was the birth period of global capitalism, and what we may witness in the next few decades is the death of that very same global capitalism as it exhausts the limits of the Earth. Continue reading

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Worrying Deceleration In The Growth Rate of Wind & Solar

The latest report from the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the Twenty First Century (sponsored by the United Nations)[1] is witness to is a significant deceleration in the growth rate of wind and solar capacity increases. For wind energy, the yearly capacity growth rate has subsided from about 20% up to 2010 to around 14% now. Solar capacity growth has decelerated from around 40% to around 20%. Continue reading

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Cleaning Up & Closing Down Coal Bad For The Climate?

Across North America and Europe, and now China, there have been focused civil campaigns together with government actions, to reduce the usage of coal in electricity generating plants. On the face of it this can only be unqualified good news, as a major source of carbon emissions is reduced. Unfortunately, there are two big complications to this good news. Continue reading

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