Morrigan, Tariel. Oct 2010. Peak Energy, Climate Change, and the Collapse of Global Civilization. The current peak oil Crisis. University of California, Santa Barbara.
Peak oil is happening now. The era of cheap and abundant oil is over.
• Global conventional oil production likely peaked around 2005 – 2008.
• “Peak oil” refers to the maximum rate of oil production, after which the rate of production enters terminal decline.
• Although there will be oil remaining in the ground when world oil production peaks, the remaining oil will become increasingly difficult and more costly to produce until the marginal financial and energy cost of producing oil exceeds the marginal profit and energy gained.
• Global oil reserve discoveries peaked in the 1960’s.
• New oil discoveries have been declining since then, and the new discoveries have been smaller and in harder to access areas (e.g., smaller deepwater reserves).
• Huge investments are required to explore for and develop more reserves, mainly to offset decline at existing fields.
• An additional 64 mbpd of gross capacity – the equivalent of 6 times that of Saudi Arabia today – needs to be brought on stream between 2007 – 2030 to supply projected business as usual demand.
• Since mid-2004, the global oil production plateau has remained within a 4% fluctuation band, which indicates that new production has only been able to offset the decline in existing production.
• The global oil production rate will likely decline by 4 – 10.5% or more per year.
• Substantial shortfalls in the global oil supply will likely occur sometime between 2010 – 2015.
• Furthermore, the peak global production of coal, natural gas, and uranium resources may occur by 2020 – 2030, if not sooner.
• Global peak coal production will likely occur between 2011 – 2025.
• Global natural gas production will likely peak sometime between 2019 – 2030.
• Global peak uranium will likely occur by 2015 to sometime in the 2020’s.
• Oil shortages will lead to a collapse of the global economy, and the decline of globalized industrial civilization.
• Systemic collapse will evolve as a systemic crisis as the integrated infrastructure and economy of our global civilization breaks down.
• Most governments and societies – especially those that are developed and industrialized – will be unable to manage multiple simultaneous systemic crises. Consequently, systemic collapse will likely result in widespread confusion, fear, human security risks, and social break down.
• Economies worldwide are already unraveling and becoming insolvent as the global economic system can no longer support itself without cheap and abundant energy resources.
• This current transition of rapid economic decline was triggered by the oil price shock starting in 2007 and culminating in the summer of 2008. This transition will likely accelerate and become more volatile once oil prices exceed $80 – $90 per barrel for an extended time. Demand
destruction for oil may be somewhere above $80 per barrel and below $141 per barrel.
• Economic recovery (i.e., business as usual) will likely exacerbate the global recession by driving up oil prices.
• A managed “de-growth” is impossible, because effective mitigation of peak oil will be dependent on the implementation of mega-projects and mega-changes at the maximum possible rate with at least 20 years lead time and trillions of dollars in investments.
• Peak oil and the events associated with it will be an unprecedented discontinuity in human and geologic history.
• Adaptation is the only strategy in response to peak oil.
• Mitigation and adaptation are the only strategies for climate change.
• The impacts of peak oil and post-peak decline will not be the same equally for everyone everywhere at any given time.
• There are probably no solutions that do not involve at the very least some major changes in lifestyles.
• Local and societal responses and adaptation strategies to peak oil and climate change will vary and be influenced based on many factors including: geography, environment, access to resources, economics, markets, geopolitics, culture, religion, and politics.
• The sooner people and societies prepare for peak oil and a post-peak oil life, the more they will be able to influence the direction of their opportunities.
• The localization of economies will likely occur on a massive scale, particularly the localization of the production of food, goods, and services.
• If the international community does not make a transcendent effort to cooperate to manage the transition to a non-oil based economy, it may risk a volatile, chaotic, and dangerous collapse of the global economy and world population.
• One of the most important modern technologies to preserve post-peak oil may be the Internet, which can potentially help the world stay connected in terms of communications, information, and Internet technology services even after global transportation services decline.
• Peak oil and energy resources may offer the only viable solution and opportunity for humanity to mitigate anthropogenic climate change on a global scale – by essentially pulling the plug on the engine of the global economy that has driven the climate system to a very dangerous state.
• The success of the Green Revolution of modern industrial agriculture since around 1950 is primarily due to its increased use of fossil fuel resources for fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation to raise crops. Fossil fuel energy inputs greatly increased the energy-intensiveness of
agricultural production, in some cases by 100 times or more.
• Since the advent of the Green Revolution, the global human population has increased from 2.5 billion in 1950 to nearly 7 billion today.
• Global demand for natural resources exceeded planet’s capacity to provide sustainably for the combined demands of the global population between 1970 – 1980.
• Current trends in land, soil, water, and biodiversity loss and degradation, combined with potential climate change impacts, ocean acidification, a mass extinction event, and energy
scarcity will significantly limit the human carrying capacity of the Earth.
• Future climate change has the potential to substantially reduce the human carrying capacity of the Earth by 0.5 – 2 billion people, or more with abrupt climate changes.
• The human carrying capacity of the Earth may be 0.5 – 7.5 billion people by 2050.
• The human carrying capacity of the planet may be 0.5 – 6 billion by 2100.
• Even when greenhouse gas emissions decline after peak oil, climate change will likely continue to be driven by human activities, but in a reduced capacity.
• Moreover, the potential mitigation of climate change due to future energy scarcity will not stop the already committed climate changes that are in the pipeline.
• Based on these estimates, the global population may have nearly reached or already exceeded the planet’s human carrying capacity in terms of food production.
It will take at least 20 years to change modern civilization over to a non-oil-based economy and infrastructure; which would cost trillions of dollars and would still result in a massive global economic decline.
• A managed “de-growth” is impossible, because effective mitigation of peak oil will be dependent on the implementation of mega-projects and mega-changes at the maximum possible rate.
• Electricity generation from alternative energy resources (i.e., wind, solar, tidal, geothermal) will not be able to replace oil as a transportation fuel since much of the entire world fleet of
automobiles, ships, trains, and aircraft would have to be replaced by electric-powered vehicles.
• These alternative energy resources will likely be needed to supply electricity demand as other fossil fuels reach peak production in the near future.
• Such alternative energy resources (i.e., wind, solar, tidal, geothermal) cannot replace oil as a petrochemical feedstock.
• The projected share of biofuels in the total global supply of road transport fuels will increase from 1.5% in 2007 to 5% in 2030 assuming BAU.
• Most biofuel crops are not feasible for replacing oil on a large-scale due to the huge requirements for cropland and nutrients (i.e., fertilizers).
• Biofuels from algae and other microorganisms may potentially be a substitute for petroleum, but high capital and economic costs; and requirements for large areas of land, water, phosphorus and other nutrients (i.e., fertilizers) will likely prevent future algal and microbial oil production from replacing oil on a global-scale. In particular, peak phosphorus resources will severely limit the viability of large-scale algae production.
Global civilization is locked into a very complex and interrelated world economy.
• Any attempt to alter significantly the energy and transportation infrastructure and the global economy on which global civilization is based would cause it to collapse – but without an increasing oil and energy supply the infrastructure and economy on which our civilization is based cannot survive.
• The principle driving mechanisms for a global economic collapse are re-enforcing positive feedback cycles that are non-linear, mutually reinforcing, and not exclusive.
• A principle initial driver of the collapse process will be growing awareness and action about peak oil.
• Systemic collapse will evolve as a systemic crisis as the integrated infrastructure and economy of our global civilization breaks down. Most governments and societies – especially those that are developed and industrialized – will be unable to manage multiple simultaneous systemic
• Systemic collapse will likely result in widespread confusion, fear, human security risks, social break down, changes in geopolitics and markets, conflict, and war.
• With the collapse of the globalized economy, many communities will have to develop localized economies and food production.