Climate Change dominates news coverage at expense of other equally important existential issues

Preface. I’ve noticed that in the half dozen science magazines and several newspapers I get practically the only environmental stories are about climate change. Yet there are 8 other ecological boundaries (Rockström 2009) we must not cross (shown in bold with an asterisk below) and dozens of other existential threats as well.

Global peak oil production may have already happened in October of 2018 (Will covid-19 delay peak oil? Table 1). It is likely the decline rate will be 6%, increasing exponentially by +0.015% a year (see post “Giant oil field decline rates and peak oil”). So, after 16 years remaining oil production will be just 10% of what it was at the peak.

If peak oil happened in 2018, then CO2 ppm levels may be under 400 by 2100 as existing and much lower emissions of CO2 are absorbed by oceans and land. The IPCC never even modeled peak oil in their dozens of scenarios because they assumed we’d be exponentially increasing our use of fossils until 2400. They never asked geologists what the oil, coal, and natural gas reserves were, assumed we’d use methane hydrates, and many other wrong assumptions.

Meanwhile, all the ignored ecological disasters will become far more obvious. They’re papered over with fossils today. Out of fresh water? Just drill another 1,000 feet down. Eutrophied water? Build a $500 million dollar water treatment plant. Fisheries collapsed? Go to the ends of the earth to capture the remaining schools of fish.

The real threat is declining fossil production, yet climate change gets nearly all the coverage. And I’ve left out quite a few other threats, such as “nuclear war” with 17,900 results since 2016 in scholar.google.com.

Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com  author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer, Barriers to Making Algal Biofuels, and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Collapse Chronicles, Derrick Jensen, Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report

***

scholar. google. com 2016   USA Today 2013Wall Street Journal 1997NYT 2016
2,360,00011,10028,4009,379“climate change” * 
74,80026025547“soil erosion” (50,900) “soil degradation” (23,900)
61,200397989373deforestation
43,0007103eutrophication * (a result of too much nitrogen & phosphorus applied to farmland)
32,8001910023“biodiversity loss” *
24,00034221594overpopulation
22,800633844“ocean acidification” *
11,800231715“chemical pollution” *
8,7435852“groundwater depletion” (7100) “aquifer depletion” (1320) “freshwater depletion” (323) *
8,030177369“peak oil”
5,1001830“stratospheric ozone depletion” *
4,400000bioinvasion
2,259400“phosphorus depletion” and “phosphate depletion”
2,2103420725“Proven oil reserves”
1,320000“land system change” *
971000“atmospheric aerosol loading” *
900211“fishery collapse” (657) “fishery depletion” (89) “fishery decline” (154)
47000“net plant production” * NPP encompasses 5 of Rockstrom’s 9 boundaries: land-use change, freshwater use, biodiversity loss, global nitrogen and phosphorus cycles as well as affected by climate change and chemical pollution. Running, S. W. 2012. A Measurable Planetary Boundary for the Biosphere. Science.
304,3801,2442,576636Total of not climate change
Table 1. Key words found in scholarly literature (scholar.google.com) and New York times since 2016-1-1, USA today since 2013-1-1, and WSJ since 1997-1-1

* Rockstrom J, et al (2009) Planetary Boundaries: Exploring Safe Operating Space for Humanity. Ecology and Society

Table 1 shows that in all of scholarly literature, NON-climate change issues comprise just 1.2% of publications, USA Today 11%, WSJ 9%, & NYT 6.8%.

The rant continues. The reason I am so annoyed with the attention to Climate Change is that it became THE PROBLEM and THE SOLUTION was to generate electricity with wind and solar power to lower emissions.  But as we all know, there have been no closures of fossil fuel plants (coal plants were replaced with natural gas plants double their size) because of lack of energy storage for renewables, the inability of wind and solar to scale up, and because fossil plants still supply two-thirds of generation and peak power.  Since rebuildables require fossils every single step of their life cycle, they were never were a solution.  They were simply a distraction from reality.

If the actual problem is that finite fossil fuels power our civilization and their peak production is near at hand, then carrying capacity will be far less. Pimentel (1991) estimated 40 to 100 million without fossil fuels in the U.S. So we should have been reducing LEGAL immigration to far less than the one million a year since the 1960s, made birth control and abortion free and easy to get, and have high taxes on more than 1 child.

Most importantly, by far, is that since peak fossils is the problem, rather than CC, we need to return to organic farming and stop using pesticides, build up the soils with composting and cover crops, plant windbreaks so that soil on thousands of square miles can’t wash and blow away so easily, stockpile phosphate, start growing multiple crops everywhere locally, and so on.  We need to train the youngest generation how to do this, since eventually 90% of Americans will be farmers.  And anyone who can grow a victory garden should be doing it since less consumption will lower standards of living until a new economic system not dependent on endless growth develops.

There needs to be less consumption across the board, and very high taxes on the top 1% to redistribute wealth.  

There needs to be a year or two of mandatory service after high school to do infrastructure and other worthwhile projects in agriculture, irrigation, and more to prepare for a low energy world and to lessen the need to create private sector jobs in an economy that is shrinking.

Planting of hardwood trees and no more export of forests to Europe to burn for their “renewable” energy since we’ll need a lot of trees when we return to biomass as our main source of energy and infrastructure for ships, buildings, and charcoal to make bricks, metal, ceramics, glass, etc.

Just look at postcarbon.org and transition towns for ideas, the reason for their existence.

Climate change efforts have done nothing and distracted us away from what needs to be done.  CC activists didn’t even try to lower the speed limit or ration gasoline usage or days when people could drive or mandate less consumption, and just about every single paper on anything to do with energy was how to lower emissions rather than energy efficiency.

I’ve collected reasons for why people deny a future energy crisis in “Telling others about peak oil and limits to growth”. Here’s an excerpt:

  1. It’s impossible because whad’ya mean energy crash, never heard of it.
  2. Because we’re doing fine. Just some hiccups in the supply.
  3. Because they know what they’re doing and would have told us by now.
  4. Because I haven’t got time for an energy crash right now.
  5. Even if I had time, I couldn’t afford one. Look at my credit card.
  6. The oils wells have never run dry before, so they never will.
  7. Rain refills water wells. For oil wells: acid rain or something.
  8. Because oil wells are big slot machines, put money in, get oil out.
  9. Because they’ll think of alternatives-ha-ha-silly-billy.
  10. The oil companies have things up their sleeve they’re going to bring in.
  11. Because God looks after me.
  12. I need a car for work so it’s impossible.
  13. Impossible because you’re just trying to scare us.
  14. It’s impossible because you’re crazy.
  15. It’s impossible because ya have to stay positive.

No wonder everyone preferred Climate Change. With windmills and solar panels we could continue our lifestyle and be squeaky clean and green.

Meanwhile, we’ve wasted decades of preparation on Climate Change instead of the energy crisis.

References

Pimentel, D. et al. 1991. Land, Energy, and Water. The Constraints Governing Ideal U.S. Population Size. Negative Population Growth.

This entry was posted in Acidification, Biodiversity Loss, BioInvasion, Climate Change, Critical Thinking, Peak Oil, Planetary Boundaries and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Climate Change dominates news coverage at expense of other equally important existential issues

  1. Hamish McGregor says:

    Regarding increasing efficiency, according to Jevons paradox – this “occurs when technological progress increases the efficiency with which a resource is used, but the rate of consumption of that resource rises because of increasing demand.”

    So increasing efficiency, at the end of the day, does not always result in less pollution (emissions).

  2. Fred says:

    DEF or “diesel enhancement fluid” is an example of an effort to decrease emissions, but I question the effectiveness. I owned a VW Rabbit (diesel) many years ago. It got 50 mpg. Recently I purchased a Chev. Colorado, with the latest in diesel engine technology. It gets 21 mpg. (was supposed to get 30). The Colorado also requires DEF which is supposed to make the diesel burn cleaner (maybe ?). What is the cost of making the DEF, in terms of energy, the cost of the plastic container for the DEF, in terms of energy, the cost of the extra equipment and technology added to the engine to enable the mixing and burning of the DEF with the diesel, in terms of energy. We are now stuck with the cardboard container and the 2 plastic containers that the DEF came in. In my opinion it was all about who got the contract to make the DEF, who got the contract to make the cardboard, who got the contract to make the plastic. Who got the contract to build the extra components for burning the DEF. Now we have to figure out what to do with the waste plastic and cardboard. The big irony here, is that all of this wasted energy adds to the GDP which is perceived to be a good thing in this insane economic system we call capitalism. My point here is that we are using more of our limited resource of oil in the name of climate change mitigation which is actually adding to the CC problem.

  3. You go girl!!

    Well said and needs to be said.

    Overshoot is THE issue.

    Climate change is one of many symptoms of overshoot.

  4. Rice Farmer says:

    Another problem even worse than climate change is nuclear power. Once NPPs are unable to get offsite power and diesel fuel, it’s just a matter of time until they become new Fukushima disasters. And the globe is peppered with NPPs. Be afraid. Be VERY afraid.

    • Fred says:

      Rice Farmer brings up a very good point. If, for whatever reason, we would have a collapse of industrial society mass melt downs of MPP’s
      causes an existential threat. We can argue wether it is going to be caused by CC or FF depletion, but we can agree that that this a high probability in either scenario. Why then is not a high priority to start decommissioning these dinosaurs? Is it the Monkey Trap Syndrome?
      The perfect case in point. We know that they are an existential threat, but our system is so addicted to energy we can’t let go.

  5. Steve Bull says:

    Just thinking out loud here but perhaps because the political class and big business is leveraging climate change to enrich themselves via various pet projects that they market as addressing climate/environmental concerns, the media (which they own/control) is hyper-focused on climate issues to the detriment of all the other dilemmas we face?! Nah, our global leaders would never take advantage like that. #sarcasm

  6. DavidS says:

    Thanks Alice, spot on again.

    I think as a civilization we are stood on a beach watching anxiously as a volcano erupts on the horizon, whilst not noticing the tide has gone out under our feet, much further than it should.

    I share your frustration but the debate is lost – global warming is the new apocalyptic religion complete with a solar panel messiah.

    Arguably peak oil cried wolf back in 2005, now the peak has actually arrived nobody is listening, its understandable.

    I don’t think it will make a difference anyway – how could we possibly plan for whats coming.

    As you know without fossil fuels we can’t feed 8+ billion people even if they did all try to go back to the land.

    I might question many of the estimates of post-fossil fuel carrying capacity – as often they ignore some of the issues that you highlight (e.g. soil erosion/exhaustion).

    But whatever the estimates – the gap between carrying capacity and current population is simply too large, and as you indicate the collapse of oil production simply too rapid.

    Logically the only conclusion is a chaotic descent which will decimate an already badly damaged ecosystem, destroying most of the carrying capacity it has left.

    The only natural mechanism to bridge that gap – the f word that nobody dares mention – is famine. Unless we humans solve the problem via nuclear war first.

  7. Graeme Lang says:

    Yes, climate-change discussions have crowded out energy-depletion (and other ‘depletion’ issues). The fantasy of ‘sustainable development’ still dominates most academic discourse on environmental problems. Alice Friedemann’s ‘When the Trucks Stop Running’ should be required reading in schools, supplemented by her blog posts, along with the updated ‘The Limits to Growth’ (2004). I tried to extend this discussion to cities in ‘Urban energy futures: a comparative analysis’: https://eujournalfuturesresearch.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40309-018-0146-8 (open-access, in European Journal of Futures Research, 2018). Friedemann’s list of ‘reasons why people deny a future energy crisis’ is amusing but accurate – even for many scholars and environmentalists.

    • energyskeptic says:

      Very good article. Vaclav Smil writes about the insanely high power density of cities per square meter in his book “Power Density: A Key to Understanding Energy Sources and Uses”

  8. Graeme Lang says:

    Just to add: many ‘environmentalists’ have more sophisticated reasons than those in Friedemann’s list to ignore or disparage ‘future energy crisis’ discourse, because they are still convinced that renewables can compensate for the depletion of fossil fuels. A lot of this discussion is highly technical (including energy-storage, materials extraction such as rare earths, prospects for a ‘hydrogen economy’, etc.). There are many groups of scholars in various places working on these issues. Some of that work supports the more pessimistic assessments such as in Friedemann’s work, particularly for transportation, which is the key to sustaining cities at current size and complexity. My city, Toronto, would starve within weeks if the oil supply was cut off, although electricity supply would continue for awhile (Ontario electricity: 61% nuclear, 27% hydro). Very difficult to get this discussion going in Toronto, even though most of Toronto’s food comes from outside Ontario. I don’t believe that battery-electric long-haul trucks or hydrogen-electric long haul trucks are feasible solutions, but this needs detailed analysis. Hard to get this into public discussions while climate-change issues dominate the discourse.

    • energyskeptic says:

      I’ve yet to see any evidence that renewables can replace fossils. I don’t see how it can be argued, since renewables are only rebuildable, depending on fossils for every step of their life cycle. Plus Clack et. al destroyed Jacobson & Delucchi’s fantasies on this. I’ve written a great deal about electrifying trucks with batteries, catenary wires, and hydrogen in posts here: http://energyskeptic.com/category/decline/transportation-a-1000-cuts/trucks/ My next book “Life after fossil fuels: back to wood world”, will cover why manufacturing can’t be decarbonized, and that’s half of how fossil fuels are used. I think the problem is partly that scientists are siloed in their particular area of expertise, and this is such a complex topic that a big picture view is needed, like Youngquist’s “Geodestinies”. Too bad he died before publishing his second edition, but the 1997 book still is still timeless, just missing later developments like shale “fracked” oil and gas, and was written before conventional oil plateaued in 2005.

  9. hugh owens says:

    Alice gets it and always has but no one I am aware of in high level policy circles understand that Energy is the economy( change that to read: FOSSIL energy is the economy). Energy is now on the decline and “renewable” energy has not replaced any fossil energy in the past 5 years. It has merely added to the existing energy base. The promise of wind power/solar panel renewable energy is fake news, a hoax and a fraud. Bad results are baked into the cake by either Trumpublicans or the dems. This sucker is going down as was voiced some years back.

    • Fred says:

      Hugh, I like what you are doing, but you better get some Draft horses and horse drawn haying equipment, and build a beaver slide to put up your loose hay. Also, I would order a carload of anthracite coal and a coal burning stove, because when everybody starts burning wood it will be hard to find.

      I am a life long cattle and grain producer in the high desert country of central Oregon. There is nothing we are doing that is sustainable
      for any significant length of time, but we are all too invested in what we have been doing to voluntarily make the change. Besides that, it is WAY too difficult.

  10. Keith Akers says:

    Thank you. We’re facing limits to growth. There is general consciousness of only one limit, global warming. We need to get used to a smaller economy in every way, not just energy, but food, construction, and everything else.

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