Averting Climate Change Catastrophe is the New Fusion Energy


#1

Stop me if you've heard this one before:

I can't tell you how many times – and in relation to how many studies – I've heard a statement to that effect relayed over the past two decades or so of this early 21st century, to the point that back in 2009 it even graduated to the title of a book by the prominent author, scientist, and former Chief Commissioner to Australia's Climate Commission, Tim Flannery.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://fromfilmerstofarmers.com/averting-climate-change-catastrophe-is-the-new-fusion-energy/

#2

Great post Allan!

I will listen to the Radio Ecoshock interview, but before I do, let me ask, “Why do you think it is impossible for the global market economy to collapse?” I have long seen an utter economic collapse as our only hope of retaining a livable climate (below latitude 70 anyway) and I have been hoping that it will happen any day now. You seem so sure it can’t; I wonder why.


#3

Thanks, glad you liked the post!

Regarding your question about my stance that a “collapse of the global economy… isn’t going to happen”, you made me realise that perhaps I should have fleshed that out a bit more.

For starters, when reading the arguments behind thoughts of fast vs. slow collapse (“led” primarily by Bardi and Greer, respectively), they at times both seem to make sense. “Well which one is it then?” I’ve asked myself, supposing one can even know.

Although it’s not a direct answer of whether or not a fast collapse can happen, one argument of Greer’s that has stuck with me is the notion that even if a rather fast collapse of the global economy did occur, wouldn’t the powers-that-be follow that up by doing whatever they could do to re-establish things rather than sit on their laurels and do nothing? That is, if it were a matter of flicking a few switches back on, continuing with the extend and pretend games, and triage-ing the poor people and nations with more austerity, wouldn’t they do that? And wouldn’t the gullible continue to buy the facade being sold and do what they could do re-start things?

Now, if we were so “lucky” as to get a large solar flare that knocked out a large chunk of the planet’s infrastructure, or even “better” a massive volcanic eruption that decimated the entire planet’s agricultural harvests for several years on end, then sure, the global economy could very well collapse and not be able to pick up to a level close to it previous state.

But if it’s a matter of human error and hubris… I don’t know. It’d be “nice”, but I can’t see why all those “ingenious” people out there wouldn’t pick it all up again, supposing that the great majority of things weren’t actually physically damaged.

Although come to think of it, I’m guessing that there are quite a few “Monkey Wrench Gangs” out there biding their time and waiting for the opportunity to make sure that things couldn’t pick up again. Could that be a large enough factor? I couldn’t say either way.


#4

I think it all depends on whether governments can pick up the pieces fast enough and maintain control for long enough that people in critical positions don’t starve to death. The vast majority of people in the rich world live in cities, which are totally dependent on the functionality of industrial agriculture, transportation and food processing systems for their food. All of that depends on the electric grid being functional for the most part, since it will be hard to transfer fuel, grind grain into flour and keep produce from rotting without electricity. In addition, all our communications systems depend on the grid being functional. I doubt that anyone could organize everything that needed organizing without modern communications, not even the military.

So now consider what needs to be available to keep the electric grid functional. It needs fuel, often from long distances away; it needs spare parts, often made in other countries; it needs adequate staff to operate everything and it also needs a fully functional communications system to be available to coordinate load balancing and manage all the other needs just listed.

If something so basic as a financial crisis disrupted the use of money to facilitate the purchase of all those things required for grid functionality, we would have to rely on government edicts to keep things organized. But no matter how “ingenious” government bureaucrats might be, they will have a hard time using government commands across international borders and with potential adversaries. Is Russia going to accept a request from Germany and other European countries to “just keep the gas and oil flowing and we’ll figure out something in the way of payment later”? Multiply negotiations like that thousands or millions of times every day and one can see how dependent we are on the self-organizing function of the global market economy, all of which depends on the exchange of money.

I think David Korowicz was on to something. You need the functionality of modern civilization to repair any glitches in modern civilization. Once that functionality drops below some uncertain tipping point, the glitches multiply too fast to be repaired. Once enough damage is done, it’s start-over-from-subsistence-agriculture time. And then you have the problem of no more accessible fossil fuels available to build things up again.

I think it is very plausible that the massive debt structure overhanging so much of the world economy cannot be maintained without economic growth. Resource depletion or climate change or the combination of both is likely to mean the economy will permanently stop growing sooner or later. It is then that the world financial system is likely to crash and take the rest of the physical economy with it, not because anything physical will be immediately destroyed, but because it will not remain organized without the financial system.

We could all wake up one morning and find that we can’t use our credit cards because all the banks have lost financial viability. A day or two later is when the food riots will begin. Our civilization is a fragile as that. I hope so, because if it isn’t, it will collapse much later and only after a lot more damage is done. End of rant.


#5

Yeah, the interconnectedness and internal dependencies of the system(s) are both crucial factors here, but I still wonder what could trigger a full blown crash rather than just a permanent depression/decline sort of situation.

Definitely. Our debt-based economy and money-as-debt financial system are going to do us no favours once there’s less energy available and thus less economic activity to provide the increased currency to service the previous loans. But could that actually crash the system or just cause some serious, ongoing hardship (for a continually growing amount of people)?

I guess that’s another thing I’m unsure about: what could not only take down the economic system but also the belief system that gives it all its “legitimacy”?

None of that of course precludes the fact that I’d feel much more safe (never mind more comfortable) in the country rather than in a city. Better safe than sorry.