Keeping global warming to 1.5C, not 2C, will make a crucial difference to Australia, report says

27 08 2016

James Whitmore, The Conversation and Michael Hopkin, The Conversation

Australia could avoid punishingly long heatwaves and boost the Great Barrier Reef’s chances of survival by helping to limit global warming to 1.5℃ rather than 2℃, according to a report released by the Climate Institute today.

Australia, along with 179 other countries, has formally signed the Paris climate agreement. The deal, which has not yet come into force, commits nations to limit Earth’s warming to “well below 2℃” and to aim for 1.5℃ beyond pre-industrial temperatures.

The new research, compiled by the international agency Climate Analytics, suggests that limiting global warming to 1.5℃ rather than letting it reach 2℃ could make a significant difference to the severity of extreme weather events in Australia. Heatwaves in southern Australia would be an average of five days shorter, and the hottest days a degree cooler. In the north, hot spells would be 20-30 days shorter than the 60-day heatwaves potentially in store if warming hits 2℃.

Under 2℃ warming, the world’s coral reefs would have a “very limited chance” of survival, whereas limiting warming to 1.5℃ would allow “some chance for a fraction of the world’s coral reefs to survive”, the report says.

Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick, a climate researcher at UNSW Australia, said that while the 0.5℃ difference between the two targets might not sound like a lot, it would lead to “clearly noticeable” differences in regional climates, including Australia’s.

“This is particularly true for extreme events, where just a small change in average temperature corresponds to larger changes in events like temperature extremes, especially in their frequency and duration,” she said.

Protesters at December’s Paris climate summit make their feelings clear about the 1.5-degree goal.
Reuters/Jacky Naegelen

University of Melbourne researcher Andrew King, who studies climate extremes, said the report “paints a grim picture for the future”, given that Australia is already experiencing climate-driven events such as this year’s unprecedented bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef.

“There are many benefits if warming could be limited to 1.5℃, with less frequent and intense extreme weather. On the other hand, we are entering the unknown if we allow warming to surpass 2℃, as tipping points in the Earth’s climate system make accurate predictions difficult to make,” Dr King said.

The report predicts that half of the world’s identified tipping points – such as the collapse of polar ice sheets and the drying out of the Amazon rainforest – would be crossed under 2℃ warming, compared with 20% of them at 1.5℃.

Tall order

The problem is that keeping warming to 1.5℃ is now a very onerous, if not impossible, task. It would require the world to peak its emissions by the end of this decade, with a future “carbon budget” of just 250 billion tonnes of CO₂. To put that in context, global carbon emissions in 2014 were 36 billion tonnes.

Given the low probability of reducing emissions at the speed required, the report argues that untested “negative emissions” technologies (removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) will be needed after 2030.

However, Kate Dooley, a PhD candidate at the University of Melbourne, questioned the report’s suggested reliance on negative emissions.

“Assuming carbon can be removed from the atmosphere on a large scale later in the century is a bad strategy for climate mitigation. Relying on negative emissions to “undo” earlier emissions may lock us into higher levels of warming if the expected technologies do not materialise or pose unacceptable social and ecological risk,” she said.

Stronger targets

In a separate report, the Climate Institute recommends that Australia adopt greenhouse gas targets of 45% below 2005 levels by 2025, and 65% by 2030, if it is to do its fair share in achieving the Paris Agreement’s goals.

The institute also recommended that Australia phase out coal-fired electricity generation by 2025, increase renewable generation to 50% by 2030, and double energy productivity by 2030.

It argues for a carbon price, and urges politicians to factor the costs and benefits of climate change and climate action formally into all policy decisions.

Australia’s current climate target under the Paris Agreement is 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2030. Labor has proposed a 45% target, and the Greens zero or negative emissions within a generation.

Australia will review its climate policies in 2017, ahead of the first global stocktake of nations’ Paris Agreement targets in 2018.

Dooley said that ultimately “we have left climate action so late that some level of carbon removals will be required due to historical emissions already in the atmosphere. Assuming negative emissions will only be available at very low levels will force us to re-examine what is possible in terms of dramatic emission reductions.”

Dr King said the results “highlight the pressing need to take immediate and drastic action to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions”. In a recent Conversation article, he and his colleague Ben Henley explained that the world is already closing in fast on the 1.5℃ warming target.

“We know that we will go past 1.5℃ in the near future and we would need large-scale negative emissions schemes to bring the world back down to 1.5℃ warming. Such big schemes are prohibitively expensive and impractical with current technologies, so it would be better to act now rather than later,” he said.

Dr Perkins-Kirkpatrick added that “we need to work as a global community to reduce our emissions as quickly and efficiently as possible, so that regional changes and their impacts are minimised.”

The Conversation

James Whitmore, Editor, Environment & Energy, The Conversation and Michael Hopkin, Environment + Energy Editor, The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.





Mud, glorious mud…………

26 08 2016

Three months ago, just as the wettest quarter in Tasmania’s history started, an excavator arrived on our block to dig the house pad. It promptly broke down, three times, and was eventually removed for repairs. Then I was tasked with going to Queensland for a month, eventually driving back in a rusty old 4WD ute I decided I needed to get around to do the work on the farm when it pours and the whole place turns into a quagmire. When I finally arrived back, I was sick as a dog, and thus another six weeks just vanished from the Tasmania Project…… I am very pleased to say, that task is now finished….. and what a monster task it turned out to be, bigger than Ben Hur.

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Mountains of dirt….

Everyone I know in Tasmania is complaining about how waterlogged the place has become. At least, I am assured, I now know this is not normal, though as the climate goes pear shaped, who can predict what the new normal will be in the future. Needless to say, all this damp did not make the excavating any easier….. it did, however, show me what the worst case scenario looks like, and how best to design the drainage to ensure we stay nice and dry no matter what. I am now very tempted to double up on the engineer’s drainage, what’s another $400 at this stage?

As we dug our way into the unknown, speaking of drainage, we discovered five metres of 300mm concrete pipe smack bang in the middle of the house site. I knew I had selected a challenging place to build our house, after all, right above it were two natural gullies falling towards the dam, and I basically want to block those off with a dam of my own, made of concrete, and also known as a retaining wall. Two drainage pipes designed to capture excess rainwater from the original apple orchard that existed there some 12 to 15 years ago fed runoff into these pipes, and yes, they were working very well!

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Road drainage

I then decided that while I had the excavator here, I may as well attack the drainage problem there and then rather than bring the machine back later… The access road was designed as an all weather affair years ago, but since the apple trees were removed, cattle had used the road and that section of the house apron closer to the trees I cut down as shelter from the Summer sun. As a consequence, their droppings over the years had accumulated over quite some area, turning into the slipperiest black soil know to mankind. There were times my 2WD utes simply would not go beyond this patch, and in any case, beautiful rich soil like that was wasted on a road, it belonged on the paddock I will eventually turn into my market garden. So it was all scraped off (all three tonnes of it) and loaded on the new 4WD ute and moved 50 metres uphill, joining all the topsoil Trev was scraping off all over the site for later use to re-cover all the clay moved uphill….. Underneath the black soil, we did indeed find road base. However, so much water was coming down the hill, affecting the road, it was decided to put a proper drain beside the road to ensure it remains dry in all weather.

This worked immediately, and if the rest of this project works out as successfully, I will be more than delighted! The drain goes as far uphill as where the Eastern water tank will reside and also drains part of the house pad. The concrete pipes found in the cut were relocated to this drain and used as a culvert where cars (and likely trucks) will be driven further up past the house.

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Attacking the stumps

 

It’s interesting how things I hadn’t considered in the search for level ground popped up…… like it never occurred to me that some of the tree stumps would be higher than the apron. So about eight of them had to be removed, with a claw that looked like it belonged from a Tyrannosaurus Rex!

As the task at hand was growing and growing, I was half expecting Kevin McCloud of Grand Designs fame to walk up the drive to ask me how my budget was going, and did I still believe I’d be in by Christmas!

Eventually, the two gullies above the house were filled with clay and subsoil, also getting

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Powerline being buried

 

rid of those pesky windrows left over from the days this place was part of a gigantic orchard… and the powerline from the power station is now buried too, after months and months of laying above ground in the weather.

One of the unintended consequences of all this work is that the whole area is now covered with twice as much topsoil as we started with…… and as even Trev himself said as he was digging, it looks good enough to grow babies in!

Now that I have a good quarter acre of bare topsoil, I must decide what to quickly plant in it (preferably a green manure crop) before the spring weeds take over.

To say I am delighted with the end product would be an understatement. Yes the budget took a hit, but it was worth it. And as Geoff Lawton always says, earthworks are the best way to spend fossil fuels…. Hopefully it will all dry out soon enough, and planning for the concrete foundations will be the next big task.

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Viewed from across the valley

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Peace and quiet back……. listen to the frogs!!





Fossil fuels in deep trouble…..

19 08 2016

Recently, a handful of Germany’s top scientists argued that “controlled implosion of fossil industries and explosive renewables development” might be able to deliver on the targets in the Paris agreement on climate change.

Even if we accept this notion at face value, and ignoring that many other factors might also be in play, the recent course of events does not offer much hope that “controlled” is the correct word to apply to the predicaments currently battering the energy sector. And while the renewable energy sector might be continuing to make progress, it is clearly not “exploding” as fast as some might wish……. Could it be, by any chance, that the ongoing collapse of the fossil fuel industries will happen at a much faster pace than the wishful explosive transition to ‘solutions’?

Let’s start with coal. The future for this bankruptcy-riddled industry dramatically worsened in July 2016. It increasingly looks as though the Chinese government’s recent retreat from coal is biting hard, and that Chinese coal peak coal production occurred in 2014. Prof Nick Stern, among others, including Chinese collaborators, argued that we are witnessing “a turning point in the climate change battle”. The latest Chinese announcement is a ban on the development of coal projects, until 2018. The staggering air pollution driving this change is proving difficult to beat… and the same is true of India.  NASA data showed toxic air choking huge areas of the Indian subcontinent, most of which the obvious result of fossil fuel combustion. In the face of all this, even Deutsche Bank has stopped financing the coal mining sector.

Investment continues to wane from fossil fuels as a result of divestment campaigns. Swedish pension fund AP4 made the biggest divestment move of any institution to date. The $35billion scheme will decarbonise its $14.7billion global equity portfolio by 2020, switching to passive investment tracking low carbon benchmarks.

Furthermore, the oil and gas industry’s hopes for a return to high oil prices have yet to occur, and as a result its already teetering state is deteriorating. A study of 365 oil and gas megaprojects by Ernst and Young shows 64% with cost overruns, and 73% behind schedule. This dismal record is combining with low oil prices to create a mortal squeeze on profitability.

US drillers have hit an all time high with junk bond defaults: $28.8 billion so far this year, according to Fitch Ratings. With $500 billion+ outstanding,  more bankruptcies can be expected. Some of these companies are even trying to buy time by paying debt interest with more debt. Desperate times require desperate actions I guess…….

Global oil breakeven costs have fallen by $19 to a current average of $51 since the oil price began falling in 2014. Trouble is, the oil price is still hovering around $40 and most of the industry’s targets are totally uneconomic.

“Oil giants find there’s nowhere to hide from doomsday market”, read a Bloomberg headline. “The industry cannot survive on current oil prices,” veteran analyst Fadel Gheit declared. The bankruptcy count so far this year stands at more than 80 companies.

So will the oil price rise, and offer some relief…? Not according to analysts. Morgan Stanley expects oil to fall to $35. (The price is around $40 as I write). The main concern is excessive production of petrol/gasoline by refineries (= less crude imported). As always, some of course disagree. Core Laboratories point to the net worldwide annual crude oil production decline rate of ~3.3%, and expect US production to continue dropping, which they hope will bring tighter supply, and rising prices.

Even if the oil price does indeed rise again, problems are not going away…… The industry faces a huge shortage of workers. 350,000 have apparently been laid off since the oil price began falling in 2014. 60% of the fracking workforce has been laid off, 70% of fracking equipment has been idled. It will be nigh impossible to turn the taps back on, as even some of the industry’s own bosses now point out. And if the price rises back above $90, the global economy will tank……





Glutton for punishment

9 08 2016

Having bogged both my utes on several occasions in the Tasmanian winter quagmires, made worse by the wettest winter quarter on record, I had been thinking of replacing the two wheel drives with a four wheel drive for a while. Four wheel drive one tonne utes are a bit on the scarce side.  Most 4×4 utes tend to be four door versions with a smaller tray that is of not much use if wanting to carry 2.4m long building materials.  I looked at one in Hobart that was an extended cab (still two doors, but with folding seats in the back for very occasional passengers shaped like sardines…. its tray was a foot shorter, and it was a dog to boot…… no way was I going to buy a vehicle needing over a thousand dollars spent on it with the possibility that the whining transmission may be on the way out, needing expensive replacement in the future.  Low oil levels on the dipstick and invisible coolant in the radiator sealed it for me.  And the asking price was just ridiculous.

Then both my favorite neighbour and my old mate Dean in Cooran seeded the idea that while in Queensland on mother in law sitting duties and marital visitation, I might be able to find a suitable vehicle and drive it back….. it’s not like I hadn’t done it before!

I wasn’t really taking the idea too seriously; after all, the thought of driving a four wheel drive 2,500km to Tasmania didn’t exactly fill me with glee; all the same, I started visiting Gumtree, ‘just in case’.  The rest as they say…………..

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Ute III having its preflight checks

In retrospect, buying a 26 year old 4×4 in Queensland where the favorite pastime is driving on beaches through salt water was not perhaps my best idea.  But there it was, generally sound and driving rather better than I had expected.  The asking price was $2700, and I got it for $2000.  Sounds like a bargain, but only time will tell…. and did I mention the rust was free…?

The vehicle wasn’t short of things needing fixing mind you….. it was an educated guess. The leaking radiator had to go, as did the monster truck sand tyres that would keep the dead awake at highway speed. It also needed a new brake master cylinder (I find good brakes reassuring…!) and other odds and ends, not least a full service on the engine, gearbox, and both diffs.  The driver side seatbelt was so frayed, there was no way I would drive all that way hoping it might not break in the event of a serious collision.  $2700 later……… and the rust was still not fixed. Andrew who checked the car out told me the rust would need fixing, but it wasn’t structural, and he would happily give it a roadworthiness certificate.

Confident the car would be fine, I took off from the Sunshine Coast Monday night, only going as far as my sister’s place in Brisbane.  Unlike last time I did this, leaving Glenda behind was rather more heart wrenching… the last trip seemed far more exciting and adventurous, there was so much to do, and I was, after all, moving to Tassie.  This time, however, the reality of another separation was impossible to ignore, and there were a few tears….

I was also coming down with a horrible virus that made my throat feel like I was swallowing razor blades with every gulp, and it got worse and worse the further south I drove.

I filled up before Leaving Brisbane, and the car returned 13L/100km, due to only half a tank of 98, the monster tyres I drove up the coast with, and the god awful ugly ladder racks I removed before leaving. When I filled up again in Coffs Harbour, the numbers had dwindled to 10.8L/100km, and again in Newcastle, it was 10.6L/100km…. quite remarkable really, barely 10% more than the two wheel drives.

In Newcastle, my darling daughter introduced me to Lemsip which is like a lemon tea filled with drugs that was the only remedy I found that had any impact on my debilitating throat….

All in all, the car just purred along, and as Andrew the mechanic had told me, filling the gearbox with synthetic gear oil did fix the slow crunchy gear changes. All the way down the Hume the car faced a very strong headwind that even managed to blow off the trim at the bottom of the door glass that stops rain getting into the door….. it’s what happens with old cars, rubbers just perish. And the wind increased my consumption to 12L/100km. I made it to Victoria that night, discovering that during the day one of my low beams had blown; I stayed in a caravan park near Bonegilla for a well earned rest and somewhere to attempt to sleep off this virus…..

BONEGILLA

It was almost exactly 53 years to the day since our family arrived from Europe to the migrant camp called Bonegilla. I had wanted to visit on the way through during both of the last trips, but time constraints didn’t allow it. As this was my last chance, I made the time.

20160728_105702Built during the war (and I mean WWII), what is left of the camp is sure showing its age… and yet, I’m certain that all the refugees who escaped the ruins of post war Europe would have thought the whole place was palatial. How we even slept on those beds beggars belief. My parents of course had no plan to stay very long, and we were only there for about a month. I still remember going to the pictures to see old black and white movies, after standing for God save the Queen……. which to us was a totally weird concept!

It’s now been turned into a museum of sorts, and without the throngs of multilingual 20160728_110702immigrants, it felt like a sad old place. How all our combined lifestyles have changed in 50 years…

The lady at the reception got onto the computer, and I have arranged to have my ID card (which were never given out to their owners at the time) extracted from the Canberra archives, and hopefully sent to me for a reasonable fee.

A couple of hours there was quite enough, especially as the dreaded lurgy I left Queensland with was starting to really take hold of my system…. how I managed to drive all that way, on my own, and feeling sick, still puzzles me.  there’s nothing like determination I suppose…. and drugs!  That night I arrived in Melbourne where I stayed with Ernest, the owner of Solazone for whom I worked way back in 2010. It was good to catch up.

I spent the following day in Melbourne stocking up on more drugs, buying a new headlight for the ute, and found the bargain centre in Kilsyth where I bought the bidets, basins, and taps last year, this time walking away with a brand new stylish $50 kitchen sink and handfuls of useful hardware… That night I was on the ferry for my fifth (and definitely last!) crossing of Bass Strait. There are jokes in the family about the ‘next ute’, but you better believe it, this is not ever going to happen.

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First day in Tassie, snow on the Western Tiers

When I disembarked in Devonport the next morning, it was absolutely freezing, so much so, the engine refused to warm up. I’d suspected the new thermostat Andrew had put in the ute wasn’t working properly, but this was beyond the pale, as I couldn’t even get much heat out of the heater. All the way to Geoff’s place in Chudleigh, there was frost everywhere. After a warming coffee, Geoff gave me a piece of cardboard to wedge in front of the radiator, and the temperature behaved itself all the way to Geeveston.

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Yes, that is the exhaust pipe you can see through the floor….

I sent the plates back to the original owner, and now uteIII is deregistsred. I took it for a safety certificate, but it failed miserably…. unless I get the rust fixed, they won’t pass it. It also turns out the fuel lines near the fuel tank are leaking, explaining why the consumption got worse as I drove further and further south. I think. Time will tell. I’m not bothered, the main thing is that I can drive anywhere on the farm without getting bogged, and I’ll fix the car when I feel like it.





The Six Grand Illusions That Keep Us Enslaved

28 07 2016

Just HAD to share this……. Sigmund Fraud, like me, is onto the Matrix and we agree on the metaphor.

I’ve been incognito for several days as I drive yet another ute to Tasmania, but keep your eyes peeled, you will get a full report soon enough!

By Sigmund Fraud / themindunleashed.org

For a magician to fool his audience his deceit must go unseen, and to this end he crafts an illusion to avert attention from reality. While the audience is entranced, the deceptive act is committed, and for the fool, reality then becomes inexplicably built upon on a lie. That is, until the fool wakes up and recognizes the truth in the fact that he has been duped.

Maintaining the suspension of disbelief in the illusion, however, is often more comforting than acknowledging the magician’s secrets.

We live in a world of illusion. So many of the concerns that occupy the mind and the tasks that fill the calendar arise from planted impulses to become someone or something that we are not. This is no accident. As we are indoctrinated into this authoritarian-corporate-consumer culture that now dominates the human race, we are trained that certain aspects of our society are untouchable truths, and that particular ways of being and behaving are preferred.

Psychopaths disempower people in this way. They blind us with never ceasing barrages of suggestions and absolutes that are aimed at shattering self-confidence and confidence in the future.

Bansky, the revered and elusive revolutionary street artist, once commented:

“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small.They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate.They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you.” – Banksy

Advertising is just the tip of the iceberg. When we look further we see that the overall organization of life is centered around the pursuit of illusions and automatic obedience to institutions and ideas which are not at all what they seem. We are in a very real sense enslaved. Many call this somewhat intangible feeling of oppression ‘the matrix,’ a system of total control that invades the mind, programming individuals to pattern themselves in accordance with a mainstream conformist version of reality, no matter how wicked it gets.

The grandest of the illusions which keep us enslaved to the matrix, the ones that have so many of us still entranced, are outlined below for your consideration.

1. THE ILLUSION OF LAW, ORDER AND AUTHORITY

For so many of us, following the law is considered a moral obligation, and many of us gladly do so even though corruption, scandal, and wickedness repeatedly demonstrate that the law is plenty flexible for those who have the muscle to bend it. Police brutality and police criminality is rampant in the US, the courts favor the wealthy, and we can no longer even lead our lives privately thanks to the intrusion of state surveillance. And all the while the illegal and immoral Orwellian permanent war rages on in the background of life, murdering and destroying whole nations and cultures.

The social order is not what it seems, for it is entirely predicated on conformity, obedience and acquiescence which are enforced by fear of violence. History teaches us again and again that the law is just as often as not used as an instrument of oppression, social control and plunder, and any so-called authority in this regard is false, hypocritical, and unjust.

When the law itself does not follow the law, there is no law, there is no order, and there is no justice. The pomp and trappings of authority are merely a concealment of the truth that the current world order is predicated on control, not consent.

2. THE ILLUSION OF PROSPERITY AND HAPPINESS

Adorning oneself in expensive clothes and trinkets, and amassing collections of material possessions that would be the envy of any 19th century monarch has become a substitute for genuine prosperity. Maintaining the illusion of prosperity, though, is critical to our economy as it is, because its foundation is built on consumption, fraud, credit and debt. The banking system itself has been engineered from the top down to create unlimited wealth for some while taxing the eternity out of the rest of us.

True prosperity is a vibrant environment and an abundance of health, happiness, love, and relationships. As more people come to perceive material goods as the form of self-identification in this culture, we slip farther and farther away from the experience of true prosperity.

3. THE ILLUSION OF CHOICE AND FREEDOM

Read between the lines and look at the fine print, we are not free, not by any intelligent standard. Freedom is about having choice, yet in today’s world, choice has come to mean a selection between available options, always from within the confines of a corrupt legal and taxation system and within the boundaries of culturally accepted and enforced norms.

Just look no further than the phony institution of modern democracy to find a shining example of false choices appearing real. Two entrenched, corrupt, archaic political parties are paraded as the pride and hope of the nation, yet third party and independent voices are intentionally blocked, ridiculed and plowed under.

The illusion of choice and freedom is a powerful oppressor because it fools us into accepting chains and short leashes as though they were the hallmarks of liberty.

Multiple choice is different than freedom, it is easy servitude.

4. THE ILLUSION OF TRUTH

Truth has become a touchy subject in our culture, and we’ve been programmed to believe that ‘the‘ truth comes from the demigods of media, celebrity, and government. If the TV declares something to be true, then we are heretics to believe otherwise.

In order to maintain order, the powers that be depend our acquiescence to their version of the truth. While independent thinkers and journalists continually blow holes in the official versions of reality, the illusion of truth is so very powerful that it takes a serious personal upheaval to shun the cognitive dissonance needed to function in a society that openly chases false realities.

5. THE ILLUSION OF TIME

They say that time is money, but this is a lie. Time is your life. Your life is an ever-evolving manifestation of the now. Looking beyond the five sense world, where we have been trained to move in accordance with the clock and the calendar, we find that the spirit is eternal, and that the each individual soul is part of this eternity.

The big deception here is the reinforcement of the idea that the present moment is of little to no value, that the past is something we cannot undo or ever forget, and that the future is intrinsically more important than both the past and the present. This carries our attention away from what it actually happening right now and directs it toward the future. Once completely focused on what is to come rather than what is, we are easy prey to advertisers and fear-pimps who muddy our vision of the future with every possible worry and concern imaginable.

We are happiest when life doesn’t box us in, when spontaneity and randomness gives us the chance to find out more about ourselves. Forfeiting the present moment in order to fantasize about the future is a trap. The immense, timeless moments of spiritual joy that are found in quiet meditation are proof that time is a construct of the mind of humankind, and not necessarily mandatory for the human experience.

If time is money, then life can be measured in dollars. When dollars are worth less, so is life. This is total deception, because life is, in truth, absolutely priceless.

6. THE ILLUSION OF SEPARATENESS

On a strategic level, the tactic of divide and conquer is standard operating procedure for authoritarians and invading armies, but the illusion of separateness runs even deeper than this.

We are programmed to believe that as individuals we are in competition with everyone and everything around us, including our neighbors and even mother nature. Us vs. them to the extreme. This flatly denies the truth that life on this planet is infinitely inter-connected. Without clean air, clean water, healthy soil, and a vibrant global sense of community we cannot survive here.

While the illusion of separateness comforts us by gratifying the ego and and offering a sense of control, in reality it only serves to enslave and isolate us.

illusions

CONCLUSION

The grand illusions mentioned here have been staged before us as a campaign to encourage blind acquiescence to the machinations of the matrix. In an attempt to dis-empower us, they demand our conformity and obedience, but we must not forget that all of this is merely an elaborate sales pitch. They can’t sell what we don’t care to buy.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sigmund Fraud is a survivor of modern psychiatry and a dedicated mental activist. He is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com where he indulges in the possibility of a massive shift towards a more psychologically aware future for mankind.





On decommisioning nuclear reactors

25 07 2016

Some of the stuff in this article simply beggars belief…..  like “they weren’t designed with decommissioning in mind”.  Seriousy..?  That is just mindboggling.  And the decommissioning costs, at a time the world’s financial system is on the verge of collapse is similarly gobsmacking…… I’m so glad there are no nukes in Australia after reading that lot.

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[Below are excerpts from the 7 March 2012 NewScientist article: How to dismantle a nuclear reactor ] about the costs and challenges of dismantling nuclear power plants in Europe] Hat tip to energyskeptic.com

decommisioning-nuclear-reactor
By the start of 2012, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, 138 commercial power reactors had been permanently shut down with at least 80 expected to join the queue for decommissioning in the coming decade – more if other governments join Germany in deciding to phase out nuclear power following the Fukushima disaster in Japan last year.

And yet, so far, only 17 of these have been dismantled and made permanently safe. That’s because decommissioning is difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

A standard American or French-designed pressurised water reactor (PWR) – the most common reactor design now in operation – will produce more than 100,000 tonnes of waste, about a tenth of it significantly radioactive, including the steel reactor vessel, control rods, piping and pumps. Decommissioning just a single one generally costs up to half a billion dollars.

Decommissioning Germany’s Soviet-designed power plant at Greifswald produced more than half a million tonnes of radioactive waste. The UK’s 26 gas-cooled Magnox reactors produce similar amounts and will eventually cost up to a billion dollars each to decommission. That’s because they weren’t designed with decommissioning in mind.

The many variations also mean that there is no agreed-upon standard for how to go about the process. If you want to decommission a nuclear power plant, you have three options. The first is the fastest: remove the fuel, then take the reactor apart as swiftly as possible, storing the radioactive material somewhere safe to await a final burial place.  The second approach is to remove the fuel but lock up the reactor, letting its troublesome radioactive isotopes decay, which makes dismantling easier – much later.  The third option is to simply entomb the reactor where it is.

Even when the reactor can be dismantled, where do you put the radioactive waste? Even the least contaminated material – old overalls, steel heat exchangers and toilets – must be carefully separated and sent to specially licensed landfill sites. Not every country has such designated facilities. Intermediate-level waste, contrary to its name, is even more of a problem because it may require deep ground burial alongside the high-level spent fuel.

In 1976, a British Royal Commission said no more nuclear power plants should be built until the waste disposal problems were resolved. Thirty-five years on, nothing much has changed.

sources:





Deflationary Collapse Ahead?

24 07 2016

The big thing that is happening is that the world financial system is likely to collapse. Back in 2008, the world financial system almost collapsed. This time, our chances of avoiding collapse are very slim.

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tverberg

Gail Tverberg

Both the stock market and oil prices have been plunging. Is this “just another cycle,” or is it something much worse? I think it is something much worse.

Back in January, I wrote a post called Oil and the Economy: Where are We Headed in 2015-16? In it, I said that persistent very low prices could be a sign that we are reaching limits of a finite world. In fact, the scenario that is playing out matches up with what I expected to happen in my January post. In that post, I said

Needless to say, stagnating wages together with rapidly rising costs of oil production leads to a mismatch between:

  • The amount consumers can afford for oil
  • The cost of oil, if oil price matches the cost of production

This mismatch between rising costs of oil production and stagnating wages is what has been happening. The unaffordability problem can be hidden by a rising amount of debt for a while (since adding cheap debt helps make unaffordable big items seem affordable), but this scheme cannot go on forever.

Eventually, even at near zero interest rates, the amount of debt becomes too high, relative to income. Governments become afraid of adding more debt. Young people find student loans so burdensome that they put off buying homes and cars. The economic “pump” that used to result from rising wages and rising debt slows, slowing the growth of the world economy. With slow economic growth comes low demand for commodities that are used to make homes, cars, factories, and other goods. This slow economic growth is what brings the persistent trend toward low commodity prices experienced in recent years.

A chart I showed in my January post was this one:

Figure 1. World Oil Supply (production including biofuels, natural gas liquids) and Brent monthly average spot prices, based on EIA data.

The price of oil dropped dramatically in the latter half of 2008, partly because of the adverse impact high oil prices had on the economy, and partly because of a contraction in debt amounts at that time. It was only when banks were bailed out and the United States began its first round of Quantitative Easing (QE) to get longer term interest rates down even further that energy prices began to rise. Furthermore, China ramped up its debt in this time period, using its additional debt to build new homes, roads, and factories. This also helped pump energy prices back up again.

The price of oil was trending slightly downward between 2011 and 2014, suggesting that even then, prices were subject to an underlying downward trend. In mid-2014, there was a big downdraft in prices, which coincided with the end of US QE3 and with slower growth in debt in China. Prices rose for a time, but have recently dropped again, related to slowing Chinese, and thus world, economic growth. In part, China’s slowdown is occurring because it has reached limits regarding how many homes, roads and factories it needs.

I gave a list of likely changes to expect in my January post. These haven’t changed. I won’t repeat them all here. Instead, I will give an overview of what is going wrong and offer some thoughts regarding why others are not pointing out this same problem.

Overview of What is Going Wrong

  1. The big thing that is happening is that the world financial system is likely to collapse. Back in 2008, the world financial system almost collapsed. This time, our chances of avoiding collapse are very slim.
  2. Without the financial system, pretty much nothing else works: the oil extraction system, the electricity delivery system, the pension system, the ability of the stock market to hold its value. The change we are encountering is similar to losing the operating system on a computer, or unplugging a refrigerator from the wall.
  3. We don’t know how fast things will unravel, but things are likely to be quite different in as short a time as a year. World financial leaders are likely to “pull out the stops,” trying to keep things together. A big part of our problem is too much debt. This is hard to fix, because reducing debt reduces demand and makes commodity prices fall further. With low prices, production of commodities is likely to fall. For example, food production using fossil fuel inputs is likely to greatly decline over time, as is oil, gas, and coal production.
  4. The electricity system, as delivered by the grid, is likely to fail in approximately the same timeframe as our oil-based system. Nothing will fail overnight, but it seems highly unlikely that electricity will outlast oil by more than a year or two. All systems are dependent on the financial system. If the oil system cannot pay its workers and get replacement parts because of a collapse in the financial system, the same is likely to be true of the electrical grid system.
  5. Our economy is a self-organized networked system that continuously dissipates energy, known in physics as a dissipative structureOther examples of dissipative structures include all plants and animals (including humans) and hurricanes. All of these grow from small beginnings, gradually plateau in size, and eventually collapse and die. We know of a huge number of prior civilizations that have collapsed. This appears to have happened when the return on human labor has fallen too low. This is much like the after-tax wages of non-elite workers falling too low. Wages reflect not only the workers’ own energy (gained from eating food), but any supplemental energy used, such as from draft animals, wind-powered boats, or electricity. Falling median wages, especially of young people, are one of the indications that our economy is headed toward collapse, just like the other economies.
  6. The reason that collapse happens quickly has to do with debt and derivatives. Our networked economy requires debt in order to extract fossil fuels from the ground and to create renewable energy sources, for several reasons: (a) Producers don’t have to save up as much money in advance, (b) Middle-men making products that use energy products (such as cars and refrigerators) can “finance” their factories, so they don’t have to save up as much, (c) Consumers can afford to buy “big-ticket” items like homes and cars, with the use of plans that allow monthly payments, so they don’t have to save up as much, and (d) Most importantly, debt helps raise the price of commodities of all sorts (including oil and electricity), because it allows more customers to afford products that use them. The problem as the economy slows, and as we add more and more debt, is that eventually debt collapses. This happens because the economy fails to grow enough to allow the economy to generate sufficient goods and services to keep the system going – that is, pay adequate wages, even to non-elite workers; pay growing government and corporate overhead; and repay debt with interest, all at the same time. Figure 2 is an illustration of the problem with the debt component.Figure 2. Repaying loans is easy in a growing economy, but much more difficult in a shrinking economy.

Where Did Modeling of Energy and the Economy Go Wrong?

  1. Today’s general level of understanding about how the economy works, and energy’s relationship to the economy, is dismally low. Economics has generally denied that energy has more than a very indirect relationship to the economy. Since 1800, world population has grown from 1 billion to more than 7 billion, thanks to the use of fossil fuels for increased food production and medicines, among other things. Yet environmentalists often believe that the world economy can somehow continue as today, without fossil fuels. There is a possibility that with a financial crash, we will need to start over, with new local economies based on the use of local resources. In such a scenario, it is doubtful that we can maintain a world population of even 1 billion.
  2. Economics modeling is based on observations of how the economy worked when we were far from limits of a finite world. The indications from this modeling are not at all generalizable to the situation when we are reaching limits of a finite world. The expectation of economists, based on past situations, is that prices will rise when there is scarcity. This expectation is completely wrong when the basic problem is lack of adequate wages for non-elite workers. When the problem is a lack of wages, workers find it impossible to purchase high-priced goods like homes, cars, and refrigerators. All of these products are created using commodities, so a lack of adequate wages tends to “feed back” through the system as low commodity prices. This is exactly the opposite of what standard economic models predict.
  3. M. King Hubbert’s “peak oil” analysis provided a best-case scenario that was clearly unrealistic, but it was taken literally by his followers. One of Hubbert’s sources of optimism was to assume that another energy product, such as nuclear, would arise in huge quantity, prior to the time when a decline in fossil fuels would become a problem.Figure 2. Figure from Hubbert's 1956 paper, Nuclear Energy and the Fossil Fuels.

    The way nuclear energy operates in Figure 2 seems to me to be pretty much equivalent to the output of a perpetual motion machine, adding an endless amount of cheap energy that can be substituted for fossil fuels. A related source of optimism has to do with the shape of a curve that is created by the sum of curves of a given type. There is no reason to expect that the “total” curve will be of the same shape as the underlying curves, unless a perfect substitute (that is, having low price, unlimited quantity, and the ability to work directly in current devices) is available for what is being modeled–here fossil fuels. When the amount of extraction is determined by price, and price can quickly swing from high to low, there is good reason to believe that the shape of the sum curve will be quite pointed, rather than rounded. For example we know that a square wave can be approximated using the sum of sine functions, using Fourier Series (Figure 4).

    Figure 3. Source: Wolfram Mathworld.

  4. The world economy operates on energy flows in a given year, even though most analysts today are accustomed to thinking on a discounted cash flow basis.  You and I eat food that was grown very recently. A model of food potentially available in the future is interesting, but it doesn’t satisfy our need for food when we are hungry. Similarly, our vehicles run on oil that has recently been extracted; our electrical system operates on electricity that has been produced, essentially instantaneously. The very close relationship in time between production and consumption of energy products is in sharp contrast to the way the financial system works. It makes promises, such as the availability of bank deposits, the amounts of pension payments, and the continuing value of corporate stocks, far out into the future. When these promises are made, there is no check made that goods and services will actually be available to repay these promises. We end up with a system that has promised very many more goods and services in the future than the real world will actually be able to produce. A break is inevitable; it looks like the break will be happening in the near future.
  5. Changes in the financial system have huge potential to disrupt the operation of the energy flow system. Demand in a given year comes from a combination of (wages and other income streams in a given year) plus the (change in debt in a given year). Historically, the (change in debt) has been positive. This has helped raise commodity prices. As soon as we start getting large defaults on debt, the (change in debt) component turns negative, and tends to bring down the price of commodities. (Note Point 6 in the previous section.) Once this happens, it is virtually impossible to keep prices up high enough to extract oil, coal and natural gas. This is a major reason why the system tends to crash.
  6. Researchers are expected to follow in the steps of researchers before them, rather than starting from a basic understudying of the whole problem. Trying to understand the whole problem, rather than simply trying to look at a small segment of a problem is difficult, especially if a researcher is expected to churn out a large number of peer reviewed academic articles each year. Unfortunately, there is a huge amount of research that might have seemed correct when it was written, but which is really wrong, if viewed through a broader lens. Churning out a high volume of articles based on past research tends to simply repeat past errors. This problem is hard to correct, because the field of energy and the economy cuts across many areas of study. It is hard for anyone to understand the full picture.
  7. In the area of energy and the economy, it is very tempting to tell people what they want to hear. If a researcher doesn’t understand how the system of energy and the economy works, and needs to guess, the guesses that are most likely to be favorably received when it comes time for publication are the ones that say, “All is well. Innovation will save the day.” Or, “Substitution will save the day.” This tends to bias research toward saying, “All is well.” The availability of financial grants on topics that appear hopeful adds to this effect.
  8. Energy Returned on Energy Investment (EROEI) analysis doesn’t really get to the point of today’s problems. Many people have high hopes for EROEI analysis, and indeed, it does make some progress in figuring out what is happening. But it misses many important points. One of them is that there are many different kinds of EROEI. The kind that matters, in terms of keeping the economy from collapsing, is the return on human labor. This type of EROEI is equivalent to after-tax wages of non-elite workers. This kind of return tends to drop too low if the total quantity of energy being used to leverage human labor is too low. We would expect a drop to occur in the quantity of energy used, if energy prices are too high, or if the quantity of energy products available is restricted.
  9. Instead of looking at wages of workers, most EROEI analyses consider returns on fossil fuel energy–something that is at least part of the puzzle, but is far from the whole picture. Returns on fossil fuel energy can be done either on a cash flow (energy flow) basis or on a “model” basis, similar to discounted cash flow. The two are not at all equivalent. What the economy needs is cash flow energy now, not modeled energy production in the future. Cash flow analyses probably need to be performed on an industry-wide basis; direct and indirect inputs in a given calendar year would be compared with energy outputs in the same calendar year. Man-made renewables will tend to do badly in such analyses, because considerable energy is used in making them, but the energy provided is primarily modeled future energy production, assuming that the current economy can continue to operate as today–something that seems increasingly unlikely.
  10. If we are headed for a near term sharp break in the economy, there is no point in trying to add man-made renewables to the electric grid. The whole point of adding man-made renewables is to try to keep what we have today longer. But if the system is collapsing, the whole plan is futile. We end up extracting more coal and oil today, in order to add wind or solar PV to what will soon become a useless grid electric system. The grid system will not last long, because we cannot pay workers and we cannot maintain the grid without a financial system. So if we add man-made renewables, most of what we get is their short-term disadvantages, with few of their hoped-for long-term advantages.

Conclusion

The analysis that comes closest to the situation we are reaching today is the 1972 analysis of limits of a finite world, published in the book “The Limits to Growth” by Donella Meadows and others. It models what can be expected to happen, if population and resource extraction grow as expected, gradually tapering off as diminishing returns are encountered. The base model seems to indicate that a collapse will happen about now.

Figure 5. Base scenario from 1972 Limits to Growth, printed using today's graphics by Charles Hall and John Day in "Revisiting Limits to Growth After Peak Oil" http://www.esf.edu/efb/hall/2009-05Hall0327.pdf

The shape of the downturn is not likely to be correct in Figure 5.  One reason is that the model was put together based on physical quantities of goods and people, without considering the role the financial system, particularly debt, plays. I expect that debt would tend to make collapse quicker. Also, the modelers had no experience with interactions in a contracting world economy, so had no idea regarding what adjustments to make. The authors have even said that the shapes of the curves, after the initial downturn, cannot be relied on. So we end up with something like Figure 6, as about all that we can rely on.

Figure 6. Figure 5, truncated shortly after production turns down, since modeled amounts are unreliable after that date.

If we are indeed facing the downturn forecast by Limits to Growth modeling, we are facing  a predicament that doesn’t have a real solution. We can make the best of what we have today, and we can try to strengthen bonds with family and friends. We can try to diversify our financial resources, so if one bank encounters problems early on, it won’t be a huge problem. We can perhaps keep a little food and water on hand, to tide us over a temporary shortage. We can study our religious beliefs for guidance.

Some people believe that it is possible for groups of survivalists to continue, given adequate preparation. This may or may not be true. The only kind of renewables that we can truly count on for the long term are those used by our forefathers, such as wood, draft animals, and wind-driven boats. Anyone who decides to use today’s technology, such as solar panels and a pump adapted for use with solar panels, needs to plan for the day when that technology fails. At that point, hard decisions will need to be made regarding how the group will live without the technology.

We can’t say that no one warned us about the predicament we are facing. Instead, we chose not to listen. Public officials gave a further push in this direction, by channeling research funds toward distant theoretically solvable problems, instead of understanding the true nature of what we are up against. Too many people took what Hubbert said literally, without understanding that what he offered was a best-case scenario, if we could find something equivalent to a perpetual motion machine to help us out of our predicament.








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