Looks like Guy McPherson was seriously wrong….

12 04 2014

After debating with Dave Kimble for several months over the issue of whether we are at a tipping point, it appears he may have been right all along:  there’s no way we are even going to reach +2ºC above 1990 temperatures.  Looks like McPherson’s forecasts of Near Term Human Extinction was highly overcooked……  Why do I say this?  Read on…….

dkimble

Dave Kimble

The IPCC detailed report is out and, as Dave predicted, the temperature response for RCP2.6 is +1.5°C, range 1.1 – 1.8 by 2045.  Thereafter they show the temperature remaining constant or microscopically getting slightly lower –  in the modelling I’ve seen, it was measurably getting lower by 2100.

So no “tipping point” according to IPCC, not even for the highest scenario, RCP8.5.

Gail Tverberg

Gail Tverberg

Gail Tverberg’s latest article is a game changer in my opinion.  It completely agrees with Dave:

 

 

The Likely Effect of Oil Limits

The likely effect of oil limits–one way or the other–is to bring down the economy, and because of this bring an end to pretty much all carbon emissions (not just oil) very quickly. There are several ways this could happen:

  • High oil prices – we saw what these could do in 2008.  They nearly sank the financial system. If they return, central banks have already done most of what they can to “fix” the situation. They are likely to be short of ammunition the next time around.

  • Low oil prices – this is the current problem. Oil companies are cutting back on new expenditures because they cannot make money on a cash flow basis on shale plays and on other new oil drilling. Oil companies can’t just keep adding debt, so they are doing less investment. I talked about this in Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending. Less oil means either a rebound in prices or not enough oil produced to go around. Either way, we are likely to see massive recession and falling world GDP.

  • Huge credit problems, such as happened in 2008, only worse. Oil drilling would stop within a few years, because oil prices would drop too low, and stay too low, without lots of credit to prop up prices of commodities of all types.

  • Rapidly rising interest rates, as QE reaches its limits. (QE for the United States was put in place at the time of the 2008 crisis, and has been continued since then.) Rising interest rates lead to higher needed tax rates and high monthly payments for homes and cars. The current QE-induced bubble in stock, land, and home prices is also likely to break, sending prices down again.

  • End of globalization, as countries form new alliances, such as Russia-China-Iran. The US is making false claims that we can get along without some parts of the world, because we have so much natural gas and oil. This is nonsense. Once groups of countries start pulling in opposite directions, the countries that have been using a disproportionate share of oil (particularly Europe, the United States, and Japan) will find themselves in deep trouble.

  • Electric grid failures, because subsidies for renewables leave companies that sell fossil-fuel powered electricity with too little profit. The current payment system for renewables needs to be fixed to be fair to companies that generate electricity using fossil fuels. We cannot operate our economy on renewables alone, in part, because the quantity is far too small. Creation of new renewables and maintenance of such renewables is also fossil fuel dependent.

Given the choice between economic collapse and runaway climate change, collapse is the pick.  Collapse, however, brings surprising results according to Gail.  Have a look at this chart of hers showing Peak ALL energy happening next year:

tverberg-estimate-of-future-energy-productionSee that pale blue strip at the top?  It’s energy produced by renewables.  By 2035, it is half the height of what it is today.  And the purple nuclear strip is maybe no more than a quarter of today’s…….  ALL high tech ‘solutions’ require complex systems driven by cheap and abundant fossil fuels.  And the demise of cheap and abundant fossil fuels is exactly what will bring all this complexity to its knees…..  If you want energy security for yourself using renewables, I urge you to waste no time, do it now…  Gail further states:

The IPCC’s Message Isn’t Really Right 

We are bumping up against limits in many ways not modelled in the IPCC report. The RCP2.6 Scenario comes closest of the scenarios shown in providing an indication of our future situation. Clearly the climate is changing and will continue to change in ways that our planners never considered when they built cities and took out long-term loans. This is a problem not easily solved.

One of the big issues is that energy supplies seem to be leaving us, indirectly through economic changes that we have little control over. The IPCC report is written from the opposite viewpoint:  we humans are in charge and need to decide to leave energy supplies. The view is that the economy, despite our energy problems, will return to robust growth. With this robust growth, our big problem will be climate change because of the huge amount of carbon emissions coming from fossil fuel burning.

Unfortunately, the real situation is that the laws of physics, rather than humans, are in charge. Basically, as economies grow, it takes increasing complexity to fix problems, as Joseph Tainter explained in his book, The Collapse of Complex Societies. Dissipative structures provide this ever-increasing complexity through higher “energy rate density” (explained in the Chaisson article linked above –).

We need to understand what are really up against, if we are to think rationally about the future. It would be helpful if more people tried to understand the physics of the situation, even if it is a difficult subject. While we can’t really expect to “fix” the situation, we can perhaps better understand what “solutions” are likely to make the situation worse. Such knowledge will also provide a better context for understanding how climate change fits in with other limits we are reaching. Climate change is certainly not the whole problem, but it may still play a significant role.

For the whole picture, I can’t recommend reading the original enough……  it may well be the most important article Gail has ever written….

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8 responses

12 04 2014
Lloyd Morcom

Hi Mike. It’s a tricky business forecasting the behavior of complex systems and we’re trying to do it for three: the climate, Industrial Society and our individual selves. I suppose at the end of all my questing, I’ve come to realise that all I can do is try and fix my own life in the face of whatever happens.

I really do admire Gail’s plugging away at the coal face and the way she so clearly lays out the situation. But as far as I’m concerned, this is just a special intellectual interest of mine and a tiny number of people like me. We all read the same blogs and swim in the same intellectual soup. But is no way the bulk of the population or any decision makers are ever going to take this kind of knowledge on board. It’s just not the way people and world work. I talk to my local federal member and he’s a nice guy, but he just sees me as another harmless eccentric rambling on about peak oil and impending economic disaster. I even had a local Transition initiative going here for a bit until I got sick of all the nonsense that came out of people’s mouths at meetings.

I tried a thought experiment: do wallabies, fleas or frogs need to know about peak oil and climate change to navigate the future? Would it help if they did?

Guy McPherson and his ilk are an interesting case. What seems to be propelling him (and them) is overwhelming anger and/or depression. I think Guy is a nice person but he’s so invested in the system that made him what he is, so trapped by the fact that time has run out for him to start another life, and finding it so hard to let go of all the values which informed him in his rise up the academic slippery pole, that anger or depression are really the only options for him at this time. Life is a shit sometimes. But his anger at anyone who disagrees with him or who doesn’t have the Deep Knowledge is really quite stupid and pointless.

13 04 2014
Mulga Mumblebrain

I don’t think that this relative optimism, if one might call it that, is really called for. As far as I can see the climate destabilisation has a great deal of inertia that cannot be reversed. The atmospheric load of greenhouse gases is still increasing, maniacs like Newman, Abbott and Rinehart are still determined to extract billions of tons of coal to be combusted and climate sensitivity seems, to my untrained eye at least, to be on the high side, not the low. Moreover the disaster in the Arctic has a long way to play out, with the albedo flip to dark, heat absorbing seas in summer presaging massive methane losses from submarine clathrates. It would be reassuring to see some cogent argument why this process will not happen, but I’ve not seen it yet.
Add to those factors the rising atmospheric level of water vapour, megafires, melting permafrost, jet stream destabilisation and the slightly extraneous but linked problems of economic implosion under debt and rising inequality and the geo-political recklessness of the dying US Imperium, and a generalised collapse is pretty near certain, barring a miracle, and it will probably lead to war, a Big One, which will be the coup de grace. Just which factors are judged more or less significant might be like working out what killed Rasputin in the end, which, I fear, is nigh.

13 04 2014
Maponos

Does this mean the arctic will not be ice free in the next few years?

14 04 2014
mikestasse

Absolutely not…….. but there’s a big difference between an ice free arctic in the summer and near term human extinction.

14 04 2014
Dave Kimble

It looks highly probable that the Arctic will be “ice-free” for one day in the year (probably a day in September) sometime in the next 10 years. However the Sea Ice Minimum value changes each year, due to weather events, sometimes being larger than the year before, sometimes smaller, with the overall trend (due to climate ) being smaller. So it is quite possible that that an “ice-free” day happens in 2017, but doesn’t happen again until 2022 – or a myriad of other similar scenarios.

Gradually the Arctic will be “ice-free” for days at a time every year, then weeks at a time.

“Ice-free” needs to be understood in the context of the definitions. Sea Ice Area and Sea Ice Extent are not the same thing, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Measurement_of_sea_ice#Types_of_measurements for an explanation – you should probably read the whole article if this comes as a surprise to you. Briefly, Sea Ice Extent is the area where each pixel in a satellite image indicates less than 15% of the pixel’s area is ice. Since these pixels represent 25 Km x 25 Km on the Earth’s surface, you can have the Arctic declared “ice-free” while there are still 180 sq. Km. chunks of ice in the sea (spanning 2 pixels).

The Minimum day, is a self-selected worst data point, unlike saying “on September 21st of that year”, which would give less dramatic results. It is very bad statistically to do projections into the future based on self-selected worst data points.

Of more importance than “ice-free” is the change of reflection/absorption of the whole Arctic over the full annual cycle, because that is what really alters the total amount of heating. That is the thing that shows up the trend due to climate change.

15 04 2014
Mulga Mumblebrain

Is not sea-ice volume the crucial parameter, the one that really indicates the near-term fate of the sea-ice, the albedo flip, northern amplification and greenhouse gas emissions from melting permafrost and methane clathrates?

27 12 2014
rabiddoomsayer

Even without climate change the human race is in dire straits. The projections of 11 billion by 2100 are fantasy. The worlds economy is going away (very soon). Then western civilization is going away, perhaps after a short period pronounced fascism (we are surprisingly well along that track already). Then without our huge technological advantages we will have to cope with the worst of climate change, in a severely degraded biosphere.

The extinction of man by 2040. No. But the dying will be well underway. Population 2100, maybe 11 million. Even with the rosiest of glasses I cannot see more than a billion.

Even the excessively conservative IPCC projections are beyond that which significant sections of the biosphere can cope with.

27 12 2014
Maponios

I think it’ll be a global population of 100-200 million people.

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