Houston, we have a problem…….

1 09 2017

I’ve never been to Texas, so I have to rely on what others are saying and writing to gauge the monumental stuff up that is currently occurring in Houston, and now outlying towns, and even possibly Louisiana; especially if Hurricane Harvey re enters the Gulf of mexico long enough to strengthen and make its third landfall there.

Chris Martenson, in his latest podcast, claims Houston is built on a dry lake bed…… The city has less slope than a shower floor! How could the US’ fourth largest city, with an economy so massive that if it was a sovereign nation, it would rank 10th in the world, have been developed in such a precarious fashion?

Harvey poured as much as 374 billion gallons of water (1.4 trillion litres, enough water to fill the Great Salt Lake in Salt Lake City twice!) within the city limits, exceeding the capacity of rivers, bayous, lakes and reservoirs…….. planners have been lying about Houston’s capacity to deal with floods since its very inception. People were told it could withstand a 1 in 100 year flood. Such floods have occurred 27 times in the past century. Lately, with climate change in full force, no less than three 1 in 500 year floods have occurred, in the past five years…… This latest one has been described as a 1 in 1000 years event….. climate change is clearly making a mockery of statistics.

Hurricane Harvey is predicted to be the costliest natural disaster in the history of theImage result for houston floodsU.S., with damage costs exceeding Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina and estimated to reach at least $180 billion – and I have seen figures as high as 225….  You have to remember that compared to Houston, New Orleans is a hick town where people party all day and produce nothing, unlike the Houston area which produces a quarter of all the US’ liquid fuels. At least a million cars and trucks will have been destroyed, and they alone will surely reach 20 billion dollars….

Only one in six Texans are insured against floods I read…… and some are actually underinsured.  How will they rebuild? And why would they anyway? Who in their right mind would settle in a place that in the future, with sea level rise and ever higher gulf water temperatures, will be hammered ever more often with disasters like this?

Besides, cities like Houston were built one brick a time over some eighty years, and when Texas was the source of the world’s largest quantities of 100:1 ERoEI oil that was so cheap, you could do anything. Things are very different now. Even if there were enough qualified tradespeople around to rebuild Houston, where would they live? Who would pay them? Where would all the surplus energy come from?

houston refineryWith so much industrial activity in the area, this is also turning into an environmental disaster…  a flooded chemical plant east of Houston burst into blast smoke twice, leaking chemicals and sending 15 people to hospital. Federal Emergency Management Agency is calling the plume “incredibly dangerous,” noting that the organic peroxides at the facility pose threats to human health. Residents living in a 1.5-mile radius around the plant were ordered to evacuate. More than one million pounds of toxic air pollutants have spewed into the region’s atmosphere due to mass refinery and chemical plant shutdowns, with more pollution events expected as the plants start to back up. Drinking water across southeast Texas is also “going to be contaminated,” infectious disease specialist Rick Watkins told the Guardian, because of the disruption of sewage systems, which will leak into floodwater. According to Newsweek, “drinking water has already come into contact with dirty floodwater.”

Eco watch reports………:

While we cannot say definitively that climate change caused Hurricane Harvey, science tells us with confidence that it has increased the impact of the flooding and heightened the intensity of the storm.

But this shouldn’t come as a surprise. For many years, scientists have warned that our continued reliance on fossil fuels will lead to bigger and more devastating storms.

It’s also abundantly clear that coastal Texas and the wider Gulf region (which has seen this kind of event before), are on the frontlines of sea level rise and extreme weather heightened by climate change. And Houston in particular—with its slate of oil, gas, and chemical refineries owned by companies like Exxon and Shell—faces the additional risk of toxic petrochemical chemical spills into nearby communities.

Greg Abbott. The Texas governor has been on record for years denying the science of climate change, stating that scientists disagree (they don’t) and that their findings “need to continue to be investigated” (not really). He also sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over the Clean Power Plan, President Obama’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. How long before heads will roll?

And is this the first real nail in the coffin for the USA…..? Only time will tell, but we are fast running out of that.

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Book review of Failing states, collapsing systems biophysical triggers of political violence by Nafeez Ahmed

6 06 2017

I have written at length about the collapse of Egypt over the years, and Syria too. I’ve also discussed Nafeez Ahmed’s views on the unraveling now happening in the Middle East, and my most recent item here from the Doomstead Diner has attracted a lot of attention….. including from Alice Friedemann who pointed out to me that she has published an extensive review of Ahmed’s new book “Failing states, collapsing systems biophysical triggers of political violence”. It’s a long read (the references alone are almost as long as the article and would keep you busy for weeks!), but I was totally riveted by it and felt the compulsion to republish it here as it needs to be read as widely as possible. In fact, this review is so good, you may not need to buy the book……. as I’ve been saying for a very long time now, 2020 is when things start to get really ugly, all the way to 2030, by which time it’s likely the state of the world will be unrecognisable.

The overview of biophysical factors table below is alone really telling……

If after reading this latest piece you are not convinced collapse is indeed underway, then there’s no hope for you….!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

alice_friedemann[ In this post I summarize the sections of Nafeez’s book about the biophysical factors that bring nations down (i.e. climate change drought & water scarcity, declining revenues after peak oil, etc.) The Media tend to focus exclusively on economic and political factors.

My book review is divided into 3 parts: 

  • Why states collapse for reasons other than economic and political
  • How BioPhysical factors contribute to systemic collapse in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia Egypt, Nigeria
  • Predictions of when collapse will begin in Middle East, India, China, Europe, Russia, North America

In my opinion, war is inevitable in the Middle East where over half of oil reserves exist.  Oil is life itself.  If war happens,  collapse of the Middle East, India, and China could happen well before 2030.  If nuclear weapons are used, most nations collapse from the nuclear winter and ozone depletion that would follow.   Indonesia blew up their oil refineries to keep Japan from getting oil in WWII. If Middle Eastern governments or terrorists do the same after they’re attacked, that brings on the energy crisis sooner.  Although this would leave some high EROI oil in the ground, the energy to rebuild refineries, pipelines, oil rigs, roads, and other infrastructure would lower the EROI considerably.

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

Ahmed, Nafeez. 2017. Failing States, Collapsing Systems BioPhysical Triggers of Political Violence. Springer.

1) Why states collapse for reasons other than economic and political

Since the 2008 financial crash, there’s been an unprecedented outbreak of social protest: Occupy in the US and Western Europe, the Arab Spring, and civil unrest from Greece to Ukraine, China to Thailand, Brazil to Turkey, and elsewhere. Sometimes civil unrest has resulted in government collapse or even wars, as in Iraq-Syria and Ukraine- Crimea. The media and experts blame it on poor government, usually ignoring the real reasons because all they know is politics and economics.

In the Middle East, experts should also talk about geology.  Oil-producing nations like Syria, Yemen, Egypt, Nigeria, and Iraq have all reached peak oil and declining government revenues after that force rulers to raise the prices of food and oil.  This region was already short on water, and now climate change (from fossil fuels) is making matters much worse with drought and heat waves causing even greater water scarcity, which in turn lowers agricultural production.  Many of these nations have some of the highest rates of population growth on earth at a time when resources essential to life itself are declining.

The few nations still producing much of the oil – Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. are about to join the club and stop exporting oil so they can provide for their domestic population.

Ahmed points out that “because these and other factors are so nested and interconnected, even small perturbations and random occurrences in one can amplify effects on other parts of the system, sometimes in a feedback process that continues.  If thresholds are reached, these tipping points can re-order the whole system”.  These ecological and geological factors result in social disorder, which makes it even harder for government to do anything, such as putting more money into water and food production infrastructure, which accelerates climate change and energy decline impacts, which leads to even more violence at an accelerating rate until state failure.

2) How BioPhysical factors contribute to systemic collapse in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia Egypt, Nigeria

 

Table 1. Overview of biophysical factors (water scarcity, peak oil, population) for nations Ahmed discusses in this book

The UN defines a region as not having water scarcity above 1700 cubic meters per capita (green).  Water stressed nations have 1000 to 1700 cubic meters per capita (yellow).  Water scarcity is 500-1000 per capita (orange) and absolute water scarcity 0-500 (red).  Countries already experiencing water stress or far worse include Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, Israel, Syria, Yemen, India, China, and parts of the United States. Many, though not all, of these countries are experiencing protracted conflicts or civil unrest (Patrick 2015).

SYRIA

The media portray warfare in Syria as due to the extreme repression of President Bashar al-Assad and the support he receives from Russia.  Although there has been awareness that climate change drought played a role in causing conflict, there is no recognition that peak oil was one of the main factors.

Here’s a quick summary of how peak oil and consequent declining revenues from oil production, rising energy and food prices, drought, water scarcity, and population growth led to social unrest, violence, terrorism and war.

It shouldn’t be surprising that peak oil in 1996 triggered the tragic events we see today.  After all, the main source of Syrian revenue came from their production of 610,000 barrels per day (bpd).  By 2010 oil production had declined by half. Falling revenues caused Syria to seek help from the IMF by 2001, and the onerous market reform policies required resulted in higher unemployment and poverty, especially in rural Sunni regions, while at the same time enriching and corrupting ruling minority Alawite private and military elites.

In 2008 the government had to triple oil prices resulting in higher food prices. Food prices rose even more due to the global price of wheat doubling in 2010-2011. On top of that, the 2007-2010 drought was the worst on record, causing widespread crop failures. This forced mass migrations of farming families to cities (Agrimoney 2012; Kelley et al. 2015). The drought wouldn’t have been so bad if half the water hadn’t been wasted and overused previously from 2002 to 2008 (Worth 2010). All of these violence-creating events were worsened by one of the highest birth rates growth on earth, 2.4%.  Most of the additional 80,000 people added in 2011 were born in the hardest-hit drought areas (Sands 2011).

Rinse and repeat.  Social unrest and violence led to war, oil production dropped further, so there is even less money to end unrest with subsidized food and energy or more employment, aid farmers, and build desalination plants.

Syria, once able to feed its people, now depends on 4 million tonnes of grain imports at a time when revenues continue to drop.  Syrian oil production didn’t really take off until 1968 when there were 6.4 million people.  Since oil revenues allowed their population to explode, another 13.6 million have been born.

IRAQ

Like Syria, Iraq’s agricultural production has been reduced by heat, drought, heavy rain, water scarcity, rapid population growth, and the inability of government to import food and provide goods and services as oil revenues decline.  ISIS has worsened matters and filled in the gaps of state-level failure.  Peak oil is likely by 2025.  Or sooner given the ongoing war, lack of investment to keep existing production flowing, and low oil prices (Dipaola 2016).

YEMEN 

Like Syria, Iraq, and Iran, Yemen has long faced serious water scarcity issues. The country is consuming water far faster than it is being replenished, an issue that has been identified by numerous experts as playing a key background role in driving local inter-tribal and sectarian conflicts (Patrick 2015).

Yemen is one of the most water-scarce countries in the world. In 2012, the average Yemeni had access to just 140 cubic meters of water a year for all uses and just three years later a catastrophic 86 m3, far below the 1000 m3 level minimum requirement standards.    Cities often only have sporadic access to running water— every other week or so.  Sanaa could become the first capital in the world to run out of water (IRIN 2012).

Yemen reached peak oil production in 2001, declining from 450,000 barrels per day (bpd) to 100,000 bpd in 2014, and will be zero by 2017 (Boucek 2009).   This has led to a drastic decline in Yemen’s oil exports, which has eaten into government revenues, 75% of which had depended on oil exports. Oil revenues also account for 90% of the government’s foreign exchange reserves. The decline in post-peak Yemen state revenues has reduced the government’s capacity to sustain even basic social investments. When the oil runs out … the capacity to sustain a viable state-structure will completely collapse.

Yemen has 25 million people and an exorbitantly high growth rate and predicted to double by 2050. In 2014 experts warned that within the next decade, these demographic trends would demolish the government’s ability to meet the population’s basic needs in education, health and other essential public services. This is already happening to over 15 million people (Qaed 2014).  Over half the Yemeni population lives below the poverty line, and unemployment is at 40% (60% of young people).

To cope, too many people have turned to growing qat (a mild narcotic) on 40% of Yemen’s irrigated land, increasing water use to 3.9 billion cubic meters (bcm), but the renewable water supply is just 2.5 bcm. The 1.4 bcm shortfall is made up by pumping water from underground water reserves that are starting to run dry.

Energy, overpopulation, drought, water scarcity, poverty, and a government unable to do much of anything without oil revenue is in a downward loop of social tensions, local conflicts and even mass displacements.  This in turn adds to the dynamics of the wider sectarian and political conflicts between the government, the Houthis, southern separatists and al-Qaeda affiliated militants.

Violence undermines food security, feeding back into the downward spiraling loop.  Making matters worse is that rain-fed agriculture has dropped by about 30% since 1970, making Yemen ever more food import dependent at a time when revenues are shrinking. The country now imports over 85% of its food, including 90% of its wheat and all of its rice (World Bank 2014). Most Yemenis are hungry because they can’t afford to buy food, which also rises in price when global prices rise.  The rate of chronic malnutrition as high as 58%, second only to Afghanistan (Arashi 2013).

Epidemic levels of government corruption, mismanagement and incompetence, have meant that what little revenue the government receives ends up in Swiss bank accounts.  With revenues plummeting in the wake of the collapse of its oil industry, the government has been forced to slash subsidies while cranking up fuel and diesel prices. This has, in turn, cranked up prices of water, meat, fruits, vegetables and spices, leading to fuel and food riots (Mawry 2015).

Is Saudi Arabia Next?

Summary: Within the next decade, Saudi Arabia will become especially vulnerable to the downward feedback loop of peak oil.  The most likely date for peak oil is 2028 (Ebrahimi 2015). But because the Saudi exports have been going down since 2005 at 1.4% a year as their own population rises and consumes more and more, world exports could end as soon as 2031 (Brown and Foucher 2008).

Saudi revenues will decline to zero, so the Saudis will be less able to buy their way out of food shortages.  Their own food production will drop as well from drought and water scarcity — the kingdom is one of the most water scarce in the world, at 98 m³ per inhabitant per year.

Most water comes from groundwater, 57% of which is non-renewable, and 88% of it goes to agriculture. Desalination plants produce 70% of the kingdom’s domestic water supplies. But desalination is very energy intensive, accounting for more than half of domestic oil consumption. As oil exports run down, along with state revenues, while domestic consumption increases, the kingdom’s ability to use desalination to meet its water needs will decrease (Patrick 2015; Odhiambo 2016).

According to the Export Land Model (ELM) created by Texas petroleum geologist Jeffrey J Brown and Dr. Sam Foucher, the key issue is the timing of when there will be no more exports because the domestic population of oil producing nations is using it all for domestic consumption.   Brown and Foucher showed that the tipping point to watch out for is when an oil producer can no longer increase the quantity of oil sales abroad because of the need to meet rising domestic energy demand.

Saudi Arabia is the region’s largest energy consumer. Domestic demand has increased 7.5% over the last 5 years, mainly due to population growth. Saudi population may grow from 29 million people now to 37 million by 2030, using ever more oil and therefore less available for export.

Declining Saudi peak oil exports will affect every nation on earth that imports Saudi oil, especially top customers China, Japan, the United States, South Korea, and India.  As Saudi oil declines, there will be few other places oil for importing nations to turn to, since other exporting nations will also be using their oil domestically.

A report by Citigroup predicted net exports would plummet to zero in the next 15 years. This means that 80% of money from oil sales the Saudi state depends on are trending downward, eventually terminally (Daya 2016). In this case, the peak oil production date could happen well before 2028, as well as violent social unrest, since so far, Saudi Arabia’s oil wealth, and its unique ability to maintain generous subsidies for oil, housing, food and other consumer items, has kept civil unrest at bay. Energy subsidies alone make up about a fifth of Saudi’s gross domestic product. But as revenues are increasingly strained by decreasing exports after peak oil, the kingdom will need to slash subsidies (Peel 2013).  Even now a quarter of the Saudi’s live in poverty, and unemployment is 12%, especially young people who have a 30% unemployment level. [Saudi Arabia recently started taxing fuel at the bowsers]

Saudi Arabia is experiencing climate change as temperatures rise in the interior and far less rainfall occurs in the north.  By 2040, local average temperatures are expected to increase by as much as 4 °C at the same time rain levels are falling, resulting in more extreme weather events like the 2010 Jeddah flooding when a year of rain fell in 4 hours.  The combination could dramatically impact agricultural productivity, which is already facing challenges from overgrazing and unsustainable industrial agricultural practices leading to accelerated desertification (Chowdhury 2013).

80% of Saudi Arabia’s food requirements are purchased through heavily subsidized imports.  Without the protection of oil revenue subsidies, and potential rises in the global prices of food (Taha 2014), the Saudi population would be heavily impacted. But with net oil revenues declining to zero—potentially within just 15 years—Saudi Arabia’s capacity to finance continued food imports will be in question.

EGYPT

Like Syria, Egypt has had increasing problems paying for food, goods, and services after peak oil in 1993 while at the same time population keeps growing.   Worse yet, there are no oil revenues at all, because since 2010 the population has been using more oil than what is produced and has had to import oil, with no oil revenues to pay for food, goods, and services.  Two-thirds of Egypt’s oil reserves have likely been depleted and oil produced now is declining at 3.4% a year.

Nor are there revenues coming from natural gas sales made up for the loss of oil revenues.  Over the past decade domestic use nearly doubled to consumption of nearly all the production (Kirkpatrick 2013a).

The Egyptian population since 2000 has grown 21% to 88 million people and isn’t slowing down, with 20 million more expected over the next 10 years.  A quarter are children half of them living in poverty and unemployed  (EI 2012) at the same time the elites have grown wealthier from IMF and World Bank policies.

In the 1960s there were 2800 cubic meters of water per capita, now just 660 – well below the international standard of water poverty of 1000 per person (Sarant 2013).   Water scarcity and population growth lave led to tens of thousands of hectares of farmland to be abandoned.  There is some water that can be obtained, but most farmers can’t afford the price of diesel fuel to power pumps  (Kirkpatrick 2013b)

Egypt was self-sufficient in food production in the 1960s but now imports 70% of its food (Saleh 2013). One of the many reasons Mubarak fell was the doubling of wheat prices in 2011 since half of Egypt’s people depend on food rations.  But the democratically-elected Muslim Brotherhood party and their leader Morsi couldn’t alleviate declining government revenues due to the biophysical realities of food, water, and energy shortages either.  Morsi desperately tried to get a $4.8 billion IMF loan by slashing energy subsidies and raising sales taxes, but the economic crisis made it hard to make the payments and wheat imports dropped to a third of what was imported a year ago.

This led to Morsi being ousted by army chief Abdul Fateh el-Sisi in a coup.  Like his predecessors, El-Sisi has also been unable to meet IMF demands for increased hydrocarbon production and has resorted to unprecedented levels of brutal force to crush protests. He has also rationed electricity, which led to key industries cutting production, leading to further economic losses, declining exports and foreign reserves.  Without more money, energy companies can’t be paid, so energy production continues to drop, and debt goes up, reducing the value of Egyptian currency and higher costs for imports and shortages of energy for industrial production. Egypt’s energy and economy find themselves caught in an amplifying feedback loop (Barron 2016).

How Boko Haram arose in Nigeria

Nigeria’s climate change has led to water and land shortages from desertification, which in turn has led to illness, hunger, and unemployment followed by conflict (Sayne 2011).

Perhaps the Boko Haram wouldn’t have arisen, if the Maitatsine sect in northern Nigeria hadn’t been hit so hard by ecological disasters.  To survive they fanned out to search for food, water, shelter, and work (Sanders 2013).  Niger and Chad refugees from drought and floods also became Boko Haram foot soldiers, some 200,000 displaced farmers and herdsmen.

In northern Nigeria, where Boko Haram is from, about 70% of the population subsists on less than a dollar a day. As noted by David Francis, one of the first western reporters to cover Boko Haram: “Most of the foot soldiers of Boko Haram aren’t Muslim fanatics; they’re poor kids who were turned against their corrupt country by a charismatic leader” (Francis 2014)

The Nigerian military sees a correlation between regional climatic events, and an upsurge in extremist violence: “It has become a pattern; we saw it happen in 2006; it happened again in 2008 and in 2010. President Obasanjo had to deploy the military in 2006 to Yobe State, Borno State and Katsina State. These are some of the states bordering Niger Republic and today they are the hotbeds of the Boko Haram” (Mayah 201).

Drought caused desertification is decreasing food production, in turn leading to “economic decline; population displacement and disruption of legitimized authoritative institutions and social relations.” The net effect was an acceleration of the attractiveness of groups like “Boko Haram and other forms of Jihadi ideology,” resulting in escalating “herder-farmer clashes emanating from the north since 1980s” (Onyia 2015).

The rapid spread of Boko Haram also coincided with Lake Chad’s shrinking from 25,000 square km in 1963 to less than 2500 square km today, mainly due to climate change. At this rate, Lake Chad is will dry up in 20 years, and has already caused millions of people to lose their livelihoods.

The government has exacerbated problems by cutting fuel subsidies, which led to fuel shortages, angering the public who engaged in civil unrest  (Omisore 2014).

A senior Shell official said that crude oil production decline rates are as high as 15–20%.  But Nigeria doesn’t have the money to explore to find more oil to offset this high decline rate. Nigeria’s petroleum resources department said that Nigeria had reached a plateau of production in the Niger Delta and were already going down (Ahmed 2014).

About $15 billion of investment is required just to maintain current production levels and compensate for a natural decline in production of about 250,000 b/d each year. A 2011 study by two Nigerian scholars concluded that “there is an imminent decline in Nigeria’s oil reserve since peaking could have occurred or just about to occur (Akuru and Okoro 2011). A 2013 report backs this up, finding that Nigeria’s crude oil production has decreased since its peak in 2005, largely due to the impact of internal conflicts, leading to the withdrawal of oil companies and lack of investments. Since then production has fluctuated along a plateau. The UK Department for International Development report noted that new offshore fields might bring additional oil on-stream, surpassing the 2005 peak—but also noted that rising domestic demand “at some point in the future may cut into the amount of oil available for export” (Hall et al. 2014).

POPULATION. With Nigeria’s population expected to rise from 160 to 250 million by 2025 and oil accounting for some 96% of export revenue as well as 75% of government revenue, the state has resorted to harsh austerity measures. Sharp reductions in public spending, power cuts, fuel shortages and conditional new loans will probably widen economic inequalities and further stoke the grievances that feed groups like Boko Haram in the North. With domestic oil production decline undermining Nigeria’s oil export revenues and consequent fuel subsidy cuts, the public grows poorer and increases the number of young men more likely to join Islamist terrorist groups.

3) Predictions of when collapse will begin in Middle East, India, China, Europe, Russia, North America

When will  Middle-East oil producing nations fail?

Ahmed says that so far after peak oil production, Middle-Eastern economies have declined as revenues declined, leading to systemic state-failure in roughly 15 years, more or less, depending on how hard hit a nation was by additional (climate-change) factors such as drought, water scarcity, food prices, and overpopulation.

Saudi Arabia, and much of the rest of Arabian Gulf peninsula, may experience state-failure well within 10 to 20 years. If forecasts of Saudi oil depletion are remotely accurate, then by 2030 the country will simply not exist as we know it. Coupled with the accelerating impacts of climate-induced water scarcity, the Kingdom is bound to begin experiencing systemic state-failure at most within 20 years, and probably much earlier.

Marin Katusa, chief energy strategist at Casey Research, reports that “many Middle Eastern countries may stop exporting oil and gas altogether within the next few years, while some already have” (Katusa 2016). Oil analysts at Lux Research estimate that OPEC oil reserves may have been overstated by as much as 70%. True OPEC reserves could be as low as 429 billion barrels, which could mean a global net export crunch as early as 2020 (Lazenby 2016).

The period from 2020 to 2030 will see Middle East oil exporters experiencing a systemic convergence of energy and food crises.

When will India & China collapse?

India and China are widely assumed to be the next superpowers, but at this stage of energy and resource depletion, can’t possibly mimic the exponential growth of the Western world.

India, South Asia, and China face enormous ecological challenges Irregularities in the pattern of monsoon rains and drought are likely to lower food production and increase water scarcity, while higher temperatures will increase the range of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and become prevalent year-round (DCDC 2013). As sea levels rise, millions of people will be displaced permanently.

These impacts will unravel regional political and economic order well within 20 years and manifest at first as civil unrest.  Depending on how the Indian and Chinese states respond, it is likely that these outbreaks of domestic disorder will become more organized, and will eventually undermine state territorial integrity before 2030.  Near-term growth will further undermine environmental health and deplete resources, making these nations even more vulnerable to climate and food crises.

European and Russian collapse timeframe

Within Europe, resource depletion has meant that the European Union as a whole has become increasingly dependent on energy imports from Russia, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa. Yet exports from these regions will become tighter as major oil producers approach production limits.

The geopolitical turmoil that has unfolded in Ukraine provides a compelling indication that such processes are rapidly moving from the periphery of the global system into the core. For the most part, the Euro-Atlantic core—traditionally representing the most powerful sections of the world system—has insulated itself from global crisis convergence impacts by diversifying energy supply sources. However, there is only so much that diversification can achieve when the total energetic and economic quality of global hydrocarbon resource production is declining.

Post-2030–2045

Faced with these converging crises, the Euro-Atlantic core will continue to see the creation of cheap debt-money through quantitative easing as an immediate solution to generate emergency funds to stabilize the financial system and shore-up ailing industries. This will likely play out in one of these business-as-usual scenarios:

  1. The lower resource quality (EROI) of the global energy system may act as a fundamental geophysical ceiling on the capacity of the economy to grow. It may act as an invisible brake on growth in demand, so fossil fuel prices would remain at chronically low levels, endangering the profitability of the fossil fuel industries. This would lead to an acceleration of the demise of the fossil fuel industries, which could lead to debt-defaults across industries in the financial system. Declining hydrocarbon energy production would cause a self-reinforcing recessionary economic process. This would escalate vulnerability to water, food and energy crises and hugely strain the capacity of European and American states to deliver goods and services to even their own populations, and other nations dependent as much on importing food as they are oil.
  2. Scarcity of net exports on the world market may raise oil prices and provide some sectors of ailing fossil fuel industries to be profitable again. But previous slashing of investments and cutbacks in exploration will mean that only the most powerful sections of the industry would be able to capitalize on this, which means production is unlikely to return to former high levels. Price spikes would trigger economic recession, causing a drop in demand, while lower production levels would exacerbate the economy’s inability to grow substantially, if at all. In effect, the global economy would likely still experience a self-reinforcing recessionary economic process.

In both scenarios, escalating economic crises are likely to invite the Euro-Atlantic core to respond by using debt-money to shore-up as much of the existing core financial and energy industries as possible. Prices spikes and shortages in water, food and energy would be experienced by general populations as a dramatic lowering of purchasing power, leading to an overall decrease in quality of life, an increase in poverty, and a heightening of inequality. This would undermine their internal cohesion, giving rise to new divisive, nationalist and xenophobic movements, and lead states into a tightening spiral of militarization to police domestic order. As instability in the Middle East and elsewhere intensifies, manifesting in further unrest, political violence and terrorist activity, states will also be drawn increasingly into short- sighted military solutions. In particular, scarcity of net oil exports on the world market will heighten geopolitical and military competition to control and/or access the world’s remaining hydrocarbon energy resources. With the Middle East still holding the vast bulk of the world’s reserves, the region will remain a central flashpoint for such competition, even as major producers such as Saudi Arabia approach systemic state-failure due to reaching inevitable production declines.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that as we near 2045, the European and American projects will face escalating internal challenges to their internal territorial integrity, increasing the risk of systemic state-failure. Likewise, after 2030, Europe, India, China (and other Asian nations) will begin to experience symptoms of systemic state-failure.

References

Adel, Mohamed. 2016. Eni to Increase Zohr Field Gas Production to 2bn Cubic Feet Per Day by End of 2019. Daily News Egypt, May 9. http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/2016/05/09/ eni-increase-zohr-field-gas-production-2bn-cubic-feet-per-day-end-2019/ .

Agrimoney. 2012. Unrest, Bad Weather Lift Syrian Grain Import Needs. Agrimoney.com, March 14. http://www.agrimoney.com/news/unrest-bad-weather-lift-syrian-grain-import-needs–4278.html

Ahmed, Nafeez Mosaddeq. 2009. The Globalization of Insecurity: How the International Economic Order Undermines Human and National Security on a World Scale. Historia Actual Online 0(5): 113–126.

Ahmed, Nafeez. 2010. A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It. London: Pluto Press.

———. 2011. The International Relations of Crisis and the Crisis of International Relations: From the Securitisation of Scarcity to the Militarisation of Society. Global Change, Peace & Security 23(3): 335–355. doi: 10.1080/14781158.2011.601854 .

———. 2013a. Peak Oil, Climate Change and Pipeline Geopolitics Driving Syria Conflict. The Guardian, May 13, sec. Environment. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth- insight/2013/may/13/1

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A wake up call……?

9 06 2016

When I recently wrote about the spate of frosty mornings down here in Southern Tasmania, I mentioned that the high pressure system causing this was going to send bad weather to SE Qld, and that the rain might start again in the following week… what an understatement that was..!

Before settling on the Huon as ‘the right place’ to move to, I did a lot of research. This research told me that the Northern part of Tassie was more prone to fires and floods, and both have occurred in the past eight months since arriving here for good. In spades as it turns out.

While up north got hundreds of millimetres of rainfall, Geeveston barely received 65….. things have gotten soggy, the dam is full again, and I temporarily can no longer drive my ute as far as my shipping container – though I got close yesterday to store the last of the electrolyte I picked up in Hobart the day before… hardly worth a mention compared to the hardship, let alone the loss of lives others have had to endure through what has now been declared a national disaster. While it’s easy for me to gloat, this is clearly a case of when paying attention has actually paid off….

sydneystormThe whole East Coast of Australia copped it too before Tasmania was hit. The by now familiar pics of Sydney luxury houses teetering on the edge of the now not so Pacific Ocean have gone viral, and the arrogant “we will rebuild” mantra is making a comeback.

It’s difficult to not conclude that the people who lived in those multi-million dollar homes are climate deniers….  after all, nobody who understands climate change would, in their right mind, buy seafront properties like this.  Anyone in their right mind would be paying attention….  Anyone not reading The Australian would have known that the seas around the East coast were two degrees above normal and 20cm higher, and that the extra energy in those two degrees in the system would make the next storm event an extra bad one….. and it’s hardly surprising so many people look so surprised.

rain events

This is no one off either.  Elsewhere around the world, the weather has gone ballistic. Apart from floods, parts of India scorched under temperatures of 51°C. Yet, even now, climate change hardly makes a ripple in the running of the current election campaign. The Greens are making waves (sorry….) but all they can talk about is emitting more greenhouse gases to transition to 100% renewables.  Just as it’s fast becoming obvious, all emissions should stop, right now.

One woman I saw in tears on TV was telling anyone who’d listen that the loss of her swimming pool into the ocean was ‘unfair’.  I put it to you that the Earth thinks all our emissions are unfair too…… but who’s listening?

Will we the poor people, especially those of us trying our best to reduce our personal emissions, have to fork out public money to rebuild these people’s insensitive dreams?  Is this not throwing good money after bad…?

The time to rebuild is over.  It’s now time to face up to our stupid errors, admit to them, and retreat up the hill.  I fear, however, that it might very well take a few more of these events for these fools to wake up to themselves.

For me though, it wasn’t the millionaires losing their cool houses that brought home the wake up call message….. it was the poor farmers who have no choice but to live near rivers for watering their crops and animals, losing, sometimes, the lot… the effect of this weather event on food prices will not be felt for some time I expect, but as more and more such disasters become regular newsworthy items on TV, the cumulative effects will begin to be felt, I am certain.

Meanwhile, next month, Australia will elect another brainless government hell bent on jobs and growth, and we’ll all await the next unnatural disaster to make us feel guilty.

 





Everything you ever wanted to know about Climate Change.

20 06 2014

kerry-emanuel

Kerry Emanuel

This is a must view video that Mark Cochrane put me onto.  It’s by MIT’s Kerry Emanuel giving a ‘Climate 101’ talk over at Skeptical Science. The first hour is his talk. The rest is his answering questions. He was one of Mark’s professors at MIT 20+ years ago.  At that time, Mark tells me, he was not yet actually convinced about anthropogenic climate change.  He also has the shortest book with a solid overview of climate change science that I know of (link).

From Wikipedia…….

Kerry Andrew Emanuel (born April 21, 1955) is an American professor of meteorology currently working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. In particular he has specialized in atmospheric convection and the mechanisms acting to intensify hurricanes. He was named one of the Time 100 influential people of 2006.[1] In 2007, he was elected as a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.[2]

He hypothesized in 1994 about a superpowerful type of hurricane which could be formed if average sea surface temperature increased another 15C more than it’s ever been (see “hypercane“).

In a March 2008 paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, he put forward the conclusion that global warming is likely to increase the intensity but decrease the frequency of hurricane and cyclone activity.[3] Gabriel Vecchi, of NOAA said of Emanuel’s announcement, “While his results don’t rule out the possibility that global warming has contributed to the recent increase in activity in the Atlantic, they suggest that other factors—possibly in addition to global warming—are likely to have been substantial contributors to the observed increase in activity.”[4]

In 2013, with other leading experts, he was co-author of an open letter to policy makers, which stated that “continued opposition to nuclear power threatens humanity’s ability to avoid dangerous climate change.”[5]





Coming to Understand Abrupt Climate Change

26 01 2014

Paul Beckwith is a PhD student with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology, pbdepartment of geography, University of Ottawa. He teaches second year climatology/meteorology as a part-time professor. His thesis topic is “Abrupt climate change in the past and present.” He holds an M.Sc. in laser physics and a B.Eng. in engineering physics.  Originally published here…….

Paul Beckwith ~ I have been telling people for  over 2 years about the Arctic albedo collapse reducing polar to equator temperature gradients, physically causing the slowing, waving out and stalling of jet streams, causing extreme weather events to skyrocket. For example, my CMOS presentation in January 2012 was seen by >70,000 (by Aug/2012) and still counting.  I have given multiple talks to the public, politicians, scientists. I’ve incessantly tweeted (1200 followers) and facebooked (4000 friends) about these connections.  I started blogging frequently with Sierra Club Canada about a year ago, as well as with Arctic News, the Elephant Journal, BoomerWarrior, Canadian Daily, World Daily. Also I have YouTube videos and radio podcasts (EcoShock radio, Gorilla radio, etc.). I have also educated about 200 students on these connections within my climatology & meteorology classes over the last 2 years. In total, I’ve have reached at least 1 million people with this Arctic – jet stream – extreme weather connection.

The public is really coming to understand that we (collectively) are in great trouble…

Abrupt climate change. It is happening today, big time. The northern hemisphere atmospheric circulation system jetstream is doing its own thing, without the guidance of a stable jet stream. The jet stream is fractured into meandering and stuck streaked segments, which are hoovering up water vapor and directing it day after day to unlucky localized regions, depositing months or seasons worth of rain in only a few days, turning these locales into water worlds and trashing all infrastructure like houses, roads, train tracks and pipelines and also creating massive sinkholes and catastrophic landslides. And climate change is only getting warmed up.

In the Arctic, methane is coming out of the thawing permafrost. Both on land and under the ocean on the sea floor. The Yedoma permafrost in Siberia is now belching out methane at greatly accelerated rates due to intense warming. The collapsing sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is exposing the open ocean to greatly increased solar absorption and turbulent mixing from wave action due to persistent cyclonic activity. Massive cyclonic activity will trash large portions of the sea ice if positioned to export broken ice via the Fram Strait.
What does it all mean?

We have lost our stable climate. Likely permanently. Rates of change are greatly exceeding anything in the paleorecords. By at least 10x, and more likely >30x. We are heading to a much warmer world. The transition will be brutal for civilization.global-warming

Can we avoid this? Stop it? Probably not. Not with climate reality being suppressed by corporations and their government employees in their relentless push for more and more fossil fuel infrastructure and mining and drilling.

Craziness, in a nutshell. Temperatures over land surfaces in the far north have been consistently over 25 C for weeks, due to persistent high pressure atmospheric blocks, leading to clear skies and unblocked solar exposure. Water temperatures in rivers and streams in the far north have resulted in large fish kills as their ecological mortality thresholds have been exceeded. Many other regions are experiencing strange incidences of animal mortality. Mass migrations of animals towards the poles are occurring on land and sea, at startling rates, in an effort for more hospitable surroundings for survival. Shifting food source distributions is causing even hardier, less vulnerable species to be severely stressed. For example, dolphins are being stranded or dying, birds are dropping out of the sky, and new parasites and bacteria are proliferating with warmer temperatures.

In regions of the world undergoing severe droughts the vegetation and soils are drying and fires are exploding in size, frequency, and severity. Especially hard-hit are large regions of the US southwest, southern Europe, and large swaths of Asia. Who knows if forests that are levelled by fire will eventually be reforested; it all depends on what type of climate establishes in the region.

What about coastal regions around the world and sea levels? Not looking too good for the home team. In 2012 Greenland tossed off about 700 Gt (Gt=billion tons) of sea ice, from both melting and calving. As the ice melts,  it is darkening from concentrated contaminants being exposed, from much greater areas of low albedo meltwater pools, and from fresh deposits of black carbon ash from northern forest fires. Even more worrying are ominous signs of increasing movement. GPS sensor anchored to the 3 km thick glaciers hundreds of km from the coast are registering increased sliding. Meltwater moulins are chewing through the ice from the surface to the bedrock and are transporting heat downward, softening up the ice bonded to the bedrock and allowing sliding. Eventually, large chunks will slide into the ocean causing tsunamis and abrupt sea level rises. Many regions of the sea floor around Greenland are scarred from enormous calving episodes in the past.

coastalflooding
On a positive note, this knowledge of our changing climate threat is filtering out to greater numbers of the slumbering public that has been brainwashed into lethargy by the protectors of the status quo. As more and more people see the trees dying in their back yards and their cities and houses and roads buckling under unrelenting torrential rains, they are awaking to the threat. And there will be a threshold crossed and a tipping point reached in human behaviour  with an understanding of the reality of the risks we face. And finally global concerted action. To slash emissions. And change our ways. And retool our economies and reset our priorities. And not take our planet for granted.





Requiem for a Species

20 01 2014

Dave Pollard

Dave Pollard

Another top post from Dave Pollard whom I still read even when travelling……..  sometimes I think reading people like Dave is the only way I stay sane.

Originally posted here……

I‘ve added professor Clive Hamilton’s new book Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change to my “Save the World Reading List” (retroactively). It’s the natural next step after the 15 essential readings and really sums up where we (our species and our planet) are now.

Clive starts out by saying what climate scientists know but are afraid to say:

Over the last five years, almost every advance in climate science has painted a more disturbing picture of the future. The reluctant conclusion of the most eminent climate scientists is that the world is now on the path to a very unpleasant future and it is too late to stop it. Behind the facade of scientific detachment, the climate scientists themselves now evince a mood of barely suppressed panic. No one is willing to say publicly what the climate science is telling us: that we can no longer prevent global warming that will this century bring about a radically transformed world that is much more hostile to the survival and flourishing of life. This is no longer an expectation of what might happen if we do not act soon; this will happen, even if the most optimistic assessment of how the world might respond to the climate disruption is validated.

In the first four chapters, he reviews the science of climate change (including the methane release and other positive feedback loops that auto-accelerate greenhouse gases), explains why we have passed the tipping point, why we (and our politicians) want growth to continue forever, how our consumerist culture has evolved, why we’re prone to believe greenwashing, the psychology of denial, and the inevitability of the emergence of dangerous, corporatist-funded “junk science”.

Chapter 5 describes the civilized human’s disconnection from nature that has allowed all of this to happen. Clive explains the malleability of our mental constructs of reality, self, and belonging and how they (we) have changed our worldview. (The chapter includes a fascinating and succinct statement of the Gaia Hypothesis written by Plato in the 4th century BCE!)

In Chapter 6, he deconstructs the discredited ‘fixes’ to global warming: carbon capture, the switch to renewables, substituting nuclear energy, and the use of climate engineering (geoengineering). I think he underestimates the perils of nuclear energy (not only the massive cost of reactors and how they would bankrupt our already-overstretched economy, but the challenge to post-civilization societies of preventing, for the next million years, the last century’s human-made radioactive wastes from causing even greater devastation for millennia to come). But otherwise this examination of proposed fixes is a good update to George Monbiot’s Heat. Chapter 6 includes an interesting and terrifying review of the politics of geoengineering, focused on the deranged proposals of right-wing darlings Edward Teller and Lowell Wood, that leads to the horrific conclusion that, because it’s so inexpensive and tempting to desperate, arrogant people, unilateral geoengineering efforts are not only likely, but probably inevitable.

In Chapter 7, Clive explains what we can expect, based on the latest projections, when runaway climate change hits us full-bore over the next few decades:

  • the uncontrollable burning of most of the world’s remaining tropical, subtropical and temperate forests due to latent heat
  • the prevalence of desertification, disappearance of glacial melt, massive water shortages and endemic high rates of heat-related deaths in the world’s temperate zones (including the Western US and Canada; worst in Southern Europe, the Middle East, much Southeast Asia and most of Mexico and Central America)
  • an ice-free world, with a commensurate rise, sooner or later, of 50-70m in sea levels
  • unprecedented and chronic floods, storms and monsoons
  • the death of almost all ocean life
  • large-scale collapse of human infrastructure not designed for such extreme and frequent weather events
  • massive numbers of climate change refugees, migrating (mostly north) thousands of miles in search of lands that are still habitable and arable

He dismisses human plans for resilience and adaptation in the face of such catastrophic (and specifically unpredictable) events, and says instead we must prepare for “a process of continuous transformation” of the way we live — societies and cultures in a constants state of rapid flux. He confesses:

It was only in September 2008, after reading a number of new books, reports and scientific papers, that I finally allowed myself to make the shift and admit that we simply are not going to act with anything like the urgency required… The climate crisis for the human species is now an existential one. On one level I felt relief: relief at finally admitting what my rational brain had been telling me; relief at no longer having to spend energy on false hopes; and relief at being able to let go of some anger at the politicians, business executives and climate sceptics who are largely responsible for delaying action against global warming until it became too late…

We [now] have no chance of preventing emissions rising well above a number of critical tipping points that will spark uncontrollable climate change. The Earth’s climate [will now] enter a chaotic era lasting thousands of years before natural processes eventually establish some sort of equilibrium. Whether human beings [will] still be a force on the planet, or even survive, is a moot point. One thing seems certain: there will be far fewer of us.

The final chapter on “what to do” focuses largely on learning to accept and deal with grief and loss. Clive explains:

For those who confront the facts and emotional meaning of climate change, the [death we mourn] is the loss of the future. [Our grief] is often marked by shock and disbelief, followed by… anger, anxiety, longing, depression, and emptiness [which we suppress through] numbness, pretence that the loss has not occurred, aggression directed at those seen as responsible, and self-blame… [Denial and avoidance are] defences against the feelings of despair that the climate science rationally entails…

Healthy grieving requires a gradual ‘withdrawal of emotional investment in the hopes, dreams and expectations of the future’ on which our life has been constructed. [But] after detaching from the old future [it is our nature to] construct and attach to a new future. Yet we cannot build a new conception of the future until we allow the old one to die, and Joanna Macy reminds us that we need to have the courage to allow ourselves to [first] descend into hopelessness.

afterculture
conception of art after the collapse of civilization culture by afterculture

This is the reason, I think, why I am now driven to write upbeat imaginative stories set several millennia in the future, once the crisis has passed. It is easier and perhaps healthier to see the coming collapse not as the end of something, but as a period of disequilibrium, a challenge, that we must endure in order that our descendants can live in a much better society than the one we live in today. It’s an attitude of willingness for self-sacrifice that many of our ancestors shared.

Clive goes on to explain how the loss of our future brings about a loss of meaning, and so we have to create a new story about ourselves and our purpose.

He suggests that we will reach the point at which, as much as we respect the law, we will have a moral obligation to ignore it, to mitigate or at least briefly delay the onset of runaway climate change through illegal actions. As I have written lately, I think that is a matter both of personal conscience and personal worldview: I have come to appreciate, through my study of complex systems, that such actions, useful as they may be in achieving short-term benefits for those we care about, will ultimately have no long-term effect, and they entail considerable personal risk as our surveillance society anticipates and ramps up efforts to suppress such actions ruthlessly. But I also appreciate and admire those willing to fight the system despite those personal risks and its ultimate futility.

I come back to the four safer actions we can take now to prepare, I think, for the convulsive period ahead:

  • Live an exemplary, joyful, present life: Be a model of living in the present, joyously, every day, living a life that’s aware, generous, responsible, sustainable and full of learning, wonder and love. Rather than dwell on the future or the past or what could have been done or is going to happen, focus on making the world better for yourself and those immediately around you now. Perform what Adam Gopnik calls “a thousand small sanities“. Seek to exemplify what Richard Holloway calls “an attitude of contemplative gratitude“.
  • Re-learn essential skills and knowledge that will make you and your community more self-sufficient and resilient when centralized global systems — governments, big corporations, trade, industrial agriculture, energy etc. — fall apart. Learn to make clothes, or to grow your own food organically, or how to mentor a student to learn how to learn, or how to facilitate a group to work more effectively together. And learn more about yourself as well — how to make yourself well, what triggers you or frightens you (and why), what you do really well, and what you really care about.
  • Discover your neighbours and connect with them, and learn how to build and live in community, where sharing is more important than owning. Learn how to care about, and even love, people you really don’t like very much. When hierarchies collapse, what we’ll be left with is community. Get to know yours.
  • Work with others to help them, and you, to heal from the damage this culture has already done to us, physically and emotionally, and to cope with the fear, the guilt and the grief we all start to feel when we realize what we have done to this planet, with the best of intentions, and what we’re going to face as a consequence.




What I have learned, what we should be thankful for, what remains to be done

28 10 2013

This is a three part essay by Dr Geoffrey Chia whose other essay If we can’t save Society, we must save ourselves I posted here last year…..

I got this as a pdf file, so editing it here is time consuming and somewhat difficult. Some of this appeared on Guy McPherson’s blog as jpg files, which made it almost unfathomable…! I’ll endeavour to make this more readable, fingers crossed… It’s a long piece, so I appeal to your attention span, because it’s a darn good read. Go make yourself a cuppa your favourite poison, and enjoy……
Mike
What I have learned, what we should be thankful for, what remains to be done
PART 1: WHAT I HAVE LEARNED (parts 2 and 3 to follow later)
I have been convening D3SJ (Doctors and Scientists for Sustainability and Social Justice) meetings for eight years now, the main purpose being to promote the idea that policy should be determined by evidence, reason and fairness, to achieve the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people on a long term basis. A medical model for rational and humane decision making in society. A personal goal of mine was to learn as much as I could about what is truly happening in the world, particularly regarding sustainability and social justice issues, from those deemed to be experts in their fields. I believe these meetings have now run their natural course and we have failed miserably in our primary goal which in retrospect, was probably always doomed to failure.
Nevertheless you never know unless you try. Not to try because you believe beforehand you will fail, will turn that failure into a self fulfilling prophecy. We have learned a great deal from our discussions and established great contacts and relationships within the sustainability network. It is now time to draw our meetings to a close and focus our limited remaining time and energy on the vital urgent actions we need to take.

What have I learned? The ultimate conclusions I have reached, particularly since the election of the extreme right wing knuckledraggers to government in Australia last month, is that civilisation is irretrievably doomed, that the horrific and chaotic dieoff of billions of people this century is guaranteed and we have no hope in hell of averting these events. These outcomes are entirely consistent with mainstream scientific thinking, which may be surprising to the casual reader of this essay who will not have encountered such information in the mainstream media (MSM)1. The MSM tell half truths and outright lies to keep the sheeple passive and compliant: yes problems exist, but one should not be “alarmist” and furthermore whizbang technofixes are just around the corner which will make things just fine and dandy! Flying cars for everybody! I myself have extensively researched the scientific publications for potential technological solutions to our problems for more than 15 years (especially biofuels from algae and also the ultimate holy grail of artificial photosynthesis) and have concluded that they are either dead ends or are too little, too late. The awful truth we now face is just too horrible to contemplate for most people, who live in utter denial.

The proximate factors, elaborated in detail in the peer reviewed scientific publications, leading to the demise of human civilisation are: climate chaos, resource scarcity (particularly petroleum2) and ecosystem destruction, which have now converged to crisis point. These problems have been accelerated by the exponential increase of human numbers to plague proportions, coordinated by a rapacious, indiscriminately polluting, de-humanising, fossil fuel driven Government-Industrial-Military-Media-Economic cabal which I hereby abbreviate to “GIMME”. Indeed the motto of this establishment and all who participate in it could well be “GIMME, GIMME, GIMME”, reflecting the unrestrained pursuit of self indulgent over-consumption and immediate gratification without regard for any future consequences.

Our internationally interdependent economic/banking system in particular is based on confidence trickery and fraudulent accounting3and it seems most likely that some unforseen event will be the proverbial straw breaking the back of this bogus financial system (vis a vis Lehmann Brothers and subprime mortgages) which will trigger the cascading events leading to the collapse of civilisation. Rome did not collapse primarily because of external invasions. It collapsed because of Imperial overreach and corruption, leading to bankruptcy and hence failure to fund their infrastructure and pay their soldiers. The collapse of our modern world will play out in different ways at different rates in different parts of the world. Those nations most dependent on petroleum which face abrupt curtailment will fare the worst. We now see early symptoms of collapse in the form of internal conflicts because ordinary people have no jobs and cannot afford basic necessities, as exemplified by the uprisings in the Middle East (Syria being the worst case) and the unrest in Greece. We will in due course see more international conflicts (AKA resource wars), including the possibility of global nuclear war.

The various interacting mechanisms leading to our collapse may be complex, but there is just one single underlying cause for all the problems mentioned above. It is the pathologically dysfunctional nature of one particular species of hairless ape, arrogant and delusional enough to call itself “homo sapiens”. The fact of the matter is the majority of humanity are not “good”, whatever that means, and certainly not sapient, but are basically greedy selfish primates with an underlying streak of nasty brutality ready to surface given the slightest excuse. Primates which may be quite clever in rationalising and justifying their despicable behaviour and quite clever in devising technodevices to kill each other (and all other species) more effectively, but utterly lacking in wisdom. If this were not the case, the invasion of Iraq would not have happened. If this were not the case, Tony Abbott would not have been elected Prime Monster of this country and be monstrously pursuing his perfidious agenda of environmental vandalism, demagogic non-science (AKA nonsense) and refugee abuse. If this were not the case we would not be in our present collective predicament.

The way we are destroying the Living Planet is irrefutable proof of our nature. Am I personally any different? I must accept that my underlying nature must be the same, being a reluctant member of homo stupidus myself. One difference however is that I acknowledge this fact and at least try to restrain it and attempt to use my neocortex to pursue more constructive strategies. Could this woeful state of affairs ever have been avoided? In theory yes, but in practice, in retrospect, probably not. The remedies were available and were entirely feasible once upon a time, but were viciously opposed and corrosively sabotaged by the GIMME establishment. It is too late now, we are past the point of no return. Foremost among those remedies would have been the reduction of population numbers, reduction of individual consumption and more efficient use of resources. Restructuring from an endless growth delusional economy to a steady state reality-based economy. Technological innovations such as biofuels from algae could have played a role, but only secondarily. Without primarily adopting the fundamentally important measures of restraint, ie. population reduction, reduced consumption and greater efficiency, no number of technofixes would help. This was clearly demonstrated by the updated analysis by the Limits to Growth scientists.

Their 40 year anniversary conference was held in the Smithsonian Institute in March 2012 and the news was all bad. The LtG scientists no longer perform any more projections, because all credible inputs (using our present situation as baseline), even using the most optimistic scenarios such as limitless energy or markedly reduced pollution ALL result in industrial collapse and the dieoff of billions, euphemistically described by them as “overshoot”. Right now we are dead on track, following nearly exactly, the trajectory of their standard model of Peak Everything followed by collapse, a track they predicted we would follow 40 years ago if we did not change our ways.
As a Physician I have likened our situation to that of an obese sedentary patient addicted to cigarettes and fatty, sugary foods who develops hypertension, diabetes and heart disease4.Yes, it is possible to diagnose and treat many cases of advanced heart disease. However even after successful expensive lifesaving heart surgery, it is merely a futile temporary technofix unless we address the underlying causes of his problem: sloth and addictive behaviours driven by the wish for immediate self gratification. Thankfully most of the patients we bring back from the brink of disaster who are given this new lease on life realise they need to change their habits if they want to live much longer.

Of course, the patients we are able to save represent just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more out there in the community in complete denial of their problems who simply drop dead. If a person dies from self inflicted disease there may be some natural justice in that outcome. There is no natural justice however in the Poor of the world suffering most from the environmental devastation and climate chaos caused by the rapacious over-consumption of the Rich. Game theory however suggests that perhaps there was never any way out. Many concepts in game theory are useful when pondering our present situation such as the tragedy of the commons
and the parable of the tribes5.

As the great unravelling proceeds, I take little comfort in the fact that I did my best to play my part to try to avert or mitigate these events, efforts which proved hopelessly futile and feeble in retrospect. As late as December 2011, I considered engaging in greater activism and particularly of promoting the feasibility of large scale renewable energy initiatives to the public by personally funding sustainability programs on local community TV. However my watershed epiphany year was 2012. A New Scientist article in January 2012, relegated to just a brief report, casually mentioned the catastrophic projections of the updated LtG analyses. This prompted deeper research into the
implications of that article (in particular, viewing all the proceedings of the LtG Smithsonian conference mentioned above), which utterly horrified me. Unfortunately New Scientist magazine has since gone the way of the MSM and this year, in 2013, was even promoting the completely insane idea of harvesting undersea clathrates to burn. Just as well I cancelled my subscription. I had previously intellectually “accepted” the idea that the death of billions was likely this century, but now had to emotionally grapple with the realisation that the death of billions was certain, it was guaranteed, it was now impossible to prevent this runaway train from crashing and exploding, there was just too much momentum behind it.

Just as I thought humanity’s outlook was as bad as it could possibly be, in September 2012 my eyes were opened to another realisation which horrified me even more. We were privileged to have Richard Heinberg, the American Peak Oil and Energy expert, visit us in Brisbane. He was highly respected by us because of his cogent, wise and accurate analysis of what was truly happening in the world and where we were headed, particularly with regard to the end of economic growth. Being a polymath big picture thinker, he had of course extensively researched the climate change science as well. A shocking slide he fleetingly displayed during his University of Queensland presentation described a projection by some climate scientists that the global average temperature could reach or exceed 10 degrees C by the end of this century if we were to continue with business as usual. Such a number was unthinkable to me as we were already seeing unprecedented extreme events at “below” 1 degree C rise6. In a private meeting subsequently, we asked him if he thought human extinction was a possibility. He then admitted it was very much a real possibility, but he felt there was no point in talking about it in public. Ordinary people had to be given hope, no matter what the data indicated. Obviously by his honest answer to us, he was willing to discuss the topic of human extinction with a select group of people in private, just as this essay of mine is going out to a select group of people. People mature enough to base their judgements on objective data and rational analysis. People who accept that human beings are biological organisms who depend on the ecosystem in which we evolved for our survival, that we are not some spooky product of supernatural creation but are subject to the laws of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Two other major findings in the science media contributed to my epiphany of 2012. One was the unprecedented summer melt of the arctic ice cap, which according to the IPCC was supposed to remain intact till the end of this century. The denialists are quick to point to the slight “recovery” of arctic ice this year – but that does not mean we are “saved” – because arctic ice levels remain around historic lows – and we continue on this relentless bumpy ride downhill to perdition. British scientist Professor Peter Wadhams is of the view there could be complete collapse of the arctic ice by September 2015. The other dismaying report last year related to the summer release of methane from the arctic coast. Methane bubbles had been observed in huge plumes, over 1 km across in shallow sea, when only a couple of years before the methane vents were just about a metre wide. That represented a more than thousand fold liberation of methane from the arctic coast alone, not even considering other sources such as permafrost in the tundra or peat from tropical soils.

Methane has a 105 times greater GHG potency than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period and when it is broken down it oxidises to carbon dioxide and water vapour – both greenhouse gases. My ongoing research last September 2012 led me to the website of Professor Guy McPherson, a US conservation biologist who is convinced that we face near term human extinction (which now goes by the abbreviation NTHE in the blogosphere) before the middle of this century. One of his most comprehensive video presentations was “The twin sides of the fossil fuel coin”. He put forward a well researched and logically argued case which was difficult to refute. Faced with this horrific disclosure, the most memorable response by one blog reader was, “…er…yikes?” Why do I think that McPherson is more likely to be correct than wrong? Why should his lone voice, albeit the voice of a bone fide scientist with nothing to gain from his assertions (indeed he has suffered substantially because of his opinions) be more valid than, say, the “consensus” views of all the scientists of the IPCC?

Firstly let us be clear that IPCC have a hopeless track record of consistently underestimating the severity of the effects of climate change time and time again. Real world observations (eg melting of the Greenland iceshield) so far have been far worse than the worst case scenarios outlined by each iteration of their reports. We can understand the reason for this by looking at the process by which the IPCC publications are produced – government officials pore over every single sentence and water down the narrative to the most palatable, politically acceptable lowest common denominator. Hence the true seriousness of our situation becomes severely downplayed. It is after all an intergovernmental panel, with a message controlled by and contaminated by governments and is not a true peer reviewed scientific document. Knowing this, any sane person must conclude
that things will be worse than the worst case scenarios of the latest IPCC AR5, which stated that “Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.” http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/27/ipcc-climate-report-un-secretary-general

A rise of 4.8C on top of the existing “less than” 1 degree C rise means human extinction is guaranteed before the end of this century. The plants and animals on which we depend will not be able to adapt in time to such rapid temperature changes and the accompanying severe weather events.

Secondly and most importantly, the IPCC only looks at human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ignoring the numerous (more than 20 now) positive (ie self reinforcing) feedback loops which we have triggered so far which have irreversibly spiralled out of control, carrying the potential to exponentially release many times more GHG than humans have ever done. Business as usual will trigger more positive feedback loops and more firmly guarantees our extinction.

Thirdly we must ask what type of scientist is best able to advise us regarding the possibility of human extinction. Is it a climate scientist, who is the best person to tell us about temperature projections and possible extreme weather events (but who knows nothing about the mechanisms by which species go extinct) or is it a conservation biologist who uses the information about those temperatures and extreme weather events to look at their effects on biological organisms, habitats and food supply? A biologist who has spent a lifetime documenting species extinctions and learning about the mechanisms of those extinctions?

Fourthly we must be aware that McPherson’s view has been arrived at by painstaking analysis of proper peer reviewed scientific sources undistorted by government interference. Furthermore, having resigned from fulltime work and being no longer tenured (=tethered) and constrained by the purse strings of his university, he is at liberty to say what others within the establishment fear to say. It is impossible to get a person to admit what they believe if their paycheck depends on them not admitting it.

I would say that those who dismiss McPherson as a crackpot are themselves crackpots. He is not perfect however and has been wrong before, as he admits. The biggest problem is not predicting what may happen but predicting when events may happen, which is virtually impossible to do and is always prone to error. I view McPherson as analogous to an experienced cancer specialist who after careful consideration has made the diagnosis that we face terminal cancer with a 99.9% likelihood of death fairly soon. I may hate the message he conveys but that does not mean the message is wrong or that he is a bad person.

What does near term human extinction mean? It means that human beings will never colonise outer space. It means we will never download the human mind into self replicating machines to enable human consciousness to persist indefinitely, even as our biocorporeal encapsulation becomes extinct. Such science fiction fantasies might have become technologically feasible given another thousand years, but now we know they will never ever come to pass. We don’t have another thousand years. We don’t even have another hundred years. NTHE means that
the sum total of all human achievements since the dawn of civilisation will amount to….nothing at all, very soon. A meaningless blip, the blink of an eye in the immensity of time. The only value this failed human experiment could possibly provide would be if an alien intelligence were to visit our toxic radioactive ruins and archeologically piece together the ludicrous, almost unbelievably idiotic story of our self inflicted demise. Our only value to the universe will be to serve as a cautionary tale to others, a tale of outrageous hubris accompanied by infinite stupidity and unrestrained greed.

Thank you Tony Abbott and your ilk for serving as examples of the worst of the worst. We should embrace the recent election of the lunatic right-wing nuts to government, who are already exposing themselves for the vile, smarmy and incompetent charlatans they are, completely lacking in any substance or worth, who if anything will hasten the haphazard implosion of industrial civilisation and failure of large scale agriculture7.Because of them, our collapse is more likely to be sudden and dramatic rather than gradual and stuttering. Rapid demise may actually be more desirable if any parts of the natural ecosystem we are now destroying are to be saved. Most people will be taken completely by surprise by events and will default to their reptile brained mentality of laying blame on vulnerable scapegoat subgroups eg refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, minority religious or ethnic groups. We are seeing this in Greece with the popular rise of right wing extremists as their economy disintegrates. Democracy at work in the homeland of Democracy8. The psychopathic politicians (with their corporate and media cronies) will enthusiastically fan the flames of such internecine hatred, being an effective strategy to divert attention away from themselves, the true culprits. It worked for Hitler, up to a point.
Geoffrey Chia, 10 October 2013
FOOTNOTES:
1. There is a huge difference between the mainstream scientists and the mainstream media who only share the adjective “mainstream” in common and nothing else. Who are the mainstream scientists? They are those who have conducted painstaking research, measurements and analysis over many years and have published their findings in the peer reviewed scientific literature. They are those with a good track record of well validated discoveries and inventions. Their conclusions are honestly derived from evidence and reason. The occasional fraudulent studies by black sheep who are then appropriately weeded out does not invalidate the overall integrity of the mainstream
scientists.
Who are the mainstream media? They are journalistic hacks and cash for comment muckrakers who spout the propaganda dictated by their editors who themselves are driven by commercial and political agendas. The occasional truthful piece by a courageous and honest investigative journalist does not change the overall fact that the MSM are fundamentally misleading and disingenuous. Dmitry Orlov said that the MSM are 100% bogus and they function only to sell product and to prop up the existing structures of power. I largely concur. I would personally say the MSM are 99% bogus and add that their other major function is to keep the brainless masses distracted with meaningless trivial drivel, such as sports, reality shows and celebrity scandals. Hence for those of
you who are dismayed, as I previously was, that the MSM have utterly failed in their role to inform the public of important issues using reliable information, please dispel any more illusions you may have. The MSM are actually functioning precisely as designed according to their appointed role, which is NOT to inform.
2. You may recall the Peak Oil deniers crowing loudly in “victory” after George Monbiot’s article in 2012 “admitting” that the “theory” of Peak Oil was “wrong” http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jul/02/peak-oil-we-we-wrongMost of Monbiot’s research and articles have been written to educate the public about the serious effects of climate change and he has made valuable contributions in that respect. However he is not an expert on Peak Oil. Monbiot based his article on a Harvard paper published by the oil executive and economist Leonardo Maugeri who is not a scientist, he is an embedded propagandist for the GIMME establishment who has weaseled his way into academia. Peak Oil is not wrong, Peak Oil is not a “theory”, it is an observation. It has always been an indisputable observation ever since the very first oil well was drilled, that every well goes through an initial phase of exponential rise in production leading to a peak or plateau, followed by an exponential decay in output. Saying the “theory” of Peak Oil is wrong is like saying that the “theory” of the Round Earth is wrong. What happened in recent years is that after the plateauing of output of the majority of conventional giant oil fields in the world, the bean counters added other hydrocarbon liquids such as biofuels and natural gas condensates to their accounting tallies which had not been included before. More importantly, oil companies have shifted towards extracting unconventional oils such as oil shale and tar sands to maintain the appearance of static or slightly higher total liquid hydrocarbon output, even as conventional oilfields continue to deplete. We have moved from the cheaper, easier, cleaner oil to the dearer, harder-to-get and dirtier oil, entirely in keeping with the predictions by the Peak Oil experts. This shift is a fool’s errand, not least because of the poor EROEI which will be unable to support industrial civilisation in the long run. We will see the inevitable failure of unconventional oil output to match the depletion of conventional oil in the next few years. Probably the best dialogue with Monbiot on this issue was by Nicole Foss, one of the most wise, thoughtful and qualified experts in sustainability matters who I have great respect for: http://theautomaticearth.com/Energy/peak-oil-a-dialogue-with-george-monbiot.html
The sad implication of this desperate shift to unconventional oils and the major point of Monbiot’s article, is that rather than carbon emissions declining as a result of the depletion of conventional oil (remember that oil drives other carbon emitting activities such as land clearing and the mining and transport of coal), instead we are seeing a further rise of carbon emissions due to the harvesting of unconventional oils. It was the hope, the idea, that we could be saved from climate chaos by Peak Oil which was wrong. Indeed our goose is now well and truly cooked, and at a much faster pace than expected, because of the shift to unconventional oils. Trying next to harvest arctic oil and clathrates will be suicidal madness. We can only hope the global financial system collapses, thus removing funding from such utterly insane schemes, before they can commence.
3. The high priests of endless growth economics, a delusional religion which continues to be preached in institutions of “higher learning”, have based their edifice on false assumptions (eg human beings are rational players) and have refused to take into account the realities of Nature, particularly the fundamental requirement of adequate net energy inputs (EROEI) for economic activities to occur. They disregard the laws of thermodynamics. Furthermore they also fail to consider the harms caused by economic activities which are “externalised” because, of course, the death of sweatshop workers in Bangladesh or the poisoning of Nigerian villagers by toxic
hydrocarbons is of no interest to us. Dishonest accounting. To the economists’ credit, they have managed to create the most highly effective greed driven incentive scheme in the history of Mankind to facilitate rapid extraction of resources from Nature to turn them into either military hardware or consumer crap destined for landfill. In this respect American Capitalism was able to outcompete the Soviet Empire in the Arms Race, rendering the latter bankrupt (once again, we see bankruptcy as the trigger for Imperial collapse). The end of the Cold War has resulted in unopposed American hegemonism and US Imperial overreach which is now bankrupting America itself and the
emulation by China of this deeply dysfunctional system, which will be the final nail in our coffin.
4. See my slides regarding Mr F.B. and “the Gaia hypothesis of the ecosphere” compared with “the
Homer hypothesis of the econosphere” at the end of my peak oil presentation http://www.d3sj.org/PDF/Chia%20Peak%20Oil%20Red%20Pill%202010.pdf
5. The paradigm of the “tragedy of the commons” works in two ways. First in terms of grabbing natural resources – first in best dressed / the early bird gets the worm and stragglers lose out. Second in terms of refusing to repair environmental damage (or refusing to take the time/effort to prevent such damage), hence the burden of harm is borne disproportionately by other parties, particularly those not benefiting from the economic activity.
An example of the first type of tragedy was the total deforestation of Rapa-Nui by its Polynesian settlers. Many have pondered what was going through the mind of the person who was cutting down the last tree on Easter island, even as he was cutting it down. My suggestion is this, “I’d better cut down this last tree and use it for myself before the other guy does”. The second type of tragedy is exemplified by the smallminded selfish short term greed of the
Australian right-wing nuts, particularly John Howard’s previous coalition government – now continued as policy by the current Prime Monster. Their argument was they would not put a price on carbon pollution “until other countries do so” (they did not specify which other countries and how many other countries). Many other countries and states have long since imposed a price on carbon including China, but Abbott still wants to go backwards and repeal the carbon tax.

What is the solution to the problem of the tragedy of the commons? It is the vigorous defence of our common resources (eg forests, icecaps, coral reefs) by the power of a central authority, with severe penalties enforced against defectors. The problem is that no such powerful central authority exists nor is ever likely to be created. Even if such an authority can be created, it will be easily corrupted by the flawed nature of Man anyway. There is no solution unless the psychopaths currently perverting policy can be extirpated from all proceedings – which is
unfortunately not going to happen.

The other paradigm which explains why the culture of violence and domination was bound to become universal is Andrew Bard Schmookler’s “The parable of the tribes”, nicely summarised by Ran Prieur http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNDgXJR7DsY (skip to 01:16:20). We have seen this played out time and again in real world history. Take for example a peaceful tribe which discovers a better method of killing but chooses not to use it. Given sufficient passage of time, that method can be stolen from them and used against them, ultimately subsuming the peaceful tribe in the paradigm of violence and domination. This was briefly alluded to in Kurt Vonnegut’s bittersweet essay “Cold Turkey” which so profoundly struck a chord in me that I felt compelled to share it aloud with some selected people. Most of them did not appreciate Kurt’s irony when he wrote “The (ancient) Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb, they only used gunpowder for fireworks”. Only one of my friends responded with the witty and equally ironic retort, “of course, we know the only intelligent way to use gunpowder is to kill other people with it”.

6. In 2010 the Russian drought destroyed a quarter of its wheat harvest and the heat waves killed more than 50,000 people. The floods in Pakistan destroyed half a million tons of their harvest, killed around 2000 people and displaced millions. We remember the Brisbane floods of January 2011, relatively unimportant by international standards. In February 2011 a single event, cyclone Yasi, destroyed the entire banana crop in Queensland. In May this year atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration hit 400ppm, which in the paleo record was associated with about a 3.5 degree C temperature level higher than preindustrial modern times. http://instaar.colorado.edu/newsevents/instaar-news/ice-free-arctic-ocean-may-have-amped-up-temperatures-during-the-pliocene/
According to the IPPC, this late into 2013 we are still supposed to be under a 1 degree C rise compared with our preindustrial temperatures. Correcting for factors such as aircraft contrails and sulphate and particulate pollution however, we are already past 1 degree C rise right now, according to Clive Hamilton’s study of the peer reviewed science. In the last calendar year, more unprecedented and extreme weather events have been occurring around the world. We all recall Superstorm Sandy steamrolled its way across the Eastern seaboard of the US in early November 2012. Estimate of damage to date? 68 billion dollars. Few people know or care it wreaked havoc in the Caribbean islands before reaching America. The news cycle has little interest in the unimportant Caribbeans. According to meteorologists, Sandy was extraordinary in several ways.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-protect-new-york-city-from-storm-surges
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/30/sandy-stacked-up-storm-statistics?newsfeed=true
Extraordinary for occurring that late in the year. Extraordinary for its gigantic size (about a quarter of the continental US). Extraordinary for reaching so far North yet not turning back to sea (as such Northerly storms that time of year usually did). Extraordinary, but nothing to do with global warming according to the denialist hacks of the Australian newspaper. In January 2013, Southern Queensland was beset by further “one in a hundred year” floods which had affected similar areas only two years before. This time more than a thousand people in Bundaberg had to be winched off the roofs of their submerged houses by helicopter. Any sane person now has to admit that North Bundaberg must be regarded as uninhabitable in perpetuity. January 2013 was memorable for heat records being shattered all around Australia and new colour coding for the maps was required for temperatures never seen before. Tasmanian bushfires started in November 2012 and only settled in April 2013, an unprecedented duration in Tasmanian history. Other extreme weather events around the world in 2013 since then have just been glossed over or simply ignored by our MSM:

– The horrific floods affecting central Europe in May/June which the insurer Munich RE declared as the most expensive non wartime disaster ever to affect Germany.
– The horrific floods affecting Northern India and Nepal in June in which more than a thousand people died.
– The horrific floods in Alberta, Canada, in June in which more than 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes, also estimated by insurers to the be costliest event in Canadian history. Furthermore toxic waste water from the tar sands projects of Athabasca were flushed by floodwaters into the pristine Arctic ocean.
– The horrific floods in Szechuan province, China, in July, among the worst in living memory and further horrific floods in the North and South of China in August disrupting
millions of lives
– The horrific floods affecting Colorado on 12 September in which 1500 homes were
destroyed and 1000 people had to be airlifted out

Any single one of the above events was a newsworthy major disaster. Why have we heard little or nothing of them in the Australian MSM? We will soon be looking upon the above as “the good old days” because there is far worse to come. Even as severe climate events have exponentially worsened, shrill global warming denialism propagated by the MSM has correspondingly increased in volume, like King Canute screaming louder in the face of the incoming tide. Canute was only pretending to behave like an idiot in order to make an ironic point to his people. Global warming denialists are in fact genuine idiots. They are liars and fools (or both) and should be regarded as the enemies of humanity. How else can you regard people who are willing to drive humanity headlong toward extinction for the sake of a few pieces of silver? These psychopaths are intent on briefly extending their reprehensibly self serving way of life at the expense of killing humanity and most other species. Such sickeningly egotistical people place their own short term convenience and personal luxury over the lives, wellbeing and survival of their own children and grandchildren.
7. I previously described former Resource Minister and global warming denialist Ian MacFarlane version 1.0 as an impenetrably stupid coal company stooge and sadly, I remain vindicated. Current Resource Minister Ian MacFarlane version 2.0 now states his aim is to unlock every molecule of coal seam gas in Australia because it is good for the economy. As such, we should recommend that MacFarlane, a treated former sufferer of throat cancer, should now smoke 100 cigarettes per day, because it is good for the economy – he should set an example by supporting the tobacco industry. Furthermore, the “scientists” of the George C. Marshall Institute, the centre of global warming
denialism of which he is a disciple, have also “proved” that cigarettes have nothing to do with cancer. As a former farmer who now wants to wreck Australia’s farmland, MacFarlane is a traitor to his own origins.
8. I won’t repeat Churchill’s overused quote regarding Democracy. I will however state that a better system, what I call Sophocracy, rule by wisdom, is possible. The main benefit of Democracy is to facilitate the peaceful transition of power from one party to another, at designated intervals, according to the prevailing mood of the people. This has reduced the incidence of violent revolution to a large extent. However true Democracy, rule by the majority at its most basic (and unconstrained by other more important principles such as transparency, accountability and laws based on social justice), is a recipe for disaster. If the majority of the population are stupid and nasty then true Democracy becomes rule by the stupid and nasty. It can and has led to tyranny, totalitarianism and genocide, after all Hitler was voted in democratically. Ben Franklin said that democracy was two wolves and a lamb voting for what to have for lunch. True democracy in Saudi Arabia will result in a Sunni/Wahabi/Salafist Muslim fundamentalist regime which will tyrannize minority groups, worsen the oppression of women and intensify their export of terrorism around the world. The USA no longer has a democracy, they have a “fraudocracy”, their democracy has been hijacked and perverted by corporate interests resulting in obscene disparities of income (the 99% are NOT being represented), banking fraud with none of the culprits brought to justice, foreign wars of exploitation and climate change spiraling out of control.

Even rabid advocates of “democracy” can and do willingly give up their “democratic rights” much of the time. In an aircraft, decisions are not made by the majority of the passengers who are invariably ignorant of aviation. Decisions are voluntarily entrusted by the passengers to the pilot, who autocratically goes about his/her job, to the benefit of everyone. We trust he/she will do a proper job because the checks and balances in our system ensure only a fit and proper person who has passed all medical checks and training criteria and who is utterly accountable for what he/she does will be flying the plane in the service of the common good (pilots are the ultimate in
accountability as they will pay for their incompetence with their own death). Sophocracy, rule by wisdom, should incorporate some aspects of democracy with certain caveats: only those who understand the issues should be allowed to vote. This may require potential voters to go through a test for minimum intelligence and knowledge before being allowed to vote.

Only competent individuals with a proven track record who have been deemed to be fit and proper people and who are capable of making sensible decisions in the service of the common good should be allowed to stand as candidates. Pilots go through an exhaustive process before being deemed fit to steer a plane. Our leaders should undergo no less stringent a process before being deemed fit to steer a country. The principles of transparency, accountability and rule of law according to social justice, must hold priority over democracy. If a democractically elected leader in active office is found to be a war criminal eg he has taken the country to war on the basis of lies causing the death of innocent people, he must be immediately removed and thrown in jail, along with his cronies.
Further elaboration of sophocracy will require another 12 page essay (at least) and is beyond thescope of this article.