It’s even worse than we are officially told….

12 10 2018

This is a guest post from my Scottish friend Jacqueline Fletcher who has taught in universities all over Europe, and even sent me a wwoofer from Finland some years ago….. she’s a permie and environmental activist beyond the call of duty. 

jacquelineYesterday evening I attended a meeting with a couple of researchers involved with IPCC reports. Dr Katarzyna Tokarska from the GeoSciences Institute at Edinburgh University and psychologist (and Scottish government advisor on mental health) Dr Nadine Andrews from Lancaster University. Tokarska explained the science, how much CO2 the atmosphere can take if we are to stay within the 1.5 degrees warming (X), how much is already in the atmosphere Y, and therefore X minus Y will tell us how much we can still emit before we lock ourselves ino the 1.5 degrees warming point (Z) and upwards towards 2 degrees.

The bad news is that in a BAU scenario, given the amount of CO2 emitted annually, globally, we will emit that amount (Z) in just three years.

We have to do something NOW. So what is on offer by way of suggestions about what to do?

A digression: In 2015 I was living in Paris and a member of the ‘social movement’ and degrowth group ATTAC. Because ATTAC was also one of the 130 or so groups that constituted CoalitionClimate21, I joined up with that too, to organise protests around the COP21 but also to collectively present a document to which all the global NGOs subscribed to the COP with our own suggestions for the transition to a low carbon society. Of course, there was a good deal more than protest; there were workshops, conferences, tribunals, a march was banned and became a human chain, smaller creative interventions and debates around energy etc and 2 colourful demos on the final day.

From the COP21 I took away a depressingly deep sense of the insurmountability of the crisis, not only were governments still trying to provide solutions that would best suit their corporations and chums in the banks, not only were the scientists watering down their reports to get governments on board, but equally the NGOs were so obsessed with fossil fuels that the Extinction Event which is wiping out the life that maintains Earth’s Biosphere was being ignored. Why is this?

I was well aware nothing significant would come out of the Paris Agreement. It was heralded as a triumph but it was a really only a triumph of PR.

Yesterday, I went to the evening organised by Transition Edinburgh feeling a bit more upbeat. This new IPCC report is very clear about how close to the edge we are. Surely, I thought, now the urgency is so obvious, something would be done, we’d get mobilsed, pressurise our government, take personal measures to change our lifestyles. But after the first speaker already, I felt severely depressed by the type of solutions on offer.

The first speaker was seemingly a proponent of BECCS (Biofuel Energy with Carbon Capture and Storage, which Pr Kevin Anderson literally claims is BS) or maybe these were the only statistics she had because the IPCC focuses on technological solutions. For the uninitiated, this entails growing more cash crop forests, burning them for ‘biofuels’, capturing the CO2 and storing it in holes in the ground, like old mines and oil reservoirs, and compressed into rock with technology that is not yet in existence (at scale) In other words yet another linear system, in which a resource is used, waste is produced, the waste is hidden out of sight…a bit like plastic (irony intended). She showed that this was more efficient for storing carbon than afforestation (basically, just not chopping down existing trees). Already this comparison carried a signicant slant.

No mention of the statistics for carbon sequestration through regenerative agriculture using biochar, no dig/till and continuous groundcover and/or holistic grazing. There are plenty of statistics out there, even reports from the UN Rapporteurs on the Right to Food, Food Security etc, and the FAO, the IPES-Food, UNCTAD on agroecology as well as statistics that can be gleaned from the growing number of small farmers doing Regen Ag. Why does agriculture never get into the mindset of people, scientists, governments etc dealing with the CO2 crisis?

I’m going to make my own comparison between BECCS and Regen Ag.

BECCS is a linear system with a waste product that is not organically disposable or recyclable. Is its use of resources really sustainable? It uses land then becomes unavailable for any other purpose and is eroded by the monoculture forestry, and which is also irreparably damaging for ecosystems.

Reg Ag on the other hand uses CO2 to grow soil, to replace the eroded soil that is yet another of our pressing crises (about 40% of the planet’s soil is already eroded). By sequestering CO2 in the living soil, the soil not only grows, but it produces healthy food (without pesticides) by maintaining a healthy soil microbiome. It is the microbial life in the soil that releases nutrients from the minerals to pass to plants and therefore creates nutrient-rich food (as opposed to the crap that comes from an agricultural system that kills the soil microbiome). It produces biomass in the soil that stores water to combat droughts and to allow water to filter naturally through to replenish the aquifers. Regen agroforestry and edible food forests also maintain healthy habitats and forage for wildlife with perennials, trees that also sequester carbon etc. It is a solution that also nurtures the ecosystems that are necessary too for our human survival. There is no waste product, everything is naturally and productively recyclable; biomass can even produce energy through biodigesting and still be returned to the soil. There is no wasteful use of land. BECCS takes land away from agriculture, carbon sequestration through regen ag integrates it.

Of course, the BECCS solution proposed isn’t about farming, it’s about energy. And what governments and corporations want to hear is something that produces energy, to continue to fuel an industrial, consumer-capitalist society at any cost for the sake of growth and profit. And if this remains the current thinking in political, commercial and financial spheres of influence, the old paradigm, the old mentality, then frankly, we really are f***ed.

Most of the 278 people who signed up for the speakers and discussion yesterday evening were young, students from Edinburgh University, from all over the world, and in reality we need to act NOW to save the world for them, and not to save a system of industrial production predicated on a mentality that is fundamentally antagonistic to all life on this planet, human and non-human.

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If the latest warnings contained in Monday’s report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—which included pronouncements that the world has less than twelve years to drastically alter course to avoid the worst impacts of human-caused global warming and that nothing less than keeping all fossil fuels in the ground is the solution to avoid future calamities—have you at all frightened or despondent, experts responding to the report have a potentially unwelcome message for your already over-burdened heart and mind: It’s very likely even worse than you’re being told.

“The IPCC understates a key risk: that self-reinforcing feedback loops could push the climate system into chaos before we have time to tame our energy system.” 
—Mario Molina, Nobel Laureate

After the report’s publication there were headlines like: “We have 12 years to act on climate change before the world as we know it is lost. How much more urgent can it get?” and “Science pronounces its verdict: World to be doomed at 2°C, less dangerous at 1.5°C” and “A major new climate report slams the door on wishful thinking.”

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Just two years ago, amid global fanfare, the Paris climate accords were signed — initiating what seemed, for a brief moment, like the beginning of a planet-saving movement. But almost immediately, the international goal it established of limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius began to seem, to many of the world’s most vulnerable, dramatically inadequate; the Marshall Islands’ representative gave it a blunter name, calling two degrees of warming “genocide.”

The alarming new report you may have read about this week from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — which examines just how much better 1.5 degrees of warming would be than 2 — echoes the charge. “Amplifies” may be the better term. Hundreds of millions of lives are at stake, the report declares, should the world warm more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, which it will do as soon as 2040, if current trends continue. Nearly all coral reefs would die out, wildfires and heat waves would sweep across the planet annually, and the interplay between drought and flooding and temperature would mean that the world’s food supply would become dramatically less secure. Avoiding that scale of suffering, the report says, requires such a thorough transformation of the world’s economy, agriculture, and culture that “there is no documented historical precedent.” The New York Times declared that the report showed a “strong risk” of climate crisis in the coming decades; in Grist, Eric Holthaus wrote that“civilization is at stake.”

If you are alarmed by those sentences, you should be — they are horrifying. But it is, actually, worse than that — considerably worse. That is because the new report’s worst-case scenario is, actually, a best case. In fact, it is a beyond-best-case scenario. What has been called a genocidal level of warming is already our inevitable future. The question is how much worse than that it will get.





The price of fuel..: what is going on..?

11 01 2017

Yesterday, I went to the big smoke for a medical appointment. I’m fine. But when I went to fill up to ensure I could make it home, I realised that the price of petrol had gone up by a whopping 20c/L in one hit. That’s a 14% increase……… in one day.Petrol price hike in Hobart

In the news, “Mr Moody (of the Royal Automobile Club of Tasmania) said prices were being driven up by increases in the global oil price, but he said the price should level out in Tasmania at about $1.40 a litre in about a month.”

Except that when I investigated this, the price of oil had not skyrocketed, it was still around $52 a barrel. Last time petrol was this expensive, oil was at $147 a barrel….. so what’s going on?

My take on this is that the oil companies must be finding it harder and harder to pay their interest bills. If they can’t make profits with oil, they’ll have to find them upstream at the pump.  Furthermore, maybe Peak Oil is on the cusp of getting really serious, and this might be the tip of the iceberg……. Nafeez Ahmed has just written the following article about how dire the oil situation is becoming…….

Brace for the oil, food and financial crash of 2018

80% of the world’s oil has peaked, and the resulting oil crunch will flatten the economy

New scientific research suggests that the world faces an imminent oil crunch, which will trigger another financial crisis.

A report by HSBC shows that contrary to industry mythology, even amidst the glut of unconventional oil and gas, the vast bulk of the world’s oil production has already peaked and is now in decline; while European government scientists show that the value of energy produced by oil has declined by half within just the first 15 years of the 21st century.

The upshot? Welcome to a new age of permanent economic recession driven by ongoing dependence on dirty, expensive, difficult oil… unless we choose a fundamentally different path.

Last September, a few outlets were reporting the counterintuitive findings of a new HSBC research report on global oil supply. Unfortunately, the true implications of the HSBC report were largely misunderstood.

The HSBC research note — prepared for clients of the global bank — found that contrary to concerns about too much oil supply and insufficient demand, the situation was opposite: global oil supply will in coming years be insufficient to sustain rising demand.screenshot

Yet the full, striking import of the report, concerning the world’s permanent entry into a new age of global oil decline, was never really explained. The report didn’t just go against the grain of the industry’s hype about ‘peak demand’: it vindicated what is routinely lambasted by the industry as a myth: peak oil — the concurrent peak and decline of global oil production.

The HSBC report you need to read, now

INSURGE intelligence obtained a copy of the report in December 2016, and for the first time we are exclusively publishing the entire report in the public interest.

Read and/or download the full HSBC report by clicking below:

HSBC peak oil report

The HSBC report has a helpful, ten-point summary of the key arguments the bank makes, and what is going on right now. These arguments are summarised below…:

  1. Oil’s oversupply problem, which has caused most of the trouble in the markets in recent years will end by 2017, and the market will return to balance.
  2. Spare capacity will have shrunk substantially by then “to just 1% of global supply/demand.” This HSBC argues, will make the market more susceptible to disruptions like those seen in Nigeria and Canada in 2016.
  3. Oil demand is still growing by ~1mbd every year, and no central scenarios that we recently assessed see oil demand peaking before 2040.”
  4. 81% of the production of liquid oil is already in decline.
  5. HSBC sees between 3 and 4.5 million barrels per day of supply disappearing once peak oil production is reached. “In our view a sensible range for average decline rate on post-peak production is 5-7%, equivalent to around 3-4.5mbd of lost production every year.”
  6. Based on a simple calculation, HSBC estimates that by 2040, the world will need to find around 40 million barrels of oil per day to keep up with growing demand from emerging economies. That is equivalent to over 4 times the current crude oil output of Saudi Arabia.
  7. “Small oilfields typically decline twice as fast as large fields, and the global supply mix relies increasingly on small fields: the typical new oilfield size has fallen from 500-1,000mb 40 years ago to only 75mb this decade.” — This will exacerbate the problem of declining oil fields, and the lack of supply.
  8. The amount of new oil discoveries being made is pretty small. HSBC notes that in 2015 the discovery rate for new wells was just 5%, a record low. The discoveries made are also fairly small in size.
  9. There is potential for growth in US shale oil, but it currently represents less than 5% of global supply, meaning that it will not be able, single-handedly at least, to address the tumbling global supply HSBC expects.
  10. “Step-change improvements in production and drilling efficiency in response to the downturn have masked underlying decline rates at many companies, but the degree to which they can continue to do so is becoming much more limited.” Essentially HSBC argues that companies aren’t improving their efficiency at a quick enough rate, meaning that supply declines will hit them even harder.

Here is the chart showing the decline in production post-peak:

Oil peak production

As usual, the mainstream media is spruiking loads of rubbish, probably trying to not scare the children…… unless you peek elsewhere like this blog, or follow other bloggers who keep abreast of the truth, you could be forgiven for thinking America will be great again…. or some other such rubbish.

Under the current supply glut driven by rising unconventional production, falling oil prices have damaged industry profitability and led to dramatic cut backs in new investments in production. This, HSBC says, will exacerbate the likelihood of a global oil supply crunch from 2018 onwards.
So how do you improve profitability? You put the price of fuel up. Given that petrol is the single biggest purchase made by households on a weekly basis, the lift in petrol prices may lead to less household activity — a potential concern for retailers and the economy generally. High fuel prices combined with large debts is what broke the camel’s back in 2008, causing the GFC. Things are not only not different today, debt levels are even higher….. how long before GFC MkII kicks off is anyone’s guess, but it can’t be too far away now….




IEA Says the Party’s Over

7 06 2014

Posted Jun 5, 2014 by Richard Heinbergheinberg

Originally published at Post Carbon Institute

The International Energy Agency has just released a new special report called “World Energy Investment Outlook” that should send policy makers screaming and running for the exits—if they are willing to read between the lines and view the report in the context of current financial and geopolitical trends. This is how the press agency UPI begins its summary:

It will require $48 trillion in investments through 2035 to meet the world’s growing energy needs, the International Energy Agency said Tuesday from Paris. IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in a statement the reliability and sustainability of future energy supplies depends on a high level of investment. “But this won’t materialize unless there are credible policy frameworks in place as well as stable access to long-term sources of finance,” she said. “Neither of these conditions should be taken for granted.”

Here’s a bit of context missing from the IEA report: the oil industry is actually cutting back on upstream investment. Why? Global oil prices—which, at the current $90 to $110 per barrel range, are at historically high levels—are nevertheless too low to justify tackling ever-more challenging geology. The industry needs an oil price of at least $120 per barrel to fund exploration in the Arctic and in some ultra-deepwater plays. And let us not forget: current interest rates are ultra-low (thanks to the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing), so marshalling investment capital should be about as easy now as it is ever likely to get. If QE ends and if interest rates rise, the ability of industry and governments to dramatically increase investment in future energy production capacity will wane.
Other items from the report should be equally capable of inducing policy maker freak-out:
The shale bubble’s-a-poppin’. In 2012, the IEA forecast that oil extraction rates from US shale formations (primarily the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in Texas) would continue growing for many years, with America overtaking Saudia Arabia in rate of oil production by 2020 and becoming a net oil exporter by 2030. In its new report, the IEA says US tight oil production will start to decline around 2020. One might almost think the IEA folks have been reading Post Carbon Institute’s analysis of tight oil and shale gas prospects! www.shalebubble.org This is a welcome dose of realism, though the IEA is probably still erring on the side of optimism: our own reading of the data suggests the decline will start sooner and will probably be steep.
Help us, OPEC—you’re our only hope! Here’s how the Wall Street Journal frames its story about the report: “A top energy watchdog said the world will need more Middle Eastern oil in the next decade, as the current U.S. boom wanes. But the International Energy Agency warned that Persian Gulf producers may still fail to fill the gap, risking higher oil prices.” Let’s see, how is OPEC doing these days? Iraq, Syria, and Libya are in turmoil. Iran is languishing under US trade sanctions. OPEC’s petroleum reserves are still ludicrously over-stated. And while the Saudis have made up for declines in old oilfields by bringing new ones on line, they’ve run out of new fields to develop. So it looks as if that risk of higher oil prices is quite a strong one.
A “what-me-worry?” price forecast. Despite all these dire developments, the IEA offers no change from its 2013 oil price forecast (that is, a gradual increase in world petroleum prices to $128 per barrel by 2035). The new report says the oil industry will need to increase its upstream investment over the forecast period by $2 trillion above the IEA’s previous investment forecast. From where is the oil industry supposed to derive that $2 trillion if not from significantly higher prices—higher over the short run, perhaps, than the IEA’s long-range 2035 forecast price of $128 per barrel, and ascending higher still? This price forecast is obviously unreliable, but that’s nothing new. The IEA has been issuing wildly inaccurate price forecasts for the past decade. In fact, if the massive increase in energy investment advised by the IEA is to occur, both electricity and oil are about to become significantly less affordable. For a global economy tightly tied to consumer behavior and markets, and one that is already stagnant or contracting, energy constraints mean one thing and one thing only: hard times.
What about renewables? The IEA forecasts that only 15 percent of the needed $48 trillion will go to renewable energy. All the rest is required just to patch up our current oil-coal-gas energy system so that it doesn’t run into the ditch for lack of fuel. But how much investment would be required if climate change were to be seriously addressed? Most estimates look only at electricity (that is, they gloss over the pivotal and problematic transportation sector) and ignore the question of energy returned on energy invested. Even when we artificially simplify the problem this way, $7.2 trillion spread out over twenty years simply doesn’t cut it. One researcher estimates that investments will have to ramp up to $1.5 to $2.5 trillion per year. In effect, the IEA is telling us that we don’t have what it takes to sustain our current energy regime, and we’re not likely to invest enough to switch to a different one.
If you look at the trends cited and ignore misleading explicit price forecasts, the IEA’s implicit message is clear: continued oil price stability looks problematic. And with fossil fuel prices high and volatile, governments will likely find it even more difficult to devote increasingly scarce investment capital toward the development of renewable energy capacity.

As you read this report, imagine yourself in the shoes of a high-level policy maker. Wouldn’t you want to start thinking about early retirement?





Finding the best place to weather the storm

13 10 2013

Ben Brangwyn

For obvious reasons, this essay by Ben Brangwyn from http://www.transitionnetwork.org/ really resonates with me…..

This IPCC report is giving me that deja vu feeling, and it’s not good. Ben Brangwyn reflects.

Here’s how it was first time around. By the end of 2005, I’d learned enough about climate change and civilized societies’ addictions to fossil fuels that I was ready to run away from the potential collapse scenarios painted so graphically by websites with names like www.wolfatthedoor.com or www.collapsewatch.net.

And I wasn’t the only one.

I was in a tightly-knit gang of three blokes going on this journey of self-education together, looking at peak oil and climate change squarely in the eye and come to our “Oh shit” moment together. We responded by engulfing ourselves in dreaming up potential escape plans, systematically analysing all countries of the world for key resilience factors: population density, amount of arable land, a culture accepting of Brits, potential impacts of climate change, levels of fossil fuel dependence. Improbably, the superbly researched CIA Factbook provided most of the data.

Turned out that New Zealand and the French Pyrenees were probably the best options. My wife and I went on a 3 week tour of this beautiful and resilient region of France, checking properties, looking at soil, watching watercourses, sussing out the local energy mix, feeling our way into the culture. Another of our group of three started the process of moving his entire family to New Zealand.

That’s worth repeating. He was so freaked out by the prospect of societal breakdown, he convinced his wife and two kids that New Zealand was the right option. They sold up in the UK, bought a farm in NZ and proceeded to apply permaculture principles and a lot of cash to bring it to offgrid standards.

Before he went to New Zealand, this friend came up with a propitious statement,

“And so we arrive at my core point. I strongly believe the choice between saving oneself or saving everyone else is a choice that one has to make now. As the probability of success of either option is low, devoting less than 100% dedication to the one you choose will almost certainly doom it to failure. I believe that one has to place one’s bet one way or the other. Hard choices.” 

So, within this small gang of three, what did the other two of us decide to do?

Well, we took our pal’s words to heart and decided to put 100% into helping “everyone else” at the biggest scale we could imagine, and about a year later, Transition Network emerged out of that decision.

Why am I mentioning all this now? Well, for me, the spectre of ecosystems collapse and its impact on us humans has never really receded. Keeping busy with Transition Network has helped me massively, and when busying myself wasn’t working well enough, either long bike rides or Joanna Macey seemed to do the trick. But this IPCC report is bringing some of these difficult emotions back. Not that I think the IPCC report is particularly accurate – I think they’re underestimating the impacts grossly with their scientifically cautious approach. Any deep dive into feedback mechanisms – which have been historically explicitly excluded from the IPCC reports – is likely to cause significant levels of personal consternation. But it’s not the contents of the IPCC report’s that bring back my sense of powerlessness. It’s the fact that it causes so little consternation and action at the government levels that hits me between the eyes. The IPCC report cycle means that every 5 years or so I’m reminded that the future of biodiversity on this planet is down to a small bunch of concerned citizens and some brilliant scientists, but not, by and large, the “elected officials” who have so many of the necessary resources at their disposal.

I’m not handling it very well, either. I’ve recently started surfing around those “3 hectares and a barn in the Pyrenean foothills for less than the cost of a season ticket for Manchester United” sites. I’m stressed by various governments’ talk about shifting money away from mitigation and into adaptation instead in a couple of years – a clear signal of giving up. I do methane calculations on the back of scrap paper. A couple of weekends ago I cycled a silly distance across the merciless hills of Dartmoor.

This really is an ongoing process for me, and I’m really not sure how I’ll feel by, say, 2016 about this all.

However, through all of this, I am reminded of what happened to the friend who had schlepped all the way to New Zealand and set himself up in the perfect offgrid property in one of the most resilient places on earth. Against all my expectations, he eventually brought his family back to England. Here’s how he summed up the reasons,

“It’s not that I’m any less convinced that we’re moving towards societal breakdown, it’s just that if I’m going to be thrown into the mire of collapse, I’d rather experience it with the people I love around me rather than in isolation.”

He’s learned the hard way that his circle of safety, resilience and connection was wider than his immediate family. That’s important, and I guess a pretty accurate statement of a key principle of transition – that building community is one of the smartest ways we can use our time right now, regardless of what unpredictabilities are coming down the line.

It’s a salutory tale, and one whose learnings I have to remind myself of more often than usual these days.

 





At last….. relatively good news on CC

2 10 2013

My friend Dave Kimble who has his ear to the ground and whose work I sometimes post here has sent me this by email…….

The IPCC’s AR5 final report from Working Group 1 (still called Final Draft) is available for download,
either all in one giant file of 158 MB (mine was damaged) at http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5_WGI-12Doc2b_FinalDraft_All.pdf or as lots of files of individual chapters, see http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/

The RCP2.6 scenario corresponds to Peak Oil, Gas and Coal that peakists would subscribe to.  For reasons that are beyond me, you will have to click on the chart to see it full size…. ipcc.predictions It shows median summer temperatures over land rising to +1.5 C by 2045, and falling very slowly after that.

However the median is only the “most likely” for the whole world, over land, in summer.
The model predicts that the most likely half of all outcomes is in the range +1.0 to +1.8 C.
And the 90% of all outcomes range is +0.2 to +2.6 C.

This of course assumes that we manage to keep producing all the fossil fuels we can, on the downslope of Hubbert’s Curve, which seems very unlikely.

So there you have it.  Only collapse can save us from catastrophic climate change.  Though of course, we might still have fired the Clathrate Gun…..