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2019-12-15 2019-12-15
Global blight of fossil fuel overshoot and climate cataclysm

Global business as usual has direct long term consequences of catastrophic global heating. This is the cause of climate changes and extremes that are destroying life as we know it.  We know this from the confirmed predictions of climate models, which have been confronting everyone publicly since the 1970's.

What we have just seen happen at the global COP25, in this year of 2019, is real political failure of global corporations and governments of the fossil fuel blighted world to acknowledge they have direct responsibility for the climate system changes that are already happening, and could do much more about it, if they tried. They have again ignored a future predictive consensus of more than 50 years worth of climate models. The biggest nations in the global power game, refuse to ration their use of fossil fuel energy, despite being shown the dire global heating consequences. Who is to blame? What circumstances governs their behaviour? 

The USA government can said to be a leader in making the COP climate negotiation process fail. It is not clear that Australia is doing this on an independent basis, or merely following instructions of big brother protector. But even if the USA was more cooperative, a large number of nations are fully dependent on fossil fuels to supply energy and materials to keep their nation & lifestyle wealth running. The US is actually doing what every other fossil fuel dependent country really wants it to do.

Any marked rapid emissions decline, which is now required, will lead to marked increases of civil unrest, chaos and collapse, if no planning is done for serious public re-education, re-organisation and international cooperation. I call this the "Global blight of fossil fuel overshoot". The default result is going to be mass migrations of desperate people, who will meet with the response of "full lifeboats" The process that no one wants to undertake, but which is being setup to be done by global heating cataclysm anyway, is the "global undoing of fossil fuel derived wealth". 

But every year of delay matters, and now biosphere saving global climate action requires global emissions reductions of at least 7% per year, for staying below the now near impossible 1.5 degrees C limit. The COP process is "set up to fail". Any few countries can veto any agreement. Science reports are now excluded from the main negotiations, as they would be so alarming as to require immediate actions. 

Now most of the fossil fuel overshoot governments, including the USA, will have to be physically overthrown, if any serious global cataclysm response is going to be happen, because current governments, and the members of fossil fuel wealth and power behind them,  have no intention of changing status quo.

The best possible national and global governance is ecological management.

What we have instead is craven, pig-headed, reckless, stupid, crazy and self-harming ecocide, with equivalent standards of political intelligence. Exploitation demands creation of political ignorance. The era of fossil fuels is fast coming to an end right now, because the global market is running out of supply of economic fossil fuel resources with high enough energy returns on energy investment. (EROEI) The consequences are that rising energy costs of production force suppliers to cut down on supply, and buyers to cut down on demand.

Australian government, pay attention. Biological carrying capacity is the only budget that really matters. 

On the fundamental level of physical economics, energy equals money. High incomes produce more greenhouse gases.

The above diagram is from a very comprehensive series of graphs on the site "Our World in Data". The above inequalities are much greater if individuals, rather than national incomes, are considered. By exerting the most political power, the wealthy classes are the most able to prevent this. The epic failures of the COP are most definitely due to the privileges of the global wealth elites. Success and political balance at forums like the COP, would require that the political powers acquired with historical and current exploitation by wealthy nations be neutralised. The need for climate action is seen as a threat to those with established power and wealth, by their social status crippled brains. Human wealth and power status of fossil fuel culture is unable to bow to natural consequences.

From visual inspection, it can be imagined, that making the emissions distribution less unequal according to income does not help very much, if the total emissions are not reduced. The most effective reduction of global greenhouse emissions can only come from the wealthy reducing their big income spends. Current CO2 global output is now 42 Gtonnes per year, and the average is 

On the fundamental level of physics of useful energy profit, renewable energy technologies are generally better than fossil fuels for the important criteria of  EROEI, financial investment return and total of life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions. This gap can only increase as the energy and climate costs of using fossil fuels continues to increase. The wealthy elite classes are also the most capable of rapid transitions to using renewable energy, if they bothered to cash in their other investments to try.

Fossil fuels increasingly offer a poor return on energy investment -

The remaining global carbon emissions budget for avoiding an average of 1.5 degrees of global heating is now impossibly small. Economic growth competitions of national governments have been in a state of crazy madness for several decades, as growth of consumption rate has gone way past the sustainable carrying capacity for our population size. This applies particularly to the high population densities in our cities of today. Current rates of fossil fuel extraction and emissions output will become impossible to maintain. The infrastructure we have built that requires them, will become abandoned and wasted. The ability to supply food and water, and other basics our lifestyles expect could be drastically crippled for all but the extremely rich and powerful, unless significant energy planning, restructure and reorganisation occurs.

The climate block-heads at COP25, included Australia and USA. They intend to continue their competitive economic growth, until they are stopped by earths bio-systems collapse, so that mass extinction processes or emigration reduce their populations.

Australia and USA go into recession

Both Australia and US national economies are already in a state of ongoing partial collapse, or recession as it used to be called. The global oil market is relatively more expensive now, and climate change already imposes events of economic destruction, but this climate change suicide alliance still wants to play at their old game. Australia's biggest export earner is Iron Ore, but prices and demand depend a large extent on global economic growth, especially in Asia. Low commodity prices for Coal and Gas exports, means that exporters can only hope to increase profits by increase in export volumes, which will end up defeating their purpose.

Going back to biocapacity, without fossil fuels?

As fossil fuels have temporarily increased the carrying capacity for human beings in nations, their sudden reduction will be a major reduction in carrying capacity, and their population well being will depend on the underlying renewable biological carrying capacity. Such studies have been done by the "Global Footprint Network" -  This helpfully tells us that  -

"Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.75 Earths to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and eight months to regenerate what we use in a year. We use more ecological resources and services than nature can regenerate through overfishing, overharvesting forests, and emitting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than forests can sequester."

Our footprint site doesn't say exactly how we manage to pull off this amazing survival trick every year, but energy and trade systems using fossil fuel resources must play a large role. Removing our temporary abundance of extracting energy from ancient sunlight will bring on a crash, in the future we will be only able to only access the current solar based energy supplies, and feed ourselves from un-enhanced biological food production systems. Actual biocapacity in reserve last existed sometime before 1970.

The US, China and India have gross biocapacity overshoot

The difference between Australia and the USA at the moment, is that Australia is still considered by biological footprint statistics to be in "credit" of 50-100%, most likely due to overall lower population density. Some of this biocapacity must now be considered to be reduced by prolonged drought conditions. We don't know how much further its biocapacity will fall from global heating induced climate change.

A national ecological deficit means that the nation is importing biocapacity through trade, liquidating national ecological assets or emitting carbon dioxide waste into the atmosphere. The USA has a footprint status bio-capacity "debit" of 100 to 150%, supporting population lifestyles at twice their land areas biological capacity.

The USA as biggest rejector of Paris Climate Agreement

On the footprint network site, a recommended link to an article, which starts with - 

"...The United States is pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This sets a destructive example. It is especially destructive for the United States because climate action is not just a noble deed for humanity. It is economically necessary and benefits largely those who act. This of course applies to the USA Federal government, which runs the historical military colonial empire of its remaining global oil industry conglomerates, a massive global enforcer of fossil fuel supported wealth. Many of the states and cities of the USA are taking actions which imply in fact it is a benefit to those who act. ..."

"... No society can shift overnight to a thriving economy in a world characterized by climate change, biological resource constraints and phased-out fossil fuels. No country, no city, no company can rebuild, retrofit or repurpose its infrastructure instantaneously. Clearly, those who plan ahead and prepare themselves stand a far better chance to thrive than those who keep investing in the obsolete resource-intensive economy...."

China and India due to supporting very large population density, with large growth since WWII. They have have a footprint status of > 150%, having nearly three times the population density that can be supported from local resources in the long term. Their rapid economic growth rates of India and China are increasing the per capita wealth and greenhouse gas emissions of their population. India still has 1.2% per year positive population growth rate, and has nearly caught up to China's population. 

Declining energy from fossil fuels will have much more dire consequences for nations in which local footprints have exceeded their local biocapacity. Syria was managing as oil exporter before 2005, has now found out what happens with the oil income declines, and the biocapacity falls, and the population grows to become unsupportable. 

None of these footprints calculate how much area should be still left alone to nature. So I assume that 0% , neither in credit nor debit, must be assume that the entire national land area has been taken over for human usage, whereas pockets and reserves for nature probably still exist.  Use of ocean resources is also unknown.

The great global blight of fossil fuel induced biological overshoot. A map of the nations of world with red as biocapacity deficit, green as in credit. Nations in ecological overshoot from the industrial revolution, post-colonial empires, competitors and exploited of the western political world of oil trade, in the northern hemisphere. From World In Data.

Diesel Fuel rises in cost

Oil corporations no longer supply the existing demand cheaply enough. Oil is important, because diesel fuel is a critical energy dense fuel that supplies diesel motors, which are the most powerful mining and transport machines that matter in our national economies. Gasoline and the light oils obtained by USA fracking boom cannot substitute for heavy oils to make diesel.

The mining sector is sensitive to rising costs. The energy required per quantity of useful ore shipped has more than doubled over last 30 years. As Diesel fuel cost rises, the value of tax-rebates from government for its use increases

Because of rising costs, the mining corporations are looking hard at renewable energy, for electricity with storage, as one means of offsetting them, as in a recent report for ARENA - "Renewable Energy in the Australian Mining Sector".

The mining sector accounts for roughly 10% of Australia’s total energy use. Its energy is mainly supplied by diesel (41%), natural gas (33%), and grid electricity (21%). Energy is primarily consumed as electricity for beneficiation operations and as diesel for vehicles and machinery. Consumption is rising primarily from increased mining volumes.

The mining sector’s long-term energy intensity is predicted to increase as the average ore grade falls and overburden increases – the average grade has halved and overburden doubled over the last 30 years. 

Mining operations are the start of many production materials used in economic goods, and so maintaining low costs of material supplies for the global economy has multiple challenges. There are multiple causes of energy taking a bigger share of total costs. Listed in this brochure are :-

  • Deeper mines
  • Increasing remoteness of operations
  • Rising energy prices
  • Changing energy source makeup
  • Ventilation of underground mines
  • Potential carbon pricing effects

Oil Corporations really try to hide the decline

It is oil corporations and their mining dependants that play the game of "hide the decline", as well as being the chief funders of global climate science denial. They "hide the decline" by ignoring the increased costs that would be necessary to extract from all their remaining reserves. The dependencies of Oil include the risks to prices of shares in global stock markets, in which is tied the monetary value and expected future earnings of the wealthiest people in the world. The valuations of the biggest global corporations are at risk , including tech, retail, pharmaceutical and big agriculture. The biggest monopoly names on our planet. Share owning classes have a lot of wealth to lose if rapid reductions of fossil fuel burning are implemented. Fossil fuel companies have had big influence on the set ups for the COP series.

Oil depletion means it costs more energy to extract and obtain the net supply from all remaining reserves. "Price" in global trade terms, means how much oil can be exchanged for other goods and services. Oil buyers have less income remaining for other goods and services.  Rising oil extraction costs, mean less profit of exchangeable goods and services for producers nations.  The most expensive "production" chains will continue to get shut down in order to reduce supply costs and increase price. 

Net Energy Cliff

There is a well known problem of the "Net energy cliff", that is looming before wealthy nations now.  Pricing carbon has a fossil fuel energy cost equivalence and takes industrial civilisation further down the net energy cliff. This might make carbon pricing even more effective in global heating mitigation, at a cost of reduction of our discretionary spending.

" . . . As Adam Brandt points out, transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards alternative energy sources will indeed be much more than just a substitution of certain energy sources by others. It will amount to a re-engineering of humanity’s basic societal ‘metabolism’, i.e. the set of processes by which human societies – and their various components – ‘exchange’ energy and matter with their biophysical environment and between themselves, and use them in various ways and for various purposes.  . . . "

In other words, we have totally underestimated how much this will change the possibilities for ongoing civilisation.

The main elements of this story for global oil production have been repeated in this recent "Energy Sceptic" article. To keep up the supply of fossil fuels to everywhere , the global world markets, an increasing portion of the reserves have to be burned by a growing complexity of extraction machinery. This increases global emissions for the same net energy benefit.

Decline of EROIE reduces total remaining net global oil production

Because we got the easy oil first, we have used up 73% of the net energy that will ever be available, since the remaining half of the reserves require so much energy to extract.

Even if the net supply of fossil fuels was able to be restricted to what the global market now can afford to demand, the production costs in terms of energy and greenhouse gas emissions will keep on rising, and so producers need to be forced to decrease their net production.

The ramping up of gas exports is a substitute for global decline in oil production, and claims to be more climate friendly substitute for coal. Overall, the oil, coal and gas mix has changed, but global emissions of methane and CO2 still increase.

Fossil fuel exports increase Australian domestic emissions, and global total emissions

For example, mining uses energy, Australian domestic emissions rise with gas exports to the global market. Additional emissions are from work done to compress and refrigerate the gas for transport by highly specialised ships. 

Why haven't serious reductions in global fossil fuel burning happened yet?

The major reasons for effort failure of the latest in the epic series of climate knuckle-dragging, Conference Of Parties, now number 25, continues to be resistance from centres of global wealth.

  • Renewable energy sources cannot yet replace or catch up with 200 years of exponential growth of fossil fuel burning infrastructure, and difficulty of replacing all diesel machinery infrastructure, and fossil fuels for aircraft.
  • Fossil fuels support the homo colossus lifestyles of modernism, particularly those of the very wealthy, developed nations who control national governments and COP delegates.
  • Large numbers of people continue to live a marginal existence on the edge of survival, due to our vast global inequalities, which current systems have created, and wealthy nations won't compensate them for mitigation impacts.
  • Many nations have overshoot of population above their long term biocapacity, and overproduce for trade, to import necessities from elsewhere.
  • Nations and politicians continue to play their old game of competitive growth of national economy, which worsen the global heating rates, and makes the entire predicament exponentially worse.

Clever Accounting and Creative PR

To hide the 50 years continuing gross imbalance of model favouritism, and promotion of economic growth at all costs, corporations and governments in the resource acquisition and exploitation games continue to lie to their citizens by any means possible, through corporate controlled media, to hide that they are doing next to nothing about rationing the fossil fuel energy hunger of their nation states, while attempting to make the problem worse with economic growth. 

Politics is dirty dealing without trust

Governments are supposed to have strongly held notions of how their relevant parts of world actually work, and how deals are done. Citizens in democracies may tend to believe the rosy national myths about how their government policy aims for progress and sustainability, at least for the classes of elite that work their way into prominent positions. More cynical examination of history shows that those in the power seeking race often delude themselves and their supporters in their intentions of spreading the benefits of their progress, and sustainability means in practise, the pragmatics of  "getting the best of the deals while they last". 

Cooperation between nations relies on recognising the commonality of their predicaments, and trust, and agreeing on a sharing of sacrifices towards a common good.

Life satisfaction is falsely tied to exploitation

For capitalism and economies, government models of progress depends entirely on finding more exploitable natural resources, for trade or domestic use, and then exploiting them at maximum speed, rather than maximum long term benefit. Oil, coal and gas rank very high in the energy exploitation and global competition stakes, and their exploiters have developed a deep and powerful penetration of governments. Economic largesse wrought by supplies of cheap energy has been a most popular method of holding government since the industrial revolution began, over two hundred years ago. Some form of "Jobs and Growth" premise is used in every successful bid for gaining and holding onto government power.'

But the energy usage of fossil fuel dependent lifestyles could fall a long way, without loss of overall life satisfaction and contentment. Better organising of satisfactory physical work and travel arrangements can substitute for an over-abundance of our fossil fuelled slave machinery. Renewable energy systems and local agriculture could provide many more meaningful jobs than our over-automated systems of today.

Political Parties lack imagination, and only want tomorrow to be more like today

Political parties and corporations are pathologic and pathetic, and equate needs gratification with energy abundance and increased production, rather than life satisfaction and fulfilment coming from adapting biology to limits.

The current rising costs of obtaining net energy are being attacked by trying to increase the total extraction of energy, for exports or trade, in order to continue growth of national economies. This can only increase global emissions and increase the rates of resource depletion and pollution generation having entire global economy and biosphere collapse.

Global biosphere is over-exploited now.

This is especially true now that the entire Earth surface is over-exploited. For a biosphere recovery, something like one half of the surface area of all oceans and lands need to be removed from human over-exploitation. The carrying capacity of our renewable resources, like soil and water systems, is declining, because they are being over exploited, with the aid of fossil fuelled machinery and chemical products. 

Today, more than 80 percent of the world’s population lives in countries that are running ecological deficits, using more resources than what their ecosystems can renew.

All nations will have to work hard in order to "transition" and not "collapse", from the wrong path of over-using the fossil fuel resources, towards management to live within a reduced ecological means, and the almost zero long term carbon budget limits of our planet.

Not giving up fossil fuels is a problem of having too much wealth, for too long, which has created political, lifestyle and biological overshoot dependency
Not giving up fossil fuels is a problem of having too much wealth, for too long, which has created political, lifestyle and biological overshoot dependency
Clever emissions accounting and Creative PR