These past few weeks in Eastern Australia are marked by very intense and prolonged rainfall, leading to record flooding events. Record intensity is the kind that insurance companies might have labelled of "1 in a 500" year event. How would they know? A new climate catastrophe happens somewhere close by nearly every year.
Flooding from La Nina visits Eastern Australia about once every decade. The Australian BOM says - "Of the 18 La Niña events since 1900 (including multi-year events), 12 have resulted in floods
for some parts of Australia, with the east coast experiencing twice as
many severe floods during La Niña years than El Niño years.
Even the prime minister admits that our floods are extreme, and that it is getting harder to live in some parts of Australia. Unfortunate for us all, is that "never before" does not mean "never again" for such events. Banks are now very shy about lending money for new buildings in rural Australia. The insurance payouts this time go above two billion dollars.
The insurance industry and modern industrial civilization been around a few hundred years. The FIRE sectors of our economy, finance, insurance, real estate - have been where lots of economic growth money has been made. Now growth is stagnating. Building construction companies are declaring bankruptcy. Inflation, rising oil prices, and materials scarcity is pushing the costs of new buildings beyond affordability, while nature destroys our buildings, pot-holes and washes away our roads.
Like our climate intensified bush-fires, extreme weather events continue to happen harder and more often. The ongoing up slope of our global greenhouse gas emissions invalidates all of our expectations that "business as usual" will continue for much longer.
Climate extremes, biological systems collapse, oil systems collapse, and global wars are the new four horsemen for the death of global civilization. Epidemics and Starvation are galloping in their wake. National governments are not telling the whole truth on all four fronts in the war on everything on the planet. We are in a state of global systems war on the living planet. If you live in a society powered by fossil fuels, you are an active participant.
Global oil production, which is our industrial systems life blood, is said to be in decline since 2018. Energy Skeptic writes that that IEA forecasts a supply crunch by 2025 in their rosy and unrealistic New Policies scenario. By 2025 81% of global oil is declining at up to 8% a year. Growth has continued as long as possible because global politics has been frightened of decline, with good reasons. Optimistic projections may be unrealistic because declining economies hit by declining oil will lose more capacity to pay for the increasing production costs of the remainder, and global conflicts and sanctions may stuff things up faster.
This rate of oil supply reduction is going to hit industrial economies like a Tsunami. We see the peak in oil supplies, the gradual rise in prices across the economy. Like onlookers on the beach, we observe a slow and unusual withdrawal of water line, and then a gradual rising of a mountain of water above the horizon. We do not seem to be sure what this really means, so we ignore it and do BAU. As the systems change hits with full impact, there will be nowhere to flee. We are going to be hit by an invisible flood of global oil supply withdrawal.
This is the first of a series of tsunami to hit global civilization because of ecological overshoot. Perhaps the second if we count COVID-19 as a global systems warning shock.
As the full impact of energy deficit grows harder year by year, most globally delivered goods are going to disappear from their supply depots and online buy websites. There will be quickly reducing availability and deliveries of just about everything in the global supply chain. Widespread domino-like collapse of corporations and employment. No amount of debt creation can fix the absence of energy to power our machines and maintain our electrical goods, and transport coal and gas to power stations.
The good news is we will no longer be able to export our native forest logs overseas at a current cost to us of about $500.00 a hectare. Some influential people somewhere get both the money and the logs. All the oil powered machines that exploit the environment and produce greenhouse gas emissions will be abandoned to rust in their place of last usage. he bad news for our forests is that they will be in even more danger from the desperate local dregs of our economy in acute energy and materials decline.
It is estimated that the energy needed to produce oil liquids, direct and indirect, is 15.5% of the energy production of oil liquids. The fraction of energy required to extract oil energy is growing at an exponential rate. By 2050, half of the gross energy output will be engulfed in its own production. The end of fossil fuel civilization is nigh 🌚
2021 was a record year for greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC 6th assessment report, AR6 - "Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" is the bleakest yet. I am not keen on trying to read it at all. Politicians even less so. Carbon Brief has predigested it for those familiar with the ongoing narrative. It must be harder to read if you've been reading and hearing about this for decades, while politicians have been publicly denying this for decades.
“human and natural systems will face additional severe risks”, including some that are “irreversible”. - Carbon Brief - from AR6 impacts report
Climate change is but one symptom of our predicament of our global ecological overshoot
Overshoot occurs when people use energy and biological resources faster than ecosystems can regenerate and pollute beyond nature's assimilation capacity. It's a meta-problem, the cause of most so-called ‘environmental problems’ including climate change. Overshoot means that we modern humans are consuming, polluting and destroying the biophysical basis of our own existence. - Prof William Rees -- https://populationmatters.org/news/2021/11/bill-rees-note-climate-change-and-cultural-denial
The above link is a blog version of a recent academic article co-authored by Prof. Rees, that says a renewable energy transition is not going to be possible in the remaining time scale left to industrial civilization. In the article "Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition", Siebert & Rees make the case that there are numerous collectively fatal problems with so-called renewable energy technologies, and that the only backing out of our predicaments is a contraction of the human enterprise. There are lots of economic, ecological and social costs to renewable energy. The notion of "affordable clean energy" is a limited, one-eyed view as seen through a key-hole. The core point is that RE is biophysically unsustainable to begin with, when all the details of RE technology life cycle are examined.
It is important to consider these points properly, because having unachievable hopes in RE technology can blind us to our ongoing extreme global overshoot predicament. Not counting unpaid systems costs and waste means I can just look at its useful economic benefits, and forget the before and after parts.
As pointed out in further officially published debate on this, we are exploiting ecosystems beyond their regeneration and assimilation capacities, which is by definition is going end in the termination of both ecosystems and the exploiters.
The last Cop-26 didn't change a thing, and was exploited as a fossil fuel trade display show. Discussing ecological meta-overshoot, and resources decline was not on the agenda. The IPCC reports sticks to the climate impacts to our our overall complex systems, assuming that we can continue to maintain them. Most attendees would know the concepts about our current ecological overshoot. The word "overshoot" in the IPCC report is used as a limited technical term to mean a period of global heating beyond the 2 °C target such that cooling back down under these limits occurs after many decades.
This requires a rapid end to fossil fuel burning. Just as will we are fast running out of oil. We can easily just condense the 3,600 or so pages of expansive and data-quantified jargon to the phrase "near-term global collapse of civilization and biosphere".
Our ecological overshoot is planted in front of everyone's face. Especially at meal times. Especially in the resource consuming developed nations. Affording food is going to become a problem, even in the developed world.
The path back down from overshoot involves the immediate step down of lifestyles of the richest 20% of humans living on our planet. The rest of the global population is shouldering the burden of the richest lifestyles, as always. Downsizing the lifestyles of the most fortunate and influential is not on any rich nations political agenda.
Periodic wars, threats and trade sanctions, and the treatment of Julian Assange, gives me the impression that us rich nations will tell whopping lies and fight to the death to maintain their self-entitled lifestyles at the expense of every current and future living creature. There is no point to invest in any further COP-XX gab-fest. We already know how the global nations are going to play it out. Nations always all known what was actually needed to do, and then done the opposite. The only point to COP-XX's seems to have been for nations agree to kick the can further down the road, while mouthing the words of action.
Meanwhile, back in east coastal Australia, local crews, willing helpers and some Australian Defense Force started the mop-ups. Us civilized beings turn fossil fuels into lots of trash, and now it has to be thrown away again. Some tawdry small cash payments have been offered by the government for the newly homeless. This might pay for a few weeks meals and accommodation, while they fend for themselves and find help from family and friends. We always try to help each other get back to "Business as Usual". That is what the government is counting on in the "free-enterprise" system.
The intensive rains have created a massive regrowth of vegetation. When the next extreme heat-dry period arrives, as it must do, in the next five years, there will be an amazing build up of potential fire fuel. Our wet and dry cycles are more intense.
The Australian Government has long since cut funding or closed down organizations for thinking about climate change adaptation, over recent decades. This includes cutting the Climate Council, CSIRO divisions and science grants. The Australian Fossil Fuel Cartel parties are only interested in the BAU funded by the money malignancy world. The Greenhouse mafia running the nation have tried their hardest to kill all renewable energy funding and infrastructure development, while promoting super-exploitation gas fields, and more coal mines for foreign corporations.
Australia has become a foreign owned mining quarry for the financial elites of the industrial world. Western Industrial prosperity, and global FIRE depends on fossil fuel burning, and so does future global climate calamity. Your future has been chosen for you by your government. Fossil fuel burning expansion continues to boost our systems overshoot. The deluded and consumer happy population has been herded up the easy growth side of the net energy cliff, and now we will all get to slide the big dipper all the way to systems collapse until way below the long term sustaining capacity for our species.
The net energy cliff is a simple conceptual model. Even I can understand the outline. The results of going down it, seems to have been ignored, rather than disproved, by the optimists of a brilliant transition to a renewable energy world. As economic populations we divide our efforts and resources. Our materials, food and energy sectors are linked to each other. Inefficiency of the energy sector increases the costs of the materials and food sectors. Decline in the materials and food resources, mineral and soil depletion, increases the needs for more intensive energy inputs. Adverse impacts on all three of materials, energy and food, at the same time, which is what we now experience, is killing the discretionary use of resources that we call prosperity.
In the simple model of Brandt, the resource intensity of food sector inputs are the most sensitive driving variable. Food is our life-supporting sustenance, so the hungry masses will be very restless, when feeding ourselves enough will take more energy supply than we are going to have. There exists an implied crunch time, when the energy needed to supply everyone with food, conflicts with the energy required to maintain our complex technological systems, transport and communications, bureaucracy, and social infrastructures, and all those occupational specializations living in densely packed and energy hungry cities. Collapse is certain when the return ratio invested in getting energy falls below 50%. A discussion of the Brandt paper is here - https://biophyseco.org/2017/04/26/is-there-such-a-thing-as-a-net-energy-cliff/
Our ultimate constraint is food supply, which is our inescapable biological connection to our over exploited ecosystems. The pleasure of living in rural areas, is a more direct connection to the land that feeds us. All living beings are compelled by our biological drives. Humans also have societal expectations. As prize contenders in the overshoot game, the recently knocked out strive very hard to get back into the competition ring. Our striving for BAU is part of a global malignancy that is killing global life systems. We are trapped inside "maintaining our economic systems of producing waste".
Some noises are being made about maybe doing flooded township rebuilds in a different style or place, as some entire townships have been structurally wiped. Again we have the assumption that the restored towns and lifestyles will be made around BAU so that our standards of fossil fuel energy consumption can continue.
Each passing year increases our blow-backs from global warming, adds to global conflicts, and subtracts from the stocks of remaining non-renewable resources. The "costs of living" rise and more people continue to fall behind. Our economies will crumble as we flog our planetary systems towards their failure. Our systems are on a forced march towards collapse.
Everybody knows this, while we collectively we fight to maintain our in-group status quo. Collapse is becomes a gut feel only when it hits personally. Someone must to be blame, and usually a convenient out-group is found. Anger of our flood victims goes towards the government for perceived lack of support for the recent flood disasters. Our systems of collective non-planning for resilience and politics of climate inaction strongly predict more future failures.
At least the wildlife in our drought prone interior might have benefited from the soaking rains. This is some kind of nature compensation for also having periodic droughts, heatwaves and bush-fires. The Australian BOM - Bureau of Meteorology web site now has a page devoted to climate outlooks. It gives its predictions in polished simple language.
La Niña remains active in the tropical Pacific, with observations and climate models indicating the event is past its peak. Outlooks indicate the La Niña is likely to end around mid-autumn 2022. While this event has peaked, it is expected to continue to contribute to the wetter than median outlooks for parts of eastern Australia. - http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/outlooks/#/overview/influences
Now I know why human beings like to talk first mostly about the weather. The near future weather is the limited time horizon beyond which the average minds and stomachs consider too difficult to plan and think about. Global collapse should be heading towards being included in a conversation about the weather soon enough. Climate Calamity marches as directed from our stomachs. National governments, are held by the energy addictions of their corporate and individual parts. Everyone and every institution is unable to give up the lifestyles we have come to expect from our "Energy Slaves". This includes the unsustainable infrastructure and devices that enable this article to be published on the internet. Our denial is well documented by many but unable to motivate change. It is unthinkable that we should take direct sacrificial steps to lose the lifestyle of our energy powered machines of wheels. It seems our global charge into self-destructive calamity is guaranteed. Only our involuntary systems collapse of our fossil fueled economy can save us even as we still fight to keep it going.
The overgrown global organism that heats our planet with
its metabolism has been called the "Mega-Machine". Like any badly rigged machine it
is divided spatially into parts we call nations, that don't get on well with each other. These parts have very
similar internal economic activities, and can employ Each nation has
its populations distributed around cities as central places of exchange,
and places of resource exploitation. Each of them balances out their
internal deficiencies of metabolism, and defects of resources and
capital structure, by using trade interconnections to exchange energy,
materials, products and biological components. The concepts of
"metabolism" and "economic activity" describe the same sorts of things. A
nation an internal "free-trade" zone.
War hikes the costs of fuel, weapons and destruction
The Russian Ukraine Emergency - RUE has been earlier predicted as an example of fossil fuel income dependent nation reacting to the disruption of RE technology on fossil fuel prices. Ugo Bardi points to historical examples of energy consumer nations working up to making war with their energy suppliers. Russia supplies gas, and Europe is dependent on it. Europe cooperated with its big brother backer, the USA, in encroaching on Russian Territory, and encouraged revolution in states on its borders. Evidently Russia decided that it was not going to tolerate this any more. It made its border requirements explicit, and de-facto.
The new Ukraine government since 2014 pretended it hadn't heard Russia, and was busy acquiring arms, sniping at the de-facto Russian acquisitions in its east, and was angling for direct union with the EU and NATO. The Russian armies marching up and down the Ukraine borders was failing to get those living in European Fantasy Land, to heed its own petty empire demands. It is unfortunate that human beings have a tendency to demand geophysical and politic impossibility, and too often take actions that are in their worst interests. Between state relationships are driven by the same limited emotions and thinking that rules our personal relations.
The Ukraine occupation war is fraught, murderous and prolonged, for both sides, because Ukraine has built up a defensive armory of weapons purchased from the West that can do great damage to invading forces. I doubt that Russian military expected it to be over so quickly. Rather than Ukraine being entirely innocent, and pretending they never thought that Russia would attack, the success of defense suggests there has been a long preparation for an invasion.
European history is awash with history of inter-state conflicts, local wars, and power grabs. As in WWI, with the machine guns and trenches, which was mutual slaughter on all sides, taking large cities in modern urban warfare is terribly destructive of life and capital investments on both sides. Buildings and tanks get the same explosive treatment. The end result is massive piles of rubble, and rusting machinery, and large numbers of maimed and dead, and millions of refugees. Modern warfare has turned into slum demolition operations, without waiting for the human beings to escape. Most of us all live in high density urban areas.
The intensity and determination of urbanized defense, increases the cruelty and duration, and the mechanisation of destruction. Killers from a distance operate the remote controls. It is too easy for soldiers to be trained to kill people they cannot see, and follow simple orders they dare not question. Modern armies become cyborg zombies of part machine and part organic components, assembled from of psychologically lobotomized people, sacrificed at the whim of leaders who think they are playing chess. Deadly missiles shoot down planes after pressing a few buttons. Computers calculate the trajectory of mass factory produced shells. None of this guarantees success or accuracy, but multiplies the number of people killed per soldier. So modern urban warfare is highly destructive, the more that machinery, automation and explosive power are substituted for numbers of soldiers. War is another kind of job where humans are replaced by automated machines, in order to kill more humans, for the benefit of exploiting elites in rich developed nations.
If Ukraine wasn't so driven with nationalistic and cultural fervor, their population might realize that rule by the whims of one bunch of rich oligarchs is much the same as being ruled by another. Once the emotions of war are stirred up, it is fight, die or run. This often turns out to be fight and die, with the emergent organization of war, from templates and plans worked out beforehand. Whether survivors and new bosses are oligarchs are from the West or East, will not matter much at all, as long as the current global mafia bosses agree to stop the fighting. No such choice is possible once the war machines are organized against each other. Now we have a war of attrition until one or both sides collapse. NATO and USA will wait until maximum damage is done before committing their own war machines directly. This is consistent with a long history of great power wars by proxy.
The images of war that are now allowed in the western media show the same sort lives that we all live, being destroyed. Our proxy wars in other places with equal devastation in third world nations are so under-privileged in comparison. Iraq under sanctions, Libya torn apart, Afghanistan starving right by gross sanctions siege by the USA, Yemen still undergoing bombardment and starvation. None of these are given prominence in our media. They aren't honorary white people.
The war in Ukraine is is given prominence due to its closeness to Europe, and to its discretionary prosperity from the fossil fuel powered Western ways of life. The West surely plans to keep working on public opinion to engineer a direct involvement in response when the time and situation is ripe for Russia to be invaded, its government deposed, and control of its oil and gas resources acquired. The west will be seeking to control Russian fossil fuel resources as both punishment and war reparations. Industrial civilization is attempting to send itself back to the stone age, as we destroy in Ukraine the desirable western fossil fuel luxury ways of life, using fossil fuel technologies of war.
This is how human aggression machines always work - winner takes all, or whatever still remains. It worked quite well for small human groups, and ensured we dispersed across the entire world to keep away from each other. Not all the oil in the world can keep us at peace and happy, and even less so as it runs out.
Nation state empires always make wars and always fragment
The flakey patchwork of the Russian Empire, is as artificial as any engineered cobbled together power structure, is on its way collapse into its little bits. Such structures have always fragmented and crumbled through-out history. It isn't a real state, any more than Ukraine is a real state. Putin will die soon, and local states will reform out of his federation.
Local resources and local communication and coordination will always matter the most for survival, when larger conglomerations run out of energy and resources to support a monolithic empire. In the same way, global trade will collapse along with global civilization, as fossil fueled everything collapses. The Chinese national monolith is just as global oil dependent empire held together for a short period, as its own history of collapse and reforming shows.
What matters is energy availability and usage for the general citizens, and their rights to enjoy some parts of their productive efforts. A good test of the sincerity of the Russian demands of recognition of their earlier de-facto gains, and future "neutrality" of Ukraine, is if they will actually observe cease fire and strategic withdrawal, if those demands are agreed to by the West. The boss of Ukraine isn't necessarily the elected president, no different to any other pretend democracy, although Pres. Zelenskyy is doing a good job as a figurehead prolonging the conflict.
The current Ukraine government, the EU and NATO are as much at fault and are failure in preventing a war, as is Russia. Ukraine had badly dissed off its nearest most powerful neighbor, and persistently failed to heed predictable consequences, of which the EU, USA and NATO had been long aware of, and likely had plans for, and had helped bring about and manipulate the situation. The punishment isn't deserved, because we are stupid humans, and stupidity is always punished by fate.
Back to global economic consequences.
The RUE consequences have hit in Australia, as the prices of many local food items are rising as fuel prices rise, triggered by the RUE. Although this raises fossil fuel prices in the short term, it only accelerates the collapse of fossil fuel based parts of the economy. RUE illustrates the generic stupidity of nation states run by fossil fuel cartels. Our global agriculture and food supply systems have fossil fuel embedded dependency, as measured by food prices. Ukraine is also a major global supply of grains. Did you think that the city states of the Russian fossil fuel cartels would allow such a large food supply resource to be acquired by economic exploiters from much further away?
This will create rationed and authoritarian economies. Many of the required metal and mineral commodities, will go up in price as will the supplies of fossil fuel energy. Disruption to our ways of growing and supplying food, are likely, with rise in numbers the desperate hungry people. The fossil fuel systems disruption changes everything. Growing food locally, more people involved in growing food, and organic, non-fossil fuel techniques of food growing become necessary for survival. This will be too much disruption, required too quickly, and a lot of economies and their peoples are going to be "left behind".
Now Germany and Europe have further impetus to build more RE, which will cause further demands on fossil fuel inputs for the growing scarcity of mining and manufacture of core RE infrastructure. The global resources for a full transition to RE are unavailable at the scale and speed required to maintain civilization. Our global collapse and decline of technology systems for the majority of global population is a certainty, leading to a two or three tiered society,with lots of poor starving people subjugated by technology, of paranoid nation states - the fossil fuel fortress world.
The collapse towards, fortress fossil fuel world, FFF will be much faster than a transition to our fantasy SWB solar-wind-battery fossil zero net greenhouse gases world. FFF world will not collapse completely when the SWB is maximised, because FFF world supplies the specialized minerals and high temperature manufacturing, while stocks last. These create needed basic components for SWB world. SWB can be looked as supplements and prolongation for a collapsing global civilization. Mining and manufacture of these things is environmentally destructive and energy intensive.
Right now the Australian government has finally seen the glimmer of SWB lights, and the dangers of relying on imports for every manufactured item, and promises to finally invest in some secondary processing of raw materials for battery manufacture, at last to think value add for its raw material mines.
There are not enough mineral resources to fully power FFF world with SWB world. It is likely that the FFF economic world will subsequently collapse Followed by the last vestiges of SWB world. The remaining humans will have to abandon all forms of unsustainable technology. Large cities will depopulate and survivors will spread out according to the remaining ecological carrying capacity for simpler forms of non-fossil fuel, organic farming.
Their are some super-optimistic views about "disruption" processes of RE and new technologies, under the umbrella brand of "think-X" All of these hopefuls will rely on more mining and biosphere exploitation, which relies on the master resource of global oil. Our final attempts at a controlled collapse will be failures. "Think-X" is entirely human and technology centric, and assumes the superiority of human technology, and our global ability up human population sizes beyond ecological carrying capacity, and the ability of nations and peoples to tolerate each other in this over-crowded cut-throat, deceitful human world. Humanity moves towards technological nirvana and replaces nature's 3 billion years of biological evolution. This hubris is proof of our species current cultural unsuitability for long term survival.
We need to evolve a lot more first.
The major controller of our destiny is the biological evolution, the continuous regeneration and adaptation of species and eco-systems, based upon solar energy. We commit our biggest error in debasing this global process. We are nothing apart from this. The bio-technology inherent in all living things, all the biological kingdoms of life, is far cleverer than anything so far invented by our short lived exploitation technology.
Evolution is patient, tinkers over millions of years, cares not for the fates of individuals and species, as the assemblies of life molecules themselves create new forms out of their complex and rapid thermodynamic calculations. Evolution creates new opportunity after every geophysical catastrophe and mass extinction. We are the agents of a 6th global mass extinction.
Evolution is quite willing to build up again with whatever survives our explosive exponential period of exploitation. Evolution uses bottom-up emergent systems adaptation and survival testing, full energy, materials and information recycling, and countless retesting iterations at all size scales. Evolution remembers only what it needs. Biological organisms that co-maintain their own ecosystems.
Human societies and systems are trapped in our unsustainable fossil fuel dependent exploitation systems. We do not co-maintain our ecosystems. We destroy them. We construct top-down corporate-authoritarian systems to control society and resources. Our various nations compete to destroy themselves and each other. We use up energy, materials and destroy our evolution's complex information systems, its biodiversity, in order to fill oceans and land with our systems waste. Our own reproduction biology is now compromised from global chemical toxins. And so we are now at the fast-burning end all of our current technology, systems and expectations. Civilization is not repeatable, all its actions cause irreversible change, and nothing important can be saved and remembered. Civilization collapses because it tries to kill evolution. Evolution mocks our individual lives , while our irreversible changes to global systems undermine our socially constructed narratives, and destroys our cultural claims on immortality.
As our exploitation and supply systems collapse over this decade, there is still much scope for reorganization for local adaptation and resilience. There is plenty of scope for social creativity, enjoyment, and planning for a real local future. Don't be caught with your local community unprepared.
Brandt, A.R. How Does Energy Resource Depletion Affect Prosperity? Mathematics of a Minimum Energy Return on Investment (EROI). Biophys Econ Resour Qual 2, 2 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41247-017-0019-y.
Seibert, M.K.; Rees, W.E. Through the Eye of a Needle: An Eco-Heterodox Perspective on the Renewable Energy Transition. Energies 2021, 14, 4508.