Standing with Our Toes Over the Edge

What we humans optimistically call civilization these days is only the most recent of many civilizations that have come and gone, rising to shine briefly, then slowly decline, fail and disappear into the basement storage room of history. Our turn is coming, perhaps sooner than anyone expects.

Not long after I escaped from my obligatory military service in the 1970s, I studied Earth Science at a small “Normal” school (what we now call a teacher’s college) in Western Nebraska. My major professor, Dr. Larry Agenbroad, was a charismatic figure in the classroom and the field, much the favorite of the female contingent of our academic cohort. And he was wise in the ways of Earth and Mankind. Alas, he is no longer alive to pass on his knowledge.

In classes in geomorphology he taught us some very practical geological wisdom, such as don’t build your house in a flood plain or on the slope of an “extinct” volcano.

He also taught us that modern industrial agriculture had been developed during a geologic period of unusually stable, warm and wet weather, called the Holocene, and that one of these days conditions would change and we would be unable to grow enough food to feed an exponentially expanding human population.

In a petroleum geology class, he taught us about, as you might guess, petroleum, the sticky remains of ancient sunlight, turned into a concentrated energy source by time, pressure, temperature and Standard Oil. He mentioned in passing that this resource is finite, that when it is gone there will be no replacement, and we had better be thinking of making it last as long as possible if want to keep on the current path of civilization.

Dr. Agenbroad’s vision has come back to haunt us all.

Our civilization has two great challenges before it right now, challenges that have no solutions, that humans cannot forestall, that are as  inevitable as sunrise and sunset:  Peak Oil and Climate Change.

Peak Oil is the point at which annual oil consumption surpasses the annual amount of oil we discover in new oil fields. This point has passed globally. Climate Change is the slow change of global climate conditions through the phases of glacial and interglacial periods that the world has experienced for the past 2.6 million years.

The “oil crisis” of the early 1970s brought Peak Oil to public attention. There’s nothing like sitting in a long line of cars at a gas station to make you realize oil is a finite resource. At about the same time, meteorologists noticed that global temperatures were declining and they began talking about the dangers of global climate variation.

These two observations got some people to start thinking about the future of civilization. Unfortunately, those doing the thinking were an integral part of the military-industrial complex, and the result was the oil wars of Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan, attempts to consolidate control of the last large untapped oil reserves in the world.

This new direction in United States foreign policy was hatched in George W. Bush and Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force, officially called the National Energy Policy Development Group (NEPDG) of 2001. In over 10 months of secret meetings, government officials met with petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and electricity industry representatives and lobbyists to decide how to conduct the future energy polices of the United States government.

Meanwhile, the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Bank, who up to then had pretty much held a stranglehold on the global economy, suddenly realized that if world petroleum supplies ran short, the Global Economy was going into the toilet in a big way. The result was the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), created to give policy advice to world governments on how to deal with human caused climate change (aka Global Warming).

That advice was, and is, rich countries give lots of money to poor countries, as guilt payment for the climate change the rich countries have caused, to bring poor countries into the Global Economy before it collapses under the weight of its own impossibility.

All of these national and international shenanigans were a last ditch attempt to control the uncontrollable, to solve the problems for which there are no solutions, and to try to avoid those unavoidable realities of Peak Oil and Climate Change.

As Albert Einstein noted in the 1940s:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Peak Oil is the result of building a high energy, high consumption civilization on a finite resource, with insufficient resources to continue when the finite source runs out. It’s as if I won a lottery and bought a mansion that requires more monthly expenses to maintain than I make in my regular salary. Once the lottery winnings are spent, I don’t have enough money to pay the regular expenses, and the house is foreclosed.

The IPCC is an attempt to find a technological fix for climate change, to “stop” global warming” so our burgeoning population and it’s constantly growing economy can continue indefinitely.

But climate change is not the problem. Climate change has continued for millennia, long before humans came on the scene. The problem is that humans have built a civilization based on the assumption of a static climate, that will continue into the future indefinitely, as it has for the past 100 years.

A simple geology class would disabuse even a freshman college student of that myth.

The twin challenges humans face today, Peak Oil and Climate Change, we ourselves created by way of our highly technocratic civilization. Our energy intensive technology is the problem, not the solution. Further technology cannot “solve” these problems, they can only make them worse.

When you’re standing on the precipice with your toes dangling out over the edge, you can do one of two things: you can take a step backwards, or, if you don’t like moving backwards, you can turn around and take a step forward.

Famines and Wars Predicted

In a recent article in City Watch, Seth Berenstein whinges on about apparent ho-hummieness about climate change among the public in the United States (mistakenly calling us “Americans” (Does that include Canada, Central and South America?). We’re apparently supposed to be “extremely worried” about climate change, as if being worried would in some way make it go away.

There are two problems with the popular perception of climate change that make it a non-issue.

1) The case for human causation, and, thus, human solution to the perceived problem of climate variation, is very weak. We all know that climates have varied for millennia, long before humans had the capacity to influence weather, let alone climate. If climate didn’t vary on its own, we’d all still be buried under miles of glacier ice. Despite this simple fact, we are expected to accept as rote that humans are so powerful as to cause climate change, and, worse yet, we’re even powerful enough that we can control climate change.

2) The social changes necessary to lower anthropogenic CO2 to levels suggested by the IPCC as sufficient to forestall climate disaster are never full explicated. They would amount to dismantling western civilization and replacing it with a low energy, highly dispersed economy, instead of the present high energy, highly centralized economy. This is not, mind you, a bad idea, whether it affects climate variation or not. But I digress.

No one knows how to do this, no politician or economist wants to do this, and few in the public understand the full implications of the anthropogenic CO2 hypothesis. Life in the United States, and much of the rest of the world, is dominated by propaganda promoting the very totalitarian capitalist consumer economy that is said to be the source of “global warming.”

How do we get the problem to solve itself?

Whether or not observed climate variation is “caused” by humans, or is a natural phenomenon subject to limited human influence, speculation about famine and wars, based on interpretations of worst case scenarios projected by an international policy organization run by the “Sustainable Development” arm of the United Nations, are baseless at best and ultimately counterproductive. This is eminently evident in the response of much of the public around the world to alarmist media pronouncements leading up to the looming major global summit meeting attempting to solidify the global corporate stranglehold on local economies.

Beyond the rampant hyperbole and screaming headlines, one thing is true: human growth and development must stop and some way must be found to decrease economic disparity throughout the world, global warming or not. Famine and wars will continue as they have for thousands of years, with or without climate change.

And still, all of life shares this world of finite resources. We Homo sapiens cannot continue on our present economic and social course. Either we deal with this reality or Nature will deal with us as she has done with all other species.

Why Climate Change is not a Problem

Climate change is popularly touted as one of the greatest problems humans have encountered since we emerged from the last ice age. A great deal of political capital is expended in attempts to explain how we can solve the problem of climate change so we can continue our civilization as we have gotten used to it over the past 300 years or so.
The foremost social agency involved in this process is the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN sponsored subcommittee of  the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). The purpose of the IPCC is to provide policy advice to world leaders on how to deal with Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW), that is, human caused Global Warming. The position of the IPCC is that climate change is a human caused “problem,” and therefore, it has a human generated solution. In other words, we caused climate change, therefore we can stop it. World governments, political and environmental organizations, scientists and science organizations have been pummeled into line with the climate change hockey stick, in order to produce a “consensus” conclusion that the climate change “problem” can be solved, given enough money and resources.
John Michael Greer, in his book, The Long Descent, makes the distinction between a “problem” and a “predicament.” Problems, by definition, have solutions. Predicaments do not. 
Pollution is a problem. Humans create air and water pollution. Humans can stop producing air and water pollution. No problem.
Drought is a predicament. There is nothing humans can do about drought, except learn how to accommodate to it. Drought is beyond human solution.
As it turns out, global climate variation is a predicament, not a problem. The Earth’s climate has varied naturally as long as there has been a coupled ocean/atmosphere on this planet. Climate has responded to terrestrial, solar and cosmic influences for hundreds of millions of years, long before humans came on the scene and started creating problems for themselves and all the neighbors.
Do humans influence climate variation? Certainly. Humans change landscapes, particularly forest cover, that influence local and regional climate. However, non-human influences on climate, the long scale cycles of solar and cosmic activity, affect the entire planet in a magnitude that far overwhelms these small and temporary human effects.
Why then do organizations such as the IPCC and the National Academy of Sciences, prominent political figures such as Al Gore, and assorted bloggers, media pundits and self-identified climate alarmists honk on interminably about the perils of global warming, irreversible climate change, the disappearance of Arctic sea ice, forest fires, unending drought, floods, famine and plagues of insects?
The simple answer is that if climate change were a normal phenomenon, not caused by human action, then it would be a predicament and not a problem. There would be no solution. There would be no excuse to extort money from developed countries to pay for “sustainable” development in as yet less developed countries. No excuse to donate money to large international environmental groups to “save the polar bears.” No reason to support political campaigns or politicians offering cap and trade schemes to buck up big business. No basis for extravagant government grants to fund climate change research that supports the AGW hypothesis.
In other words, if climate change were a predicament rather than a problem, the whole global warming industry would come tumbling down around the ears of the climate change community. There would be no recourse other than learning how to accommodate to natural climate variation.
Therein lies the rub. 
When we come to an understanding of climate variation as a normal feature of the planet we call home, we are cast, stark naked and trembling, against the very obvious conclusion that the course of human civilization runs counter to the natural processes that make life possible. 
We live on a tiny, trembling planet, with a thin atmosphere between us and the empty immensity of space and time. All that we know, all the history of our species, lies within the tremulous vapors of our atmosphere. We suddenly realize this is a finite world, containing the only sources of energy, food and shelter available to us. We are suddenly exposed to the concept of limits, boundaries and natural cycles, predicaments over which we have no control, cannot get around and for which we cannot provide solutions.
There is no way out. No one, religious, terrestrial or cosmic, is going to appear in a burst of celestial trumpets with the magic silver bullet that will release us from the constraints of the planet on which we evolved.
This is it. This is all there is, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
It’s think or thwim. 
We have two choices: we admit to our feet of clay and get on with the process of reshaping our social arrangements to those that can continue comfortably within our limits, within natural cycles of resource availability, within natural climate fluctuations. We create resilient societies based on change rather than stasis. 
Or we close our eyes to reality, continue on this path as we have for the past three centuries, and sail blithely down the porcelain parkway.
It’s very simple really, and when one gets over the dramatic hand to forehead, deep sigh and resignation stage, it’s very liberating. We can forget about socialism versus capitalism, Democrats versus Republicans, east versus west and north versus south. We‘re all on the same planet, faced with the same challenges and the same inevitable consequences of failure to act.
Let’s just get on with it. No problem!

Abrupt, Irreversible Tipping Points – Anthropomorphizing Climate Change

Search anywhere on the Internet for stories about Climate Change or Global Warming and you’ll find the terms “abrupt,” irreversible” and “tipping points.” The last phrase is particularly egregious, now attributed to every manner of natural phenomena, as if all natural processes teeter on the brink of disaster.
This turns out not to be the case.
The problem is not so much intellectual dishonesty, scientific ineptitude nor self-serving agendas, though they are all at play as well. The reason the headlines abound in such mind-boggling maloprops is science and policy writers are desperately trying to translate highly technical climate science research into terms that non-scientists can absorb and embrace. 
It is not literally true that climate variation is “abrupt.” Abrupt is a judgment term coined by hasty humans to describe rapid change, to which we Homo sapiens are evolutionarily disposed to notice. “Abrupt” adds a note of immediacy and panic to what otherwise is an unnoticeable phenomenon, the gradual change of climate over centuries.
“Irreversible” adds to the urgency of the coming “abrupt” climate change, implying that once the climate “abruptly” changes in one direction, it will never, ever, cross my heart and hope to die, change back. This, of course, is absurd! Natural processes are never unidirectional, if they even, indeed, ever have a direction. “Irreversible,” “abrupt” climate change connotes something negative, something bad, something that we must avoid at any cost. Odd, this, in that we never think of changes in plate tectonics, vulcanism, gravity, cosmic rays, or the precession of the solar system as having direction, speed or irreversibility. 
These concepts applied to climate change are chosen and utilized purposefully and for specific agendas, seeking very cynically to produce a desired mental state in the minds of the public and policy making institutions.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seeks to heighten alarm over climate variation in support of its parent organization, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), whose purpose is “To provide leadership and encourage partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations.” In other words, Sustainable Development. The purpose of the IPCC is to provide UNEP with policy recommendations to support UNEP’s goal of transferring large sums of money from developed to less developed countries to support Sustainable Development projects, aka economic growth. 
The scientific community lives in a world dominated by the struggle for funding for their parent agencies, be they academic, governmental or non-governmental organizations. When devising and submitting a research proposal, one must identify funding sources for that research, and submit grant applications amenable to those fundings sources’ ideals and purposes. Research funding sources in climate science are dominated by agencies supportive of the IPCC and its goals and therefore most interested in funding research projects supportive of the concept of “abrupt,” “irreversible” “tipping points” in natural climate variability.
The political community lives in a world dominated by corporate funding for political campaigns, so that it is now impossible to separate the views of any political officer or candidate from the source of his or her funding. Catastrophic climate change has become the litmus test of political candidacy. No candidate who questions the scientific orthodoxy of anthropogenic global warming has any chance of being elected to government office, because the money is solidly backing the global warming horse race.
Those who feather their own nests with global warming hyperbole use the tactics of fear, just as in the war on terror, the war on drugs and the war on ecoterrorism. These complex concepts are made simplistic through caricature and emotionalism, ascribing human emotions to physical phenomenon. Thus we hear of “angry” storms, “fierce tornadoes,” and other inappropriate emotions ascribed to weather.
Climate change is always described as negative, open-ended and unidirectional. Any change, either warmer or colder, wetter or drier, stormier or calmer, is considered detrimental to life, regardless of any historical data to the contrary.
This use of propaganda to achieve a political and/or economic end has a long history in human affairs. One would think we would have learned by now that those who wield the stick of fear are not to be trusted.
But then, one would have to think. 

6 Reasons Why Global Warming is Natural

The article: Has CO2 warmed the planet at all in the last 50 years? It’s harder to tell than you think explains the uncertainty regarding the Anthropogenic Global Warming proposition.

It seems clear that the perception of human caused “Global Warming” is a function of several factors:

1) Urban Heat Island Effect (UHI) – the effect of concentrated human technocratic infrastructure that raises local temperatures. The proximate causes of UHI range from placement of weather recording stations in areas of artificial heat generation (airports, near air conditioners r other industrial heat sources) to generalized heat bubbles surrounding major cities. Selection of recording sites is critical in evaluating temperature records. (See numerous articles on Watts Up With That?)

2) Temperature data and data source manipulation – selection of recording sites, start and end points of records analyzed, step increases in temperature masking trends, manipulation of raw data, work to create the impression of a warming climate. 

3) Political agendas – environmental groups, UN/IPCC, World Bank, International Monetary Fund – organizations such as the IPCC, the Met Office, Union of Concerned Scientists, United Nations World Meteorological Organization are not scientific organizations, they are science policy organization. Therefore, the conclusions they reach and communicate are not scientific conclusions, they are policy recommendations based on interpreted results of scientific investigation. The United Nations focus is on “sustainable development,” and most, if not all of their policy documents are couched in terms of making the developed nations pay for continuing development in the “global South.” Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, and World Wildlife Fund have changed from grassroots advocacy and action to political lobbying organizations, requiring multi-million dollar budgets and a compromising presence in world seats of power and influence. 

4) Natural climate change – Yes, the climate of the earth does change, all on its own. In fact, change is the norm. It is the expectation of a static, unchanging climate that is at odds with reality.
5) Media hysteria – Media mavins love a bold headline, even if it isn’t true.

6) Anecdotal weather observations – heat, tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding. Individual, (aka anecdotal) weather observations of floods, tornadoes, hail, thunderstorms, hurricanes give a perception of weather “out of control,” as if weather was ever in control. Today’s weather extremes are no different than those of the past. Anecdotal weather observations do not take into account the history of weather and climate variation.

What to do about Climate Change – whether it’s real or not!

I’m confused!
While reading the news, I constantly see headlines and ledes such as the following:
Yet when I read the climate science literature, I don’t find these alarming headlines backed up by evidence. Quite the contrary.
Much of the alarmist attitude in the press comes from the IPCC, whose charter is to research anthropogenic climate change and propose international policies to deal with it. It is clearly documented that IPCC lead authors have censored articles from their contributing authors and have modified conclusions from contributors after they were approved for publication.
Perhaps this is the source of the confusion, or at least one source. Certainly, concentration on political and economic influences, such as the recent spat over The Heartland Institute document theft, obfuscates the underlying science, grabbing the headlines with lurid stories of undercover schemes, mudslinging and name calling. Whether or not this is deliberate on either side, these actions function to dilute and distort the science of climate variation.
While it is certainly true that human activities modify climate, and is certainly true that atmospheric CO2 absorbs energy and reradiates it into the atmosphere, there is no evidence demonstrating a causal relationship of human produced CO2 and other greenhouse gases to the observed rise in global average surface temperature. The connection is intuitive rather than documented. 
This confusion is further exacerbated by continuing claims for an anthropogenic global warming (AGW) source for every bit of perceived weather excess that comes along, such as the recent tornado outbreak.
Since human produced CO2 accounts for only 3% of the total increase of CO2 in the atmosphere annually, will an international effort to “de-carbonize” the global economy through the construction of windfarms and solar panel arrays in the few remaining undeveloped parts of the world significantly modify observed climate variation? Not bloody likely.
Meanwhile, human activity continues to release truly harmful pollution into the air, land and water, destroy critical habitat for native species, draw down water tables and cover the surface of the planet under a layer of asphalt, cement and steel. There’s no question about these vary real effects of human growth and development.
There is also no question about how to stop the destruction caused by human growth and development: stop human population growth and begin its decline, stop human economic growth and develop steady state economies, stop the release of polluting substances into the biosphere, take no more resources than can be replenished through natural processes and produce no more waste than can be dispersed through natural processes. 
We know how to do these things. Rather than wringing our hands in angst about possible future climate change over which we have no control, let’s do something about those destructive effects of human “civilization that we understand and know how to correct.
If we clean up our own nests, we will contribute less to AGW and, at the same time, become more resilient to accommodate inevitable natural climate variation.

Science is not ruled by consensus

“Most climate scientists say the steady increase in the concentrations of human-generated greenhouse gases like CO2 play a decisive role in this climate change, by trapping ever-more solar energy in the home planet’s atmosphere.”

This sentence demonstrates the danger of interpretation of science by non-scientists.

“Greenhouse” gases do not trap heat in the atmosphere. They absorb energy at certain wavelengths and reradiate it in all directions, some down to Earth, some out in space.

Recent satellite measurements show that heat energy leaving the Earth’s atmosphere to space is much greater than that predicted by global climate models, and adopted by the IPCC in their prognostocations. This means that all of their “predictions” of future climate are called to question, including those parroted by “most scientists.”

Fortunately, science does not advance by consensus. If ten scientists are wrong and one scientist is right, do we ignore the correct interpretation of data anyway? The findings of one scientist can completely negate the findings of hundreds. It is the data, methodology and conclusions that are critical in scientific investigation, not the number of scientists who agree.

Whether or not Antarctica respond to climate variation has no bearing on the source of climate change. Antarctica and the Arctic have been changing for millennia with no help from human society.

Climate variation is natural, spurred and limited by natural cycles within the biosphere.