The Fires of History Yet Rage — Climate Change and the Authoritarian Assault on Liberal Democracy

Some have said that history ended with the fall of Soviet Russia and the subsequent virtuous spread of liberal democracy. Now, with a fossil-fueled dictator at the Kremlin conducting information wars to topple western democracies and with the various and many-fanged monsters of climate change howling at the gates of a world besieged, that notion seems both ignorant and laughable.

Pshaw — history ended? Clearly not.

(The glaciers and snows of the Himalayas are dwindling — just one of the obvious impacts of human-forced climate change. Video source: Google Earth Engine.)

A good segment of the world now acts like their brains have been hacked. Bots and trolls masquerading as real people try to shout down valid out-crys for divestment-from and resistance-to worsening abuses. And Elon Musk has a point when he says we’re all cyborgs now.

But it is, perhaps, possible for us to sympathize with the now-faded false comfort of our brief fantasy that abusive powers were defeated — never to rise again. For, in 1989, the difficulties were seemingly more remote — walled off in perceived blocks of East vs West, segmented by large, set-piece armies and mostly impermeable spheres of influence. With the collapse of one sphere — the side of totalitarianism and the authoritarian state — it seemed that the advance of liberal western democracy and with it justice, freedom, and equality was inevitable.

Now, 28 years later, the trouble and chaos jumps right out at you through the screen of your computer, tablet, or smart phone. Authoritarianism splintered. But then its various shards metastasized, becoming smarter, more nimble, more in your face, and more linked to global monetary and information power centers. Meanwhile, the West, caught up in the illusions of conservative thought, failed to advance and was therefore unprepared when new threats inevitably emerged both from within and without (See how Trump’s actions boosted effectiveness of Russian information warfare against US).

(NASA shows Arctic rate of warming per decade through 2012. Putin hopes for an ice-free Arctic so he can drill for more oil. His assault on western democracy is also related to a climate change denial based attack on renewable energy. Image source: NASA.)

You may today be cajoled — through the internet — by none other than oil billionaire, petrostate dictator, former KGB agent, democracy saboteur, and Trump-supporter Vladimir Putin who’d try to use his supposedly legendary charm (or the merciless intimidation of his online agents and surrogates) to convince you of the false notion that the climate is changing but humans aren’t the cause (see — Putin Defends Climate Deniers and Looks Forward to Arctic Melting). If you’re one of those strong-willed enough to wrench your mind from the grasp of a man and his army of 15,000 information warfare trolls spreading misinformation aimed at the advancement of his destructive wealth and power, you could use the same powerful tool to actually directly contact real scientists — who’d tell you that about 100 percent or more of present warming is now being caused by human beings. So you could then give Putin a very justified big, fat middle finger salute.

And who knew that an honest man (or, in this case, seventeen honest women and men) would be so hard to come by in the age of mass and easy to access factual information? The differences between the false and the true and between the total lack of moral stature of those who will use any means available to grasp for more power (see — Follow the Trail of Dead Russians) and those who are now threatened if they selflessly choose to serve the public good (see — Climate Science Witch Hunts) is as stark as stark could be. Socrates, during his last days, couldn’t hold a candle to the injustices and truth mangling we face today.

(Back in December, a Russian military threat disrupted renewable energy production from wind turbines like these in the Baltic.  Unwilling to transition to renewable energy, Russia, under Putin, has staked its fate to oil and gas production. Historically, state economic reliance on fossil fuels has enabled autocratic dictatorships even as it has tended to produce crashes when market prices drop. The fall of the Soviet Union can be linked to low oil and gas prices, for example. Image source: Power Technology.)

But as moral thought-leaders continue to try to warn the public, and as those who have unjustly and immorally enriched themselves by polluting the atmosphere and wrecking the climate seek to cover up the serious risks and harms, the fossil fuel carbon that has been so irresponsibly dumped into our atmosphere for so long continues to create ever-worsening and more terrible effects.

No. History didn’t end. But the nature of conflict and power certainly changed in a way that rendered old responses obsolete and ineffective. We solved one global problem and by failing to improve ourselves and our societies enough, we invited another. And we are starting to see that we are in far more dire straits than we ever were before as a result.

Advertisements
Leave a comment

87 Comments

  1. Ryan in New England

     /  April 1, 2017

    You’ve been doing some really great writing lately, Robert. I’ve come to expect nothing less from you, but I appreciate that you take time to expose the very powerful forces aligned against those of us fighting for a livable future, and shining light on their methods so we can recognize it when we see it.

    Also wanted to thank you for your comment on the last thread about your past with the Republican party, and what has led you to the perspective you have now. The modern Republican party has driven out anyone who believes in objective reality and evidence backed arguments. The Trump supporters are more like a cult than educated members of a democracy.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for the kind words, Ryan. And I couldn’t agree more RE Trump and Republicans. The republican party, as is, has a lot to answer for. Their move from moderation toward increasing extremism has been very harmful. But I think it’s pretty clear now that they really don’t know what they want, despite the extreme rhetoric. This is evidenced by a nearly complete lack of ability to coordinate, as a party, on policy. The noted exception may be tax cuts. But I think that even with that they are starting to see how tax cuts running too deep hurt the constituents in their districts by removing support for helpful public services.

      I’d like to add that with this blog and probably with western media in general, there has been a visible effort to shape the narrative by foreign bad actors like Putin. I regularly receive what I can easily identify as information warfare pressure. It often shows up in comments, but it has also appeared as efforts to promote or suppress information coming from this blog to support certain perceptions.

      For example, if I criticize the right or Putin, there is a lot of activity that one would attribute to information suppression. But if I publish something that is more easily spun, like methane release issues or atmospheric circulation (which have tended to be grayer areas), that gets high heat in the suspect circles through retweets and other social media activity.

      My personal opinion is that social media outlets need to do a better job controlling bots and trolls (especially those that come from suspect regions or IPs). It’s really everyone’s responsibility — even comment moderators. But at the very least Twitter could take down wikileaks — which is obviously being used for information warfare against the west at this time.

      Reply
  2. Regulation of emissions in Putinia is not a high priority, a ‘good’ role model for Trumplandia. Thus most of Russia is in up the 420’s all winter, burning fossil fuels like crazy, but perhaps not as intensely as parts of Europe and China:

    https://earth.nullschool.net/#current/chem/surface/level/overlay=co2sc/orthographic=-294.82,63.77,568/loc=129.237,66.231

    In the summer, the great Siberian boreal forest pulls in a lot of CO2, but lately there have been many huge fires sending lots of that carbon into the atmosphere again. UofM’s Global Forest Change project has mapped this burning boreal forest quite accurately for the years 2000 – 2014. Just turn background imagery off for the real impact of logging and fires:

    http://earthenginepartners.appspot.com/google.com/science-2013-global-forest?hl=en&llbox=50.6778%2C49.8606%2C-124.3615%2C-126.0493&t=ROADMAP&layers=layer0%2C12%3A100%2Clayer8%2C8%3A100%2Clayer1%3A100

    Reply
  3. redskylite

     /  April 1, 2017

    Thanks for s an insightful piece of penmanship that certainly invokes much thought on the last few decades. True the end of the U.S.S.R held great promise and opportunity of a new harmony and balance. The spectre of a nuclear winter lifted and a new detente between East and West. How quickly times can change, now we are in a much more complex situation with runaway climate change hanging over us and devious deadly manipulators at the wheel, using modern technological improvements in communications to their advantage.

    Only the Smithsonian offers any light relief in today’s news.

    Cue Monty Python’s/Eric Idle’s “Always Look at the Bright Side of Life”

    Take a Walk on the Bright Side at the First Smithsonian Earth Optimism Summit
    As an antidote to doom and gloom, a conference on Earth Day weekend, takes a look all the good that is being done

    http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/smithsonians-earth-optimism-summit-takes-walk-bright-side-conservation-180962731/

    Reply
  4. Xavier

     /  April 1, 2017

    The struggle and potential breakthrough is how to divert Russia’s economy from oil & gas mono income generation addiction. The transition to electrifying 100% of western economies is a real threat to their established operating mode. Nothing is more dangerous than a cornered, life threatened and hungry animal. So much danger lies in not sharing the same possible vision of future / course of action by main stake holders. As we are approaching tipping points (from all perspectives ) the whole system is loading with tensions and rupture points each day revealing themselves with starker contrasts . By succeeding at implementing a fast transition we may trigger a chain of events with far worse short term consequences. Not an excuse for status quo but we need to be clear about the full scope of the experiment we’re all part of and the centrifugal forces at work.

    Reply
    • I agree with this in principle. But in order for that to happen:

      1. The Climate Change Denial needs to go.
      2. Russian leaders need to let go of fossil fuel dependence.
      3. Attacks on liberal democratic institutions by Russia and surrogate wiki leaks through malicious misinformation warfare needs to stop.
      4. We need to agree to work together to advance sustainable renewable technology and expand its scope.

      The present state between Russia and the west is one where Russia is directly acting to sabotage whole nations and the underpinnings of liberal democracy itself. This is a very real war. And probably ultimately more dangerous that a hot war.

      Reply
  5. The whole “end of history” shtick was total buncombe as soon as the book was published. The usual hyperbole and arrogance of the neoliberal capitalist class.

    Though Francis Fukayama may have been right in a way he didn’t intend–the end of human history as the planet’s climate system unravels.

    Reply
  6. Andy_in_SD

     /  April 1, 2017

    Putin is a very smart man, I bet he plays one hell of a game of chess.

    He is using our own people now (conservative denialist Americans) against us, and they don’t even know it. Nor do they care, and they would never believe it even if Putin walked up to them with his directions written down and told them. Our own people have become his foot soldiers, and they don’t even realize it, nor can stop long enough to figure it out.

    They (or their leader) would just scream in all caps “FAKE NEWS”. That is the most brilliant piece of brain washing I have ever seen. That can be yelled at ones own quotes, recorded, with video. And they lumpen will dutifully believe it is “FAKE NEWS”. It can be yelled / twittered at anything, and no matter what, they will believe it.

    Has anyone else noticed that a particular person who can’t control his thoughts, or mouth is addicted to Twitter, and that starts with the word “Twit”?

    Reply
  7. Steve Strode

     /  April 1, 2017

    It’s good to see Putin finally called out on his terrible record on climate. The strangest thing to me though is how many of the NTHE crowd seem to always make excuses for him. Could they also part of the Russian campaign to stop meaningful action by saying it’s too late and
    labeling all such action as hopeless (or Hopium as Guy Mcpherson likes to call it)?

    Reply
    • Have wondered the same for some time. It’s exactly the kind of extreme misinformation they tend to promote. Extreme left, extreme right — same goals.

      Reply
  8. Glyn Goodwin

     /  April 1, 2017

    I awoke this morning wondering how many people will have to die from direct climate change for the powers that be to recognise how serious the situation is. With temperatures prodding 46 degrees in India coming out of winter, I suspect we will have the answer soon. Perhaps a million dying in a ‘wet bulb event’? Ten million? 100 million? When the BBC stops reporting ‘unseasonably good weather’ and starts to admit that violent climate change walks amongst us and will not stop we can be sure the tide has turned. Then we need our array of flimsy possible ‘solutions’ to hand. It may well be too late but we can but try. Thanks for a great summing up of where we are and all the other articles you have put together. Essential if harrowing reading.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Glyn. I think we’ll find that we’re more capable than many realize once we really get moving. It’s just overcoming the social, economic, and political inertia that’s very challenging. Not to say that things will be easy going forward just that we are capable of making progress in a far more positive direction.

      Reply
  9. coloradobob

     /  April 1, 2017

    Right on cue –

    Extreme weather events increase the number of automobile insurance claims, study says

    Extreme weather events such as violent rain storms and twisters have dramatically increased automobile insurance claims from car owners citing hailstones and rising flood waters, according to a report released Wednesday by Farmers Insurance.

    Nationwide, claims for hail-related damage increased by 40 percent in the three years of the study, from 2013-2016. Flash flood and rising-water claims increased by a whopping 166 percent last year over the same period in 2013, according to the study.

    Hail and flood waters have become more ubiquitous elements during the past three years, part of an increase in violent storms in Texas, New Mexico as well as numerous states in the Midwest, South and Pacific Northwest.

    http://www.sgvtribune.com/general-news/20170330/extreme-weather-events-increase-the-number-of-automobile-insurance-claims-study-says

    Reply
  10. coloradobob

     /  April 1, 2017

    Climate Change Incited Wars Among the Classic Maya
    A new study of the relationship between climate change and clashes among the Classic Maya explicitly links temperature increases with growing conflicts.

    https://www.seeker.com/culture/history/climate-change-incited-wars-among-the-classic-maya

    Reply
    • It seems that without rational social responses, climate change inflames social divisions and inequality which produces a strong collapse pressure.

      Reply
  11. Cate

     /  April 1, 2017

    Scribblers might enjoy a taste of spring from my little corner of the world.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/storm-wind-blizzard-warnings-newfoundland-spring-1.4049108

    This is, I hasten to add, completely and utterly normal and predictable for this time of year.

    Another 20 cm is forecast for Monday.

    As the poet quipped, “April is the cruellest month.” On the Rock, that’s a fact.

    Reply
  12. Suzanne

     /  April 1, 2017

    All we have, for now, are the courts and activism to try to stop the horrific actions being implemented by this Regime.
    I now spend most of my free time working with local grassroots groups that have sprung up since the election. And guess what? It does make a difference. I am an introvert who is not a “joiner”..but it has been worth it for me to get out of my comfort zone. I encourage everyone here who is feeling depressed and overwhelmed by the “horror show” that is 45 and his Regime..to get involved.

    Indivisible Guide and swing left.org are two that I can recommend.
    Let’s turn Congress BLUE in 2018.
    (BTW: Just read that George Takei is running to unseat Devin Nunes)
    __________________________________________________________
    At Truthout.org “Indigenous and Environmental Groups Sue to Block Trump’s Keystone XL Permit” http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/40056-indigenous-and-environmental-groups-sue-to-block-trump-s-keystone-xl-permit

    Environmental and Indigenous groups filed two lawsuits yesterday challenging the Trump administration’s recent decision to issue a cross-border permit for the Keystone XL pipeline that would bisect the nation and carry carbon-heavy crude oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico.

    Reply
    • Suzanne

       /  April 1, 2017

      Okay..the George Takei running for Congress was April Fools joke!! 🙂

      Reply
    • We have the 4th estate too. But, yeah, we need to shift Congress heavily blue and/or peel off a large number of republican defectors.

      Reply
      • Suzanne

         /  April 1, 2017

        I should have included them too. The reporting at WP, NYT and Guardian make me happy that I am a subscriber. It is the 45th Anniversary of Watergate..and Robert Redford today in an opinion piece at WP talks about how journalism today is as or more important than it was then.. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/robert-redford-45-years-after-watergate-the-truth-is-again-in-danger/2017/03/31/d7b9bb8c-1334-11e7-ada0-1489b735b3a3_story.html?hpid=hp_no-name_opinion-card-f%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

        Reply
        • So pretty much everyone knows that I’ve had an issue with trolls and bots. That I’ve been very aggressive about removing false information memes etc. Well, here’s just one example why. When I see a pro-Putin/pro-Trump/climate change denial/anti-science/Clinton-hating talking point coming from an IP that is originating from here:

          Continent: Europe
          Country: Hungary hu flag
          State/Region: Csongrad megye
          City: Szeged
          Latitude: 46.25 (46° 15′ 0.00″ N)
          Longitude: 20.1667 (20° 10′ 0.12″ E)
          Postal Code: 6750

          … and that it’s happening on a pretty ridiculous scale targeting this blog, it’s pretty obvious that the intent is not open discussion of a critical issue. In other words — language = politically targeted information warfare memes and origin = highly suspect geo-location attributable to foreign information warfare bad actors.

          The climate wars are global, my friends. And though we’ve had this issue before, the scale of it now is just outrageous.

  13. Suzanne

     /  April 1, 2017

    At the Guardian: “Is it socially acceptable to challenge Climate Change Denial?”
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/31/is-it-now-socially-acceptable-to-chall

    When does a social attitude become morally unacceptable enough that it is OK to challenge and confront it?

    That is the question that motivated a new study conducted at the University of Exeter in which participants were given descriptions of people being confronted after expressing certain views. When the views expressed a disregard for racial equality, the confrontations were approved of. But challenging – even politely – a disregard for climate change was seen as carrying a social cost by the students taking part in the experiment.

    Reply
    • Which is why you have to keep challenging it. Society producing a negative social cost on the issue of climate change is acting amorally.

      Reply
      • Cate

         /  April 1, 2017

        It’s easy to challenge it when you remember that climate change denial is today’s intellectual equivalent of the denial of gravity, the belief in an earth-centred universe, or the insistence that fairies live at the bottom of the garden.

        Reply
  14. unnaturalfx

     /  April 1, 2017

    On industrializing the arctic :The head of Greenpeace Energy Department, Vladimir Chuprov, said: ‘This is the price of industrial development of the Arctic, and it should be paid not by Russian taxpayers but by oil and other companies that receive astonishing profits from exploiting the area.
    ‘We call to federal and regional authorities so that they show willpower and force them to pay.’
    He warned: ‘The Arctic might not survive the second wave of industrialization.’ . http://siberiantimes.com/other/others/news/as-putin-and-medvedev-visit-the-arctic-shocking-images-show-polar-pollution-blight/ . There has already been a fair amount of damage, lets hope we don’t do a lot more.

    Reply
  15. Carol

     /  April 1, 2017

    http://www.dailyimpact.net/2017/03/31/lets-watch-50-minutes/

    On their evening and Sunday news programs during 2016, the four major American television networks devoted 50 minutes of their airtime to covering climate change. No, that’s not 50 minutes a week, or each, it’s all of them combined for the whole year. 50 minutes (according to a study by Media Matters). CBS, NBC, ABC and Fox (which is cable, and does not have an evening newscast but is prominent among Sunday news shows), all of them, all year, produced enough content about climate change to fill a single edition of 60 Minutes.

    This was in a year that was, worldwide, the hottest year on record and the third year in a row to set that record; a year that set records in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, sea level, shrinkage of glaciers and sea ice in the Arctic, Greenland and Antarctica; that saw wildfires, tornadoes, floods, storms and droughts of unprecedented numbers and severity;

    Reply
    • I am disappointed in the coverage Democracy Now does re Climate issues..Amy Goodman should start her show by saying “This is the War and Peace and Climate Report”…and then get Robert to write the report for her

      Reply
  16. Cate

     /  April 1, 2017

    Journalist Matthew Chance in Moscow left all his CNN counterparts open-mouthed this morning when he noted that if Putin did interfere in the election, his intention would have been to sow distrust, discord and divisiveness, to disrupt the normal business of the administration, to derail the government’s agenda, and in general to wreak havoc among the people and the media. If he’s done this, concluded Chance, he has succeeded.

    Reply
    • So it’s obvious that there were clear policy goals in mind — changing the republican platform (which happened), removing sanctions in order to speed a reformed partnership with Exxon and related drilling in the Arctic (which was what got Flynn in trouble), and removal of climate policies which would ultimately sink global oil demand are the more obvious ones. You can add in disrupting NATO and by electing Trump directly attacking of global western institutions that strengthen democratic interests.

      It’s a pretty dark irony that hyper capitalism combined with globalization to create a weakness in the western institutions that Putin has been able to politically exploit.

      We have been concerned about tradde policy’s negative impacts with regards to inequality (and this is a very valid concern). But we should also understand that many of these alliances form the basis for western political cooperation. These organizations are threatening to Putin and he seeks to undermine them.

      Reply
  17. coloradobob

     /  April 1, 2017

    Women’s Crucial Role in Combating Climate Change

    As a sign of the growing recognition of the connection between women’s rights and climate change, last month, the first C40 Women4Climate conference was held in Manhattan, bringing together female mayors from around the world. C40 Cities is an umbrella organization representing more than 90 cities focused on tackling climate change; Michael R. Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, is president of its board.

    For Patricia de Lille, mayor of Cape Town, the effects of climate change constitute an urban emergency.

    “In my city, we have 120 days of usable water left,” she said. “We have to litigate climate change every day.” The city, among other initiatives, plans to become the first in Africa to use electric buses for its public transport system and aims to install more than 100,000 solar water heaters on the roofs of Cape Town homes within three years.

    “The crisis has brought some opportunity,” she noted. “Over two years, we’ve trained 4,000 young people to fix plumbing leaks.” And on a larger scale, she hopes that by 2020, as much as 20 percent of her city’s energy will come from renewable sources.

    Link

    Reply
  18. coloradobob

     /  April 1, 2017

    HOUSE REPUBLICANS LAUNCH A NEW ASSAULT ON THE EPA

    A RUSSIAN LOOMED over the House of Representatives Wednesday. And it wasn’t Putin. Instead, the figure who came up in two different discussions among House members was Trofim Lysenko, a Soviet agronomist who manipulated data in ways that fit perfectly with the political agenda of Joseph Stalin. Lysenko’s theories, which rejected the now accepted ideas of genes and genetic inheritance, were so appealing to the Soviet dictator they became the only ones taught in the country in the 1940s as Soviet scientists were forbidden from contradicting his teachings. Yet the actual research behind Lysenko’s conclusions was so off base that the decision to exempt him from the standard scientific process ultimately helped lead to a famine.

    The story of the man who imperiled his country with pseudoscience designed to please a politician seemed particularly relevant during a day filled with Republican efforts to provide scientific cover for a range of unscientific policies. The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology began the day with a hearing called Climate Science: Assumptions, Policy Implications, and the Scientific Method. Held just two days after a Trump executive order killed federal efforts to address climate change, the hearing included testimony from three experts far out of the scientific mainstream whose careers have been boosted by promoting theories that benefit Republicans and the fossil fuel industry.

    https://theintercept.com/2017/03/30/house-republicans-launch-a-new-assault-on-the-epa/

    Reply
  19. coloradobob

     /  April 1, 2017

    At least 127 killed, 200 missing after south Colombia city floods

    At least 127 people were killed, 174 injured and 200 are missing after floods hit Mocoa, the capital of Colombia’s southern Putumayo province, the Red Cross reported Saturday.

    A large part of the city was hit by a mudslides caused by heavy rains, destroying the local hospital and wiping away entire neighborhoods.

    Link

    Reply
  20. Oil-Qaeda absorbed Russia late in the game. The West is the mother of Oil-Qaeda (The Shapeshifters of Bullshitistan – 5).

    Just sayin’ …

    Reply
  21. Ryan in New England

     /  April 1, 2017

    A massive flood of water washes away a town in Columbia after unusually heavy rains. 150 dead and hundreds still missing.

    http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/04/01/the-latest-colombia-112-killed-after-rivers-overflow/

    Reply
  22. JONATHAN CLARK

     /  April 1, 2017

    RS: Best non-technical post you’ve shared. Kudos.

    Reply
  23. Calista

     /  April 1, 2017

    First time commenting on your excellent and informative blog that should be required reading for any human who hopes to leave a liveable planet for future generations. The consistent quality of the posts from your fiercely intelligent and committed regulars always adds admirably to your essays, and I always learn something new to help me place this oncoming climate juggernaut in perspective.

    Keep fighting the good fight, all of you! I help by spreading the word to as many people as I can get to listen when they put down their phones for a minute or two. (Luddite here — no phone.)

    Reply
  24. unnaturalfx

     /  April 2, 2017

    Climate change is affecting species in many ways and wildlife is getting hit along with mans best friend : http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v543/n7647_supp/full/543S44a.html
    In 2009, a one-year-old Weimaraner arrived at the University of Glasgow’s Small Animal Hospital in Scotland. The dog was lethargic, with bleeding in the whites of its eyes and a lump on its right shoulder. A full assessment revealed an unexpected diagnosis: Angiostrongylus vasorum, a parasite that had never been reported in a dog in Scotland before.
    Known to veterinary surgeons as both lungworm and French heartworm, A. vasorum infects dogs that eat parasite-carrying snails and slugs. The parasite had long been confined to warmer regions much further south, and to mainland Europe. But the Weimaraner had not travelled outside of Scotland; the parasite’s appearance here was evidence that it was spreading northward1. And climate change seemed to be a probable cause — average temperatures in the country have risen by more than 1 °C over the previous four decades.
    The Weimaraner case was a harbinger of what was to come. Since 2009, evidence of the parasite’s spread has been found in molluscs and in foxes, which are also susceptible to the infection.

    Reply
  25. Wilson McKenna

     /  April 2, 2017

    I think what’s happened Scribbler is there are converging disasters and for some reason or another their timing, i.e. the spiral down is dovetailing together. As the EROEI ratio continues to butt up against the need to QE and borrow madly to fight against a net energy decline below the necessary threshold for growth to occur as needed. It’s a contraction but the phony govt. stats hide it by reformulizing the equation for figuring GDP growth so that there is always a number above 1. The timing of that towards a tipping point is dovetailing with the increasing damage our changing weather is causing via the breaking up of the jet stream into a sort of random checkerboard squares areas of droughts and floods.

    When we hit one or the other tipping point, it will act like a catalyst to trigger the other part’s tipping point to closely coincide. That’s not a certainty, but I’ve watched this over the years and the linked timing seems to be there.

    Reply
    • FF EROEI is falling renewables EROEI is rising. I wouldn’t be too quick to directly link debt with EROEI. Exhaustion also occurs due to malinvestment, failure to plan for the long term, over concentration of wealth, and failure to invest in publicly beneficial institutions in such a way that produces long term returns. A big part of the problem RE QE right now in many regions is loss of access to resources by states due to wealth hoarding and more sophisticated and effective tax avoidance strategies by wealthy individuals, markets, and corporations resulting in the kind of exhaustion we haven’t seen since the late 19th Century.

      Reply
      • Wilson McKenna

         /  April 2, 2017

        All those things you are referring to are symptoms of pre-collapse, in which those that can begin hoarding and corruption is rampant. People see the writing on the wall, that BAU cannot last that much longer so those are in a position to stuff it away for themselves. It’s not unlike people stockpiling freeze dried food and water containers. Those that can are hoarding plain and simple. Ethics and morals have been tossed out the window as a form of panic sets in prior to the other shoe falling. But those are just symptoms of EROEI for FF falling. Renewables would have to have been deployed by this time to a much greater percentage or there’s more time left than I realize to right the ship. My opinion is we are in end game now. The ship just hasn’t sunk yet.

        Reply
        • Actually, they’re symptoms of collapse pressure. We should be very clear that systemic collapse is most often not a permanent or an absolute state unless or until multiple synergistic collapse events occur in sequence or in the case where collapse pressure is overwhelming.

        • We should also note that the presently considerable renewable energy adoption rate releases collapse pressure in cases where economic systems are diverse, don’t suffer from the resource curse, and are more liberal/democratic (not neo liberal). In cases where regions cling to fossil fuel use, the collapse pressure is intensified both physically and economically. The disruptive transition to renewables likely creates conflict, but this is the necessary conflict of positive change and can be viewed outside the larger collapse pressure issue in that it addresses the center of gravity to the larger problem.

        • RE end game — I strongly disagree with that characterization. If we act strongly and decively, there are ways through the crisis. There is an exit window. But that window narrows so long as you don’t rapidly mitigate the problem. Eventually it closes. But we don’t know exactly when that point is. I’d strongly advise avoiding despair-based inevitability and strongly recommend advocacy for broad threat awareness focused on solutions. The former pre-sets you up for failure and is kind of a civilization self-sabotage.

    • In other words, in systems where renewables receive near parity subsidies they are out competing fossil fuels and producing relative economic growth with lower externalities. In regions where renewables are suppressed, there is net accumulating economic system disadvantage due to increased cost to society through negative externalities, falling EROEI, and resource curse issues. Falling EROEI and competition is producing some economic stress to some FF corps, but the loss of EROEI is not yet profound enough to be a systemic driver of economic collapse on its own and in many cases perceived benefits still outweigh perceived costs on a short term basis. Climate change is presently outside the context of base energy economics, but provides a larger systemic cost that is starting to accumulate which adds to economic exhaustion pressure through increased costs and worsening displacement.

      Reply
  26. Vic

     /  April 2, 2017

    “15,000 information warfare trolls”

    Sure does shirtfront poor old Tony Abbott’s mere 1,900-strong troll army.

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/public-service/army-of-1900-spin-doctors-costs-taxpayers-millions-20140325-35gqv.html

    Reply
  27. Abel Adamski

     /  April 2, 2017

    http://newatlas.com/3d-image-antarctica-ice/48640/

    3D image of Antarctica offers clearest picture yet of ice coverage

    Since 2010, the European Space Agency’s CryoSat satellite has circled the Earth and monitored the state of the polar sea ice, along with the ice sheets that cover Antarctica and Greenland. Some of the data collected over the last six years has now been compiled into a one-of-a-kind 3D image, offering a more comprehensive look at Antarctic ice elevation than ever before.

    The 3D image is constructed from around 250 million measurements taken by CryoSat’s radar altimeter. Radar altimeters work by bouncing radio waves off the terrain below and measuring how long they take to return to the spacecraft. CryoSat has previously been used to detect sea ice loss in the Antarctic, along with helping to construct maps of the ocean floor.
    .
    The team will be making the model freely available so anyone with a scientific interest in the ice coverage over Antarctica can tap into its data.

    “We want the digital elevation model to be accessible to anyone who uses ice-sheet surface topography measurements in their work,” says CPOM Director Andrew Shepherd. “This should benefit not only studies of the Antarctic ice sheet, but also projections of future sea-level rise.”

    Reply
  28. wharf rat

     /  April 2, 2017

    The Future Of Air Travel? Meet The 150-Seat Wright Electric Airplane

    Wright Electric is a startup company that aims for electrification in the sky, to eliminate the biggest cost for airline carriers of today – fuel.

    Wright’s goal is to develop a 150-seat all-electric airplane with a 300 mile (nearly 500 km) range that would compete in the 737 style Boeing and Airbus plane market.

    Both Boeing and Airbus sold nearly 1,000 of those planes in 2016 – and at around $90 million each, so there is huge potential in electrification.

    “These short-haul trips make up 30 percent of all flights, and is a $26 billion market.”

    http://insideevs.com/the-future-of-air-travel-meet-the-150-seat-wright-electric-airplane/

    Reply
    • Fantastic!

      I think there’s something to be said for both pursuing the all-electric air travel route and also pursuing a hybrid/biofuels base design. The battery tech is actually moving pretty fast. And with so many electric vehicles in the production chain, energy density will tend to continue to rise.

      Reply
  29. wili

     /  April 2, 2017

    I linked to this at neven’s forum, and ASLR had nice things to say about it:

    “it is an excellent article and I encourage people to read the whole article & not just my extracts below. The article acknowledges that after the fall of the ‘Evil Empire’, that liberal democracy (e.g.: globalists, etc.) got lazy and failed to ‘improve ourselves and our societies enough’. Thus while there was an illusion that authoritarianism had been splintered, liberal democracy failed to understand that the various shards would metastasize, ‘becoming smarter, more nimble, more in your face, and more linked to global monetary and information power centers’. “

    Reply
  30. coloradobob

     /  April 2, 2017

    Why Koalas Are Suddenly Drinking Extra Water
    Koalas usually get the water they need from their food—but hotter, drier weather is making some koalas desperate.

    Link

    Reply
  31. Nature Communications: A tipping point in refreezing accelerates mass loss of Greenland’s glaciers and ice caps

    Novel model identifies 1997 (+/- 5 y) as marking a tipping point for Greenland’s ice caps and peripheral glaciers mass balance. The Greenland Ice Sheet’s inland fern currently retains most of its refreezing capacity.

    Reply
  32. Hi Robert, great article, as always.

    I’m not sure that we have been living in liberal democracies, though. Here in the U.S., we have been more of a disguised oligarchy in democratic clothing, I think.

    The underlying fossil fuel supported oligarchy has been at least as strong as the democratic disguise, since WWII, I think.

    With Trump, we’ve traded disguised oligarchy for fascism, I think. Turns out, disguised oligarchy is comparatively not a bad form of government compared to butt ignorant fascism, at least for residents of the U.S. For residents of the Middle East, trapped in oligarchic contests for geopolitical dominance, maybe they are better off with Trump, don’t know yet.

    What the oligarchy doesn’t like about Trump is that he wants to give up on their desires for geopolitical hegemony. The oligarchy has been busy building a worldwide empire, and Trump doesn’t see the utility of that.

    Trump and Putin are disasters for the fight against global warming, but the disguised oligarchy including ExxonMobil was a disaster too. While we’re at it, staging a Bernie Sanders style overthrow of the oligarchy and a return to true liberal democracy should be on our environmental agenda.

    The plan to melt the Arctic sea ice to get at the oil and gas up there likely originated with ExxonMobil and the rest of the U.S. oligarchy, not with Putin, I think.

    https://energeopolitics.com/2013/06/28/go-north-young-man-go-north/

    Putin just thinks melting the Arctic sea ice is a wonderful idea, and thinks that Russia will benefit from climate change.

    Or maybe Putin just thinks he can claim Russia will benefit from climate change to his supporters while stuffing his pockets with fossil fuel money and becoming hugely rich.

    Reply
    • I think it’s fair to say that the mid 20th Century US was a state in which liberal democracy had claimed unprecedented victories, but that we had not fully escaped from or confronted our own demons. That said, we became a global force for the expansion of liberal democratic systems in places like Japan and Europe. At some point, we fell behind the positive wave we perpetuated. And, ironically, it was about the time certain folks started to say that history had ended (80s ish). That said, liberal democratic institutions in the US and around the world remain strong. An example of this was the success in the Paris Climate Summit which was basically an emancipation proclaimation from the harmful economic, physical, and political influence of fossil fuels.

      Reply
    • I think we should clairify that a cadre of harmful corporate special interests associated with the right or the far right and often linked to fossil fuel money have tended to seek to degrade the influence of liberal democratic institutions in the post 70s timeframe either by watering down the impact of bodies like the UN, equality based policies in the US, climate change responses at almost every level. A large push toward neoliberal as opposed to liberal/democratic institutions was the forefront of this corrosion. This kind of laissez faire movement would, of course, eventually start to precipitate conflict and disollution. And, unfortunately it now presents a weakness in western unity that foreign bad actors can exploit. Brexit, Trump, La Pen are the up shots.

      We should absolutely rally in defense of our liberal/democratic institutions and reaffirm our shared values of Justice, freedom, and equality at this time as we fight to confront climate change and the harmful political forces that are seeking to bring the worst of its harms upon us.

      Reply
  33. coloradobob

     /  April 2, 2017

    Frantic rescuers dig for Colombia flood victims, 254 dead

    This REUTERS article has pictures of boulders in the street that are truly impressive

    Reply
  34. coloradobob

     /  April 2, 2017

    Australia’s dirtiest coal plant closes, energy crisis deepens

    The doors to Australia’s dirtiest power station will close permanently on Friday after 50 years, amping up pressure on a government desperate to avoid the kind of embarrassing blackouts that hit chunks of the country during a recent savage heatwave.

    France’s Engie SA is pulling the plug on the Hazelwood coal-fired power plant near Melbourne, cutting around a fifth of the state of Victoria’s energy supply, blaming the “huge” costs of running the aged facility amid rising competition from subsidized wind and solar energy.

    With other shutdowns of fossil fuel stations potentially following down the line, the move highlights the challenges facing Canberra as it fights to balance long-term green ambitions with the need to provide affordable power.

    Link

    Reply
  35. coloradobob

     /  April 2, 2017

    Video: CNN panelists erupt over climate change

    CNN Senior Economics Analyst Stephen Moore and Director at Columbia University Earth Institute Jeffrey Sachs get into a fierce debate about climate change.Source: CNN

    http://edition.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/04/01/panelists-spar-over-climate-change-bts-nr.cnn

    Reply
  36. coloradobob

     /  April 2, 2017

    This year’s body count in India has begun –

    5 Dead In Maharashtra As Heat Wave Sweeps Through Parts Of India

    Reply
  37. coloradobob

     /  April 2, 2017

    Reply
  38. wili

     /  April 3, 2017

    Nice summary of major feedbacks directly affecting ice sheet loss: http://www.bitsofscience.org/sea-level-rise-ice-sheet-dynamics-melting-feedbacks-acceleration-7295/#more-7295 (Thanks to chilyb at POForums for the link)

    Reply
    • unnaturalfx

       /  April 3, 2017

      Chomsky , says it like it is from an informed empathetic standpoint ,always loved his speeches , Thank you so much . ( loved the republican party comments ) Wonder how long till the doomsday clock strikes one minute till midnight ? Funny, the dumbest species on the planet last so long in time as compared to our short little stint , Great video …Thank you Cate , love your contributions here by the way 🙂

      Reply
      • Would that we all had Chomsky’s extra helping of compassion. I think the human race’s prospects would be much better if that were the case.

        Reply
    • “Our failure to address the most awesome challenge of human history… is indeed a true derangement.”

      Thanks so much for this addition, Cate.

      Reply
  39. Stevan

     /  April 3, 2017

    A bit off-topic: Have not seen many studies like this one, which explores the effects of higher co2 levels on thinking. This is from 2012.
    https://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1104789/
    The control group was set at 600ppm, which may be a good representation of avg indoor co2 levels (I’m assuming). Given the rise in co2 levels from 280 to 405 and above, and the fact that people live and work in contained, energy-efficient spaces, it makes one wonder about our ability to think clearly and solve problems compared to a century ago.

    Reply
  40. Bob

     /  April 23, 2017

    Best sign at the Victoria BC Science Walk
    Science Is the Best Way to Defeat Bullshit.

    Reply
  1. The Fires of History Yet Rage — Climate Change and the Authoritarian Assault on Liberal Democracy | GarryRogers Nature Conservation

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: