On Jan 3, 2013, at 8:19 AM, “Lawrence B. Crowell” wrote:
A number of point in the thread are worth commenting on. Inflation has always been a bogey man to Republicans. The ideal might be to have a situation where there is 0% inflation. Reality though confronts us with some unfortunate facts. Negative inflation is very undesirable for most people. If you have deflation then money increases in value on its own, This completely destroys any incentive for investing in real economic activity. This happened in the 1930s and the consequences were devastating. Further, getting that magical 0% inflation turns out to be a bit like a Dedekind cut in the real number line. It is not physically possible to set things there and make them static. So a modest amount of inflation is in many ways the most optimal situation.
Energy = economics is in many ways the case. Energy is what drives the machinery, which is what produces things. Labor is what controls the machinery. The owners and managers make decisions about how the machines and labor are put in place and run. We have of course major issues with energy. There is a lot of hoopla around fracking and others want the XL pipeline so oil extracted from the Athabascan tar sands can be shipped in. Of course these involve serious environmental damage. It also illustrates how our petroleum driven economy is shifting from the easy oil to harder stuff. We are now at about half way through using the light sweet crude, which is about 1.5 trillion barrels. Another 1.5 trillion or so still exists, but oil fields have largely peaked which means production will slow down. All of this oil and the coal was have extracted amounts to only about .5% of all the hydrocarbons available. The other 99.5% is in harder to obtain forms. Fracking and tar sands and the rest illustrates how now we are in a situation of having to work harder to get what we used to get. The long term trend will only get more extreme. Eventually it will simply take more energy to get oil out of rock than the energy you get from the oil. The situation is clearly approaching some sort of “end game.” The age of fossil fuel energy is destined to end whether we like it or not.
Of course we also have this climate change problem. If we push harder to keep the fossil fuel economy going it means we may push our planetary climate further into the red. Right now we have increased CO_2 into the atmosphere from about 280ppm to now about 420ppm. If we push the fossil fuel or carbon based energy system further we could increase this to 1000ppm. This is the amount of CO_2 that existed during the warm Miocene period. We will push the planetary climate into a state that could last up to a million years into the future, and it is one which may not be conducive to human activities like agriculture.
At this point or in the near future I think the focus will, rather unfortunately, shift from trying to move to other forms of energy to geoengineering instead. We’ve almost certainly pushed the envelope too far and what’s more, many of the world’s powers have very little intention of quickly shoring up resources to make a large shift and reduce the level to say, 360ppm or less. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that we will have to look into geoengineering methods to help our situation. From what I understand any such efforts are likely to be premature given our lack of computing power to be able to understand sulfate behavior well enough given the level of complexity of the climate system. There is some absurdity in how much vocal vibration is spent on the SS fund out in 2033 or 2040, while the clear pressing danger trumps SS and everything else by orders of magnitude.
I tend to agree that geoengineering will probably be required. The conclusion from the IPCC is that we will need to reduce our CO_2 output by 50% by mid 12st century. Anyone who thinks this can happen is smoking some powerful stuff. We might in principle be able to do that, but it will require that a huge effort is made. Only total war has the ability to mobilize people that way. Clearly conservatives and their corporate paymasters will continue with their disinformation for at least another decade. I doubt that there will be much more than tepid action and hand wringing over this issue for the next 10 years or so. I think sometime in the 2020 decade there will be an “oh shits” report, where this will tip the political activity surrounding this issue. If nothings else, the deniers such as Singer and Moncton (who are quite long in the tooth) will be shuffling off or dying, and a lot of hard right wingers such as those on this list will also be retiring (Ed is pushing 70 as I understand), and Reagan will fade for the majority of people into unexperienced history as has Roosevelt and even Kennedy. When this socioeconomic flip around happens, and it is coming and the GOP’ers are terrified of it, climate will become a front and center issue. While the push for noncarbon based energy will clearly be amplified, I suspect the climate situation will be too far down the road to ignore geoengineering.
Of course if we try geoengineering with the idea we can still burn lots of carbon we will be “fighting the fire and feeding the flames.” Unfortunately that is a pretty big aspect of the human condition, and so we might end up doing that. Geoengineering can only plausibly work for any reasonable time if we stop pumping CO_2 into the atmosphere at least by the end of this century. To not do both will mean we will like that alcoholic who takes anti-hangover drugs in order to function between drinking.
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