Archive for the month “January, 2015”

Planetary Boundaries: A fourth danger line crossed

The Planetary Boundaries framework was first introduced in 2009, when a group of 28 internationally renowned scientists identified and quantified the first set of nine planetary boundaries within which humanity can continue to develop and thrive for generations to come. A Jan 2015 update by the researchers say a fourth of these boundaries forests have been breached.

According to a report on the update in the Scientific American (Humans Cross Another Danger Line for the Planet):

Five years go an impressive, international group of scientists unveiled nine biological and environmental “boundaries” that humankind should not cross in order to keep the earth a livable place. To its peril, the world had already crossed three of those safe limits: too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, too rapid a rate of species loss and too much pouring of nitrogen into rivers and oceans—primarily in the form of fertilizer runoff.

Now we have succeeded in transgressing a fourth limit: the amount of forestland being bulldozed or burned out of existence (see map below). Less and less forest reduces the planet’s ability to absorb some of that carbon dioxide and to produce water vapor, crucial to plant life. And the ongoing loss alters how much of the sun’s energy is absorbed or reflected across wide regions, which itself can modify climate.

A separate paper published by the group in Anthropocene Review, titled The trajectory of the Anthropocene: The Great Acceleration, updates a striking set of 24 graphs that show that almost all the damage to earth by humans has occurred since 1950, in lock step with rapid economic growth worldwide. This Great Acceleration of social, economic and environmental drivers basically says that although growing population adds stress to the earth’s systems, greater consumption through rising living standards is responsible for even more of the burden.

Read more about Planetary Boundaries research at the Stockholm Resilience Centre website.

News update

OPEC Chief Claims Oil Could Rebound to $200 a barrel
Oilprice.com
OPEC’s secretary-general says the 7-month-old plunge in oil prices finally may have bottomed out and may be ready to rise again. In fact, Abdullah al-Badri hypothesized that a decision by his cartel to cut production conceivably could lead to oil at $200 a barrel.

The most important thing about the coming oil production cutbacks
Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
What the current oil price slump means for world oil supply is starting to emerge. Layoffs, cutbacks, delays, and cancellations are words one sees in headlines concerning the oil industry every day. But perhaps the most important thing you need to understand about the coming oil production cutbacks is where they are going to come from, namely Canada and the United States. Why is this important? For one very simple reason. Without growth in production from these two countries, world oil production from the first quarter of 2005 through the third quarter of 2014 would have declined 513,000 barrels per day. Thats right, declined.

A new theory of energy and the economy – Part 1
Gail Tverberg, Our Finite World
How does the economy really work? In my view, there are many erroneous theories in published literature. I have been investigating this topic and have come to the conclusion that both energy and debt play an extremely important role in an economic system. Once energy supply and other aspects of the economy start hitting diminishing returns, there is a serious chance that a debt implosion will bring the whole system down.

Forests Precede Us, Deserts Follow
X-Ray Mike, Collapse of Industrial Civilization
studies have confirmed that the Amazon appears to becoming more unstable in response to the large-scale environmental impact of rising CO2 and the cumulative effects of land degradation by humans Modern-day Brazil and the entire industrialized world are repeating the same mistake made by past civilizations such as the Mayans who cleared their forests for agriculture and development.

The Mariners Rule
John Michael Greer, The Archdruid Report
One of the things my readers ask me most often, in response to this blog’s exploration of the ongoing decline and impending fall of modern industrial civilization, is what I suggest people ought to do about it all. It’s a valid question, and it deserves a serious answer. (Also see the comments section at bottom of page).

Our Renewable Future (Or, What I’ve Learned in 12 Years Writing about Energy)
Richard Heinberg, Post Carbon Institute
Will our energy future be fueled by fossils (with or without carbon capture technology), or powered by abundant, renewable wind and sunlight? Or is our energy destiny located in a Terra Incognita that neither fossil fuel promoters nor renewable energy advocates talk much about? As maddening as it may be, the latter conclusion may be the one best supported by the facts. If that uncharted land had a motto, it might be, “How we use energy is as important as how we get it.”

How The Power to Convene can transform Transition
Rob Hopkins, Transition Network
Clearly there is ample evidence that working in partnership with other individuals and organisations can be highly effective as opposed to everyone feeling the need to always start from scratch and reinvent the wheel. But done well, Transition can bring something new, something different, to it. It can be a powerful thing to harness.

Reuse and Repair Centres – a Solution for a Circular economy
Sophie Unwin, REconomy project
“What if we could have a centre where we could reuse and repair different materials instead of sending them to landfill or burning them? Why don’t we have elderly immigrants teaching unemployed bankers something useful?”

News update

Climate change inaction pushes doomsday clock closer to midnight
The Guardian, UK
The symbolic doomsday clock moved to three minutes before midnight on Thursday because of the gathering dangers of climate change and nuclear proliferation, signalling the gravest threat to humanity since the throes of the cold war. It was the closest the clock has come to midnight since 1984, when arms-control negotiations stalled and virtually all channels of communication between the US and the former Soviet Union closed down.

Mapping The Worlds Greatest Risks (According To Davos)
Zero Hedge
The Global Risks Landscape, a map of the most likely and impactful global risks, puts forward that, 25 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, “interstate conflict” is once again a foremost concern. As The World Economic Forum notes, these multiple cross-cutting challenges can threaten social stability, perceived to be the issue most interconnected with other risks in 2015, and additionally aggravated by the legacy of the global economic crisis in the form of strained public finances and persistent unemployment.

Brazils Biggest Oil Company Is Headed For Disaster
Matt Badiali, Wolf Street
Of all the companies hurting from lower oil prices, few are in more danger than Brazilian oil giant Petrobras. The state-owned oil company owns some of the largest untapped oilfields in the world; so it’s a darling of emerging-market investors. But it isn’t. The company’s spending is out of control, its profit margins are shrinking, and its debt is soaring. In short, Petrobras is a study in how not to run an oil company.

Peak Oil Pulled a Fast One on Me
Allan S. Christensen, From Filmers to Farmers
What we might be about to find out is how vulnerable the United States’ shale boom is to low prices, and how profitable fracking actually is. Here’s Terry Lynn Karl in a recent conversation with Andrew Nikiforuk: “We are in a situation where oil supply limits can cause recessions, and oil supply gluts can cause stock market failures.” The reasons to get off oil seem to be piling up.

How Wall Street Drove the Oil & Gas Drilling Boom That’s Turning into a Disaster
Wolf Richter, Wolf Street
Wall Street made money off the entire spectrum of companies associated directly or indirectly with oil and gas. It was one heck of a party. Here are the top 10 banks that in 2014 extracted the most investment-banking revenues from the oil and gas sector, or rather from its investors. Together, the ten skimmed off $3.52 billion last year.

Off-Grid Energy in India: Identifying Early Adopter Markets
Sanjoy Sanyal and Pamli Deka, The Energy Collective
The potential market for off-grid electricity in India is large, with more than 300 million people living without access to electricity. With such an expansive market, how do enterprises decide where and how to focus? Is the market selection based on a robust methodology or something more akin to a blindfolded dart game? Should companies focus on a small niche market or is there a need for diversification from day one of operations?

Whiplash!
Dmitry Orlov, Club Orlov
The fix for low oil prices is low oil prices. Past some point high-priced producers will naturally stop producing, the excess inventory will get burned up, and the price will recover. Not only will it recover, but it will probably spike, because a country littered with the corpses of bankrupt oil companies is not one that is likely to jump right back into producing lots of oil.

What Will 2015 Do For Peak Oil?
Ron Patterson, Peak Oil Barrel
The Cornucopians are exuberant, they believe that collapsing of oil prices dealt the death knell for peak oil. An oil glut, they say, is what we have, not peak oil. But an oil glut is exactly what we would expect at the very peak. After all, that is what peak oil is, that is the point in time when the world produces more oil than ever in history… and the most it ever will produce.

Oxfam Report: Richest 1% will own more than all the rest by 2016

From Oxfam International 

The combined wealth of the richest 1 percent will overtake that of the other 99 percent of people next year unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked, Oxfam International has warned.

Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, a research paper published today by Oxfam, shows that the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 percent in 2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014.

Of the remaining 52 percent of global wealth, almost all (46 percent) is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world’s population. The other 80 percent share just 5.5 percent and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult – that’s 1/700th of the average wealth of the 1 percent.

Staggering inequality

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said: “Do we really want to live in a world where the one percent own more than the rest of us combined? The scale of global inequality is quite simply staggering and despite the issues shooting up the global agenda, the gap between the richest and the rest is widening fast.

“In the past 12 months we have seen world leaders from President Obama to Christine Lagarde talk more about tackling extreme inequality but we are still waiting for many of them to walk the walk. It is time our leaders took on the powerful vested interests that stand in the way of a fairer and more prosperous world.

“Business as usual for the elite isn’t a cost free option – failure to tackle inequality will set the fight against poverty back decades. The poor are hurt twice by rising inequality – they get a smaller share of the economic pie and because extreme inequality hurts growth, there is less pie to be shared around.”

Oxfam made headlines at Davos last year with the revelation that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (3.5 billion people). That figure is now 80 – a dramatic fall from 388 people in 2010. The wealth of the richest 80 doubled in cash terms between 2009-14.

The international agency is calling on government to adopt a seven point plan to tackle inequality:

  1. Clamp down on tax dodging by corporations and rich individuals
  2. Invest in universal, free public services such as health and education
  3. Share the tax burden fairly, shifting taxation from labour and consumption towards    capital and wealth
  4. Introduce minimum wages and move towards a living wage for all workers
  5. Introduce equal pay legislation and promote economic policies to give women a fair deal
  6. Ensure adequate safety-nets for the poorest, including a minimum income guarantee
  7. Agree a global goal to tackle inequality.

The research paper, which follows the October launch of Oxfam’s global Even It Up campaign, shines a light on the way extreme wealth is passed down the generations and how elite groups mobilise their vast resources to ensure global rules are favourable towards their interests. More than a third of the 1645 billionaires listed by Forbes inherited some or all of their riches.

Twenty percent of billionaires have interests in the financial and insurance sectors, a group which saw their cash wealth increase by 11 percent in the 12 months to March 2014. These sectors spent $550 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels during 2013. During the 2012 US election cycle alone, the financial sector provided $571 million in campaign contributions.

Billionaires listed as having interests in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors saw their collective net worth increase by 47 percent. During 2013, they spent more than $500 million lobbying policy makers in Washington and Brussels.

Oxfam is concerned that the lobbying power of these sectors is a major barrier in the way of reforming the global tax system and of ensuring intellectual property rules do not lead to the world’s poorest being denied life saving medicines.

There is increasing evidence from the International Monetary Fund, among others, that extreme inequality is not just bad news for those at the bottom but also damages economic growth.

Download Oxfams new report: Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More

News update

2014 Warmest Year on Record
The New York Times
Last year was the hottest on earth since record-keeping began in 1880, scientists reported, underscoring warnings about the risks of runaway greenhouse gas emissions and undermining claims by climate change contrarians that global warming had somehow stopped.

Groundbreaking Study Confirms: We Must Leave Fossil Fuels In the Ground
Common Dreams
A groundbreaking new study is confirming what green campaigners have long argued: in order to stave off climate disaster, the majority of fossil fuel deposits around the world—including 92 percent of U.S. coal, all Arctic oil and gas, and a majority of Canadian tar sands—must stay in the ground. This new research is first of its kind to identify specific national reserves that must remain untapped.

IEA Provides First Sign That Tide May Be Turning For Oil Prices
Oilprice.com
Last week, energy investors got the first of several reports that should confirm for Wall Street analysts that the physical markets for crude oil are responding to the sharp drop in oil prices. I believe supply/demand will work back to a balance during the second half of this year.

Oil, Saudi Arabia, and the End of OPEC
Elias Hinckley, The Energy Collective
Saudi Arabia’s decision not to cut oil production, despite crashing prices, marks the beginning of an incredibly important change. There are near-term and obvious implications for oil markets and global economies. More important is the acknowledgement, demonstrated by the action of world’s most important oil producer, of the beginning of the end of the most prosperous period in human history – the age of oil.

Carbon Counterattack: How Big Oil Is Responding to the Anti-Carbon Moment 
Michael T. Klare, Tom Dispatch
Around the world, carbon-based fuels are under attack. Increasingly grim economic pressures, growing popular resistance, and the efforts of government regulators have all shocked the energy industry. But instead of retreating, the major oil companies have gone on the offensive, extolling their contributions to human progress and minimizing the potential for renewables to replace fossil fuels in just about any imaginable future.

At least one major oil company will turn its back on fossil fuels, says scientist
The Guardian, UK
The oil price crash coupled with growing concerns about global warming will encourage at least one of the major oil companies to turn its back on fossil fuels in the near future, predicts award-winning scientist and former industry adviser Jeremy Leggett. Now a solar energy entrepreneur and climate campaigner, Leggett points to Total of France as the kind of group that could abandon carbon fuels.

Obama visit: India-US to sign energy deal
Hindustan Times
India and the US are likely to sign an energy deal under which India could commit to generating 15-20% of its energy need from zero emission sources by 2030. The deal that would be signed during President Barack Obama’s visit this month will also have the US agreeing to support India’s efforts through the government’s flagship Make in India programme by investing in urban energy infrastructure and making energy-saving appliances as well as in research. The US has already committed to $1 billion for financing renewable projects in India.

China Buying Up Latin American Oil
Colin Chilcoat, Oilprice.com
China is pledging $250 billion in investment in Latin America over the next decade. The country’s oil-based financing is still an unproven gamble – and lower prices increase the default risk – but it’s shrewd move for what will soon be the world’s largest consumer of oil.

Upcoming events in Hyderabad

DISCUSSION JAN 17
The shape of post carbon society and the hazy road to get there
Time and date: 6.30 pm, Sat, 17 Jan 2015
Place: Cerana Foundation office, D-101 Highrise Apartments, Lower Tank Bund Road (next to Courtyard Marriott Hotel), Hyderabad. Tel: 2753 6128.
Message from the organiser (Sagar Dhara): Some of our friends were in Lima during the 20th COP meet on climate negotiations that happened last month, a topic we discussed in our last meeting. If these friends are available, we can have a short report on what happened in Lima before we start discussing the above topic.
Please let me know if you are in. And you are welcome to bring along others who may be interested in this subject or forward this info to them. You could also stay back to discuss the more contentious issues over a dinner (makki ki roti and sarson da saag for anyone?) at the nearby dhaba.
For more information on the topic, contact Sagar Dhara at: aril.
SEMINAR JAN 23-24
Seminar on water conservation at Pious College, near Habsiguda Junction. Those interested in the subject may contact Ms Prabhalata at botouaim and request her for an invitation for the 2 day seminar (23-24 Jan) on Water conservation.  There will be a talk by Sagar Dhara at 12 noon on 23rd Jan titled: To conserve water bodies, all three global commons water, land and atmosphere need to be conserved.
CONFERENCE
A conference on Climate Change will be held at HCU in the first week of February. Email Sagar Dhara at shagl. for details.

2015: the bad news

He who laughs has not yet heard the bad news.
Bertolt Brecht

(Editors Note: As a necessary corrective to the unbridled optimism of the mainstream media, heres a selection of forecasts for 2015 by some of the most insightful alternative voices on world politics, energy and the economy. For those in a hurry, heres a one-line summary: a global recession may be around the corner.)

The Cold Wet Mackerel of Reality
John Michael Greer
One of the entertainments 2015 has in store for us is a thumping economic crisis here in the US, and in every other country that depends on our economy for its bread and butter. The scale of the crash depends on how many people bet how much of their financial future on the fantasy of an endless frack-propelled boom, but my guess is it’ll be somewhere around the scale of the 2008 real estate bust. (Also read Greers follow-up post: A Camp Amid the Ruins)

Forecast 2015 — Life in the Breakdown Lane
James Howard Kunstler
The signal event of 2015 will be the disintegration of Tom Friedman’s global economy, the trade and banking relations we have known for about a quarter century, especially the frictionless flow of goods and capital between East and West.

Oil and the Economy: Where are We Headed in 2015-16?
Gail Tverberg
Eventually we are likely to experience a much worse situation than we did in the 2007-2009 period, although this may not be evident at first. It will be only over a period of time, after some of the initial “dominoes fall” that we will see what is really happening.

Five energy surprises for 2015
Kurt Cobb
The coming year is likely to be as full of surprises in the field of energy as 2014 was. We just don’t know which surprises! I am not predicting that any of the following will happen, and they will be surprises to most people if they do. But, I think there is an outside chance that one or more will occur, and this would move markets and policy debates in unexpected directions.

Oil Price Scenarios For 2015 And 2016
Euan Mearns
In this post I use an empirical supply and demand dynamic to try and constrain the oil price a year from now and in 2016. The outcome is heavily dependent upon assumptions made about supply and demand and the behavior of OPEC and the banking sector. Three different scenarios are presented with December 2015 prices ranging from $45 to $100 / bbl.

The bear is back: A cautionary tale of global gloom
Gerard Minack, former Morgan Stanley strategist
The problem is the next crisis will not be in the periphery and it will not be in the banks; it will be economic and it will be in the core.

11 Predictions of Economic Disaster in 2015 from Top Experts All Over the Globe
Centre for Research on Globalization
Over the past couple of years, we have all watched as global financial bubbles have gotten larger and larger. Despite predictions that they could burst at any time, they have just continued to expand. But just like we witnessed in 2001 and 2008, all financial bubbles come to an end at some point, and when they do implode the pain can be extreme.

News update

The First Shale Casualty: WBH Energy Files For Bankruptcy; Many More Coming
Zero Hedge
While the mainstream media continues to chant the happy-clappy side of lower oil prices, now, we have the first casualty of the shale oil leverage debacle as WSJ reports, on Sunday, a private company that drills in Texas, WBH Energy LP, and its partners, filed for bankruptcy protection, saying a lender refused to advance more money.

Water stress may curtail fracking, says World Resources Institute
BBC News
Water shortages could hinder fracking for shale oil and gas in many parts of the world, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has said. In the first report of its kind, the WRI found that 38% of the worlds shale resources were in arid areas or in those with severe water stress. Accessing fresh water was likely to present serious challenges, it said.

Natural gas: The fracking fallacy
Nature
The United States is banking on decades of abundant natural gas to power its economic resurgence. This paper in leading science journal Nature cites new research and concludes that it may be wishful thinking. The paper has prompted the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the University of Texas to join issue with Nature. A letter sent by EIA to the journal chides it for inaccurate and distorted reporting. You can follow the ongoing debate at Inside Energy.

This Oil Thing Is The Real Deal
The Automatic Earth
It’s no longer about which factors bring down oil prices, that’s old news; it’s about what oil prices bring down. The oil price drop is a much bigger event than the US subprime housing crisis, it’s bigger than everything put together that happened in 2008. And this time, central banks are lame sitting ducks.

The Real Cause Of Low Oil Prices: Interview With Arthur Berman
Oilprice.com
In a third exclusive interview with James Stafford of Oilprice.com, energy expert Arthur Berman explores:
• How the oil price situation came about and what was really behind OPEC’s decision
• What the future really holds in store for U.S. shale
• Why technology doesn’t have much influence on oil prices
• How the global energy mix is likely to change but not in the way many might have hoped

Peak Oil From The Demand Side: A Prophetic New Model
Peak Oil Barrel
The most attention-grabbing attempts to predict oil futures have come from geologists and environmental activists, who tend to look solely at production. An overlooked doctoral thesis by Christophe McGlade, Uncertainties in The Outlook for Oil and Gas, in contrast, focuses on how both supply and demand might be constrained in the coming decades. Peak oil researchers should take note of McGlade’s thesis because he predicted, in November 2013, that oil prices would sink, and that they will stay low throughout the second half of this decade.

Teach-In: Techno-Utopianism & The Fate of the Earth

teachin
Sample a selection of audio & video recordings from the teach-in on Techno-Utopianism & The Fate of the Earth: Why Technology Will Not Save the World, held on October 25-26 in New York. More than 45 leading scholars, authors & activists participated in this event, including such well-known names as Jerry Mander, Wes Jackson, Richard Heinberg John Michael Greer, Ralph Nader, Bill McKibben, Helen Caldicott and Vandana Shiva. Many of them have researched and written extensively on Peak Oil, Climate Change and related topics.

The teach-in was organised by the International Forum on Globalization and the Techno-Utopia Project. For more details of the event, click here. More recordings from the event will be posted in the coming weeks.

Teach-In: Techno-Utopianism The Fate of the Earth

teachin
Sample a selection of audio & video recordings from the teach-in on Techno-Utopianism & The Fate of the Earth: Why Technology Will Not Save the World, held on October 25-26 in New York. More than 45 leading scholars, authors & activists participated in this event, including such well-known names as Jerry Mander, Wes Jackson, Richard Heinberg John Michael Greer, Ralph Nader, Bill McKibben, Helen Caldicott and Vandana Shiva. Many of them have researched and written extensively on Peak Oil, Climate Change and related topics.

The teach-in was organised by the International Forum on Globalization and the Techno-Utopia Project. For more details of the event, click here. More recordings from the event will be posted in the coming weeks.

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