You know you have a problem when the pusher begs you to stop

So, at least one prominent (enough for a NYT opinion piece) Canadian is begging the U. S.  to stop cooking the planet, even though it could have significant short-term effects on the Canadian economy.  This is good, since we have more than five times the CO2 locked in the coal, gas, and oil reserves we’ve already discovered than is sufficient to destroy civilization as we know it.

Too bad none of the world leaders are listening. Indeed, every single one of them is unwaveringly committed to burning every last pound, cubic foot, and drop of carbon-producing material we can find, come hell and high water – literally. Which is why I don’t think that peak oil is going to be a problem: global warming is going to wreak unrelenting, sustained havoc long before we can suck that last drop of oil from the ground.

To me, that is the break over point we should be most interested in: not how much CO2 we can spew to keep us below 2C (nobody cares); not how much CO2 is in the ground (we’re committed to burning it all, no matter what); but the point at which burning more becomes systemically unfeasible. The point when increased storm activity, flooding, forest-fires, droughts, desert-like conditions, and innumerable other infrastructure-destroying events is going to do what we can’t do ourselves: shut us down.

As we have seen from previous disasters, the infrastructure for mining, converting, and distributing energy is not very resilient. All it takes is a large hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico to shut down much of the country’s oil refining capacity. Most of the literally thousands of miles of natural gas infrastructure is decades old.  And coal mining is just as susceptible to weather-related events as anything else. So, it doesn’t take rocket science to understand that we are eventually going to reach a point where sustained climate damage to infrastructure is going to take a significant, reoccurring toll on our ability to produce, distribute, and consume energy.

So, I think there will be plenty of oil and gas available for whatever civilization will arise after climate change runs its course. The main problem, of course, is going to be getting from here to there.


Filed under Climate Change, Science

3 responses to “You know you have a problem when the pusher begs you to stop

  1. I do believe you just nailed it perfectly.

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