Which do you prefer: partial economic collapse now, or total economic collapse later, with the special bonus of the potential near complete collapse of civilization. There is a great global warming dilemma that almost all environmental organizations are hiding from you!
Tim Garrett, professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Utah, has researched the physics of atmospheric thermodynamic change (changing air temperatures) over the history of human civilization. His unsettling research indicates the only workable way left in which to avoid irreversible global warming and its unthinkable consequences will involve allowing our fossil fuel-driven global economy to collapse.
It appears from his research that the laws of physics predict that we will have to go into an immediate economic recession or depression to save the future from irreversible global warming and ourselves from extinction. Most of us are not economists, physicists, or climatologists, so this lesson may seem a little difficult to understand. The following summary of Garrett’s research should help:
The core finding of his research is that maintaining only our current levels of economic production and wealth requires continual energy sustenance and supply. Like a living organism, civilization requires energy to not only grow but also to continue to sustain and maintain its current size or wealth.
In today’s terms, this also means that additional economic production (wealth) equals more carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels. Less carbon emissions from less fossil fuel burning equal less economic production (wealth).
The fixed and direct link between energy sustenance and the additional production of more wealth means that the existence of a financially measurable economy cannot be decoupled from a continuing rise in its energy consumption.
This means contrary to current popular global warming prediction theories, neither population size nor the population’s standard of living has to be included in the computer modeling for predictions on what will happen in the future with a growing or shrinking economy and the amount of carbon dioxide that will go into the atmosphere affecting global warming. Global warming is linked closely to the increased or decreased carbon levels of increased or decreased GDP.
Global atmospheric carbon dioxide emission rates also cannot be unlinked from economic production (wealth) through new or predicted gains in energy efficiency. Greater energy efficiency does not invalidate Garrett’s research demonstrating that greater production (wealth) always equals greater atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions.
According to Garrett’s research, even a 50% reduction in total fossil fuel use over the next 50 years will not be enough to keep us below carbon 425-450 ppmv. [See footnote 96.] (425-450 ppmv is of itself a very unsafe level.) Even with this 50% reduction, we will still hit 600 ppmv by the year 2100 (or sooner) and enter Phase 4 of the Climageddon Scenario, leading eventually to Phase 5 extinction. (See this page to understand what 450-500 ppmv or 600 ppmv will mean to your future.)
Keeping carbon emissions at or below the already unsafe level of carbon 450 ppmv will not be achieved by any conservation, increased energy efficiency, or other gradual fossil fuel reduction tactics currently being implemented. To maintain our current standard of living with our growing population without further exacerbating global warming, a new, non-carbon polluting nuclear power plant would have to be built every day. Because this is not currently happening and, in fact, may be impossible (even if it was a desirable solution), the only remaining solution to radically reducing fossil fuel use is economic collapse.
For atmospheric CO2 concentrations to remain below 450 ppmv, Garrett’s research suggests there will have to be some combination of an unrealistically rapid rate of energy decarbonization (reduction of fossil fuel use) and its consequent and near-immediate reductions in global wealth. Effectively, it appears that civilization may be in a double-bind dilemma. If civilization does not collapse quickly this century, then CO2 levels will likely end up exceeding 1000 ppmv. At the same time, if CO2 levels exceed 1000 ppmv, [See footnote 97.] then civilization will gradually tend toward total collapse. (For more about Garrett’s research on the physics of long-run global economic growth issues, click here. Please note, other research summarized in the new book Climageddon indicates that civilization will begin collapsing in what is called the Climageddon Scenario long before 1000 ppmv is reached.b [See footnote 98.])
Garrett also does not envision that we will ever be able to reduce carbon emissions fast enough. In his paper “No Way Out,” [See footnote 99.] he says that “reducing carbon emissions may be a bit like asking an adult to once again become a child. Over millennia, we have collectively built an enormous global infrastructure designed to consume massive amounts of energy. Without destroying this infrastructure, energy will continue to be consumed. Without energy, the circulations and transactions defining the global economy stop. And because so much of this infrastructure is tied to fossil fuel consumption, our economy is wedded to carbon emissions.”
Although it is counter-intuitive, Garrett also states energy consumption rates can rise about twice as fast with rapid decarbonization (fossil fuel use reductions,) as with no decarbonization. The reason is that decarbonization aids society's health by limiting global warming. Better health means greater energy consumption, which then leads to a partial offset of any environmental gains that came from decarbonizing in the first place. (Going green is a form of global decarbonization.)
Garrett also turned his new prediction model on the IPCC’s global warming predictions and discovered two major errors. He demonstrated that the IPCC’s current global warming prediction scenarios substantially underestimate how much carbon dioxide levels will rise for a given level of future economic prosperity and wealth. The two reasons for the IPCC errors are that global carbon dioxide emission rates cannot be unlinked from economic production and wealth creation through any efficiency gains the IPCC uses, and our continuous future global warming can be expected to act as a significant inflationary drag on the real growth of wealth. Because neither of these two essential economic factors was properly accounted for within previous IPCC prediction scenarios, the IPCC has once again, substantially underestimated the relationship of projected future increased prosperity to increased carbon dioxide levels. By forwarding this rosy false belief that economic prosperity can be maintained while dramatically reducing fossil fuel use, it seems the IPCC was trying to “have its cake and eat it too.” These serious miscalculations by the IPCC mean their predictions are even more unreliable than has been disclosed in Chapter 7 of the new Climageddon book. This also means most of the world has no idea how bad the current global warming emergency really is or that to solve it, we will have to go through a massive global economic downturn.
Garrett does give us some hope in his research for a possible solution when he mentions that if civilization’s ability to adapt to rising global warming and its consequences is extremely low, “...then only a combination of rapid civilization collapse and high decarbonization comes close to achieving a 450 ppmv goal.” [See footnote 100.] (Here rapid civilization collapse refers directly to the rapid reduction of all fossil fuel use.)
Garrett’s unsettling research can also suggest that the only remaining possible way that we may be able to maintain or go below the carbon 450 ppmv target [See footnote 101.] to avoid irreversible global warming and keep our economy going fairly well is:
- sudden and drastic global fossil fuel use reductions, and simultaneously all,
nations immediately and fully switching to non-carbon-dioxide-emitting green power generation sources. (Neither of which is currently happening and according to the new MIT research, we will not be able to scale up green energy generation in anywhere close to the timeframe needed.)
It appears Garrett may not believe we currently have either the technical ability and/or the political will to enact the painful solution to replace our fossil fuel energy consumption in time to avoid the worst consequences of irreversible global warming. He states that “as the current climate system is tied directly to its unchangeable past, any substantial near-term departure from recently observed acceleration in carbon dioxide emission rates is highly unlikely.”
“Anyone wishing to see what is to come should examine what has been.” —Machiavelli
This creates a real dilemma. If we can't scale up a full global green energy generation replacement in time, while we are also making all of the required global fossil fuel reductions, the steep crash of the global economy will financially destroy us. If we continue as we are now, and civilization does not collapse quickly (within this century), carbon dioxide levels will likely exceed carbon 600-1,000 ppmv and condemn us to the last phases of the Climageddon Scenario.
Assuming Tim Garrett’s research is correct about how the gross world product (GWP) and civilization’s accumulated wealth is intrinsically linked to the total carbon levels present in the atmosphere, without building a nuclear reactor every day, or fully scaling up global green energy generation to replace all global fossil fuel reductions, our only remaining solution is to let the economy crash in stages now, or completely collapse later, bringing most of civilization down with it.
Ethically, this is a simple choice, but in reality, it is a logistic nightmare. How do we educate the people of the world that to save the future and future generations, they must now expect less, have less, and be less economically comfortable?
In a world that has already conditioned us to demand and expect more, the message that we must all make painful sacrifices for the survival of future generations and civilization will be a very hard sell. This educational task might be nearly impossible because it requires a degree of personal maturity to delay immediate self-gratification for a collective reward in the future. It is completely unrealistic to think most people will voluntarily make the required and painful sacrifices without enforcement by the governments of the world.
Very few individuals, corporations, or nations are ready to hear this tough message, much less act upon the drastic fossil fuel reductions we now need to make. But this is exactly what we all need to hear, begin discussing, and start preparing for and doing to survive. Although many new jobs and businesses will be created by transferring to green energy generation, these new sources of revenue will not protect the economy from the loss of old fossil fuel industry-related jobs and businesses. As we ride out the coming economic hardships, and as we transition from reliance on fossil fuel energy generation to green energy generation, we will have to somehow learn to accept these harsh financial realities.
There is both bad news and good news in Garrett’s research. The bad news is that if we don't radically reduce fossil fuel use at an exponentially rapid rate, which currently sustains a viable rising economy, our atmospheric carbon ppm concentrations will continue to rise and we will continue moving toward the later phases of the Climageddon Scenaro. The good news is that we can eventually secure a prosperous economy and a safe future if we persuade our politicians to realize there will be no possible long-term economic prosperity without immediate and radical fossil fuel reductions and a full and expedited transition to global green energy generation for our energy needs.
In summary, Garrett's research points toward the unbearable idea that the short-term collapse of our economy may become a required action if we are going to save ourselves from unthinkable global warming catastrophe. If you still don't believe this is valid and you are scientifically minded, take a look at Garrett’s paper called “No Way Out.” [See footnote 102.] (Be sure to go to the end of his study after the references and also look at his many prediction graphs.)
We are caught in a terrible transitional energy, economy and survival dilemma. Because there is no quick global green energy generation transitional fix, we must drastically cut fossil fuel use now and we will suffer severe financial hardship. If we don't drastically cut fossil fuel use now, we will suffer far greater than just financial hardship in the too near future.
If the economy is going to have to go into a steep recession or depression no matter what to save us, it is wiser to get the needed painful changes out of the way as quickly as possible and save the future.
Please note this article and footnotes below are from the new book Climageddon which discusses the Garrett Global warming dilemma at length.
96 Note: ppmv is different from carbon parts per million (ppm and CE carbon equivalent, CO2e). The distinction is that ppmv is used to describe all trace gases found in the atmosphere such as sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and other pollutants by volume.
97 Tim Garrett, interview by Alex Smith, Radio Ecoshock, October 19, 2011, transcript. http://www.ecoshock.org/downloads/climate2010/ES_Garrett_101119_LoFi.mp3
98 Tim Garrett. "The physics of long-run global economic growth." Utah.edu. 2014. http://www.inscc.utah.edu/~tgarrett/Economics/Economics.html
101 Note: ppmv is different from carbon parts per million ppm and CE carbon equivalent, CO2e. The distinction is that ppmv is used to describe all trace gases found in the atmosphere such as sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and other pollutants by volume.
Other Relevant Observations
- We are currently not making anything even close to the required radical cuts in fossil fuel use to reduce the carbon going into our atmosphere to prevent massive global temperature increases, horrendous climate calamities, and far sooner than imagined extinction. In a newer 2017 research paper in Science lead-authored by Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, concluded that global carbon emissions would have to be cut in half by 2020, then cut in half again by 2030, and then cut in half again each decade out to 2050 to keep us safe. This means that In order for us to keep global temperature anywhere even close to levels where most of humanity can survive, fossil fuel emissions need to be slashed by about 75 percent by 2030, and by nearly 95 percent by 2050 to stay within a safe climate zone.
- To grasp how difficult these cuts will be, imagine that in the next three years you personally will have to cut all of your home, auto, and business uses of fossil fuels by 50%, then cut another 50% from that point within the next 10 years and then cut another 50% in each of the following decades. Citizens of the world who did not fully understand both the urgency and importance of why they needed to make these radical, immediate and painful sacrifices would literally throw out any politician or even overthrow governments who tried to enforce these kinds of radical energy and fossil fuel usage cuts to their current comfortable or subsistence lifestyles and livelihoods.
- It is highly improbable we will ever make the critically needed cuts to our fossil fuel use. There are several reasons for this. One is that each year we delay making these needed radical fossil fuel usage cuts means that any future cuts will need to be even more extreme, which makes them even less likely to be done because of the even worse hardship they will impose globally. Secondly, because of Professor Garrett's Global Warming Dilemma, which you have read in the article above.
But, there is still hope and many things you can do to help create a better world.
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