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Reality Check - Man Made Climate Change Will Last for Thousands of Years

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 09:08
We have left our mark on the Earth and our environmental footprint is going to last probably 10-thousand years or more.

We typically think in terms of a decade, perhaps a century, when considering anthropogenic global warming and its impacts but that's just us doing what we do best - thinking in terms of "us." We're a very us-centric bunch. That limits the scope to us, the kids, the grandkids and maybe just a smidgen of concern for great-grandkids too. After that, not so much.

From The Washington Post:

A large group of climate scientists has made a bracing statement in the journal Nature Climate Change, arguing that we are mistaken if we think global warming is only a matter of the next 100 years or so — in fact, they say, we are locking in changes that will play out over as many as 10,000 years.

“The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far,” write the 22 climate researchers, led by Peter Clark, from Oregon State University.

“In hundreds of years from now, people will look back and say, ‘Yeah, the sea level is rising; it will continue to rise; we live with a constant rise of sea level because of these people 200 years ago that used coal, and oil and gas,’ ” said Anders Levermann, a sea-level-rise expert at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and one of the paper’s authors. “If you just look at this, it’s stunning that we can make such a long-lasting impact that has the same magnitude as the ice ages.”

The key reason for this is that carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for a very long time before being slowly removed again by natural processes. “A considerable fraction of the carbon emitted to date and in the next 100 years will remain in the atmosphere for tens to hundreds of thousands of years,” the study noted. Meanwhile, the planet’s sea levels adjust gradually to its rising temperature over thousands of years.

...From 1750 to the present, human activities put about 580 billion metric tons, or gigatons, of carbon into the atmosphere — which converts into more than 2,000 gigatons of carbon dioxide (which has a larger molecular weight).

We’re currently emitting about 10 gigatons of carbon per year — a number that is still expected to rise further in the future. The study therefore considers whether we will emit somewhere around another 700 gigatons in this century (which, with 70 years at 10 gigatons per year, could happen easily), reaching a total cumulative emissions of 1,280 gigatons — or whether we will go much further than that, reaching total cumulative levels as high as 5,120 gigatons.

The good news is that the authors believe that, at some point, mankind's predicament will become sufficiently perilous that we will develop some technology for stripping atmospheric carbon dioxide - if, by then,  we can afford what will probably be a massive cost. The better news is that, if we do get to that point, the people with the greatest wealth will be those on the hook to clean up the very mess that they in fact made.

The Game's Afoot - Again

The Disaffected Lib - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 08:31
What is it with unattached feet, sneakers and Vancouver Island?

Another solo pedibus in a shoe has washed up, this time at Port Renfrew's beautiful Botanical Beach.
Between August 2007 and November 2011, nine feet belonging to seven people were discovered along the B.C. coast.

One foot was linked to a man who had gone missing 25 years earlier when his boat overturned near Port Moody.

Okay, there's the set up. You write the punch line.

Neither Stephen Nor Pierre

Northern Reflections - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 06:48


Carol Goar has an interesting column this morning on Justin Trudeau's leadership style -- which is nothing like his father's:

A pattern is developing in Canadian politics.Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will meet a group expected to be unfriendly or censorious. He will listen carefully to its position but make no firm commitment. To the surprise of his critics, he will emerge unscathed.
Consider where's he's been and what he's done in his first one hundred days:

  • It happened last week in Calgary when he met oil company executives. He couldn’t promise relief from plummeting crude prices or guarantee that a pipeline to either coast would be built on his watch. What he undertook to do was build a national consensus that getting Alberta’s landlocked oil to a sea port is in the interest of all Canadians.

  • It happened the week before in Montreal, where he met the city’s combative mayor. Denis Coderre had publicly declared his opposition to the Energy East pipeline. The pundits were primed for an embarrassing clash between the two Liberals. But after his audience with Trudeau, Coderre indicated that he could change his mind.

  • It happened in November when he attended his first G20 summit meeting in Turkey. Critics of the fledgling prime minister warned he was in for a dressing down by world leaders over his decision to withdraw Canada’s fighter jets from the U.S.-led coalition combat mission in Iraq and Syria. The timing could scarcely have been worse for Trudeau. The night he left for the summit, terrorists attacked Paris and killed 129 people. ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) claimed responsibility. Stemming a tide of retaliatory rhetoric, Trudeau stood his ground, saying Canada would bring home its CF-18s in March but contribute to the mission in other ways. If he faced reproach or pressure to reverse his stand, there was no report of it. 

  • He's still on his honeymoon and the really tough stuff lies ahead:

    The most likely explanation is that Trudeau hasn’t yet given his foes a substantive target. His government hasn’t enacted any legislation, tabled its first budget, produced its climate change strategy, approved any pipelines or pulled a single warplane out of the Middle East (although it soon will). 
    But one thing is certain. When it comes to dealing with people, Trudeau is neither Stephen Harper nor his father.

    Such A Delicate Balance

    Politics and its Discontents - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 06:23
    One of nature's most intelligent creatures, elephants, are facing an uncertain future in Burma thanks to government efforts to halt deforestation, a crucial step in trying to restore some semblance of ecological balance. However, as with all things in nature, each change, whether for good or ill, has consequences, as you will see in the following brief video.

    Also, please read the accompanying story to appreciate how, like humans, when they lose their sense of purpose elephants live shorter lives and often suffer from obesity. Sound familiar?

    Recommend this Post

    The Cons and the Postmedia Conspiracy

    Montreal Simon - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 06:18

    Ever since Paul Godfrey ordered his major Postmedia papers to run an ad on their front pages attacking the Liberals, there has been no doubt whatsoever which side that media conglomerate is on.

    And although the move was widely denounced, it seems that Godfrey no intention of backing down, and is even more determined to destroy Justin Trudeau.
    For the anti-Trudeau chorus from his hapless minions is becoming almost deafening.
    As Michelle Rempel reminded me yesterday.
    Read more »

    Wednesday Morning Links

    accidentaldeliberations - Wed, 02/10/2016 - 04:11
    Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

    - David Dayen examines the different treatment granted by businesses to well-connected elites compared to everybody else, and says it's understandable that voters are looking for leaders who understand their side of the divide. And Robert Reich highlights the dangers of trying to appeal for votes by telling people nothing they do will lead to meaningful political change.

    - Meanwhile, Paul Krugman examines how the Republicans - like Canada's Cons - have deliberately trapped themselves in a time loop which will accept no new evidence or developments.

    - Tom Jacobs writes about the connection between inequality, obesity and poor health - as childhood deprivation tends to lead to increased food consumption when it's possible later on.

    - Paul Mason offers three questions we need to answer in order to meaningfully address a lack of affordable housing.

    - Martin Regg Cohn answers the misplaced spin that an increase in public pensions is anything but an economic boon - as it ultimately helps both present-day investment and long-term income security.

    - Finally, Gerald Caplan provides a few suggestions to restore some semblance of civility and functionality in Parliament.

    Iggy Doesn't Just Want an Air War Over Syria. He Wants a Shooting War with the Russians.

    The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 23:05

    Thank God and Greyhound he's gone. It's in the Washington Post. The Count, Iggy, former Liberal clown prince, wants NATO to declare part of Syria a "no fly" zone. Ignatieff seems to be spoiling for a showdown with Putin's and Assad's forces in Syria.

    It seems the twerp doesn't realize that Syrian airspace is already controlled by Russian S-400 missile batteries. Put simply, we won't be imposing a no fly zone without risking a major conflagration with Russia and if that starts in Syria it won't end there.

    Just for background, an analysis of NATO's forces in the Baltics has concluded the Russians could roll us up there in 3-days.

    h/t Chris a.k.a. CRF

    Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

    accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 16:16
    Downward facing cats.

    The awfulness of the Ghomeshi trial

    Cathie from Canada - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 11:28
    Did ALL of the women that Ghomeshi supposedly abused so badly later sleep with him again and send him bikini photos and love letters? Or only the three who have testified so far at his trial?
    And here I was thinking that police and prosecutors only bring charges against someone when they think they have a winnable court case. With Ghomeshi, they apparently scurried to court with charges that are proving so far to be ludicrous.  Was their goal not to protect women but actually just to display their contempt for the CBC and for Ghomeshi's egotistic celebrity?
    I know things have reached a truly awful state when I find myself agreeing with Margaret Wente: The Ghomeshi trial turns into a fiasco:
    Everybody knew a guilty verdict was far from sure. The bar for a criminal conviction is, as it should be, high. But nobody, not even the most experienced court-watchers, could have predicted how this trial would go. It has turned into a fiasco . . . .
    I know the dynamics of abuse can be complex. I know that women can both love and fear their abusers. But these women were not battered wives. They were not in relationships with Mr. Ghomeshi. They barely knew him. They had no reason to fear him, and he had no power over them at all – except the power of his charm and celebrity. They could have walked away. They didn’t.
    And all that’s left is their word about unpleasant encounters that may or may not rise to the standard of criminal assault.

    Those Who Would Bomb...

    The Disaffected Lib - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 10:26

    Apparently a good many Canadians, even a majority, would have the federal government continue our bombing campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Let's unpack that curious thinking.

    It strikes me that, let's call them the "Bombers", must believe that either the bombing campaign is working, that it will work at some point or that it's irrelevant whether it accomplishes anything meaningful and effective.

    Some of the Bombers, if pressed, would probably admit they support bombing for the sake of bombing. I've written about their type before, those who see war, not as a route to victory but as a gesture. They're the dangerous type because whether they realize it or not, they're the sort of Bomber that is okay with PermaWar. War without end. War without victory or defeat. War for the sake of war. It's an odious, reprehensible mentality that doesn't understand that military violence must always be a purposeful, last resort.

    I read today how broad the ranks of PermaWar Bombers have become. Mona may be leading the charge but she's ably abetted by rightwing scribes such as Ivison and Coyne. They're the whack-a-mole brigade who do not trouble themselves with either outcome or consequence provided they're not yet bored with it. You would have found them in full support of our bombing campaign in Libya that was so instrumental in turning that place into a failed state just tailor made for the establishment of Islamist extremism. We made the down bed for ISIS to settle into northwest Africa. Brilliant.

    What the Bombers never quite grasp is that bombing without a workable strategy is self-defeating. All it earns you is long-lasting enmity.

    As Harvard prof, Stephen Walt, recently wrote in Foreign Policy, our efforts in the Muslim world are pointless because they're in support of a demonstrably failed American foreign policy.

    The playbook we’ve been using since the 1940s isn’t going to cut it anymore. We still seem to think the Middle East can be managed if we curry favor with local autocrats, back Israel to the hilt, constantly reiterate the need for U.S. “leadership,” and when all else fails, blow some stuff up. But this approach is manifestly not working, and principles that informed U.S. policy in the past are no longer helpful.

    America’s track record in the region over the past 20-plus years also raises serious questions about its ability to identify realistic goals and then achieve them. Global influence rests in part on an image of competence, and the past three administrations have done little to burnish that image. Indeed, when it comes to the Middle East, the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations have been King Midas in reverse: Everything they touch turns not to gold but to lead or, even worse, into a violent conflagration. is hard to figure out what the U.S. role should be because the policy instruments that are easiest for Washington to use are increasingly irrelevant to the problems now convulsing the region. The United States’ most readily usable instrument is its still-powerful military, whether in the form of material aid, training, airstrikes, naval task forces, drones, Special Operations Forces, or in extreme cases, the full Rapid Deployment Force. Unfortunately, the central problem facing most of the Middle East is not a powerful conventional army (i.e., the kind of enemy we’re good at defeating) but the lack of legitimate and effective institutions of local governance. As we’ve seen in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military is not designed for or good at creating local political institutions, and the more we use this tool, the more fragile, fractious, and violent local politics usually become.

    Well, here’s a radical thought: If the strategic importance of a region is declining, if none of the local actors deserve unvarnished U.S. backing, if our best efforts make both friends and foes angry at us, then maybe — just maybe — the United States ought to stop trying to fix problems that it has neither the wisdom nor the will to address. In the end, the fate of the Middle East is going to be determined by the people who live there and not by us, though we might be able to play a constructive role on occasion. And the sooner Americans recognize that they’re better off coaching from the sidelines, instead of getting bloodied on the field, the better off they’ll be.

    These core arguments do not occur to the Bombers. It hasn't dawned on them that near limitless bombing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen has failed at every turn. Whether it's Coyne or Ivison, Mona or Kinsella, these people don't think this through. They don't look at what winning or losing means or how we're going to achieve anything meaningful. 
    Where do the Bombers want to go next? Shall we bomb ISIS in Senegal or Libya or the Philippines, perhaps in Afghanistan or Indonesia?

    Tuesday Morning Links

    accidentaldeliberations - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 07:00
    This and that for your Tuesday reading.

    - Alice Martin offers three basic reasons why unions are as necessary now as ever, while PressProgress weighs in on the IMF's findings showing the correlation between unions and greater equality. And David Ball points out that there's a long way to go merely to reverse the damage the Cons deliberately inflicted on the labour movement in Canada.

    - Peter Taylor-Gooby writes about the importance of job quality as well as quantity in assessing our economy. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh reports on the Libs' apparent lack of interest in young workers as they impose a system which facilitates the continued use of unpaid interns.

    - The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is assembling a must-read set of reports on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And Murray Dobbin discusses the desperate need for real public input and debate before Canada gets locked into the most restrictive corporate rights agreement yet.

    - Stephen Kimber argues that rather than focusing on smaller measures such as making prescription drugs available to seniors, we should be working on implementing national pharmacare for all. And Matthew Herder notes that we should also have far more access to information about the effectiveness of the drugs we do use.

    - Finally, Peggy Mason asks and answers the right questions about the Libs' expansion of military operations in Iraq and Syria - as once again, Canadian troops are being sent into harm's way by a government which lacks any idea what they're supposed to accomplish.

    Magical Thinking, No; Progress, Yes

    Politics and its Discontents - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 06:29
    As every critically-aware person well knows, we are facing some pretty daunting challenges; the most pressing is clearly climate change, more urgent with each passing day as we are regularly reminded of the ravages it is wreaking around the world. Responses continue to range from denial, complacence and magical thinking to outright proclamations of doom.

    While I remain deeply pessimistic about our chances here, I am willing to embrace neither surrender nor the perspective of the pollyannas in our midst who uncritically await a technological solution or, as I like to describe it, a deus ex machina. Nonetheless, technological progress is being made, progress that will surely be part of the arsenal in our survival kit.

    Now that renewable energy costs are fast approaching parity, and in some cases below parity, with fossil fuels, the next major challenge is the engineering of storage capacity so that energy can be tapped into as needed. On that front, I am happy to report that things are moving ahead at an exciting pace.

    First, there is the Tesla Powerwall, a home and industrial power storage device that can store power both from renewable sources and conventional utility sources when rates are low. It has the potential, given its pricing, to ultimately supplant home generators and help curb greenhouse gas emissions in the process. And there are other similar products with various price points on the market, each with its own advantages and disadvantages and most with both domestic and industrial applications.

    Battery storage is but one of several technologies that can aid in the transition to greater reliance on renewable energy sources. And the beauty of energy-storage technology is that in many cases it will obviate the need to build costly mew power stations, as it will be doing essentially the same things they do: provide power on demand.
    In the UK, the first plant to store electricity by squashing air into a liquid is due to open in March, while the first steps have been taken towards a virtual power station comprised of a network of home batteries.

    In case the jurisdiction does not have mountains, as required in the above system, another method would seem to effect the same benefits:

    Its new £8m demonstration plant, at Pilsworth, near Manchester, and funded by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), is set to start in March. By compressing air 700 times into a cold liquid, it stores power which is released by evaporating the liquid air into a high pressure gas to turn a turbine. The 5MW system will be able to power many thousands of homes for a few hours. Gareth Brett, CEO of Highview, says it is like pumped storage, but can be sited wherever it is needed.There are other storage approaches being implemented as well, including using the degraded batteries of electric cars, all of which you can read about here.

    I think the point demonstrated by these emerging systems is that we really can be on the verge of dramatic changes in the way we secure and store our power that will contribute to a significant lowering of the greenhouse gases that are so imperiling our world. But both imagination AND political leadership are necessary for successful transition. I am confident about the former but not so much about the latter, despite the fact that the future of our world is at stake.Recommend this Post

    Only Time Will Tell

    Northern Reflections - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 06:15

    The Right is up in arms. Rona Ambrose calls the changes Justin Trudeau has made in the battle with ISIL "shameful." John Ivison claims that, "Canada is not playing its full part in the battle against ISIL," and Andrew Coyne writes that "what Canada is about is standing by while others engage in combat on our behalf."

    They are aboard the bandwagon -- the same bandwagon that claimed its mission was to destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction -- and which gave rise to ISIL. Shock and Awe didn't work then. And it hasn't worked this time around, either. In its second life, it has brought in Russian bombers on the other side.

    And tripling the number of trainers puts more Canadian boots on the ground. Trudeau's strategy is high risk. Jeff Sallot writes:

    Trudeau’s strategy also runs a big risk. Canadians will be training ethnic Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq who have a political agenda all their own. Yes, they want to rub out ISIS — but they also want to establish an independent Kurdish state. The Iraqi government in Baghdad — a government that Ottawa says it supports — doesn’t like the idea of partitioning its territory.

    Our NATO allies in Turkey also have concerns about the Kurds. Turkey has a substantial Kurdish population of its own along the border with Iraq. A Kurdish separatist revolt against Baghdad in Iraq could quickly explode into a Kurdish rebellion against Ankara.

    Not to mention the sight of returning body bags. We are not out. We are in. And only time will tell how it all works out.

    Justin Trudeau, the New Military Mission, and the Madness of Rona Ambrose

    Montreal Simon - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 04:57

    Now I understand why Justin Trudeau took his time before unveiling our new military mission in Iraq and Syria.

    For it was worth the wait.

    It's far more rational and sophisticated than the Con's one dimensional bombing mission.

    Much bigger than Rona Ambrose had hoped.

    And far more Canadian. 
    Read more »

    Conapocalypse: The Confessions of Jenni Byrne

    Montreal Simon - Tue, 02/09/2016 - 01:01

    She was called Stephen Harper's "enforcer", or just "The Beast." The one who took no prisoners.

    She ran the last Con campaign, and drove it off a cliff.

    Before she was tossed off the bus, and out of her master's inner circle. 

    But now Jenni Byrne is back, and blaming everyone but herself.
    Read more »

    Is the Petro-Economy a Millstone Around Canada's Neck?

    The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 14:04

    Didn't we imagine that this was going to be our ticket to Easy Street? Hell we had almost as much oil as Saudi Arabia and the world was going to be beating a path to our doors, begging us to take their wealth and treasure. Even Ignatieff proclaimed Athabasca bitumen the "beating heart of the Canadian economy for the 21st century."

    Now it turns out that our bet on bitumen may go from being Canada's petro-blessing to the ruin of our national economy.  Andrew Nikiforuk looks at the perils we face from our bitumen bounty in the latest Tyee.

    "...the descent of oil has become a sort of Sherman's March on globalization.

    "The status-quo pundits say don't worry. The world is awash in oil due to the brute force of fracking and Alberta's faltering bitumen boom.

    "Markets are just experiencing another wacky correction in supply and demand, and business as usual will continue. Relax, add the pundits -- lower energy prices tend to revive economies by putting more money in the hands of consumers, and all will be well.

    "But the global economy is now confounding academic theorists. Falling gasoline prices haven't propped up the economy, or stimulated growth for that matter. In fact, global finance appears to be driving into another recession while debt grows, innovation disappears, capital investment recedes and wages stagnate.

    "So there must be another story."

    There is, and it's a rather grim energy fairy tale. This one shows how the world's economy depends on the quality of energy burned, and not the amount of money spent. When economies spend cheap oil, GDP rises; when they switch to costly and unconventional stuff, growth comes to a screeching halt.

    In this unfolding story, cheap credit played a big role. It allowed an industry to carelessly borrow trillions to chase ultra-expensive and risky resources such as bitumen and shale oil.

    An energy industry laden with toxic debt is now earning less money than what it costs to shovel bitumen or frack shale. And this kind of debt is not going to end well for financial markets. Or for ordinary people.

    But the darkest character in this fairy tale is the monster called diminishing returns.

    On a diet of cheap oil, the world financial system grew on energy surpluses like a wildfire dines on trees in a forest.

    But no more. The cheap stuff is gone, and companies are now frantically fracking North Dakota at a cost of $60 a barrel or mining northern Alberta's heavy bitumen at costs as high as $80 a barrel. With oil at $30 a barrel, many companies are, as respected Houston analyst Art Berman recently put it, "losing their asses."

    ...The implications of diminishing returns for oil are stark: the more society invests in unconventional hydrocarbons, warns [David Murphy of St. Lawrence University], the more "growth will become harder to achieve and come at an increasingly higher financial, energetic and environmental cost."

    As society switches to energy resources of lower and lower quality, simply maintaining the flow of net energy to society will require that companies and nations accrue more debt to spend a proportionally larger amount of capital on gross energy extraction that comes with dirtier environmental impacts, such as carbon-spewing bitumen.

    Diminishing returns from oil production "indicate that we should expect the economic growth rates of the next 100 years to look nothing like those of the last 100 years," writes Murphy.

    That reality now seems to be unfolding on a global scale. The trouble really became apparent when oil prices leapt beyond $90 a barrel in 2010 and remained at unprecedented highs for four years. These high prices, in turn, put recessionary pressures on the global economy. Costly oil forced people, nations and firms to scale back and put on the brakes.

    Meanwhile, Big Oil continued to borrow billions to extract difficult and unconventional hydrocarbons such as deep-sea oil, bitumen and shale oil. All required more capital and more energy to pull out of the ground.

    In 2000, companies spent $400 billion a year chasing hydrocarbons. But by 2013 they were spending nearly $900 billion with little change in production.

    ...In 2014, federal energy bean counters in the U.S. revealed that the energy industry was actually spending more than it was earning. The U.S. Energy Administration reported 127 of the largest oil and gas firms generated $568 billion in cash from their operations during 2013-2014, while their expenses totaled $677 billion. To cover the difference of $110 billion, the energy giants increased their debt load or sold off assets.

    Given that the gap between earned cash and spending stood at a modest $10 billion in 2010, that's a significant change for the industry as well as the global economy it fuels. Since then, the toxic debt load has grown larger.

    Wood Mackenzie, an oil consultancy, now estimates that 2.2 million barrels a day of Canadian production is unprofitable with oil at US$35 a barrel, and most of that debt-inviting extraction is coming from the high cost and complex oilsands.
    ...Gail Tverberg, an accountant and energy blogger, has an interestingtheory about all this.

    She believes that "all economies have finite lifetimes, just as humans, animals, plants and hurricanes do." She thinks that we may be "in the unfortunate position of observing the end of our economy's lifetime."

    A senior Ikea executive, Steve Howard, recently acknowledged the possibility: "If we look on a global basis, in the West we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I'd say we've hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff... peak home furnishings."

    Economists used to believe that when societies peaked, prices would rise, and energy products would become scarce. But Tverberg reckons the networked economy won't necessarily behave that way. "High energy prices tend to lead to recession, bringing down prices. Low wages and slow growth in debt also tend to bring down prices. A networked economy can work in ways that does not match our intuition; this is why many researchers fail to understand the nature of the problem we are facing."

    She adds that high oil prices expertly disguised the brutal reality of diminishing returns. Whenever an industry or society blows up the principles of efficiency by getting on a treadmill with no efficiency or gain in energy returns, there is no growth. But there is stagnation and political unrest.

    Tverberg worries about toxic debt loads, too. As energy gets more expensive (and renewables are expensive and fossil fuel dependent, too), society has to borrow more money to keep a global clunker on the road. Tverberg notes that you can only dial up the debt for so long before you "discover that debt growth has a lot of adverse effects. And one of the big ones is that it tends to funnel money to the wealthier class and take money away from the poor members of society."

    A peak world and complex society faces a conundrum: high oil prices shrink the economy while low oil prices destabilize it due to diminishing energy returns.

    There may be some temporary solutions, but they involve ending cheap credit, shutting in at least a million barrels of oil, and regulating the price of oil as the Railroad Commission did in the 1930s. But our politicians cling to the myth of constant growth and have no idea what the real problem is.

    ...Diminishing returns, just like rising expectations, do not bring out the best in people: expect violent reactions and revolutions in petro-states and indebted nations. Expect the unexpected and a narrative of volatility.
    "Unfortunately, what we are facing now is a predicament, rather than a problem," reflects Tverberg. "There is quite likely no good solution. This is a worry."

    The Ponzi Economy and The Ride of the Looter Class

    The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 13:27

    We're already well into our eventual environmental meltdown. Are we now also on the cusp of a global economic meltdown? There is a growing chorus of voices warning that the end really is nigh for this enormous House of Cards we built for mankind in the wake of WWII.

    Like most of us, I didn't dwell much on the environmental or economic State of the Planet until the twitch first set in somewhere around the turn of the century. Since then the looming perils have indeed materialized.

    The fact is, we've been on a multi-generational bender of sorts and now it's hangover time. CBC business reporter, Don Pittis, writes that, "If you ever thought there was a group of smart people who really understood the economy and you were just too stupid to figure it out, now is the time to disabuse yourself."

    It's an interesting article, a worthwhile read. Pittis focuses on British economist/journalist Martin Wolf of the Financial Times. Wolf suggests Britain's redemption lies in either a full-blown purgative depression or "helicopter money" which is a term for a guaranteed annual income plan.

    Pittis concludes that the real problem isn't with the economy or the various proposed solutions.  Our Achilles' Heel, is a terminal problem.

    "For leaders who make policy, it is almost impossible to try radical and unproven medicine that might work, for the simple reason that it might instead precipitate a crisis for which they would be blamed.

    "So long as the global economy seems to be muddling on, governments and central bankers prefer to kick the can down the road just a little further, and keep praying for a miraculous, spontaneous cure."

    What Pittis and Wolf and the rest of the like-minded cannot seem to grasp is that our economic model has a systemic, mortal flaw. Neoclassical economics of the sort taught to Wolf and Harper by Friedman and Hayek resting on a foundation of perpetual, exponential growth is a hoax introduced in the post-war era that worked really, really well but only for a few decades and only for those it was aimed at benefitting.

    Sometime in the next century, when mankind's population has stabilized at somewhat under one billion, our era may be named something like "The Great Bloat," the era in which civilization swelled to the bursting point - and then burst.

    The whole growth-based paradigm was a hoax, a contrivance crafted from some unsustainable circumstances and assumptions. Things that, by logic, didn't fit were dismissed, labeled as "externalities." Resource shortages, cost of resources, damage to the environment - mere externalities that must never be permitted to cloud the model.

    This gave rise to the theory, the belief that was enshrined as orthodoxy, that the economy could and should grow larger than the environment. It has. That's the world of 7+ billion heading for 9+ billion we live in today. We're already consuming the planet's resources at 1.7 times their natural replenishment rate and still our appetites are growing. The miners' canary in this is that all other forms of life, marine and terrestrial, have declined in total number by half over the past thirty years. We're taking so much of everything they also need to survive that their numbers are collapsing.

    Pittis may write of "leaders who make policy" but he abuses the word "leader." We don't have leaders today - not in the Liberals, nor the Conservatives nor the New Democrats. They're all self-interested, feckless can-kickers, the lot of them.

    The tragedy of this is that you can no longer rely on the head of your preferred political party for leadership. You're going to have to self-educate. You've got to make up your own mind on just about everything - social, political, economic and environmental.

    There's plenty of top-quality information out there. Read Joe Stiglitz. Read Phil Mirowski. Read James Galbraith. Read John Ralston Saul.  Below is an interesting lecture by Galbraith to the Post-Keynesian Conference. Pick it up around the 19-minute mark.

    Of particular interest is Galbraith's description of the American economy and, to a lesser extent, the economies that are driven by it, in the post-2008 world. He describes it as a Ponzi economy exploited by a class he calls "looters" by which he means the 1%. He contends the looters see what's going on and they know it can't last so they're using their wealth and their influence, economic and political, to bleed the whole thing dry.

    Fortunately we have fearless political leaders to keep us safe from these predators. What's that? Oh...

    Some Americans Sure Do Love Their Ignorance

    Politics and its Discontents - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 11:51
    Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz says we should follow the scientific evidence about climate change, and then goes on to ignore it with confabulation and obfuscation. In Cruz world, it is all just a cover for the government's desire to have total control over everyone's lives.

    Some Americans sure do love and embrace their ignorance, don't they?

    Cruz is a fellow traveller with the other main contenders for the Republican nomination, Donald Trump and Marco Rubio, the latter denying that climate change has anything to do with human activity. All of which serves as prelude to the acerbic Bill Maher, who offers up his own assessment of such ignorance:

    Recommend this Post

    Mulcair's Opening Salvo - and It's BullS__t

    The Disaffected Lib - Mon, 02/08/2016 - 08:45

    I feel badly for Tom Mulcair but who wouldn't? He was supposed to be farting through silk right now but the last election sent him instead to the cellar where he has to make do with burlap.

    When you're the Old Man of the crowd, time is probably not on your side. Canadians seem to prefer new and shiny and most of the shine got scrubbed off Tom a long time ago. I don't think the beard and the beady black eyes help much either.

    The one thing you can't be doing when you're hanging on by your fingertips is to show desperation. Never let the plebs know you're running on fear. If they smell fear they can turn on you - in a heartbeat.

    I smelled the fear in an email Tom sent me this morning.

    "While the Trudeau government has gone ahead and signed the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal, there remains many uncertainties about what's in store for Canada.

    "The Harper government first negotiated this deal in secret. Now we have the Liberals agreeing to a deal that can't be renegotiated! Any concerns or changes raised in future consultations won't matter."

    Tom, I'm at best ambivalent about the Trudeau gang and I stand opposed to the TPP. That said, we don't need your bullshit scare tactic. The Liberals have signed to verify the text of the deal comports with the terms negotiated. They didn't agree to a deal - and you know it. 
    Ratifying TPP takes more than a signature on paper. It's a Parliamentary process, Tom, and you know that too. I would be delightfully surprised if the Liberals, with their majority, gave TPP the thumbs down although that's a long shot. 
    You'll get your chance, Tom, right there on the floor of the House of Commons where you actually do your best work. Wait till the wedding night, Tom. In the meantime try to leave yourself alone.


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