Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Why Do Climate Scientists and Activists Ignore Peak Oil?

Why Do Climate Scientists and Activists Ignore Peak Oil? It's not something that should be ignored, but usually is, and sometimes even stridently dismissed. Yes, there have been dire predictions that the oil will run out before, going all the way back to the mid-1800s. But still, having come into a new peak on top of a long plateau, and the fact that oil companies are now looking at Arctic, deep-water and fracking to obtain oil, even extracting it from tar sands (now that's really the dregs!), common sense should tell us that Peak Oil is occurring now, and the extraction rates will decline at some point. Of course, once the decline sets in, there will be quite a large amount on the tail end of oil production, so we're not running out anytime soon, even if the downslope begins tomorrow. Yet usually what we hear from the Climate Change people is the worst case scenario [a] of climate change: RCP 8.5 (a.k.a. A1 F1) of a continuous rise in temperatures and CO2 levels caused by ever increasing burning of fossil fuels under business as usual, warming the planet by at about 3.7 deg C (6.7 deg F) this century. Fortunately, there's apparently not enough fossil fuels to accomplish that, unless the Earth's climate is even more sensitive to levels of Carbon in our atmosphere than is typically thought (3 deg C [5.4 F] for doubling of CO2 levels) due to the cautious conservatism of conclusions by Climate Science in general and also by the IPCC reports.

The Various RCP Global Warming Scenarios
Source: Knutti and Sedlacek (

As the latest Japan Met Agency findings show, so far we are right on schedule! Also confirmed by NASA.

Global Temperature Rise since 1890, according to JMA

Global Temperature Rise since 1880, according to NASA.

Now what we are likely to get, even with peak oil happened upon accidently-on-purpose through business as usual, simply will not avoid a climate hot-house... unless we embark on a major effort of decarbonization. So without further adieu I will hand it over to Mr. Theo Kitchener of Shift Magazine, who wrote a timely article, "An Alternative Long Shot".

An Alternative Long Shot

Theo Kitchener, November 16, 2015

This article is an attempt to chart what might happen in terms of climate change, both in terms of science, and particularly the potential politics, if we see a serious financial collapse followed by further contraction due to peaking energy and resources. Despite this being quite a likely scenario, there is barely anything written on the topic.
Peak oilers, often end up thinking that we don’t need to worry about climate change because peak energy will take care of it for us. I think this view is strongly mistaken. While it is true that peak energy leads to less emissions than would otherwise be possible,[1] we still end up in the zone of highly likely runaway climate change, and there will still be much that needs doing on an activist front in order to minimise our risk. On the other hand, climate change activists are often blind to the possibility of financial collapse or even peak energy collapse. Accordingly, I think their strategies are based on business as usual continuing, which I don’t think is realistic.
Climate change activists tend to already know that their hopes to create a mass movement that will convince governments to act, and act enough, are likely to fail, but it’s a long shot worth fighting for if the current context is all you have to go on. What I’m offering below is simply an alternative long shot, one I think is more likely to succeed, considering it is based more on the short term interests of the population rather than long term interests, which are harder to get people active on.
Below is a brief analysis of what financial collapse means for the climate, followed by an analysis of potential political scenarios, and particular detail on what I see as the most likely strategies to create a safe climate. These include a decentralised movement to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations, emphasising a shift to permaculture and appropriate technology, the continuation of the anti-emissions movement, a mass movement mobilising to take what’s left of our industrial capacity out of the hands of elites, and put it into good use drawing down carbon, remediating the planet and providing for our needs. This scenario could definitely be seen as an unlikely long shot; however, considering the situation we find ourselves in, a long shot is much better than no shot.

More here:


[a] Granted, the linked author who brought this up (Charles C. Mann, "Peak Oil Fantasy", Orion Magazine, comment dated 11 October 2015,) actually brought up two cases where analysts had stated that Peak Oil will ensure that RCP 8.5 will not be reached; but, he goes on to say that "this type of argument, which stems directly from peak-oil beliefs, is anything but an obstacle to controlling climate change."

[1]   See for example and

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