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What’s The Plan?

What’s The Plan?

Hannah McKinnon

Why we can’t hide from the discussion about a managed decline of fossil fuel production.

Fossil fuel extraction has impacted tens of thousands of communities around the world, and more often than not, it is marginalized populations that bear the brunt of the impacts of living and working on the frontlines of the fossil fuel economy
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My first thought was of thousands of square miles of hemp waving in the breeze—sequestering carbon, providing paper that doesn’t require bleaching, feedstocks for plastics and fuel and lubricants for diesel-electric hybrid vehicles, and giving us blue jeans that will be superior in every way to cotton denim. Hemp’s uses are many, and the downside risks negligible when compared to the status quo. What’s not to love?

There must be a relationship between production of fossil fuels and demand for fossil fuels. There are many ways to reduce demand. Reducing demand should reduce production. For example if houses are heated with geothermal energy and electric heat pumps instead of oil or gas the demand for oil and gas should drop and that should reduce production of oil and gas.

Thanks for an excellent article about what is to be done, and done soon. I could even be guardedly optimistic sunsetting all fossil fuel production by 2050 if it weren’t for two planetary rouge actors - Trump’s USA and Putin’s Russia. Lets hope for regime change in the right direction in both places soon.

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Wish I could be optimistic on this topic.

But too many tipping points have been reached.

The Anthropocene era has already been tough on those we share the planet with. Now it’s our turn.

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A “green” economy dominated by corporations isn’t the future we should be working for.

“In Musk We Trust” is a motto for a failed vision of a healthy planet, and a just world.

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In an extensive 2014/15 4-Part series of papers on, “Conversion to Renewable Energy Is Going Too Slowly To Avoid Catastrophe,” by myself and J. Lawrence, in TABLES 1-8 I provided a ‘Big Picture Overview’ of some historical and projected 2014-2050 “order-of-magnitude” figures of CO2 emissions and fossil fuel growth rates to reach an 80% clean energy consumption including nuclear by 2050. The forecast also assumes a realistic and critical drop in the annual percentage increase in energy demand (i.e., consumption) by 2050 through much improved energy efficiency.

I believe my figures give another but similar quantitative energy transition perspective to that of Ms. Hannah. I show just how Far and Fast in coming years we have to go in decreasing CO2 concentrations and in transitioning to renewable energy to achieve a 70% clean energy consumption excluding nuclear and 80% including nuclear by 2050. Here are key highlights of the transition numbers shown in Part 4 paper:
"Conversion To Renewable Energy Is Going Too Slowly … PART 4" :

TABLE 8: Speed of Renewables TransitionTo Reach 70% Hydro-Renewables Decarbonization By 2050


Energy Consumption: Ave. Annual % Increase ----------2.0%------------1.75%------------1.50%------------1.25%

Renewables: Ave. Annual % Increase----------------------8.9%--------------16%----------------9%----------------5%
% of Total Consumption------------------------------------------2.2%--------------20%--------------40%--------------60%

Hydro: Ave. Annual % increase--------------------------------2.7%---------------4%----------------3%-------------1.5%
% of Total Consumption:------------------------------------------6.7%-------------10%---------------12%-------------11%

Renewables & Hydro: % of Total Consumption------------8.9%----------30.0%---------------52%-------------71%

Nuclear: Ave. Annual Increase----------------------------------0.6%--------------3%--------------4.5%---------------2%
% of Total Consumption--------------------------------------------4.4%--------------5%----------------8%---------------9%

FOSSIL FUELS: % of Total Consumption--------------------86.7%------------65%--------------40%-------------20%
Fossil Fuel Consumption (a:)------------------------------------11,030---------11,030------------7,800-----------4,400
Ave. Annual Increase(Decrease) Fossil Fuels-----------------1.7%-------------0%------------(3.5%)----------(5.5%)

RENEWABLES/NUCLEAR: % of Total Consumption-----13.3%-------------35%--------------60%------------**80%

Total Primary Energy Consumption (a)-----------------------12,730----------17,030-----------19,450-----------22,200

(a) (Millions Metric Tons of Oil Equvalent Using BO 2013 Data

Of course, nuclear and hydro grow partly because of energy efficiency improvements that lower consumption or energy demand. Nuclear energy will play a vital role in bridging the energy gap caused by an expected sharp reduction in coal production during 2030-2050. Projection above will be updated in 2018. We certainly have a long way to go in reducing current plus 2.0 ppm CO2 emission growth rate trend per year back down to less than 1.0 ppm per year by 2030 in order to reverse current ± 405ppm CO2 concentration to less than 350ppm by 2050 … and thus prevent an earth warming of 3-4 degrees Celsius within next 40 years.

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Typing correction:
(a) (Millions Metric Tons of Oil Equivalent Using BP 2013 Data)

McKinnon wrote a very cogent, reasonable summary. If reason had a chance of prevailing in our world, there might be cause for optimism. But reason, along with human survival, appear to stand a snowball’s chance in the Anthropocene.

Why is that? Primarily because the U.S. has long been the international capitol of bat-shit crazy (see Kurt Anderson’s Fantasyland), and has now become, in Tom Englehardt’s words, “the final winner of the imperial sweepstakes that had gone on for five centuries.” America dominates everything everywhere like no previous empire, and most Americans seem to think this is a good thing.

We need leadership and action to get us where we need to go.

But how can there be effective leadership internationally when the Empire of Delusion is calling the shots? And how can good leadership arise within the empire, where reason falls mostly on deaf ears? It’s a tall order to raise consciousness enough, here in the Heart of Darkness. McKinnon deserves kudos for doing what she can, but solving the psychological problem here is paramount. That should be front and center.

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Nice table. But one would think that with efficiency improvements and big changes in transportation and urban infrastructure that greatly reduces usage of the car, we could achieve negative changes in consumption by 2050.

And as a more significant correction, absent some kind of very ambitious geoengineering scheme, the best we can hope for on the timescales of human societies is simply halt the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Carbon is re-integrated back into the earths crust or oceans only very slowly. So a natural lowering back down to 350 ppm will take many thousands of years.


We are using an increasing quantity of resources with our 7.5 billion people today - of which 2.8 billion in China and India are at a relatively low level of consumption and industrialization - plus 2 billion more people arriving on Earth by 2050. This means it’s most unlikely we will ever see a negative movement in global energy consumption in absolute terms from current ±13,000 (stated in millions metric tons of oil equivalent).

But we will see a negative decline in the annual rates of increase in energy consumption along lines noted above. If as you suggest, the world could achieve a negative average annual rate of increase in energy consumption of say, -1.25% during 2035-2050, that would be truly GREAT! But, like you, I’m not optimistic we (rational?) humans have the mindset yet to make that happen. So unfortunately, we seem on a course of accepting the risks of our continuing contribution to destabilizing the Earth system on a dangerous planetary scale.

As shown in TABLE 2 of my study, atmospheric CO2 concentrations have been increasing at following average annual % rates: 1970s 0.34%; 1980s 0.45%; 1990s 0.43%; 2000s 0.51%; 2011-16 0.54% (giving an average annual CO2 ppm rate of increase of 2.4ppm the last few years). In TABLE 2, I assume the average % rate of increase stays the same at 0.55% during 2017- 2050. This results in an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 493ppm in the 2040s. If that 0.55% average annual rate of increase could be brought down to ZERO by 2035 and thereafter, then it would be possible to reduce the current atmospheric CO2 concentration level of ±404ppm to less than 350ppm assuming strong coversion to renewables takes place as projected by 2050 .

I should note that above does not take into account possible major innovative breakthroughs such as: storage of CO2, or development of a viable liquid fluoride thorium reactor (China and India have been working intensely on a new promising thorium fuel system), or development of geothermal energy, etc. However, at the rate CO2 is now rising of over ±2.4 ppm/year, we will exceed an atmospheric CO2 concentration of 450ppm by 2035 making it technically that much more difficult to reach the 350ppm level by 2050.

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The optimism and intelligence shown in Ms. McKinnon’s article is to be commended. In an ideal world, she would be a leader or even President. Unfortunately, the US is going backwards into the dark ages and too many Americans no longer believe in science or understand much about the world and too many are still enmeshed by gross materialism. As other posters here have stated, until we find a solution for these and related problems, the technological and green fixes to climate change will all remain pie-in-the-sky goals. Until people demonstrate that they are willing to make major sacrifices for the sake of the planet and future generations and stop being so materialistic, there doesn’t seem to be much hope of accomplishing McKinnon’s plan.

It’s sad to “like” two comments, both true, but one cynical one hopeful, back-to-back. Too much truth in what both you and Yunz are saying.