Cornucopians versus Doomsters: On Julian Simon’s Refutation of Global 2000 (and the Club of Rome)

man-chart-growth-copernius-viewRachel Carson’s landmark book “Silent Spring” was published in 1962. It, alone, of the important environmental best-sellers of that era, had a significant impact: it led to the banning of DDT (at least in the Western world) and major shifts in agricultural practice.

Paul Ehrlich, a noted American biologist, best known for his warnings about the consequences of population growth and limited resources,  was the author of a famous book “The Population Bomb” (1968), in which he claimed (as Malthus had claimed in 1798) that increasing population – demographic catastrophe — would inevitably outstrip food and resources, and that hundreds of millions of people would starve to death in the 1970s.

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What Climate Deniers fail to understand about the planet Earth. Part 3: The Ocean Cannot Absorb Much More CO2

great-barrier-reef-damage

Most carbon emissions are absorbed by the ocean, but it’s running out of capacity, which could make global temperatures rise even faster.

The bottom line is that there is no alternative non-anthropogenic theory to explain rising temperatures, melting glaciers, sea level rise and ocean acidification. If we don’t act, the existing mechanisms of the climate will only reinforce the damage already done.

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A Dangerous Crack in Economic Theory:

Why growth is slow and world trade is not always win-win.

robert-ayresAs Larry Summers and many other economists have lamented (and even Donald Trump has said in several campaign speeches), it is true that the global recovery from the financial collapse of 2008 has been extraordinarily slow. Explanations vary widely. My own explanation up to now has focused on the shift from growth based on the exploitation of natural resources (especially oil and gas) to growth based on ICT technologies incubated in Silicon Valley but employing very few people. Another explanation centers on the working class reaction (in the US) to globalization and “free trade deals” favoring the export of manufacturing jobs to low wage countries.

A related explanation centers on the rise of the financial industry, along with its preference for moving money into the creation of asset bubbles rather than investment in small businesses in the “real” economy. A cousin of this explanation is that the money available for investment by the richest few is increasingly devoted to increasing the power of money in the political process. There is probably some truth in each of them.

The end of the era of increasing debt, with near zero interest rates is coming very soon. When it does, the cost of those deficits will explode, and the pressures for a major revolution in economics, capitalism and democracy, will also explode.

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What Climate Deniers fail to understand about the planet Earth. Part 2. The Climate Could Be More Sensitive to CO2 Than We Think

Climate sensitivity could be underestimated, adding urgency to reducing carbon emissions

In my last article on this topic, I pointed out how the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is improving its methods and research, and getting closer to proving the effects of man’s current lifestyle on the climate of our planet. Climate deniers, however, remain steadfast in their convictions that the IPCC’s science is wrong or that it’s all just a scam to increase government power. The fact that they have no proprietary research to substantiate their claims that rising CO2 levels are harmless or that human beings have nothing to do with it, doesn’t seem to stop them picking holes in the science.

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What Climate Deniers fail to understand about the planet Earth. Part 1: Settling the Debate on Climate Change

ipcc-2015-conference

Scientists are closer than ever to definitively proving that climate change exists and putting the deniers to rest. Despite the recent climate agreement in Paris (COP21), where 195 countries adopted the first legally binding treaty to curb climate change, the debate about whether climate change exists or whether it’s the fault of human beings still rages on.

The first article in a three-part series, originally based on an interview, followed by a publication in “INSEAD Knowledge”.  I undertook it, at first, to compensate for the influence of certain climate deniers on the faculty and among the readers.

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On EROI: Commentary by Professor Charles Hall

See “On EROI, as a measure of what’s left in the barrel” at http://wp.me/p55vqx-95

charles-a-s-hall-2Happy to see a website devoted to the (mostly) good ideas of Robert Ayres. As the originator of the term if not the concept of EROI I would like to clarify a few things from my own perspective. The energy invested is usually and appropriately considered the energy diverted from society to get energy to society. Thus natural gas used to pressurize an oil/gas field or energy used in society to make a drill bit or oil rig or fertilizer for corn-based ethanol would be considered part of the investment. Geological energy to make radioactive uranium or oil would not.

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HOW THIS SITE WORKS

man in front of blackboard wiht economic equasions - reversed

FINDING YOUR WAY

HEADERS:

A revolving collection of photos and graphics which are intended to capture/suggest the main themes and issues treated here.

TOP MENU

RUA top web page

To get full value from this somewhat ambitious web platform, we invite first-time visitors to spend a few minutes to work their way along the top menu from left to right to get a feeling for how each of these main sections works.  Taking them in order.

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On EROI, as a measure of what’s left in the barrel

RUA EROI

Source; Mason Inman. Scientific American. April. 2013. http://goo.gl/n57ZKG

This paper makes several points about the use of EROI as an indicator of future potential.

First, for comparability it is important to limit comparisons to specific end-use a products, such as gasoline for cars or electricity for the grid, or perhaps hydrogen for fuel cells. Comparisons between different end-uses are very dubious.

Second, it is important to avoid comparing EROIs for fossil fuels stored by geochemical processes in the Earth’s crust vs nuclear power (based on a single element, uranium) vs technologies based on energy directly or indirectly from the sun.

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Who is reading “Ayres on . . .” and where

Map readers RUA 30aug16

This site has been pretty passive since first broad on line in alpha form in late 2014, not much happening and basically waiting for a better day (today!). Nonetheless, over four thousand visitors dropped in during this basically self-driving period, coming from some ninety countries on all continents.

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OP-EDS

old typewriter UnderwoodInvited articles, reviews, challenges and longer comments by concerned readers and others with a strong interests in the subjects treated here.

An op-ed (originally short for “opposite the editorial page”, latterly “opinion editorial”) is a piece typically published by newspapers, magazines, and the like which expresses the opinions of a named author usually not affiliated with the publication’s editorial board.

The Op-eds that you find in these pages have been solicited or chosen to the extent that they help us look at our targeted issues from a variety of perspectives. We might have called them, mind food.

Op-ed: On the Productive Link between Energy and a Robust Economy

John Skip LaitnerJohn A. “Skip” Laitner is the first guest contributor whom we are proud to welcome to the important Op-ed section of this site . This section is intended to serve as a tribune for readers and colleagues who are working to develop new ideas and perspectives on the important topics focused on here — Environment, Exergy, Economy and Growth  —  to share their work, ideas and challenges with our growing network of international readers. We welcome critical discussion and creative disagreement.

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Evolution, Complexity and New Wealth

CERN ATLAS detector

Abstract: The universe resembles a heat engine. It does work while cooling and expanding. The work performed is to create differentiable objects and structures, starting with elementary particles, then atoms, molecules,  bacteria, plants and animals, humans, social  organisms and scientific papers. The differentiation mechanism is called “symmetry-breaking. The selection mechanism – survival of the fittest, is familiar.

The evolutionary process before humans can be regarded as an accumulation of natural wealth. Humans have learned to exploit (and destroy) natural wealth in order to create “new” wealth. Can the new wealth, based on knowledge, compensate for the wealth destruction in order to ensure long term survival? Or are we on a suicidal path?

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Looking back at looking forward

Future vision ayres

This article, never published, was based on a talk given to the Swedish society for Future studies, in 2005. On re-reading it 11 years later, I have little to change or add, with one exception. In that same year, a book entitled The Singularity Is Near by Ray Kurzweil (a well-known denizen of Silicon Valley) was published. It’s thesis was that progress in computer technology had reached the point where artificial intelligence (AI) can be applied to its own development. Kurzweil suggests that this would lead to a hyper-exponential rate of progress resulting in a computer-based “super-intelligence capable of controlling human evolution or surpassing it.

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Energy, Complexity & Wealth Creation

 

renewables man facing extremesThe essay below is a short version of the main thesis of my new book, entitled “Energy, Complexity and Wealth Maximization”, just published by Springer. It points out the interesting correlation between the expansion and cooling of the universe, and the creation of complexity and diversity. In a fundamental sense, wealth can be characterized as diversity, although the billionaires of Wall Street probably think in terms of money. 

But what does money provide if not choices? I venture to think that the ideas discussed here constitute the first baby steps toward a  thermodynamic theory of evolution. Even at its full length, the book is hardly a complete theory. There is a lot more to do. But it does suggest that the arrow of time is not necessarily aimed at the cold and the dark.

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What is Exernomics?

Exergy is a word from engineering that refers to the part of energy, which is the part that can do work. Not all energy, like the heat energy in water, or air at room temperature, can perform work. So when we speak of “energy” in the sense of something (like fuel) being “consumed” or “used up”, it is really exergy that we mean. The link between exergy and economics is usefulness.

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