Citizen Action Monitor

“The dream of a smooth energy transition is little more than a comforting shared illusion” – Pt. 1 of 2

Moreover, says Dr. William Rees, even if it were possible, it would not solve climate change and would exacerbate the real existential threat facing society, namely overshoot. —

No 2808 by fw, December 18, 2021 —

William Rees

“Climate-change and other environmental organizations urge governments to act decisively/rapidly to decarbonize the economy and halt further development of fossil fuel reserves.  These demands arguably expose:

    • ignorance of the role of energy in the modern economy;
    • ill-justified confidence in society’s ability to transition to 100% green renewable energy;
    • no appreciation of the ecological consequences of attempting to do so;
    • and little understanding of the social implications. 

Without questioning the need to abandon fossil fuels,

    • I will argue that the dream of a smooth energy transition is little more than a comforting shared illusion. 
    • Moreover, even if it were possible, it would not solve climate change and would exacerbate the real existential threat facing society, namely overshoot. 
    • I then explore
      • some of the consequences and implications of (the necessary) abandonment of fossil fuels in the absence of adequate substitutes, and
      • how governments and MTI [Modern Techno-Industrial] society should be responding to these unspoken biophysical realities.”

— Dr. William Rees, CACOR ZOOM Webinar 2021

Dr. William Rees is a population ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus, and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning.  His academic research focuses on the biophysical prerequisites for sustainability.

About CACOR — The Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR) was founded in 1970 as one of the first of now more than thirty national associations affiliated with the International Club of Rome.  CACOR is autonomous, independent, and nonpartisan. Its main objective is to further the sustainability of the global ecosystem including the survival of humanity.

The above italicized introduction to this repost is Dr. Rees’ Summary to his 95-minute video-recorded ZOOM/Webinar address to The Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR) on December 1, 2021.

Below is Part 1 of my two-part repost of the CACOR publication of Rees’ talk.

Part 1 includes an embedded You Tube video of Rees’ address along with his written Summary (shown above), biographical information about Dr. Rees, and a note about CACOR.

Before we get to the repost of Part 1, I include here my abbreviated notes of Dr. Rees’ of 43 PowerPoint slides that he incorporates in his ZOOM video address. Given the 95-minute length of his talk, and, at times, the overwhelming information richness of the content, the purpose of the abridged note for each of the 43 slides is to familiarize visitors with his key ideas before they plunge into to the deep end of the video talk itself. I have numbered each slide

Abridged Note for Each of Dr. Rees’ 43 Numbered PowerPoint Slides

  1. Humanity’s capacity for self-delusion facilitates our escape from reality, which may prove fatal
  2. We tend to think in simplistic, linear, reductionist ways; we don’t ‘get’ the complexity of our Modern Tecno-Industrial (MTI) society; we don’t connect the dots.
  3. Climate change is important but not the primary existential threat facing humanity.
  4. The real existential threat is overshoot
  5. Left unattended, overshoot is terminal.
  6. Our climate change fixation in a nutshell — To avoid potentially catastrophic climate change, the world community must: reduce CO2 emissions by about 50% below 2010 levels by 2030 (i.e., >8% per year beginning in 2022); and achieve complete decarbonization by 2050.
  7. COP26’s failures — Pledges that do not go far enough in cutting emissions, lack of details, no solidarity
  8. Unrealistic demands from climate activist organizations, including Greta Thunberg
  9. Sample of “simplistic delusional nonsense” demands
  10. Climate activists and Green New Deal enthusiasts assume minimal disruption and continuous economic/population growth, and neither acknowledges overshoot.
  11. Faux solutions from both groups are actually designed to serve the capitalist growth–based [MTI]  economy
  12. Real climate scientists were practically excluded from COP26
  13. What is the significance of a graph that shows the relationship between global energy consumption and global GDP (Gross Domestic Product)?
  14. Answer — GDP is proportional to oil consumption
  15. If we were to end fossil energy use abruptly, hundreds of millions, even billions, of people would likely die from food and other resource shortages, civil strife, and geo-political chaos.
  16. Renewable Energy at scale – e.g. wind turbines, solar PV panels, hydrogen — face numerous technical challenges
  17. Material demands of electric vehicles (EVs) are orders of magnitude greater than equivalent gas generation
  18. Comforting illusions don’t acknowledge social impacts such as the 14-year-old orphan cobalt miner, one of ~40,000 child miners in Africa’s DRC
  19. Grid-scale wind and solar PV are incapable of quantitatively replacing fossil fuels particularly in more northern latitudes like Canada, much of Europe and Russia.
  20. Telling graph reveals combined output of solar and wind capacity compared to gas in Midland, Ontario, at winter solstice (December 20 to 22). The implications for backup power are obvious
  21. President Biden’s delusion: Create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035
  22. To replace just 50% of global fossil fuel use with electricity by 2030 would require that the world construct about 1.1 times the entire present cumulative global stock of wind farms and solar panels every year for the next nine years
  23. The transition to green wouldn’t mean zero emissions: It would require large quantities of fossil fuel energy
  24. The demand for 100% replacements of fossil fuel cannot happen in a climate-meaningful timeframe
  25. If history is any guide, are these trajectories likely to change sufficiently to meet even the 2.0C Paris warming limit?
  26. According to the US Energy Information Administration, in 2050, fossil fuels are still about 70% of total energy consumption.
  27. A future struggling to maintain economic growth and a growing population using mainly fossil fuel will lead to a catastrophic 2.4C degrees warming – and worse
  28. What real climate scientists say — The game is over – Everybody, and the ecosphere, lost.
  29. Trying to reverse climate change by focusing on climate change will not fix the real problem – overshoot
  30. Apart from hydro and nuclear electricity about 96% of ‘labor’ in human economies is done by oil, coal and natural gas.
  31. In the real world, the coming societal transition is more likely to be a ragged shift from using too much energy to not having enough.
  32. Rapid de-canonization without a plan would lead to collapsed economies & geopolitical chaos
  33. In contrast, controlled societal contraction on many fronts could result in sustainability with justice
  34. Canada should be planning to abandon fossil fuels where possible and reserve any remaining carbon budget for essential uses
  35. Here’s what a sustainable lifestyle looks like
  36. Living on a finite planet already in overshoot presents an intractable population problem
  37. Population planning will not be an easy task — assume a global one-child/family policy
  38. Basic human nature drives our actions – we value the certain, comfortable present, home communities and close relatives/friends over uncertain future threats, distant places, and complete strangers
  39. With the prevalence of false news, and social media, many people have become ill-informed self-delusionists and denialists.
  40. Delusional thinking is the human way – We go for Simple but Wrong — wind turbines, photovoltaics, electric vehicles, smart cities, geoengineering, etc. – all leading to collapse
  41. “I want to like people, but they’re just so fucking stupid.”
  42. What is ecologically and socially necessary for sustainability is not politically feasible, but the politically feasible is ecologically and socially ineffective, if not catastrophic
  43. “The chief virtue of self-delusion is that it enables one to ignore discomforting aspects of reality. The downside is that habitual practice may prove catastrophic, even fatal.” (Tom Murphy et al. 2021. Modernity is incompatible with planetary limits: Developing a PLAN for the future.)

**********

On the Virtues of Self-delusion—or maybe not! Summary, by William Rees, CACOR Zoom, December 1, 2021

Dr. Rees’ Summary of his 95-minute Webinar:

Climate-change and other environmental organizations urge governments to act decisively/rapidly to decarbonize the economy and halt further development of fossil fuel reserves.  These demands arguably expose:

  • ignorance of the role of energy in the modern economy;
  • ill-justified confidence in society’s ability to transition to 100% green renewable energy;
  • no appreciation of the ecological consequences of attempting to do so;
  • and little understanding of the social implications.

Without questioning the need to abandon fossil fuels,

  • I will argue that the dream of a smooth energy transition is little more than a comforting shared illusion.
  • Moreover, even if it were possible, it would not solve climate change and would exacerbate the real existential threat facing society, namely overshoot.
  • I then explore
    • some of the consequences and implications of (the necessary) abandonment of fossil fuels in the absence of adequate substitutes, and
    • how governments and MTI [Modern Techno-Industrial] society shouldbe responding to these unspoken biophysical realities.

About CACOR — The Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR) was founded in 1970 as one of the first of now more than thirty national associations affiliated with the International Club of Rome.  CACOR is autonomous, independent, and nonpartisan. Its main objective is to further the sustainability of the global ecosystem including the survival of humanity.

About Dr. Rees — Dr. William Rees is a population ecologist, ecological economist, Professor Emeritus, and former Director of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning.  His academic research focuses on the biophysical prerequisites for sustainability.  This focus led to co-development (with his graduate students) of ecological footprint analysis, a quantitative tool that shows definitively that the human enterprise is in dysfunctional overshoot.  (We would need five Earth-like planets to support just the present world population sustainably with existing technologies at North American material standards.)

Frustrated by political unresponsiveness to worsening indicators, Dr. Rees also studies the biological and psycho-cognitive barriers to environmentally rational behavior and policies.  He has authored hundreds of peer-reviewed and popular articles on these topics.

Dr. Rees is a Fellow of Royal Society of Canada and also a Fellow of the Post-Carbon Institute; a founding member and former President of the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics; a founding Director of the OneEarth Initiative; and a Director of The Real Green New Deal.  He was a full member of the Club of Rome from 2013 until 2018.  His international awards include the Boulding Memorial Award in Ecological Economics, the Herman Daley Award in Ecological Economics, and a Blue Planet Prize (jointly with his former student, Dr. Mathis Wackernagel).

*****

You Tube Video of Dr. Rees’ Webinar, Canadian Association for the Club of Rome, December 1, 2021 (95-minutes)

[Time index to the 3 parts of the video]

0:00 to 2:31 — Introduction of Dr. Rees by Ruben Nelson of CACOR // 2:31 to 52:50 — Dr. Rees’ Zoom & PowerPoint presentation // 52:52 to 1:34:50 – Q&A

End of Part 1 of 2

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One comment on ““The dream of a smooth energy transition is little more than a comforting shared illusion” – Pt. 1 of 2

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