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Peak Oil or Climate Change: Which Is Most Urgent?

Andre Angelantoni, Triplepundit
For a casual, scientifically-inclined observer, climate change used to be easy: the link between CO2 and climate change had been established, CO2 emissions were increasing year after year and unchecked growth was likely to see a world at least 2 degrees hotter than now — and possibly much more.

However, there is increasing evidence that some of the assumptions of fossil fuel availability used by the current set of atmospheric CO2 concentration projections are too high — in some cases much too high.

For instance, in 2004 Germany lowered its hard coal reserves from 23 billion tons to 0.183 billion tons — a 99 percent reduction. The UK and Botswana underwent similar reductions of 99 percent.

It looks like the US is due for a future reduction, too, though not on the scale of these three examples. In 2007 the National Academy of Science studied domestic coal reserves and urged a thorough reassessment because, in their view, “only a small fraction of previously estimated [coal] reserves are economically recoverable.” Subsequent studies put the peak of world and U.S. coal production between 2030 and 2040.
(13 May 2009)

On American Sustainability – Anatomy of Societal Collapse

Chris Clugston, The Oil Drum
This guest post by Chris Clugston is a high level summary of a detailed analysis of America’s “predicament” and its inevitable consequences that he also prepared. His complete analysis and associated models, evidence, and references can be found at this link.
– TOD edtior Gail Tverberg

On American Sustainability—Anatomy of a Societal Collapse (Summary)
The Real “Inconvenient Truth”

Most Americans believe that we are “exceptional”—both as a society and as a species. We believe that America was ordained through divine providence to be the societal role model for the world. And we believe that through our superior intellect, we can harness and even conquer Nature in our continuous quest to improve the material living standards associated with our ever-increasing population.

The truth is that our pioneering predecessors drifted, quite by accident, upon a veritable treasure trove of natural resources and natural habitats, which they wrested by force from the native inhabitants, and which we have persistently overexploited in order to create and perpetuate our American way of life. The truth is that through our “divine ordination” and “superior intellect”, we have been persistently and systematically eliminating the very resources upon which our way of life and our existence depend.
(13 May 2009)
Chris Clugston is an EB contributor. His original paper is 79 pages long (PDF). -BA

Global Citizenship- Opportunities for Change

Professor Peadar Kirby, Zone 5
The twin challenges of climate change and peak oil also pose a fundamental question mark over the sorts of societies we have created, firstly in Europe and now worldwide. Since the Industrial Revolution over 200 years ago, our economic system and our ways of living have come to depend on the ever more intensive use of fossil fuels to drive the machines on which our societies depended.

Firstly it was the combination of coal with the steam engine and for over 100 years it has been the application of oil to the internal combustion engine. This combination of energy and technology has powered our production of goods, our mobility and much of our lifestyle.

It was based on two assumptions:

1) There was a limitless availability of the fossil fuels;
2) The ever more intense use of these fuels caused no damage to our environment.

Our societies have lived in denial of these two issues despite the fact that since the 1950s warning bells have been sounded by scientists that oil was going to peak within decades and, more recently, growing concern at the damage greenhouse gases, released by the fossil fuels we use, were having on our environment.

For example, in 1972 a group of eminent scientists, educators, economists, humanists, industrialists and civil servants published the ground-breaking report Limits to Growth warning that the post-war rate of economic expansion and population growth could not be sustained without widespread poverty and famine, the exhaustion of global natural resources and irreparable environmental damage. More energy was devoted to rubbishing the report than to hearing its warning message.

Indeed, over recent decades, instead of facing these challenges we have intensified our unsustainable practices and, more and more, they are being copied by countries around the world which aspire to the living standards of the rich West. …

Peadar Kirby is Professor of International Politics and Public Policy, University of Limerick.

This is the introduction to week 9 of the Powerdown Toolkit 10-week community learning course created by the Cultivate Center in Dublin. It has an accompanying TV show with a 30-minute episode accompanying each week of the course, soon to be aired on Dublin Community TV.

On sale Now! The Powerdown TV show featuring the 10 TV shows to accompany the introductions serialized here on zone5 over the past few weeks, with interviews with Rob Hopkins, Richard Douthwaite, Megan Quinn, Peader Kirby and many others.
(11 May 2009)