The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Climate change is getting worse, faster. It’s accelerating. What is required to change that?

Who would have expected? All three are accelerating, with Methane the worst.

Now my first reaction was that this was a reaction to Covid restrictions ending, but if you look at the chart it’s clear that isn’t the case, as the amount of increase is more than Pre-Covid.


This is why I laughed when people heralded Kyoto or Paris or any other climate agreements. The treaties have no teeth and are generally dead on arrival. And it’s small countries that tend to do the most, which isn’t what is needed.

To put it simply, there is no way we’re going to stop at a 2 degrees change, and those who say otherwise are guilty, at best, of wishful thinking. Yes, it’s “theoretically” possible, but there is a real world and in the real world it will not happen absent revolution, peaceful or otherwise, because it requires actions our rulers will not take. (Look at Germany, in energy crisis, still refusing to turn nuclear reactors back on.)

Nor will anything other than radical change work. In the beginning of the pandemic, when most of the major industrial countries were in lockdown, concentrations kept going up. The very structure of our society requires these emissions and thus we will have to change the structure, simply doing “less” the same way won’t do the job, though it may happen, albeit not voluntarily.

We must move to a full electrical economy. We are going to have to design and build better, safer nuclear reactors and we are going to have become the sort of societies which can run nuclear safely. To fix the ecosystem collapse (related but not identical) we’re going to have to change how we do agriculture almost entirely, remove almost all toxins from our products and go to a combination of very high density cities (no more sprawl) and people who live outside of those high density areas will have to be ecological stewards: their existence must make ecodiversity increase, not decrease or they simply can’t be allowed.

We will also have to outlaw planned obsolesence and make it a criminal offense for anyone, including officers of corporations and perhaps even shareholders to create a product which does not have the smallest possible footprint or which is not designed to be easily repaired and upgraded. No more non-biodegradable products which are not designed for long lives. As much as possible will have to be made bio-degradable and again, not doing so will be a crime, with criminal sentences in prison.

None of this is impossible, and oddly, it will create a world which is in certain ways, much more pleasant to live in and which gives people much more agency.

But it won’t happen under the current system or with the current elites. Capitalism as we know it has to go, and every ruling elite in every major country must be replaced.




The Inflationary Consequences of Friendzoning and Decoupling


Open Thread


  1. Steve

    Is this world possible under capitalism?

  2. Tallifer

    Well said, Ian.

    I think however that most people who have enjoyed thoughtless convenience and luxury will never willingly sacrifice their travel and toys, their extra space and extra goodies. Cheap chicken from factory farms and cheap airfare. Sadly.

  3. StewartM

    We will also have to outlaw planned obsolesence and make it a criminal offense for anyone, including officers of corporations and perhaps even shareholders to create a product which does not have the smallest possible footprint or which is not designed to be easily repaired and upgraded. No more non-biodegradable products which are not designed for long lives.

    I don’t think you can get around a need to recycle/reclaim (it’s a great idea for everyone to be able to say, repair or upgrade your computer or mobile device, but what to do with the broken/replaced components?). But that should be required of both sellers and users. What we now sent to landfills represents a huge waste as well as an external cost that sellers do not currently bear. Planned obsolescence and lack of ability to repair is the chief reason why you see mobile devices being pushed so relentlessly instead of repairable desktop and laptop computers (mobile devices break far more frequently, are not easy for the user to repair, and if they don’t break, they are deliberately slowed down by the service providers).

    But I’m liking your idea that you end limited liability for corporations. I have come around to the idea that at least the people (or companies and their top stockholders) who hold (say) 20 % of a corporation’s stock should be held financially and criminally liable for anything the corporation does. Holding the CEOs isn’t enough as the CEO is in essence just a well-paid stooge of the top stockholders.

    The beauty of ending limited liability is that this is that this would allow a “club and carrot” approach to change the pattern of ownership in the country. Allow as the only “out” for the top stockholders to escape this liability to be to transform their companies from corporations to cooperatives, where the leadership is elected by the work force. Now these shareholders now have no liability, but also NO VOTE and no direct control over the company at all, and become passive actors. The leadership of companies would then return to those who work there, who would end the practice of cannibalizing their companies for the temporary profit of investors, and focus instead on long-term investments in their physical and human capital (think Boeing when it was run by engineers vs Boeing as it is run now by MBAs). Firms would return to a focus on building better mousetraps rather than creative paper reshufflings.

  4. Willy

    Americans who’ve lived abroad for a while and then come back to the states, notice how insanely fat everything is here compared to there.

    Out of my couple dozen nieces and nephews all but three strive to live fatly. One’s wife left him for somebody fatter and he lives with his mother now. Another owns guns, loudly, since he’ll never regain the glory fatness of high school football. After the third became an underemployed ex-navy depressed incel, well, he’s just grown downright fat. The rest of them spend their time dreaming and scheming about how to consume and display their consumption.

    It seems like yesterday when I imagined them continuing to come to me for avuncularly advice about Zen and the art of fixing and making things. Today only crazy uncles fix and make things. I have to take special care to never whine about it lest they declare me a disgruntled thin guy. But I’m suspecting that they’re already suspicious, since I grow quiet whenever they talk about fatness.

    Our corporations and mass influencer machines have done their jobs well.

    Given this cultural backdrop of mindless fatness, I don’t know where I’d even begin to get them concerned about climate change.

  5. Bill H.

    So Methane went from 0.000165% (1.65 ten thousandths of a percent) of our atmosphere to 0.000195%, and a graph is presented with a vertical scale to make that 0.00003% increase visually appear to be a 400% increase, and create panic and fear that we are all doomed. Good work.

  6. Ian Welsh

    The point is to show the year-on-year change, for which this is fine, and yeah, it matters.

  7. Astrid

    There are plenty examples of people sacrificing tremendously throughout human history, if they are convinced that they’re facing an existential threat and if it’s a shared sacrifice. The problem with capitalism is that it’s antithetical to shared sacrifice or sacrificing selfish short term interests for the sake of long term, communal interests.

    But turning around decades/centuries of capitalist/imperialist indoctrination in any timeframe to matter, is likely to be impossible. Maybe China/Russia can lead the way and salvage something, but in the US I see either utopian self deception or dystopian despair. Even amongst the Collapse-aware community, its either people smugly stockpiling ammo or growing potatoes or those who just want to go out with the first wave of mass deaths.

  8. George

    I forever have thought a corporation’s charter should be reviewed annually and if unable to verify their existent good and the benefit bestowed upon the planet then it be revoked. That alone would probably wipe out most.

    The adaptation that mitigates climate change is going to be a forced event. Like as in a block of ice falling on your head before any light is seen. Cumulative CH4 in the earth’s thin atmosphere has already done the job. Already it’s apparent by annual deaths caused from air pollution, just breathing and our continued culpability in this denial, will be our undoing.

  9. Chipper

    Population control seems necessary, too. I know there are always more things that can be added to a list like this, but this seems like a fundamental thing that needs to be done.

    A change from 0.000165 to 0.000195 is an 18.2% increase I believe.

    Just as an example, if the methane went from 20% of the atmosphere to 30% of the atmosphere, it’s not a 10% increase, it’s a 50% increase.

  10. Troy

    Re: Tallifer

    > I think however that most people who have enjoyed thoughtless convenience and luxury will never willingly sacrifice their travel and toys, their extra space and extra goodies. Cheap chicken from factory farms and cheap airfare. Sadly.

    Much of this is manufactured consent. Additionally, there’s a great deal of induced demand in what Americans buy. Much of this is back end stuff that can be solved via changing rules and regulations, incentives and disincentives.

    The real fight is breaking apart disinformation networks and media oligarchies that would hamstring and and all efforts at changing energy usage.

  11. Forecasting Intelligence


    LTG BAU model shows our global economy collapsing from now onwards.

    Industrial collapse and, down the line, mass starvation will reduce emissions and “limit” the climate change risk.

  12. Joe

    Their is going to have to be an event that changes our way of thinking.
    Something that makes us content just to be alive.
    It will have to happen fairly soon.
    Kinda scary to think about what that might be.
    The alternative,
    go out with a whimper.

  13. different clue


    You won’t get them concerned about global warming no matter what you say, so don’t even try. Don’t even think about trying. Don’t bother trying and don’t try bothering.

    So if nobody’s words will reach them, neither yours nor anybody else’s, what might reach them? ” Events, dear boy, events” . . . as the saying goes.

    IF! any of your relatives has a near-death heat-stroke experience in a never-before-experienced Death Valley heat-wave, he or she might ask you what you think about all this. Maybe they will need five or six such Death Valley heat-wave type near-death heat stroke experiences. Whatever it takes, IF such experiences finally motivate them to ask you what you think without any prompting or leading from yourself, THEN you can offer your thoughts on the matter.

    And for those among them who will never be self-motivated to ask you for your thoughts on the matter, no matter how many heat-strokes they have, or how many hail-boulders hit their roof and fall all the way into their basement, or how many 25-inch-per-day raindump waterbomb storms they experience; well . . . . let Darwin take them.

  14. Ian Welsh

    Similar to the Rome model, yes. But it’s unlikely to collapse fast enough and doesn’t take into account self-reinforcing cycles.

  15. different clue


    There is a magazine article which suggests an explanation for all this manufactured consumptionism. It is called The Gospel of Consumption ( and the better future we left behind). It is in Orion Magazine. Here is the link.

    It took several decades to mass-teach this Gospel of Consumption to the citizenry. It could take several decades to mass-teach a Gospel of Thrift and Conservation to the citizenry. That would be the tragedy of ” too late ” .

    However, perhaps an ethic of class-enemy-directed rage, hatred and a desire for serious revenge against the Gospelers of Consumption at the whole-nation level might lead to majority-based counterculture-driven conservation action where a willingness for self-sacrifice never will. And in a time-frame which would make a survival difference.


    A thought just occurred to me. You recently wrote that many of your ancestors came from Eastern Europe. These were traditional poverty lands. Perhaps a desire to live Fatly is an intergenerational cultural-reaction against the inherited memory of that poverty.

    ” As God is my witness . . . . as GOD is my WITness . . . I’ll NEver go HUNgry aGAIN!”

    Perhaps Tony Wikrent’s every-Sunday Weekly Wrap-Up might be the place to leave comments containing information about how to live thinly. And especially how to weaponise Thin Living against the Gospelers of Consumptionism.

  16. Purple Library Guy

    On nuclear: There is a pretty strong case for Germany in specific turning its existing reactors back on in the short term.

    The case for rollout of NEW nuclear reactors is absolutely terrible. It’s a really stupid idea and should not be done. Not because there is always the risk of a really major catastrophe, although there is. Not because official claims about safety in normal operation are, frankly, lies that are only able to mostly stand because figuring out that people are dying of cancer more around reactors requires some serious epidemiology research and such statistics are pretty easy to fudge and ignore. Not even because the waste is a massive pain in the ass to store and no country on the globe has so far managed to create and use a long term storage site.

    No, the case for making new nuclear reactors stinks because they are so incredibly expensive to build and operate and because they take so damned long to build. Electricity from nuclear power is the most expensive on the planet. And that’s the official figures–it’s before you realize that the state is subsidizing the bejeezus out of nuke plants, both directly, with loan guarantees, by taking care of the waste for them, and by subsidizing, guaranteeing, capping payouts from, and/or flat out publicly providing their insurance. Private sector insurance companies won’t insure nuclear reactors without such measures. Far as I can tell, getting electricity by building new nuclear plants is two to three times as expensive as solar/wind PLUS tons of battery storage. The vaporware “Small Modular Reactors” would be even more expensive, not less–the basic physics of nuclear plants gains advantages from larger size.

    Add to that the fact that building new nuclear plants is amazingly slow. The lead time is counted less in the years than the decades–generally only one or two decades, although sometimes more, but pretty much never less than ten years and usually more. They also pretty much always end up costing multiples of the amount originally claimed. And that’s for reactors based strictly on existing technology and designs.
    For anything involving any kind of new design (such as these “Small Modular Reactors”, none of which have a really finalized design), you can probably add a decade on top of that.

    By the time you build enough of the damn things to make any difference, civilization has already fallen. At best, going nuclear robs the transition of momentum because nothing happens for like three plus election cycles, where with renewables you’d have stuff coming on stream every year. Even if you can hold things together long enough to bring them online, you end up with maybe half to a third as much electricity as you’d get from the same $$$ worth of renewables. It’s idiotic.

    (Also, there’s a side problem with nuclear–uranium isn’t actually unlimited. Estimates suggest one or two hundred years’ worth of the stuff . . . at current consumption rates. But if you’re burning ten times as much, guess what? That drops to ten or twenty years. Oh, I’m sure they’d find more sources; maybe they’d double existing reserves. So, twenty to forty years . . . gradually working their way down to worse and worse ores.)

    But it doesn’t matter because nobody’s going to build out masses of nuclear. No business case.

  17. Ian Welsh

    From the linked article:

    “According to the WMO, carbon dioxide concentrations in 2021 were 415.7 parts per million, methane was 1908 parts per billion (ppb) and nitrous oxide was 334.5 ppb. These are respectively 149%, 262% and 124% of pre-industrial levels.”

  18. capelin

    The military are excempt from Kyoto et al, which kinda says it all. What’s the carbon footprint of the entirely avoidable Ukraine war? Doesn’t count.

    @ Bill H and Chipper

    “a graph is presented with a vertical scale to make that 0.00003% increase visually appear to be a 400% increase”

    “A change from 0.000165 to 0.000195 is an 18.2% increase I believe.”

    Ah, Absolute vs Relative percentage. Where have we seen that before. Hint: Efficacy.

  19. Forecasting Intelligence

    Ian, I suggest you read Zeihan latest book.

    He isn’t so energy literate but much of the processes he describes are essentially what will happen from a energetic perspective.

    We are facing, globally, a 20 year depression, collapse of the global economy, unravelling of global supply chains, collapse of our super complex tech industry and the slow re-emergence of local and regional economies, in those places that survive the transition.

    Yes, the world will burn through all remaining economically viable coal this century, so I agree that a certain amount of climate change in inevitable, BUT, global economic collapse and a collapse in global population will have a major impact on much of these climate models.

    Either way, I don’t see much point in labouring the point. Mitigation from climate change and resource depletion (and all the decline/collapse dynamics that go with it. Read Zeihan and Greer for more on that) is the only rational response now at a individual and community/local level.

  20. bruce wilder

    By far the weakest part of the IPCC report series has been the economic analyses and the consequences of the collective inability to think about how the political economy works disables both the inability of elites to change anything fundamental without triggering breakdown as well as the popular inability of the masses — both the well-intended virtue-signalers and the reactionary ignoramuses — to understand and demand or recognize and support effective actions and approaches.

    Mainstream, conventional economic analyses have one critically important insight: that this is a collective action problem impossible to solve with costs and consequences distributed in a way that makes just mitigation also politically impossible. That insight into futility powers Kyoto and other international accords that provide so much political theatre and so little substance.

    It is an ultimately an extremely pessimistic view that acknowledges that human beings are too stupid collectively to be able to reach a cooperative consensus on restructuring their political economy in a way that significantly mitigates what is now inevitable and catastrophic ecological collapse and violent social and political upheaval. For a long-time liberal hand-wringer like me (who expects to expire shortly enough of natural causes) to reach the natural conclusion is almost humorous: it will soon be time to choose your favorite fascist. When people have no idea what to do next collectively the inability to build trust with responsible elites becomes even more acute than in the normal course of human events. Americans who cannot foist a consensus on socializing health care onto corrupt elites are not going to be able to extract a rationally designed policy on generating and conserving energy from those or imho any conceivable elite.

    “We are too stupid” is not a welcome and flattering message of revolution, I know, but it seems to be where we are. I am old enough to remember the second (or third? Who knows the history?) wave of political concern about pollution and “the environment” which resulted in the institution of the EPA and an array of interest groups focused on “environmental causes” and the enactment of sweeping moralistic laws and legal regimes regulating pollution. Some of these were remarkably effective while others ground to a losing stalemate in the contest with reactionary forces intent on subverting them. Ultimately, they failed to constrain population growth and economic and energy-use growth.

    That success and failure did a lot to shape how we today fail to see effective options.

    The framework of New Deal style regulated capitalism that went into the design of institutional regimes from the 1960s was swept away by the neoliberal revolution. The official elite line on economics left us debating for 30 years the relative merits of carbon taxes and cap-n-trade, two ill-conceived and essentially equivalent ideas that left no potent alternatives in the mind-space of elite policy-making. The popular imagination grabbed onto slogans of virtue-signaling that made green-washing an industry of its own and the notion that substituting “sustainable” and “renewable” would save us because solar panels are cheaper than ever.

    Save us from what? From having to do something about the growth of human population and industrial civilization of course. Doing something about those overwhelming forces driving us to catastrophe is almost inconceivable for most people without brutal authoritarianism entering and dominating the political sphere — either to implement or resist desperate measures.

    I am not saying authoritarianism is the only path to mobilizing populations under elites with some purpose. I am saying it is psychologically a huge hazard ahead and one made greater because of the unwillingness or inability to think through the economics. Thinking thru the economics might seem too prosaic an object, but that forms part of the problem. Industrial civilization and modern institutions do not have a long history and in that time only two intellectualized ways to understand it have emerged and survived the 20th century, both in desiccated form: neoclassical “market” economics and Marxist economics. Neither rhetorical frame of terms is helpful to actual understanding of much; omission at the core shuts down inquiry and traps imagination. In any case, both were created celebrating the very growth which we must constrain and reverse to save ourselves.

    Hard thinking? Or just hard authorities? I know which way humans are likely to go. Theology remains the Queen of the sciences, eh?

  21. Mark Pontin

    Purple Library Guy: “the state is subsidizing the bejeezus out of nuke plants, both directly, with loan guarantees, by taking care of the waste for them, and by subsidizing, guaranteeing, capping payouts from, and/or flat out publicly providing their insurance.”

    Thank you for the mindless neoliberal argument against nuclear power.

    We don’t accept that we can afford to NOT ‘subsidize the bejeezus’ out of healthcare in civilized states, outside the US.

    Similarly, we shouldn’t accept that we can afford to NOT subsidize decarbonized energy.

    Seriously, why the hell should nuclear energy be done by private corporations, and not the state? France’s EDF is predominantly state-owned and it reprocesses partially-spent fuel.

    Purple Library Guy: ‘For anything involving any kind of new design (such as these “Small Modular Reactors”, none of which have a really finalized design).

    “there’s a side problem with nuclear–uranium isn’t actually unlimited. Estimates suggest one or two hundred years’ worth of the stuff’

    Wrong again. You know so little that you’re assuming that:-
    (A) We can’t get more uranium out of the back end of a breeder reactor like, forex, the thorium molten salt reactor than we put in —
    (B) The future for nuclear power would be based on the dumb US model of nuclear power generation, which uses the once-through fuel cycle and has promoted the myth of ‘nuclear waste,’ rather than on the reprocessing of partially-spent fuel — which would afford enough power for Earth’s population for approx. the next 20,000 years.

    The US model, which it did its best to foist on the world — thereby creating disasters like Fukushima — evolved as it did because: –
    [1] The US military wanted enriched fissile material from US power plants for its nuclear arsenal;
    [2] The US social model is about supporting private corporations and making their wealthy shareholders wealthier, and reprocessing wouldn’t have been profitable for private US energy corporations;
    [3] The US wanted to prevent the rise of fuel reprocessing, because reprocessing technology is the also the capability to create highly-enriched fissile material for thermonuclear weapons, and the US wanted to preserve its nuclear hegemony.

    Thus, the US switch under the Carter administration from Eisenhower’s ‘Atoms for Peace’ policy to strong non-proliferation policies, which included the global promotion of the myth of ‘nuclear waste.’

    Seriously, go back in time before the Carter administration and you’ll find almost zero mention of the idea of ‘nuclear waste.’ That’s because when people like Alvin Weinberg developed designs like the standard BWR (boiling water reactor) back in the 1950s, everybody assumed that we would reprocess. Then in the 1960s it was discovered that there was more uranium on Earth than we had assumed. Thus, the promotion of the dumb US nuclear power model; then, at the turn of the 1980s, the myth of ‘nuclear waste.’

  22. marku52

    “Groaf” is the problem. Energy use is about 1 for 1 correlated with “Groaf.” To stop climate change, you will have to stop “Groaf”

    But as Ian has demonstrated, that doesn’t’ actually mean life gets worse. Less new disposable stuff for sure. More expensive more nutritious food.

    But that’s really just peeing in the wind, because we know nothing will be done. The entire political system has been rigged to ensure that nothing gets done. So what happens is collapse. Slowly, and occasionally “fastly”. Life expectancy in the US is already falling, and it really only takes a pretty small change in birth/deaths to get the planet to a much smaller population in a hundred years. Covid and the Ukraine war have already gotten a good start on this (how many Europeans will freeze this winter?). I’m convinced that this century is the time the “Microbes Fight Back”, and scores of weird zoonotic, antibiotic resistant, and intentionally created diseases will all be doing their part. Crop failures from climate change too. Population will fall, that’s a given.

    And where will we be, in a hundred years? I suppose the population then will regard us as monsters for destroying their planet. They will live in small enclaves with the traditional warrior/religion symbiote. The religion will be that of environmental protection–“You shall not take more from the earth than you put back.” With a priesthood imbued with the practical workings of ecology, which will be a survival necessity by then. Their dictates enforced by the warlord, with the usual side effect of raiding other bands for resources, farmland, and slaves? Could be…..

  23. Mark Level

    A high quality of comment here as usual. I sympathize with Willie and agree (having spent a year when younger living in Latin America, plus later tourism elsewhere in Europe and Asia) that Americans love their fatness and consumption, if you’ve lived elsewhere it can be shocking. I’ll add to different clue’s point about the Gospel of Consumption. It is very sick and as a certain someone liked to say (bloated himself), “sad!” We are animals, I would be the last person to deny that, but to reduce oneself to a mouth, digestive and excretory tract and have no fulfillment elsewhere is really such a waste of human capacity . . . & so many do it. I guess having agency in life or even looking for “meaning” (which is a tricky concept in an uncertain world) is too much work for many. Lastly, having studied Rome’s fall I will agree with Ian’s point, the fall here will be gradual in some areas, & more violent and short-term in others. It will be interesting to see how the trends go. It would be nice if local solidarity develops in some areas, & it’s not impossible that it will, but people will need to change the Me First, How Much Can I Buy & Consume? First ethos, & that will be slow for some, impossible for many.

  24. Chipper

    I understand if it’s something like disease risk, where if you have a 1 in a billion chance of getting a disease, something that doubles that risk still leaves you at only 2 in a billion chance, while if you have a 1 in a 100 chance of getting a disease, even a 10% increase in risk is a big increase. But I don’t quite see how that applies here. In this case, whether or not the increase in methane is “big” or not depends entirely on its effect on the climate. The percentages aren’t the chance of something happening, they’re the relative amount of one component of something. If I’m missing something (and it’s quite possible I am), I’m quite happy to have it explained to me.

  25. DMC

    Mark P
    Excellent point about thorium based reactors. It’s a proven technology and let’s us use the “waste” that otherwise is so very hazardous. But it’s like everything else in the US, if you can’t make a racket out of it, it doesn’t happen. We could be building our way to energy independence with current technology photo-thermal arrays but instead are left to argue about it in comment sections of semi-obscure blogs.

  26. Mark Pontin

    Bruce Wilder: ‘…the natural conclusion is almost humorous: it will soon be time to choose your favorite fascist … Doing something about those overwhelming forces driving us to catastrophe is almost inconceivable for most people without brutal authoritarianism entering and dominating the political sphere’

    Climate Mao.

    That’s the term for this scenario that some of those who think about such things use.

    Political Scenarios for Climate Disaster

    ‘In the Global North we often act as if our future will be a warmer version of today: liberal capitalism, plus flood insurance, minus coral reefs. That future is a fantasy … In CLIMATE LEVIATHAN: A POLITICAL THEORY OF OUR PLANETARY FUTURE (2018, Verso), we examined what futures could plausibly emerge from the current geopolitical order…

    ‘These two questions—of sovereignty and of capitalism—point toward four rough paths. We call these Climate Leviathan, Climate Mao, Climate Behemoth, and Climate X.

    ‘Climate Leviathan describes an emergent global order committed to the consolidation of capitalism via the organization of a form of planetary sovereignty that can overcome the collective action problem.

    ‘Climate Mao would represent a similarly planetary-scale “solution,” but one dedicated to an anti-capitalist order.

    ‘ Climate Behemoth describes a global arrangement animated by a chauvinistic capitalist and nationalist politics that denies—until it can only denounce—the threat climate change poses to national capitals.

    ‘Climate X is the name we give the collection of movements that pursue global climate justice: movements that build non-capitalist political economies, and construct solidarities at multiple scales that reject the political logic of sovereignty.

    ‘These four broad trajectories are not equally likely. Climate Leviathan is the most plausible, if not the most preferable, for reasons similar to those behind Fredric Jameson’s famous line: “it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.”’

  27. different clue

    @Mark Level,

    The point of the article The Gospel of Consumption was that Consumptionism was not the default-natural expression of Modern Man’s deepest hopes and dreams. America itself had a Gospel of Thrift and the Gospelers of Consumption spent several hard decades intensively marinating the Thriftist American brain in a total 24/7 sensurround vat of Consumptionism.

    We could create a new leaner tougher meaner Gospel of Thrift for the leaner tougher meaner times of today and tomorrow. But it would have to be deliberately engineered and carefully marinated into the minds of those who are even capable of absorbing it in the teeth of the ongoing Mass Mind Marination in the Vat of Consumptionism.

    That’s where a newer better CounterCulture could come in. Lean, mean and green.
    Something like what Ran Prieur has been expressing at his blog. A militant combination of the various approaches to Deep Cheapness that have been worked on by people like Amy Dacyczin . . .
    Sharon Astyk . . .
    Mr. Money Mustache . . .
    and groups and sites like . . .
    Journey To Forever . . .

    and information aggregators like Kurt Saxon . . .
    which has some pickable links at the top of the page, like this . . .

    Here is a whistfully nostalgiac look back at the last attempt to grow a counterculture. . titled The Dirty Fucking Hippies Were Right.

    With a head full of plans and a heart full of hate, we can make things happen.

    Picture a hundred million pairs of strong blue hands wrapped around the neck of Big Koch and Coal. Is it not a beautiful vision?

  28. Joe

    Yes as you state marku52
    I had a thought of something similar.
    A feed back loop we hadn’t counted on returning a balance to the planet. Not that humans will survive but life will. Perhaps some deep cycle that emerges when circumstances bring about the melting of ice sheets. A release of some ancient and potent micro organisms infecting animal and or plant life forms causing mass extinction. Reducing life to the more primitive forms thus providing the basis for the “higher” forms to re evolve and try again. Perhaps achieving a non self destructive intelligent race. Next time maybe reptilian or insectoid.

  29. Mark Pontin

    DMC: ‘Mark P: Excellent point about thorium based reactors. It’s a proven technology and let’s us use the “waste” that otherwise is so very hazardous.’

    I’m afraid you misunderstood me. I was pointing out that the molten salt thorium reactor(LFTR) is a breeder reactors. In fact, hype aside, they’re among the reactor designs *most* capable of producing weapons-grade enriched fissile material with a small adjustment. For that reason, they are probably the reactor design MOST to be AVOIDED. Here’s a link to a primary source —

    ‘U-232 and the Proliferation Resistance of U-233 in Spent Fuel’
    by Kang & von Hippel, 2001

    Then, since you probably don’t want to read the paper, let me break down what it says: –

    [1] Thorium’s decay path is as follows.

    When bombarded with neutrons—by the fissile uranium seed that triggers the reaction in the LFTR’s fertile thorium—Th-232 forms the isotope Thorium 233, which has a half-life of 22 minutes and decays to a pronactium isotope, Pa-233.

    Pronactium is element 91 on the periodic table, between thorium 90 and Uranium 92, and has no stable isotopes. Thus, Pa-233 subsequently decays over 27 days to U-233, which can undergo fission and is the nuclear fuel in the LFTR, but can also in quantities of 8 kilograms and above be used to construct simple “gun-type” fission-weapons (e.g. as developed by the Manhattan Project).

    [2] Simultaneously, however, during the LFTR’s *normal* operation quantities of the uranium isotope U-232 are also produced alongside that U-233. U-232 puts out hard gamma radiation and is a contaminant if you want weapons-grade uranium because those hard gammas fry electronics, like those in warheads. It’s also an operational radiation hazard that makes spent thorium fuel difficult to handle and thus further resistant to proliferation.

    [3] So that’s one source of the LFTR’s putative ‘proliferation resistance.’

    Then, too, enriched uranium isn’t usable to make fission explosives when it contains 20 percent U-235. Thus, there’s a proposal is to dilute the U233 in the LFTR by introducing U-238 to “denature” it to U-235, so it’s unusable for weapons.

    [4] BUT PLEASE NOTE: what makes the LFTR itself and all these operations possible at all is that *the reactor does continual chemical (re)processing of a stream of liquid fuel in both its core and blanket. *

    This liquid fuel reprocessing arrangement means that **U-232 contamination can be easily avoided by filtering out pure Pa-233** before it decays into U-233– i.e. before the end of the Pa-233’s 27 day half-life. Once pure Pa-233 is filtered out, then it merely needs to be left and it will decay directly into pure U-233 without the U-232 contaminant.

    It’s that simple. You can build nuclear weapons with U-233.

    “As a potential weapon material, pure uranium-233 is more similar to plutonium-239 than uranium-235 in terms of source (bred vs natural), half-life and critical mass (both 4–5 kg in beryllium-reflected sphere).

    “In 1994, the US government declassified a 1966 memo that states that uranium-233 has been shown to be highly satisfactory as a weapons material, though it is only superior to plutonium in rare circumstances….”

  30. bruce wilder

    NC pointed to a NY Times feature article premised on a supposed emerging consensus around a narrowed range of projected warming indicating . . . a moderate catastrophe in prospect. I really am not sure what the author, a highly skilled writer, is aiming at with his narrative. “An informed reader” does not seem plausible. But, I suspect this piece represents a new liberal view being floated, designed around the idea that what we have been doing is having an effect. A decided contrast to Ian’s thesis that objectively, we have effectively done nothing at all.

  31. Purple Library Guy

    @Mark Pontin Those are your arguments? Really?!

    So. “mindless neoliberal argument”–I can’t believe I have to explain this. Fine:
    Socialist, even non-market socialist, economies do not banish the idea that some things are easier to do than other things. In a capitalist economy, the way to measure that is, how much they cost. Now. If two things accomplish the same purpose (in this case, generating electricity), but one of them costs much more and needs massive subsidies in order to happen in a capitalist economy, which is to say it takes less of society’s resources to do, then it is better to do the thing which is cheaper and easier.
    This is not a “neoliberal” argument. I’m perfectly fine with the state building and owning the wind farms and solar panels and batteries. The point is to do the cheap easy fast thing, not the expensive hard slow thing. That point stands no matter how you organize the economy.
    Meanwhile, yes, many things should be subsidized by the state–things that do not have equivalents that would be better. Your healthcare analogy is either moronic or utterly disngenuous–the point is, if you’re going to subsidize health care, you should subsidize forms of health care that work and deliver effective care for the money, not forms that treat a third as many patients for your health care dollar.

    Next point, SMRs: Yes, so Rolls Royce has a publicity site. No, despite what it may say, that does not mean they have an actual formal specification that they can take to regulators. Don’t direct people at PR and pretend that’s an argument.

    Uranium supply, nuclear waste, and breeder reactors:
    Well, maybe breeder reactors could slow down the depletion of uranium. But they have a host of problems of their own. It’s not as if there are laws against breeder reactors, but I don’t see them being built–there’s, what, one or two experimental ones and that’s about it. But, maybe. But it’s a minor point. Unlimited supply of uranium would not make nuclear power economically viable.
    What I noticed about Thorium reactors looking through your wiki link was about the same as what I always notice about Thorium reactors any time some fanboy brings them up: It’s an old idea, which has been tested a bunch, and yet there aren’t any around. Longish list at the bottom of all the Thorium reactors there ever were, mostly experimental, some sortakindamaybe intended for real production . . . and most of them were no longer in use past the 80s. Currently there appear to be a couple in operation in India and one experimental one planned in Holland.

    Breeder reactors also would do little about nuclear waste. You can’t just take a stack of nuclear waste and chuck it in a breeder reactor and have it disappear. First off, a good deal of nuclear waste wasn’t actually nuclear fuel at all–it’s just stuff that got radioactive from being next to a nuclear reaction. Second, the nuclear fuel itself turns into lots of different kinds of stuff, only a couple of components of which can be fed into a breeder reactor. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the core reasons there aren’t breeder reactors is that it’s way expensive to process the spent fuel into breeder reactor fuel (plus waste). As to nobody worrying about nuclear waste in the 50s–of course they didn’t. It was the 50s! They didn’t worry about anything toxic. In the 50s they made watches with glow-in-the-dark hands by having people paint radium on the hands; many of those people died because they would lick the little paintbrushes to straighten up the point, because nobody had told them there would be a problem with that.

    So much for your arguments.

    More generally I’ve noticed that nuclear power enthusiasts always seem to talk like there WOULD be nuclear all over the place, especially with all these wonderful ideas for new next-generation plants that would be so much better even than the awesomeness that is our current radioactive steam engines, except there’s some kind of nefarious conspiracy that’s holding them back, putting out tons of anti-nuclear PR, doing some unspecified thing to stop them from being built. But the reality is, nobody with any money is trying to stop nuclear power, and anti-nuclear environmentalists have not had any political power for decades. There is nothing to blame for nuclear power’s continuing failure to grow except nuclear power itself.

    If anything, the reverse is true. Nuclear power was initially conceived as basically a PR exercise, to get people to more readily accept nuclear weapons. It has remained useful to various governments because it provides material for those same weapons. Other governments, such as Canada’s, that don’t have nuclear weapons, have signed on to the creation of nuclear power plants in large part because of international politics–wanting to support the agenda of allies such as the US, wanting to appear technologically advanced and so on. And once a fair number of nuclear power plants existed, a sizable lobby group was created, which has promoted nuclear power relentlessly while going to considerable lengths to demonize their detractors. Lately the fossil fuel lobby has been backing nuclear, particularly SMRs, precisely because unlike renewables they don’t consider it a threat. All in all, the monetary and governmental resources of pro-nuclear groups are far greater than those of anti-nuclear groups. If nuclear isn’t growing and instead shows signs of shrinking, it is not because its opponents are nobbling it, it is DESPITE having greater influence than its opponents. That would be because it’s not really economically viable.

    Finally, I can’t believe you typed multiple paragraphs while completely ducking the main point: Nuclear, expensive. And very, very slow to build out. Solar, wind, battery: Much cheaper. And much faster to roll out. Honestly, you went into a whole rant about how “we shouldn’t accept that we can afford to NOT subsidize decarbonized energy.” without ever acknowledging the point that decarbonized energy other than nuclear even exists, even though my fundamental point was that nuclear is not as good as those other energy sources.

    So basically, you ducked almost my entire argument while talking as if you were destroying it.

  32. Purple Library Guy

    Incidentally, my mention of batteries in the context of renewable power is a sort of shorthand. There are lots of ways to store energy, from heat sinks to pumping water uphill, of which batteries are just one. If you go renewable, you need power storage, and that will take money and effort whether it happens to be batteries as such or not. But that money and effort will not be enough to stop renewables from being the cheapest option.
    Some argue against renewables by saying that we should instead be reducing our energy use (whether by simple conservation measures or by radically restructuring our society). That seems to me like a category error. The question of how much energy we should use is largely distinct from the question of what kind of energy we should use.

  33. Mark Pontin

    Purple Library Guy: ‘Solar, wind, battery: Much cheaper. And much faster to roll out.”

    Yes. Faster to roll out and in the real world here’s the kind of near-disaster that the strategy of reliance on such renewables has already created —

    ‘The situation is especially acute in the U.K., where wind is currently providing only 7% of the country’s energy makeup—a steep drop from the 25% it generated on average across 2020.

    ‘The U.K.’s offshore wind sector had been a success story of the energy transition, drastically cutting emissions by rolling out 24GW of wind power over the past decade—enough to power 7.2 million homes. But as wind slowed and the price of carbon credits rose to record highs, the electricity market has experienced extreme volatility.

    “We have very steep targets for increased renewable energy penetration, and the growing problem alongside of that is this fluctuation in prices that we’re seeing,” says Finlay Clark, an offshore wind analyst from Wood Mackenzie.

    ‘As a result, gas- and coal-fired electricity plants have been brought online to fill the gap. Gas now makes up more than half of the electricity in the U.K., and while the U.K.’s offshore wind is covered by subsidies and operating at zero marginal cost, gas is not.’

    More —

    Note the date, please. This was Winter 2021, before the idiotic sanctions on Russia drove gas prices further through the roof. In the real world, who am I going to believe? The renewables cultists like you, who haven’t bothered to learn the first thing about basic physics, or my own lying eyes?

    Because if you’re going to claim that renewables alone can provide our energy supply, the real-world evidence is in. They cannot — though, sure, they should be a large component of our power suppy.

    And, sure, while it would be pretty to think the technology for battery storage at scale — necessary to support your magical all-renewables grid — exists now, or will necessarily be developed tomorrow, the truth is, it does NOT, to the best of my knowledge. The nearest viable approach, AFAIK, was Donald Sadoway’s molten-salt battery at MIT, and that didn’t pan out after a decade of investment.

    If I’m wrong and if the technology for energy storage at the necessary scale does exist, you should be able to tell me what it is and point to the relevant literature, shouldn’t you? Please do that if you can. I’m usually ready to change my mind when the real-world evidence indicates I should. Show me the evidence.

    Because in the end, if renewables are as unreliable as the real-world evidence has ALREADY PROVED they are, then without battery storage at scale we’re left with only one reliable decarbonized energy source — nuclear.

    In the end, too, if renewables are as unreliable as the real-world evidence has already shown they are, then the result is going to be a desperate last-minute recourse to fossil fuels. As occurred in the UK case, and as Germany is now doing in a far worse way, tearing up inhabited towns and farmland to dig new coal mines —

    Germany’s New Hunger for Coal Dooms a Tiny Village: The cutting of Russian gas supplies to Europe has led Germany to step up coal use, despite its goal to phase it out by 2030.

    Finally, in the end, if you want to continue to claim *in the face of all the real-world evidence* that renewables can reliably supply all our energy needs, then that claim is a falsehood. Another word for a falsehood is a lie, and what we call a person who promotes a lie is a liar.

    And in the real world where does that lie lead? It leads to Germany’s disastrous rush to renewed coal mining — the dirtiest fossil fuel there is. And that’s why the renewables cult is a climate disaster in the making.

    Purple Library Guy: ‘So basically, you ducked almost my entire argument while talking as if you were destroying it.’

    No. I got your argument. I didn’t waste time on it because I did you the courtesy of assuming you weren’t actually so ignorant as to be promoting a falsehood — a LIE. My mistake,

    For the last time: the real-world evidence is in and it shows that solar, wind alone CANNOT be a reliable source of decarbonized energy even fractionally for modern civilized states, which need hospitals, data centers, etc. to function throughout 24 hours of each day.

    We’re left with nuclear.

  34. Ian Welsh

    Getting close to the “don’t let comment thru” point here. Write as if the other person is operating in good will. Possibly I should not have let thru the first comment that skirted the boundaries, I apologize, but the substance of the comments is useful.

  35. Ian Welsh

    Many years ago I was marginally involved in a project which didn’t happen, where the plan was to basically lift water to store energy produced by solar so it would be available at night. A kinetic battery, as it were. Probably not very scalable but it was interesting. Over-reliance on actual batteries is a bad idea for centralized storage. It’s also possible to do the same general thing thru heating during the day, then use the heat to create electricity at night.

    That said, it was intended to even out day/night, not store long term energy.

  36. different clue

    potatoes . . . potatoes. . . potatoes . . .

    While it would be better to grow potatoes in a spirit of humble survivalist solidarity with other humble survivalists, rather than in a spirit of smugness; it is better to grow potatoes than not no matter what the spirit.

    While humbletatoes might be best, smugtatoes are better than notatoes at all.

    Speaking of growing potatoes in the coming hot semideserts of tomorrow . . . there are little dry-country wild mini-and-micro potato relatives growing in places like the Sonora desert. I have read that they range from inedibly bitter to non-bitterly edible, if you are lucky enough to find the right one. Someone(s) could start finding and replicating the edible ones and then even cross-breeding them with edible species-potato, maybe even with some of the most cold-tolerant legacy varieties of potato from the high Andes. Get a hybrid potato able to produce a little food under bad heat and dry conditions and tolerant to the occasional unstable weather kill-freeze when a herniated polar vortex comes to your neighborhood. Low production is better than no production at all.

    Its very hard to find anything about that on the Search Prevention Engines of today. This is the best I can do.
    ” News on Native Potatoes of Arizona” — from “PotatoPro”

    And there is a kind of dent corn for which the claim has been made that it can set seed even at over a hundred degrees.

    And there are the traditional dry-country corns of the SouthWestern Indiandigenous Nations. NativeSeed-Search used to keep some of these varieties alive and even sell some to non-Indians. Maybe they still do.
    and etc.

  37. Mark Pontin

    Purple Library Guy: ‘It’s not as if there are laws against breeder reactors, but I don’t see them being built–there’s, what, one or two experimental ones and that’s about it.’

    There’s a couple of dozen around the world. Go look. Then factor in that China plans a $440 billion nuclear buildout with at least 150 new reactors in the next 15 years, and the Chinese are going for a closed fuel cycle, which means reprocessing, which in turn means breeder reactors to some greater or lesser extent.

    Even in the US fast reactors are part of where nuclear is going. (Though only part.) Let me give you one example.

    In the real world, US-based venture capital companies exist that actually invest in real technologies that aren’t mere software scams like Uber or Meta, and don’t have to do with Silicon Valley-style IT. Here’s one called DCVC that invests in ‘deep technology’ startups —
    — doing things like computational biology, photonic quantum computing, space and rocket launchers, materials science, smart agriculture (ammonia fertilizer and the Haber-Bosch process are finished, hopefully), robotics, healthcare, and much else.

    Including next-gen nuclear. Till recently, DCVC *were* one investor in a SMR company called Oklo, which is a micro fast reactor based on on the Experimental Breeder Reactor-II that’s designed to run on already-used fuel (aka “nuclear waste”)–

    Unfortunately, Oklo didn’t take satisfying the NRC seriously. It’s 2022 and the NRC has moved on from the Carter administration era’s hardcore anti-reprocessing stance. Still, they want to know your reactor design will be secure if it’s reprocessing used fuel, and the Oklo people didn’t satisfy on that front.

    So DCVC didn’t invest in Oklo’s next round. (I said to a DCVC associate that, besides Oklo’s failure to satisfy the NRC, their reactor seemed so micro as to have little use value and the Rolls-Royce SMR was the right scale. He replied that a bunch of the bigger crypto-mining farms had contacted him about it. God help us.)

    At any rate, DCVC is now *expanding* their nuclear investments, having dumped Oklo, and has brought a permanent, full-time nuclear person on board —
    — and what DCVC now tells nuclear startups is that they ONLY will look at those proposals that run on partially-used fuel (aka “nuclear waste”).

    That’s the future of nuclear. It’s closed fuel cycles, which means reprocessing, or nuclear transmutation. You can do that with fast reactors —
    Especially with novel fast reactors specifically designed for the purpose —
    ‘Method to Reduce Long-lived Fission Products by Nuclear Transmutations with Fast Spectrum Reactors’

    But you can also do it with other technologies like laser isotope separation (LIS) —

  38. capelin

    @ Chipper My point was mainly that the context (and presentations) of numbers matter; that without context we are whisked away to this or that emotional conclusion.

    Lies, damn lies, statistics, etc.

    “a graph is presented with a vertical scale to make that 0.00003% increase visually appear to be a 400% increase”
    “A change from 0.000165 to 0.000195 is an 18.2% increase I believe.”

    An Absolute Increase of .00003%, a Relative Increase of 18.2%, that is presented visually as a 400% increase = wildly, wildly different conclusions, “take aways”.

    In the original Pfizer 3 month trail, (spitballing the numbers) the placebo arm of the study had a 97% Absolute Efficacy in “preventing serious illness or hospitalization”. The injection arm of the study had something like a 97.85% Absolute Efficacy. Hard to tell if that’s even a signal.

    But heh, use Relative Efficacy, and it’s a super-duper humanity-saving no-brainer!

    And that’s the way it was presented, wasn’t it? Actually, it was presented as 98% effective in “preventing illness and infection and spread”.

    Because that sounds so much better than “our experimental crap is less than 1% better, after we fingered the scale”. Or, put another way, even 98% of fuck all is still fuck all.

    Of course it is a tragedy for that almost-person and their almost-loved ones, and things should be done to help keep them almost-safe. Which we didn’t do.

    Look how thin the veneer is on this novel medical intervention, and how and who shoved it down our throats as gospel.

    As that oil platform was daily blowing out into the Gulf of Mexico ‘while back, the Yankee Air Force was daily burning through something like 3x that amount… in refined fuel… in Afghanistan alone.

  39. capelin

    Absolute Risk vs Relative Risk – below is a more fulsome explanation of how numbers without context can be used to mis-lead.

    Keeping in mind that the same cabal who brought us the Global Warming Panic brought us Covid Panic.

    Yes, humans are fucking with the climate, and things are warming up, somewhat faster. But without context – like say, that 15 000 years ago Toronto was under a km or so of ice, and that certainly entailed some Global Warming to get where we are now – we get all jazzed up about a .00003% rise in methane over 35 years.

    To distract from the far bigger issues – Governance, Pollution, Biodiversity Loss. But especially governance, because nothing is possible if we don’t have that.

    Historical sea level variations are in the hundreds of feet.

    “I will repeat once more – I do not recall a single time in my life that the relative risk reduction has been used a a primary statistical endpoint for vaccine efficacy. My experience with that statistical contrivance is that is mainly used by Pharma for their glossies to bamboozle people. The RRR rarely comes up in journal clubs. It has very limited utility. But it sure looks good – even when the reality-based results are not so good.

    In the original mRNA vaccine trials, the endpoint in the analysis was the relative risk reduction of about 95%. That does mean something. But it is not what is being presented to the American people. How do I know? I talk to them multiple times daily. They clearly have not a clue what this means. They are being told the vaccines are “95% effective” which is interpreted as you take the vaccine and you have a 95% chance of not getting COVID. THIS IS ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. That is a blanket efficacy statement and has nothing to do with the relative risk. This has never that I can tell been explained – and I can see easily how uninformed laymen can make this assumption.

    The original Pfizer trial had more than 40000 participants. For simplicity sake for your understanding, I am going to make the denominators a round number and make sure the numerators are ratioed exactly the same as the Pfizer endpoints. That way you can understand better and wrap your mind around the numbers easily.

    Let us say that the vaccine arm had 1000 participants and 1 got COVID.
    The placebo arm had 1000 participants and 20 got COVID.

    So actually in the vaccine arm 999 people did not get COVID – so the efficacy number if we were doing this by the blanket approach that the vast majority of Americans would understand is that vaccine actually has a 99.9% effectiveness. That is correct. But wait a minute – that is not 95%.

    BUT THIS IS THE CATCH and this is the IMPORTANT part. When you make this blanket kind of comparison – you then have to have a second sentence. That would be the following – However, THE PLACEBO in the other arm prevented 980 people from getting COVID. That is right – a saline injection prevented 980 out of 1000 or 98% from getting COVID.

    IN OTHER WORDS, using a SALINE INJECTION has a 98% effectiveness for preventing COVID – if you use the numbers the way this is being presented to the American people.

    But the difference between the two arms is really quite minimal when you put them side by side:

    99.9% in the vaccine arm ———- 98.0% in the placebo arm –
    An actual reduction in risk (known as the absolute risk reduction) of 1.9% The actual number is 0.019.

    The relative risk reduction is a statistical contrivance – generated by taking the number of events in the placebo group (20) and subtracting from that the number of events in the vaccine group (1) – and placing that number (19) – over the placebo number ( 20)

    20-1/20 19/20 0.95 95%

    That is where the 95% comes from.”

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