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

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What Happens When Insurance Goes Away

Thomas Neuburger, one of my favorite bloggers, has an excellent post on the fact that swathes of types of insurance are going to go extinct because of climate change. Property, fire, home (except from theft, though that may get hit during collapse) and so on. It’s worth a read.

This has already started to happen. Insurance companies are refusing to write new fire insurance policies in parts of California, for example, and no one with sense wants to insure buildings against hurricane risk in Florida. But it will spread: rivers will swell during climate change before they shrink, for example. Acts of God will become more and more common everywhere. Crop insurance, for example, is something that will become more expensive.

But it might survive, because the government may consider it necessary. Insurance is people pooling together money to make sure that when occasional bad things happen, people can be made whole. It relies on three things to be viable:

  1. You can’ predict who will get hit; and,
  2. It happens often enough to be worth insuring against; and,
  3. It doesn’t happen so often it’s unaffordable; and,
  4. It’s big enough to matter to people.

If any of those four things break down, insurance doesn’t work. If you know who’ll be hit, other people won’t pay for it. Thus insurance companies won’t pay for pre-existing illnesses unless the government forces them to. If it is so rare no one is scared, no one will buy. If it happens too often, it becomes  unaffordable and if it’s too small, why bother?

Climate change violates “you can’t predict who will get hit” and “it doesn’t happen so often it’s unaffordable.” If there are so many fires or huge hurricanes or floods that it’s inevitable and everyone in a certain area will be hit, insurance makes no sense. At that point, leave or do something to make it less likely.

Since we’re not going to stop climate change (that decision point has passed) that would mean things like sea walls, creating swamps and wetlands, increasing the capacity of stormwater systems, getting rid of concrete roads and replacing them with material that absorbs water and so on. Homes could be protected from wildfires by various other measures.

There’s going to be a push to have government underwrite insurance in places where it’s no longer really viable, and sometimes that will happen. As with the absurd expansion of credit after the 2008 financial crisis, this will eventually run up against a simple problem: money can only buy what exists. If too many homes and too much property are being destroyed, society will at some point not be able to rebuild it all, or, if sensible, will decide that rebuilding where you know another flood or disaster is coming is stupid.

Insurance was originally fraternal. People would join together and deposit into a pot and in some cases promise to physically help rebuild. Re-raising a barn, for example, with communal labor. In places where insurance is still viable, I would suspect that much of this will come back. (This also used to be how medical insurance worked. A fraternal organization would hire a doctor and a couple nurses and they would care for sick people. A fraternity would have some small apartments or rooms for members rendered homeless, too.)

As government fails, we will be pushed back on what we can do for ourselves, and for that to work we’ll have to be realistic: “what can our group actually do?” Can we source medicines? Can we rebuild? If we can, will it have to be rammed earth or trees we can cut ourselves? How can we get wiring?

We’ve lived in the era of big government and big companies: the era of the cornucopia, where money was the same as having access to almost anything we wanted.

That era is ending.

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Methane And The Point Where Humans Are No Longer In Control

I’ve been talking about methane release from the permafrost (and perhaps arctic) for a long time now. Back in 2013 I wrote:

Various processes are past the point of no return; we are going to see huge methane releases from Russia, for example. We are going to have worse global warming than the worst mainstream predictions.

Climate change will continue to present itself as more and worse extreme weather events, like the nasty hurricanes we’ve been seeing hitting further and further north. We are going to also see changes in rainfall patterns; these will continue to devastate agriculture.

Back in 2013, in theory we could have stopped this, but in practice we weren’t going to because none of the major governments then or now was going to do what it took. In fact, Barack Obama was busy increasing oil production, much of it thru fracking, as fast as he could, as deliberate policy.

“I know we’re in oil country and we need American energy.”

“You wouldn’t always know it ,but it went up every year I was president,” he said to applause. “That whole, suddenly America’s like the biggest oil producer and the biggest gas that was me, people.”

Obama: “Suddenly America is the largest oil producer, that was me people … say thank you.”

The irony here is that he said this just after saying how proud he was of the Paris climate accords, which while they had “targets” had no enforcement mechanism and which EVERYONE with any sense had to know were a dead letter, even if they had been adequate, which they weren’t.

Back to the methane. Every time I talked about this people would tell me I was full of shit, the science didn’t support it, etc… I know it’s considered in bad taste to mention this, but they were wrong, and I was right:

Now, here’s the important thing. Humans have driven climate change BUT there is a point at which we will no longer be doing so. While the number includes underwater methane as well, there is effectively more carbon in permafrost than in the atmosphere.

The more methane and carbon released, the higher temperatures in the arctic are and thus the more carbon and methane is released.

At that point (and it’s not the only feedback cycle, the Amazon is now releasing carbon, not sinking it) humans are no longer in primary control of climate change: the upward spiral takes over. There will be a new equilibrium point, but we don’t know what it is. We can guess, from previous geological eras, but none of that news is good news.

Will humanity survive? Probably. Will civilization as we know it survive? No. We may have an advanced technological society at the other end, but it will look a lot of different from what we have today, and there are good odds of a long decline with most people dropping out of hi-tech society. At the least we can expect mass migrations of literally billions of people, and (while it’s a guess) a drop in world population by half to 80% or so. Extreme climate change will drop the carrying capacity of our world significantly.

The last real chance to mitigate this passed when American and British elites colluded to destroy any chance of either Bernie Sanders of Jeremy Corbyn running America or Britain. By the time we have another shot at non psychopathic leaders (yes, Biden is a psychopath, based on his actions over his lifetime and so is Johnson) it will literally be too late.

But then, it was too late back in 2013, really, because the politics are what they are. It’s hard to overstate just how hard elites came out against Sanders (every candidate dropping out at the same time, except Biden/Sanders) or Corbyn (lying about him over 80% of the time and smearing him as anti-semite when he’s been an anti-racism campaigner all his life and would be the first to die to stop a new Holocaust.)

Our elites are, functionally, psychopaths. They aren’t, mostly, stupid (though some are deficient, like Bush Jr. and Biden (senile) and Johnson), but many are quite smart (Clinton and Obama were both borderline geniuses.) They just don’t care. They don’t believe that they will personally be effected by severe climate change (remember, they’re OLD) and to the extent they care about their children, they figure money and power will obtain protection. As for you and your children, you matter not at all. You are sheep, to be shorn while your continued living is beneficial to them, and culled when you no longer produce.

Meanwhile, permafrost methane release is real, it’s happening NOW not it in 2090, and it’s going to get worse.

The mainstream consensus forecasts for climate change were all wrong, and all wrong on the optimistic side.

I have been writing about this over and over again, not because I expect to change public policy, I don’t. I am writing about it so that those who read me know what is happening with sufficient warning to take steps to protect themselves and others they care about, to whatever extent they can. For many, who have few resources, there may be little they can do, but almost everyone can do something.

Winter isn’t coming. Summer is. And we are not going to like it.

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How The Metaphysics Of Capitalism Destroyed The World

Back in 1968 the book “Limits to Growth” stormed the world. Computer models predicted that humans would run out of almost every resource, overshoot carying capacity, then crash.

It was well known and widely discussed and combined with the oil crashes, made the 70s a ferment of practical and theoretical work on alternative energy, different ways of farming and so on.

Almost all of that came to an end in the 80s, with Reagan. Carter had put solar panels on the White House, Reagan had them torn down. A decision was made to crush wages and thus the oil consumption of ordinary people, while bringing new sources online as fast as possible. Obama, with fracking, made the same decision, by the way, but even more successfully, turning the US back into a HUGE producer of oil.

But what’s important today isn’t all of that, which I’ve discussed at tedious length in the past.

Instead I want to discuss the basic argument against the “Limits To Growth”.

“We will substitute away.”

In other words, alternate energy will step up and we’ll move away from oil and coil. We’ll find substitutes for steel and nickel and rare earths and anything else in short supply.

BUT what matters is the metaphysics of the argument. When the people making this argument said it would happen, they assumed “the market” would do it.

Which, it sort of has, but too late. Much too late.

There was a strong assumption that prices were information which stored in them all known information about the past and the future, and that therefore prices would drive self-interested people to make the necessary substitutions or find new sources.

To market disciples, the market’s “free hand” was like God, all-knowing and all-powerful and weirdly benevolent. All we had to do was let the market run and it would solve all our problems.

So why didn’t that happen?

Well, to start, the market doesn’t price the future well at all. Never has, and never will. People making decisions in 1970 will mostly be dead before all this stuff matters, and the same is true of people making decisions in the 2010s. Even if they aren’t dead, is there anything in human history which makes us believe humans are good at making very long term plans, over decades to generations?

Why would you believe the market would do it based on a discipline which suggests humans are rational and know what is good for them and act rationally to get what is good for them? (If you believe all of that, you are more of a fantasist than some fanatic whipping himself while screaming for God to save him.)

Now I’m not concerned here with the hypocrites: the people who knew this was all bunk but expected to get rich off it (they were, in a real sense, very rational. A bad future they don’t see or don’t care about, “I get 50 good years and die rich when the bad times come, whatever” isn’t a reason not be rich now, if you don’t care about future people.)

But many many people really believed this bunk and the issue is that by believing that the “market” and “price signals” and *vague hand waving* would solve the problem: by saying “we have a system that solves these problems automatically by giving correct feedback” they made it impossible to solve to the extent that they were believed. (And remember, huge amounts of money were run on the markets for decades based on these ideas. People believed and put their cash on the line.)

In fact, of course, we could have taken the warning of “Limits To Growth”, “Peak Oil” and “Global Warming” and used them to make changes.

Ironically a lot of those changes would be exactly what the disciples of hand-wavy “market” crap suggested would happen automatically.

Use markets and public policy: massively subsidize alternative energy and research so that where we are with solar today is where we would have been in the 90s. Massively research alternatives to bottleneck resources. Stop over-fishing, by force if necessary. And, of course, put sharp limits on “planned obsolence” backed with death sentences for executives.

If you’d rather get more resources or if you want more than one strategy, massively fund space exploration with an eye to mining rather than defund NASA in waves (Obama, classically, did the worst cuts to NASA ever so that private industry/billionaires could make money, but NASA funding should have been increased in the 70s.)

Warnings only serve those who heed them and when you believe in metaphysical entities which don’t have the attributes they think they do (God, Markets), then you don’t act to save yourself. Markets were never, by themselves, going to miraculously do what needed being done in time. Oh sure, price feedback has eventually gotten us some decent solar, and so on, but decades later than we needed it.

Markets are human creations, like God, and to work correctly they have to be tuned for the problem at hand or, even (heresy) one has to consider that there are things that Markets or Gods can’t do, or are bad at, and find other solutions.

So here we are, and markets have not made everything good and the world’s forests are burning and we’re about to have another oil boom, as best I can tell.

Like God, mis-using markets or assigning them powers they don’t have, leads to terrible consequences, so get ready for the invisible hand to slap us silly.

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Huge Western Wildfire Season Far Beyond California

So, this is the drought map for 2020:

Here’s the drought map for this year:


Expect wildfires all through this region and beyond. You should prepare NOW if you live in these areas (check for Mexican or Canadian maps if you live in those countries). Remember, you buy NOW because if you wait everything will be out of stock.

You may need (not a complete list):

  • Respirators
  • Air filters, have extras, especially for any air conditioners
  • A “go bag” in case you’re forced to evacuate.
  • Some sort of back-up electricity, even if only some batteries for your small items.
  • Tape to tape over your doors and windows. Painters tape, perhaps.
  • Internal air filtering fans. (Tutorial on how to make from box fans.)
  • Standard stuff like water and staple foods in case supply chains are disrupted.
  • Asthmatics and other people with breathing problems should make sure they have enough meds, if they can.


Larger scale preparations may include:

  • Non-flammable roofing and keep the roof clean of flammable materials like leaves and needles;
  • Change your lawn to something non-flammable; a rock garden perhaps.
  • I hate chopping down trees, but you may wish to consider any too near your house.
  • Be sure any flammable vegetation is not touching your house nor can fall on it.

I’m sure no expert on this sort of thing, so please leave suggestions for preparing in the comments and do your own research.

BUT the main thing is to do your research and preparation NOW. (Really ,it should have been sooner, and I apologize for not writing this article earlier.)

This is, yes, a result of climate change, exacerbated by bad forestry and soil management. But without climate change it wouldn’t have happened. This is how the ecology of local areas is changing to match the new climates. Unfortunately, that means the destruction of what is there now.

(In that vein, we are coming up on a period of serious food inflation. If you can store it, buy food now.)

Be well, be safe.

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Two Tips For Dealing With Smoke

A large part of the world, not just the West coast of America, is currently experiencing fires.

September 14th Fire Map

Much of this is bad fire management (not allowing regular fires in forests that need them) and much of it is caused by bad maintainance of power lines, but without climate change it wouldn’t be happening this badly. Simply enough, forests are burning off as the climate reshapes the ecology of various areas.

None of which is much use for those stuck in the fires, though you should take climate change into account if you can choose where you live.

I’m no expert, but I saw two suggestions on how to improve air quality for those stuck in smoky rooms I thought worth passing on.

The first is to fill every container you have with water and place them around your house. They will absorb smoke particles, and over about half an hour, the air quality will get better. Replace the water every few hours. Similarly you can run a hot shower till the bathtub is half full every few hours.

The second is the so-called Beijing filter, which is just a filter taped over a box fan. Any filter will do. (Second link has a brief how-to.)

Not normally the sort of info I’d pass on, but I’ve seen a lot of people in distress who didn’t know these simple tips.

Obviously wear a mask, and wash your masks often.

These sorts of fires have been going on for a few years now, but they’re becoming far more widespread and will continue as our environment is re-shaped to the new normal.

I always wanted to live in a Mediterranean climate like California’s, but who knows where will have that climate in a few years?

If you have another tips for coping with the smoke (or fires in general) put them in comments.

Edit: A commenter points out that open still water in tropical countries could lead to issues with Dengue fever. Another commenter suggests dust bowl remedies from the 30s, like putting wet towels around windows and doors might help.

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Accepting and Using Climate Change

Odin with the ravens Thought and Memory

A couple days ago I was thinking about the problem of surveillance states and I realized, “This problem is likely to become less of one because of climate change.”

And I started thinking about all the opportunities and good things climate change makes possible.

My grieving was done.

My pre-grieving, I suppose.

I see grieving for climate change and ecological collapse everywhere. Informed people who have done their homework know it’s going to be bad, really bad, and that they and those they care about are going to be hit by it. For a lot of people it rises to the level of trauma, even though most of it hasn’t happened yet. It’s like the moment you really know you’re going to die or that something else horrible WILL happen. You can get caught on it, and traumatized by something which isn’t here yet.

But then there’s the point at which you hit acceptance.

Alcoholics Anonymous has a prayer, ““God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

But acceptance doesn’t mean resignation. It doesn’t mean “oh, nothing can be done.” If I know there’s going to be a famine I can stock up food. If I know I’m going to die, I can write a will and say my goodbyes. If I know  here is going to be climate change I can take that into account in my actions going forward.

Knowing something is going to happen, and that it can’t, or won’t, be stopped is freeing and empowering. I am now able to stop worrying about the fact that it is going to happen, and plan for it.

When I was young I used to read a lot of adventure novels. One of the criticisms of such fiction is that the protagonist’s seem to just shrug off bad events: They aren’t effected much emotionally. But what they do do is take those events into consideration in their plans and actions.

Adventure fiction thinking is a pretty good way to live your life, actually, if you can pull it off. What is, is. What will be, will be, but you can adapt to it.

Here’s the truth about climate change: It’s going to suck more ass than anything since the Black Death. That’s a lot of ass.

But it’s also an opportunity. You want change? You don’t like society today?

I don’t. I mean, I fought like the dickens to avoid climate change because the price of this change is too high. Like billions of dead too high.

But we lost. It’s happening.

And horrible as it is, it’s still an opportunity. The good will go away, but so will a lot of the bad.

The society created after the Black Death was, in many ways, much better than the one that came before.

That’s our challenge. There will be real breakdowns in how we run our society. The challenge is to replace with them with something better.

Some things better.

And because you’ve accepted the truth of climate change and that it isn’t going to be stopped, you have an advantage over the deniers. Those who act in alignment with what IS and what will be are always stronger, more nimble and more capable than those running around in denial.

Climate change is coming. It’s going to suck horribly.

How are you going to use it to make your life and everyone else’s lives better?

(See also, The Philosophy of Decline and Collapse.)

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Is There Hope For Mitigating Climate Change?

I’ve always felt that the last thing which came out of Pandora’s box, hope, was the worst thing to come out. People wouldn’t put up with the evils of the world so readily if they didn’t feel hope.

Most recently, in America, Obama ran on “hope” and did, well, very little to help most people who voted for him. (And rather a lot to hurt them.)

So, what hope is there for dealing with climate change?

What, I think, there clearly isn’t, is hope that we avoid serious and catastrophic consequences. The methane in permafrost will be released and we are going to get hit hard.

People will die, it will be bad. For some people very bad.

Combined with ecological collapse there is an outside, but still real, chance that we will destroy our civilization or wipe ourselves out.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the generational cohort is changing. The Boomers are giving way to the Millenials (Xers, of whom I am one, never counted for much politically.)

As Stirling Newberry explained, old people don’t much care about climate change because they’re going to be dead before the worst of it hits.

Young people do.

And the Overton window is shifting: even if Pelosi (old) sneered at the Green New Deal, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got it talked about and taken seriously. Multiple Presidential candidates are for some version of it.

What is possible; what is acceptable, is changing.

The Green New Deal is no different from what many people have suggested in the past: refit the entire economy to be as carbon renewable as possible. Make every building as close to energy neutral as possible, use renewable energy, etc..

We had the technology in the 90s, heck we had much of it before then. AOC’s plan is, in broad strokes, identical to what I used to propose Democrats run on back in the 2000s, when no one took it seriously.

So, yes, there is hope.

The other piece of hope is that things get really bad; catastrophically bad, as soon as possible. We need to lose millions of people to climate change and ecological collapse in an obvious and terrible way, so everyone else wakes up.

That’s not nice, but this is a boiling frog situation: we need something to happen that makes people panic and realize that they can’t take their time fixing this.

As long as it seems like a slow change, we will tend to put off the very radical change that is needed.

Fortunately, I’m almost certain climate change will be discontinuous and that bad things will happen off schedule and before we expect them to. In one sense that’s bad, especially if whatever happens is so bad we can’t recover, but if it doesn’t, it’ll be exactly what we need.

Grim, but that’s where we are.

Hope? Yeah, there is some. But only if we seize the chances we will be given.

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Water Wars And the Great Indian Die-Off

Humans can go without food for weeks. Water, a few days:

The core fact of climate change and human mismanagement of resources that a lot of people don’t seem to understand is that the worst of it is going to be about water.

Consider the Indian subcontinent. It is under three main water threats:

  • As glaciers go away, glacier fed streams and rivers dry up.
  • There has been vast depletion of aquifers, and within twenty to thirty years this will reach a crisis that devastates agriculture. There is no water to replace this aquifer water.
  • Climate change will change wind and rainfall patterns. Much of Indian agriculture is based on the monsoon cycle. If it fails even a few times in a row, agriculture will be devastated.

These items often feed into each other: for example, depleting groundwater is one of the culprits in drying up the Ganges, and if the Ganges goes dry, India dies.

Meanwhile, how do you think Pakistan is going to react, when, as things get worse, they realize that their agriculture, or people, are dying because India has decided to take upstream water they need?

India isn’t the only nation that will be hit hard by all this, but it’s going to be one of the worst. I am almost entirely positive we will see a famine in India which kills literally hundreds of millions of people.

Perhaps it won’t include a war between Pakistan and India; nuclear armed states, over water.

We are now in the triage period of an oncoming catastrophe. A lot of people are going to die, more will be immiserated, and the question now is who, and to a lesser extent how many.

This isn’t to say that nothing can be done to decrease the death count slightly, and to reduce the odds of human extinction, but we are past the point of no return on Climate Change. It will happen, the large stores of methane in permafrost (and probably in the arctic) will be released and climate, including rainfall patterns, will change. Large numbers of rivers and streams will dry up, and sea-levels will rise.

This will not happen on an even schedule of +X every 10 years, when it goes bad, it will go ballistic, and events like ice melts and changes to ocean and wind currents will happen quickly. Some of them may happen like switches flipping. It will go from “sucky” to “catastrophic” fast, with little warning.

So, I know that many people are stuck. No money, no health, no youth and too many obligations.

But be aware of this and plan for it if you can.

And if you live in India or any of the nations around the Indian subcontinent, please be particularly careful as there is even less possibility of India avoiding the worst case scenario than there is for most countries.

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