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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why the COP #21 will fail - among other reasons.

In a few days’ time the COP #21 climate change talks will start and in a few weeks’ time they will fail again.

They will fail not because of lack of ambition or lack of technology or anything else that we are told that is all that is needed to make them a success.  Instead they will fail because none of our global leaders want to tackle the underlying problems and no one wants to vote for leaders that might.

Firstly, as I have argued for many years, the cooperation needed on climate change is impossible when nations are on a permanent war footing with each other. This is exemplified with the nuclear weapons standoffs and the enormous military industrial complexes and expanding economies that these need.

Secondly, and closely allied to this is the extraordinary transfer of wealth to the elites which is squandered on lavish lifestyles

None of the global leaders, who are representing their voters at the COP, seem to have cottoned onto the idea that the nations with nuclear weapons are generally the ones with the highest disparities been rich and poor.

There are basic reasons these two issues go hand in hand. To maintain a military industrial complex, fuel must be available. To ensure it is available, it is subsidised by the tax payers.  This leads to the unintended consequence that those who consume to excess have their energy subsidised and those who struggle to make ends meet are pushed deeper into debt to pay for this.  The other reason is that nations must maintain an economic and technological competitive advantage over their rivals. This forces the implementation of policies that favour industrialisation rather than environmental and human protection.  This also has the unintended consequence of benefiting the elites of society and penalising the poorest.

This competitive dynamic creates its own trends which will always drive the total income available to the poorest down and the total income available to the richest up.  In the zero sum world that we find ourselves in today, this means life become intolerably harder for the bottom quartile.

The following graph is calculated from the US Census data (table A1) and illustrates the consistency of these trends. Its basis is a conservative estimate that the maximum household income back in 1967 when the data collection started was $600k per annum and it has increased to $10,000k today.  A quick reading from the Forbes Rich list shows how conservative this is, but it serves for our illustration.

It shows the share of income to the poorest 40% has gone down consistently and is now about 5% of the total national income. By contrast,  the richest 5% of society have seen their share of the national income rise to about 65% of the total. Almost nothing affects this; certainly not the choice of government the masses make. This transfer of wealth from the poorest to the richest simply transcends everything else.

While this is based on US data, simply because US data is the most available, the same dynamic will apply to every other major industrial nation. By inference, it also extends to the wider global economy. 

This enormous concentration of wealth in the hands of the wealth is simply squandered on luxury toys such as ships, planes and houses. It quickly negates every bit of effort from the rest of the world to cut emissions.  It can only be stopped by strict personal limits being imposed on individual consumption, something that no political party has ever campaigned for. 

Without tackling the powerful high polluting elites, meaningful climate change agreements cannot happen. Given that we still can’t even get rid of their tax exiles, there is not much hope of this. It is highly dispiriting for those that try so hard to cut their own emissions and hope against the odds for something positive to come out of these talks. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Combating Terrorism

It's great to see Russia, France and US standing together against ISIS and jointly bombing them. It even looks like Britain is getting ready to step off its high moral soap box and join in the fray against this international scourge.

I hope  this new found co-operation will now extend to tackling that other class of far more dangerous terrorist - the uber-rich individuals. Their outrageously high carbon footprints that are the inevitable result of their excess consumption undoes in minutes the efforts and sacrifices millions of others are made to suffer. 

This small group is pushing billions over the climate change cliff making the few thousand that ISIS kills appear like small fry.  The uber-rich will of course use their wealth to ensure that they will be the last to go over, in the same way that ISIS leaders will be the last of their suicidal organisation to go.

But there are many other similarities between these two groups. 

Just as ISIS numbers have increased in recent years, then so have the numbers of uber-rich. Not only are there more uber-rich, but individually they also are massively wealthier. The huge proportion of global resources that this small elite lavish on luxury means that in our zero sum world the poverty stricken are deprived of the basics for survival and the resulting chaos is the perfect breeding ground for ISIS.

Just as ISIS have found sanctuary in the myriad of failed states around the world that climate change and resources wars have caused, then the uber-rich find sanctuary in the myriad of tax havens that the richest governments provide protection for.

Just as ISIS derives its wealth from the illegal sale of oil and through donations  from various Middle Eastern oil producers, then the uber-rich  survive on the illegal trillion dollar global annual subsidy for the fossil fuel industries that the world's tax payers must endure.  Without this, their energy intensive lifestyles would be impossible to sustain and they would be unable to relax in their tax exiles. 

So while we wait in vain to see the black and white images on our television screens of a precision bomb's cross hairs blasting apart a luxury pad in Monte Carlo or sinking a mega yacht in the Mediterranean that was belching thousands of tonnes of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, then we should at least start naming some names. 

A banker who did so well out of the financial crash by lying and cheating such as Bradley Wickens of Spinnaker Capital might be a good start, followed by some oil sheiks such as the House of Saud who have worked to stop climate change agreements. 

The economic imbalance these people cause is fundamental to the success of ISIS and other terror groups and fundamental to stopping climate change agreements. Unfortunately, changing government will not do any good, irrespective of doing this through the ballot box or through bullets. The only thing that will help is getting rid of the uber-rich.  So, feel free to add more names in the comments section below. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Able Archer and the near accidental destruction of planet Earth

This recently declassified report on the 1983 Able Archer military exercise is a must read for anyone with an interest in nuclear weapons or in staying alive.

If it were not so deadly serious, much of the report could have come from a comedy show. 

It concerns the near destruction of planet Earth in 1983 through an accidental nuclear war being caused by the Soviet's misinterpreting the annual announced Able Archer military exercise as a cover for the real thing.

The exercise was conducted against a background of escalating military tension between the US and the Soviet Union. In 1980 Ronald Reagan had come to power on a policy that the best way to ensure US security was to build military dominance rather than accept treaty restrictions such as d├ętente (by the way he was also warned that the Earth had only 40 years to go before imploding from climate change but decided the need to be able to destroy it first was more important - but that's another story).
Reagan's strategy built up on the first strike capability that the US had started to amass in the 1970s. A principle component of this was the new Trident missile system. Unlike its Polaris predecessor, it could rain down thousands of mega tonne nuclear warheads precisely on Russian military installations in little more than five minutes, rather than just a couple of hundred on Russian cities over 10 minutes. Make no mistake, first strike was what Trident was about then and what Trident is about today. Though it is also a second strike weapon of last resort, that is not its principle purpose, despite what the politicians might like to say.

Bob Aldridge - ex-Trident Missile Designer, responsible for re-entry vehicles.

The Soviets responded to Trident with a first strike weapon of their own, the SS20 missile system. Its 10 minute flight time meant it could destroy NATO forces in Europe and the rest of Europe within 10 minutes.

So the Americans responded to the SS20 by deploying the Pershing II missile system in Germany with a flight time of 5 minutes. This terrified the Soviets. They had a much stricter chain of nuclear command requiring the President and the Minister to Defense to jointly issue the command to fire. Given that Soviet presidents at this time were continually bed ridden, there was little chance the command to fire could be made within the warning time of a Pershing missile being fired from West Germany and hitting Moscow. Pershing and Trident together gave the US the ability to destroy much of the Soviet nuclear forces in a pre-emptive attack. This became an issue of indescribable panic to the Soviets, especially when Reagan had just branded them as the evil empire and made his famous joke that he was about to start bombing within an hour, thinking his microphone was switched off. 

Now for a funny bit - Footnote 15, page 39 of the report says the Pershing missiles did not have the range to reach Moscow. Moscow need not have panicked after all.

To try and get a measure of the risk they faced, the Soviets built a massive computer system (VRYAN) requiring a team of 200 people to operate. Despite its immense cost, it probably used at best a bunch of nebulous measurements and algorithms. Like many computer models, it took garbage in, mixed it around and what came out was considered gospel. Its output was a quantitative measurement of the US military and economic advantage over the Soviet Union. The US was given a benchmark score of 100 and if the Soviet Union's comparison measurement fell below 40, they would conclude that the situation they faced was untenable and so would automatically launch a first strike against the US and Europe.

Now for a not so funny bit; when it was first run it scored the Soviets at 45, just 5 points above the threshold to strike pre-emptively. Almost without doubt, one of the things that would have factored into these calculations was their false perceptions of the Pershing II missiles and their general first strike disadvantage against Trident. Pershing and Trident together, were creating exactly the environment they were supposed to prevent.

So when the Able Archer exercise came along and assisted by the VRYAN programme, the Soviets made all the logical assumptions that in hindsight the US military should have expected.  The result of those apparently logical assumptions was that the US was about to instigate a first strike, and consequently the Soviets should get theirs in first. 

As for those assumptions that so nearly tipped the world in nuclear Armageddon; the Soviets had been preparing their own first strike strategy for years, despite claiming at the time that they weren't, so they expected the US to be doing the same. The US had after all had developed a massive lead in first strike capability and with the introduction of Trident were about to leave the Soviet Union even further behind, so why would Soviets not come to the conclusion of an imminent attack? The Soviets war plan had always been that they would prepare for a first strike under the cover of a military exercise,  so when NATO organised a mass exercise from the Arctic Circle to Turkey, involving  B52 bombers and the roll out of dummy nuclear warheads, what were they supposed to think?

The Soviets did the only thing that was logical to them. They loaded their nuclear weapons and forward deployed their fighters, bombers and submarines and prepared to make a first strike. Their leaders having convinced themselves that war was inevitable decided to get the first strike in.  
News of the strange (and highly dangerous) Soviet behaviour started to reach US commanders. Fortunately they were so badly trained they did not understand what was happening and missed the significance. Purely as a result of their shear incompetence they did not respond. Their unintentional delay gave the Soviets time to pause and step back from launching a first strike nuclear attack on an unprepared NATO and Western Europe.

I guess you can call this one of the funny bits.

Probably what is not so funny is that all the issues this report covers still exist today. Yet, there are more nuclear armed states and all operate first strike attack strategies supported by various stealth technologies. They all face a common mode threat of climate change, yet it does not seem that any of the lessons have been learnt. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Now is the time for your tears

Some interesting (and sobering) numbers - your comments are welcomed:

In a desperate attempt to keep economic growth going, the US Base rates have plunged to 0.25% and UK base rates are at a similar level of  0.5%. The central banks have both decided to keep these unchanged and possibly reduce them further.  The doubling time at 0.25% is 277 years and at 0.5% it is 138 years.  At these rates, young people will never be able to save up for a pension.

As well as not being able to save for their pensions, young people will have to pay for the pensions for those that have just retired. Unfortunately, they will realise that this will be the least of their problems.

CO2 has already exceeded 400ppm. Its rate of increase is increasing and will soon pass 450ppm.  The heating it causes is already collapsing the ice caps. Our young people will have to spend all their future building flood defences, rather than saving for their pensions and paying for existing pensioners.

They won’t have enough food to do this because the global population is continuing to grow at 1.13%. At this growth rate, the population will double in 60 years. As many people will be born in this time as has ever been born up to today. To feed them, the same amount of food will have to be grown in the next 60 years as has ever been grown. This must be done while crops are being simultaneously scorched through climate change driven heat waves or flooded through sea level rises.

Expenditure on the world’s military is at its highest level ever and increasing. It is also being used - especially against the poorest. In theory, we should be adding the reconstruction costs to the global economy, but we won’t as we will never rebuild what is being destroyed today. The scale is too great and the resources are already too few. So as we move towards the crisis of climate change, we have already collectively set the process in motion of pulling down much of our critical infrastructure before nature gets chance to do its worse.

This year, 23 million people will be on the move in high-carbon luxury cruise liners across the planet trying to escape the stresses of a high technology society. Meanwhile, 1 million displaced people who are trying to escape the destruction that high technology and climate change can bring are moving through Europe and destroying its ideals of integration and fueling nationalism. The number of displaced people will soon be in the billions unless they are killed by war and starvation first.

Even though sea levels are rising, nearly 400 nuclear reactors remain operational at sea level. Today, Japan is still unable to clean up one flooded nuclear site and the UK is getting into bed with China to build more, despite China’s record of violating international law and policy of implementing global ecocide.

An extra 8 million tonnes of plastic are accumulating in the ocean every year. As this breaks down, a plastic soup is forming and poisoning the entire ocean food chain. The ocean dead zones are joining together to make dead oceans. Soon the only living thing in them will be the crews of nuclear submarines. New fleets of nuclear missile submarines are being planned by all the nuclear weapons states. The only exception is Pakistan, which is fortunately too bankrupt to afford them.

Despite this, governments and political parties still claim that they can deliver economic growth and prosperity and people still vote for those that offer the best hope of achieving this.

Now is the time for your tears. Now is the time to offer your shoulder to your loved ones to cry on.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Games theory extended to multiple games


The following question was put the the President of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim by my MP, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown 

“How does the World Bank expect the global economy to take the painful steps necessary to address climate change when the world’s most powerful economic blocks remain locked in nuclear weapon standoffs which is terrifying them into borrowing trillions of dollars for weapons that will outlast civilisation as it collapses from climate change and which force preservation of business as usual to the very end?”

This question is considered in the context of Game Theory, where a game is a defined as a decision making scenario where players must take a decision such that the outcome to them is dependent on that made by the other players.

In the question above, the outcome to the players in a game (i.e. climate change) is also dependent on the outcome made in in other games (i.e. nuclear weapons). There are three fundamental games at play which are described below.

The first is the game of climate change negotiations which generally is assumed to be about obtaining an agreement to cut CO2 emissions. However, past failure to do so, means that this must now also be about agreeing to the adaptation measures to be taken. So far, despite all the hype of renewables, global consumption of fossil fuels is continuing to push atmospheric CO2 deeper into the danger zone. It is hypothesised that nations are compelled to do this to maintain economic and military advantage. This is backed up by past evidence at critical decision making points. For example, the US Congress voted unanimously against inclusion into the Kyoto 1 agreement because it would have constrained its military while not constraining its adversaries in the same way and in the Copenhagen COP China refused to make any commitments to cut back coal consumption as it was intent on out competing Western economies.

The second is the game that nuclear weapons states must play on the size and operational status of their arsenals; the decisions in this game have always been about how to make cuts in the size of the arsenals and to minimise the risk of a premature launch by taking weapons off high alert status while trusting others to do the same. These agreements must be made in a world becoming more unstable due to climate change and where the risk of a pre-emptive strike is increasing due nuclear weapons proliferation.

The third game, in reference to the borrowing needed to fund the pursuit of nuclear weapons in the above question, is about maintaining the debt based economic system that military industrialisation competition needs. The fundamental assumption behind its modus operandi is that there is no limit to growth and things that we cannot afford now can be paid in the future by virtue of continued economic growth. However, once this impossibility is to be acknowledged then an economic system such as a carbon rationing or a carbon taxation must be introduced. Without this no agreement on climate change will be reached as fossil fuel consumption will continue to rise and the tensions it causes will propel nations towards nuclear weapons. However, once this is imposed it makes funding a military industrial complex impossible, so security must come centre stage to the negotiations.

Thus the three games outlined above are connected in a deadly dilemma. In an attempt to understand the dynamics of interconnected games a series of experiments were run across thee maths classes which extended the concept of the prisoners dilemma.

The basis of the experiment was as follows:

A class was given the opportunity to win either £1.50 which they could share amongst themselves or one person could win a bar of chocolate, which has a monetary value of 70p.

The game consisted of splitting the class into competing pairs of students. Each student in each pair is given two cards, one says “I love you and want to work for you and will do anything for you,” the other says “XXXX you buddy.” See Appendix A for the cards.

The rules are simple:

If both students play “I love you and want to work for you and will do anything for you” the cost of their love is £2 each.

If both students play “XXXX you buddy” the cost of their love is £8 each.

If one student plays “I love you and want to work for you and will do anything for you” and the other plays “XXXX you buddy,” then the student who plays the “I love you” card gets charged £10 for his love as a punishment for being so stupidly trusting and the one that plays the “XXXX you buddy” card gets charged only £1 as a reward for his ruthless thuggery.

The objective is to minimise the cost of love and the dilemma is clear. If both players trust each other and play the “I love you card,” the total cost of their love is £4. If both mistrust each other and play the “XXX you buddy,” total cost of their love is £16 as they seek to minimise their individual costs.

To play the game, the combined cost of love over five rounds was calculated and if this was kept below a given level, then the class could share the prize of real money. If not the person with the lowest cost of love could get the chocolate bar.
Thus the challenge is that a player not only has to trust his competitor, but also has to trust the outcome from the games that other competing pairs are playing.

The payoff matrix replicates the dilemma of nations making decisions on climate change. A nations could decide to pursue a zero carbon economy and it might cost them say £2billion. If his competitor refuses and pursues a fossil economy then the cost to the nation that opts for the zero carbon economy rises to £10billion as a result of having to cope with the resulting ecological damage and the loss of competitive advantage. If on the other hand, a nation decides to maintain a fossil fuel economy, the minimum cost will only be £8billion from the ecologic damage incurred but by maintaining competitive advantage they will not be liable for the full cost.  The actual costs are immaterial, all that counts is the relative values with respect to the choice, see Appendix B for the pay-off matrix.

The results follow for three classes:

Class 1

The target was to get “the cumulative cost of their love” below £90 across four simultaneous games and over five rounds. If all students played the love card, the minimum cost of their love would be £80, thus allowing two players to default and still win the money.

The results follow:

Conclusion of the game

In the first round, one player in each game played the “XXXX you buddy” card. The result was that it would be impossible for the class to win the money. Players in Games 1 and 2 collaborated and agreed to stick to the pattern of one player playing “XXXX you buddy” and the other playing “I love you.” This ensured that one player would get the lowest possible score and so win the bar of chocolate; the cost for this is that the bar of chocolate would have to be shared with amongst all the players in Games 1 and 2.  

Players in games 3 and 4 were not party to this agreement and so got nothing at the end.

Once the result became a foregone conclusion and the target for the minimum cost of love could not be achieved, players effectively lost interest but carried on out of a sense of duty.


In this game, once the initial sub optimal positions were set across all the games it was difficult to move away from it. This reflects the difficulty that nations face in negotiations when they have to move significantly from the positions that they have previously taken based on self-interest to those that are in the best interests of all parties.

Thus globally, nations that have already committed to high carbon and militarised societies will become entrenched in these positions, not just because of the conversion difficulty, but also because of the responses from other players that will be determined on the results of past rounds.

Once the result becomes fixed, interest in the game diminishes. This was reflected in the last UK election where climate change was not considered, despite the scientific community screaming for urgent and extreme action. However negotiations continue out of a sense of duty, thus the UK will continue sending delegates to the climate change conferences despite the impossibility of achieving a satisfactory result.

Despite the groups being unable to co-operate across all the games, small scale co-operation was made between games 1 and 2 to share the suboptimal prize (the bar of chocolate). This is reflective of the co-operation that is seen between states who are close competitors. Thus, the European and US co-operated on trade pacts and military alliances while Russia and China likewise co-operate on military and energy policies. However in each case the win from the localised co-operation is far less than that obtainable from globalised co-operation. 

Class 2

The target was to get “the cumulative cost of their love” below £90 across four simultaneous games and over five rounds. If all students played the love card, the minimum cost of their love would be £80, thus allowing two players to default and still win the money.

The results follow:

Conclusion of the game

In the first three rounds all players co-operated to play the “I love you” card and were on track to keep the cost of their love below £90 and win the money prize.

However in round 3 the co-operation fell apart. One player reneged on the agreement and by being the only player to play the “XXXX you buddy” card stole a lead on the rest of the players. In the last round, all players could still win the money, however the player who had previously played the “XXXX you buddy” was now incentivised to play the same strategy. If he played “XXXX you buddy” he would definitely win the bar of chocolate, even if someone else did the same.  This is exactly what he did. At the end of the game graciously shared the bar with his opponent, who both ate it and left. The rest sat there bemused. 

This is the emergence of a free-for-all scenario. It occurs when one player reneges on an agreement that has only a minimal chance of delivering the optimum solution even if all the other players are still prepared to work towards the wider agreement.


China has already embarked on a free-for-all strategy. Its carbon emissions initially from coal, and now from oil, are massively out of proportion to the rest of the world. They has taken effectively played the “XXXX you buddy” card against the rest of the world. From the outside, it is as if they have already decided that there is no point in going for a climate change agreement, so they will race to get everything they can while they still can. It is a highly dangerous strategy. If everyone reciprocates, then no one will survive. Even if no nation follows it, no one will survive. It is of note that India is now following China’s path as its closest competitor.

Class 3

The target was to get “the cumulative cost of their love” below £65 across three simultaneous games and over five rounds. If all students played the love card, the minimum cost of their love would be £70, thus allowing two players to default and still win the money. In the last round the minimum cost of love was reduced to £65

The results follow:

Conclusion of the game

The dynamics of this group were considerably different to the others. The sat closer together and spent more time discussing strategies between them. Their success in the first round of getting all to agree along with the communication they had set up between them provided the basis for reinforcement such that it became difficult to change the pattern that had been established. It is a similar observation to that of the first class, except that class had become stuck on the sub-optimal solution.

As they entered the last round still with no defections, the target for the minimum cost of love was reduced to £65 to incentivise someone to defect. Even this did not break the pattern that had now emerged as the social pressure to comply was so much greater than the temptation to go for personal gain.

On winning the £1.50 the class immediately went to college shop and bought two bars of chocolate which they shared equally amongst each other.

The class acknowledged that they were only able to achieve this because they were working closely together and said that had each competing pair been sitting in different rooms they would not have been able to achieve this.  Their success may also have been enabled by only three simultaneous games being played, rather than four.


If multiple games are being played where the result from can adversely affect the other, then they must be interconnected to achieve the optimum result, hence climate change, nuclear weapons and economic reform talks must be fundamentally integrated and the interconnections between these must thoroughly understood.

In these circumstances the optimum position can be achieved.

The problems outlined with class 1, where the individual games became stuck in a sub optimal initial solution, and of class 2, where a lone player went for a free-for-all strategy of damning everyone else and is then incentivised to maintain this, makes achieving the objective of climate change agreements extremely difficult. However failure to do so, guarantees failure in all games.

The challenge facing nations is that the prizes are somewhat different and much more is at stake. Instead of the combined money prize of £1.50 for collaboration, the prize now is that some people might get change to survive. Instead of mendacious behaviour being rewarded by chocolate bar that can be shared with nearest competitors, the prize is that a nation will be able preserve wealth right up to the point of their extinction. Neither is a great result.

If any optimism can the taken from this, it is that a clear interconnection between the games being played does enable the best collective result to be obtained, but this must first overcome the entrenchment of caused by past actions. 

Appendix A - Playing cards

Appendix B - Pay off matrix

Sunday, June 21, 2015

A Brief Analysis of the 2015 BP Statistical Review

The following analysis is based on the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015

A pdf version is available here and here


Fossil fuel consumption is increasing in all the developing regions of the world and outstripping reductions made by the developed world. It makes the prospect of climate change agreement at the December COP impossible to contemplate.

It is already well documented that the explosive increase in fossil fuel consumption across the developing world, in particular China, reflects the shift in manufacturing to these regions. This is especially so with products and services requiring steel and cement production which are unavoidably carbon intensive. This was initially reflected in exponentially expanding coal consumption. Now that Chinese coal consumption has leveled out, oil consumption is now expanding exponentially reflecting China’s transition into its next phase of destructive growth.

Today’s globalised economy interconnects national economies such that the wealth of one country is dependent on the wealth that others can create for it. In this environment prothletising about individual national successes in achieving carbon reductions is irrelevant.  What is needed is far more profound efforts to jointly reduce emissions. This can only be done with joint sacrifices.

The growth of renewables is stalling. It is concerning that this is happening when it still constitutes such a small percentage (1.81%) of the total global fossil fuel energy production. It severely challenges the arguments that are being put forward at the COP conferences that renewable technologies will provide the key to a zero carbon economy.

There is no evidence to substantiate the claim that developing economies will take up new low carbon technologies in such a significant way that they will leap-frog the fossil fuel consumption stage of past industrialised economies.

Given the severe state of climate change as measured by the Arctic ice cap melting and atmospheric CO2 already exceeding 400ppm, these figures demonstrate that unless we radically change our approach we will be unable to avoid the total collapse of our ecosystem and our extinction.

This set of data brings the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that formed the basis of the Cold War into a new and more brutal focus. Unless we can all agree on an immediate and significant reduction in CO2 emissions along with restoration of our ecosystem and successful geo engineering, then MAD is our fate. 

Basis of Data

This report is based entirely on the 2015 BP Statistics Review, which covers trends to 2014. All energy production and consumption is broken down into Millions of Tonnes of Oil Equivalent (MTOE) for easy comparison. There will inevitably be errors with this conversion factor, however it still provides a useful comparison for overall trends. 

Global Fossil Fuel Consumption

Global fossil fuel consumption continues to grow, albeit the rate of growth has slowed slightly. 

Despite the hype of renewables, it has not translated into a reduction in fossil fuels. The only time this has happened over the last 40 years was during the global recessions of 1980 and 2009.  By way of comparison, in 2009 fossil fuel consumption fell by 196 MTOE compared with an increase of 60 MTOE between 2013 and 2014.

Consumption is now 5 times higher than in 1965. From atmospheric CO2 measurements taken at Manu Loa since 1958, which have always shown an increasing trend, it is known that even 1965 levels were not sustainable in the long term.  

The extreme emissions of today are happening when the sequestration ability of the planet has been heavily compromised due to the impact of past damage and global heating. As such, rapid rises of atmospheric CO2 are to be expected in the very short term.

Today’s increase is being driven and sustained by economic growth in the Asia Pacific region.

Global Coal Consumption

Following the extraordinary expansion of coal consumption from 2000 to 2010, it is now either plateauing or returning to the previous levels of growth of the 1970s. It is not possible to determine which, other than to observe that global coal consumption grew by 15 MTOE last year.

Much has been made recently of China’s reduction in coal consumption; however reductions in growth have been more than offset by rises in Indian coal consumption. If India follows the pattern of China, its coal consumption could rise considerably and rapidly and then take many years to reduce back to zero.

Despite progress being made in China on renewables, declining from the current level of coal consumption will take too long to avoid runaway climate change. 

It is of note that Pakistan and Bangladesh coal consumption is not even visible on the chart, despite these nations once being part of India and having substantial populations.

Oil Consumption

Despite oil consumption declining in North America and Europe, it has risen in every other region of the world; in particular the Asian Pacific region. These rises have negated all the savings made in the developed world. 


As with oil and coal, gas consumption has risen in all regions of the world, with the exception of Europe.


All developed nations are betting on an effective roll out of renewables as the primary basis of their climate change response at the COP talks. Despite the efforts over recent years, solar and wind still only produce 1.81% of the energy delivered by fossil fuels.

Most concerning is that the rate of increase has shown its first signs of slowing by quite clearly coming off the exponential trajectory that it was previously on.  

This data provides a strong warning that the concept that renewables can be rapidly expanded globally to replace fossil fuels is potentially flawed and that it is already approaching its limits.

The other main source of renewables is hydro. Globally this has shown a steady increase which on break down is seen to be largely driven by China whose hydro consumption has risen to about 250 MTOE, or about 30% of the global total. This has been achieved by damming every river that drains the Tibetan plateau at much financial cost and with a corresponding increase in international tension with its neighbours.  The others area of growth has been South America with the construction of dams on the tributaries to the Amazon. Both of these energy sources are likely to be challenged as climate change melts the Tibetan ice sheets and disrupts Amazonian rainfall. Consequently, there is not much scope for further growth and even maintaining this level will is likely to be impossible in the long term. 

It is of note that in hydro is currently generating about 4 times that of wind and solar and a global loss of this energy source could negate much of the gains from wind and solar. 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Swindon Think Slam, Second talk - why do we let politicans lie?

Why do we let politicians lie to us? 

We could try and persuade ourselves that we are powerless to stop them or we can blame the press for not holding them properly to account or pretend to ourselves that that they are of such low life that we should expect nothing better.  

But, what would happen if we got our wish and the politicians suddenly spoke the truth, what would they say to us?   

They would say something like this; 

Atmospheric CO2 is at 400ppm and increasing so fast that catastrophic global heating is unavoidable. As a result sea level rises will be so high that we must immediately start evacuating our coastal cities and decommissioning our nuclear reactors.

There will be no energy to enable us to do this, because we will either run out of energy or the climate change agreements we reach in December this year will be so draconian that we won't be allowed to burn what we have. All the critical life support systems in our energy intensive economy will cease to be reliable, from the refrigerators in your homes to the logistic systems that deliverer food and emergency aid.  

In the chaos that we face, we will be unable to trust any other nation to abide by international law and we expect increased proliferation of nuclear weapons. 

There will be no money to fund responses to any of this because our debt based financial system relies on future prospects of growth for its liquidity. As there are no prospects for the future, there will be no money.  

With a global population heading towards 10 billion, all these problems will be magnified by mass migration, panic and endless war.   

That is what our politicians would tell us if they were to tell the truth, and then they would ask us to vote for the cold blooded rational policies to address these crises so they had the mandates they need but which we fear giving to anyone.  

And what would you do if you heard the politicians telling everyone the truth and you realised the masses now know what you fear. You will do what everyone else will do, you will race to your nearest Tesco to rip the food of the shelves and beat to a pulp anyone that tries to stop you, meanwhile everyone will be doing the same. 

It will be a free for all, and it is to stop this that we accept the lies of our politicians. We all know that none of them can balance the budgets, fund the NHS, tackle climate change or solve wealth inequality, but we accept these failures as the price for stability and we hope against all reason that the lying can continue indefinitely. 

So we go to the ballot box and partake in the charade, because that's all we can do.