A Question from a Room.

Written By: - Date published: 6:02 am, June 19th, 2018 - 113 comments
Categories: capitalism, Deep stuff, Environment, global warming, manufacturing, political alternatives, Politics, science, sustainability, tech industry, the praiseworthy and the pitiful, useless - Tags: , ,

Take a look around the room you’re in. Or if you’re out and about and reading this on some mobile device, then take a look around the next room you enter. Closely.

The walls and ceiling. The floor and wall coverings. The paints and panels and sealants that you might tend to overlook on a first quick look around you. The windows and their frames and all the hard furnishings and soft furnishings that fill the room. The fixtures and fittings and whatever ornaments and devices there may be in the room. Take it all in, and compile it into a rough and ready list.

Here’s the question.

How do you imagine all those things, and the things that make up those things, might be sourced, manufactured, produced, transported, assembled, distributed and put in place without using any energy that involves the creation/emission of CO2?

Because that, according to our scientific understanding, is what’s going to have to be happening by some time in the 2040s if we are to retain any chance at all of not warming this planet by at least 2 C – ie, CO2 emissions from sources of energy need to be at zero (or near as damn it).

Alongside that, there’s the small matter of reducing land based emissions so that the current concentration of atmospheric CO2 may begin to drop. At present, we’re sitting slap bang in the middle of a situation that’s heralding about 20m of sea level rise. At about 1.5m – so, likely in the fairly near future – we could well be experiencing famine across entire continents because, besides whatever else, the sea, by inundating the world’s deltas, will have claimed 20 odd percent of the land we use for growing food.

And of course, there’s a whole host of other things besides sea level rise that come riding in on global warming, including or culminating, or so it now seems, in the world’s sixth great extinction. All others have been occasioned by or accompanied by rising CO2 levels by the way – even the meteor strike that some thought put paid to dinosaurs happened in the midst of huge amounts of CO2 being emitted from volcanic traps in present day India. (vid link)

So the answer to the above question can’t be “It’s impossible”.

To paraphrase Kevin Anderson (vid link), if we convince ourselves that it’s impossible to take the action that’s necessary to arrest and possibly reverse the trajectory of global warming, then we’re absolutely guaranteeing ourselves (or our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews) a world of impossible futures.

What’s preventing us from doing what must be done then? Well, I’d be saying a lot of it is down to being caught in a kind of ideological flunk that won’t give reign to our imaginations. Time and again I’ve heard people say they’d do something, but that it’s politically impossible. And at that, they put their heads down and carry on. But if it’s politically impossible, doesn’t that simply mean that our politics aren’t fit for purpose?

And like taking a spanner to a screw, does the intelligent course of action involve anything much beyond putting down the spanner and hunting out a screwdriver…or a coin…or a butter knife? I don’t think so.

The other popular excuse of reasoning that would discourage us following through on what we know, is this idea that without our current economy, we’d somehow be doomed. The irony being that the functionality of our current economy is entirely reliant on the burning of the fossil fuels that are causing the global warming. So our economy, unlike our politics, isn’t merely “not fit for purpose”.

If it can’t withstand the necessary and complete cessation of fossil fuel burning (because it literally won’t have the energy required to keep it running), then so what?

This point, the point at which it would be really good if our imagination was to step up, seems to me to be the same point at which that ideological flunk I mentioned before descends. I can’t quite fathom that people in general seem unable to imagine any other way to arrange our ways of producing and distributing stuff in ways different to what we do now. And I’m doubly perplexed that many of those same people imagine things will all somehow be okay if we just carry on doing things the way we are.

That’s faith for you I guess. After all the supposed advances occasioned by the western enlightenment too…

Anyway, if you’ve read this far and have convinced yourself that it’s all too hard, and so on that basis you’ll just carry on tomorrow and the next day, as you did yesterday and today, then you’ve willfully chosen a route that’s marked “death”. Which is fine.

But that being the case, why persist? Seriously. It’s not that I particularly want you to die, but since that’s the choice you’ve made, why not just get on with it? What’s the point in being a ‘dead wo/man walking’ whose sole remaining purpose in life – whether willfully or witlessly – can only be to block, thwart and stymie the efforts of others to provide themselves, their off-spring and/or families and others with possible futures? Possible futures you’ve decided cannot be imagined or striven for that therefor have no possible place for you.

Although there is false hope. I forgot about that! Politicians and others are very good at selling that one. There will be negative emissions technology that we’ll develop and build all over the world by mid-century, and it will be able to pull the same amount of “our” CO2 out from the atmosphere as is currently pulled out by natural processes. Can you see how wonderful that is! We is gonna build a planet on this here planet!! Kumbaya! There is no need for anyone to do anything!!

For the rest of us what’s to do beyond accepting a necessary parting of the ways designed to create an ever growing distance between ourselves and this milieu, while accepting the possibility of abject failure? I don’t think anyone’s ever pretended to know what might be entailed beyond the simple first psychological step of rejecting the role of collaborator in this, well…I don’t know what term to use when talking about the depth and breadth of the unfolding planetary and ecological destruction we’ve played a part in. But the science is very clear. Not making a break is not an option. Not if a future containing any kind of life worth living be a personal long term or altruistic inter-generational goal.


113 comments on “A Question from a Room. ”

  1. Great post Bill, everything modern man makes consumes energy. A majority of which comes from fossil fuel. From the moment we awake, till we go back to bed again, our modern lifestyle relies on consuming energy. There have been groups that have lived for thousands of years doing otherwise. The Indigenous Australian aborigines made very little and consumed minimal energy. And survived – with little detriment to the planet.
    Not sure what this means…..others may want to comment.

    • solkta 1.1

      Modern woman is responsible for quite a bit too.

      Yes we could live as hunter gatherers, all we need to do is exterminate 90% of the worlds population.

      • Bill 1.1.1

        Human civilisation wasn’t limited to that of hunter/gatherer societies before we tapped into coal and oil, so why would that be the case afterwards?

        And then that population thing again 🙄

        If you really want to exterminate people so that global warming abates, then take out the identifiable 10% of humanity that is responsible for about half of our emissions. If that doesn’t cut it, start taking out the identifiable 40% of humanity that is responsible for about 40% of our emissions.

        Half of humanity (mostly poor, brown skinned and not living in rich countries) make very little contribution to AGW (about 10%).

        • solkta

          I was responding to what Dennis had said. He gave the example of Australian Aboriginals.

        • Nik

          Long before oil and coal were harnessed, the hunter-gatherer culture was superseded in many places by agriculture. The carbon footprint of meat farming in particular has been identified as the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions. The ability to produce large crops also did away with the incentive to keep tribal numbers down, in fact it created incentive to grow populations.

          No major point or solution as such on offer here I’m afraid. While the stats seem fairly bleak on our current trajectory, it’s a given that the scientific community have many suggestions for improvement that they continue to offer to the blind and/or ignorant powers that be. The crucial question is, what would inspire said powers to take matters as seriously as they require?

          • Bill

            The carbon footprint of meat farming in particular has been identified as the number one cause of greenhouse gas emissions.

            Except it’s not. Who-ever is saying that, is just spinning a line. The burning of fossil fuels is by far and away the source of most CO2 contributing to AGW.

  2. “But that being the case, why persist? Seriously.”

    Because it will be fascinating, Bill.

    I won’t live to see the end, but I will live to witness the beginning of the end (it may already have begun) and I will probably die violently as a paroxysm of hopeless rage sweeps the world in a decade or so.

    But think about it – the end of a civilisation, the end of a species (of many species)! How many people in history have been privileged enough to experience that?

  3. DB 3

    The whole globalisation (of industry) needs redressing. Certain countries have goods/services others do not – this is fair trade. The rest of it where we ship raw goods to be processed elsewhere then shipped elsewhere to be sold – absolute stupidity in the face of climate change.

    Do you really HAVE TO have that off-season tomato?

    Take personal responsibility and garden if you have land. Do not buy oil based products. Do not use chemical sprays. Learn, fail and learn more. Permaculture can save us, politicians will not. If you have enough to have options, use your money to help businesses who care. Deny the rest.

    Biodigestors for any industry creating biomass (farms, forestry, fishing, etc). Make by-products of fertilisers, fuels and chemicals for industry from waste streams. These businesses then supplement their power needs with solar/wind/grid. No more waste streams, they’re resources so wake up and use them.

    Char in flues captures nitrogenous species thus reducing pollution turning the char into ‘primed’ bio-char for carbon sequestration.

    Island bird sanctuaries/phosphate factories. Just make a big raft and design it right to capture solids and dump liquid. Stop importing mined phosphates we’re running out anyway. Make our own and save some species while we’re at it. These ‘islands’ should be situated where they can fertilise kelp forests. The relationship can be monitored carefully and ‘islands’ moved to fertilise larger areas, rather than pollute one site.

    And lime. We have these shellfish industries creating mountains of shells which are essentially lime. A clever man in the South is doing this, let’s repeat this process all over. Oystershell is an excellent liming agent. OK.

    More shellfish farming. this is win win. Mussel farms clean water so wild mussels can take. Don’t believe me go find the mussels previously covering the Hauraki gulf. they’re gone, except under the farms. We can utilise the decades of damage continuing to come from farms (runoff) as nutrients to farm shellfish.

    Aquaculture. Thousands of miles of drains with free leaching nutrients. It’s an absolute goldmine if you had a few clues how to set up a food chain.

    Alter corporate legalese so CEO’s are not legally obliged to profit at any cost.

    Erosion control is ever more important as topsoils are leached by increased rain. Sea products can replace our lost mineralisation, increasing nutrition for those eating off the land, and in our exports. This in turn will decrease health spending and increase personal productivity. Trees baby. Lots more, with lots more variety.

    A friend did permits for council and reckons there’s loads of bunkers built in wealthier suburbs. Most below future sea level. HAHAHA!

    Get your head out of the sand because you will drown.

  4. Jester 4

    The single act which would have the swiftest, broadest impact on lowering CO2 emissions is to significantly decrease global human population.
    We are not dissimilar to the bacteria in a Petri dish that have grown out to near the edge and consumed most of the resources for survival. We too live in a closed system. Except our Petri dish can self repair given the chance.
    We are overdue for another Spanish flu-like pandemic after all…….

    • Bill 4.1

      Of the global human population, 50% of emissions are down to an identifiable 10% of our population.

      Most people make no significant contribution to global warming.

      The swiftest, broadest impact would be reducing the emissions from that 10% to a European average (which is still too high). That would see a 30% reduction in emissions “overnight”.

      • Jester 4.1.1

        Thanks for that info Bill. Had no idea things were that badly skewed.
        Therefore – yep, us 10% of emitters need to live like the majority low emitters.

        Perhaps then, it’s better to say “The single act which would have the swiftest, broadest impact on lowering CO2 emissions is”… a sudden pervasive crisis/disaster that effectively KO’s the greenhouse gas producing systems and networks of the 10%.
        Economic crisis still leaves mouths to feed, and the risk of recovery to current bad practices.
        Comes backs to something like a plague or pandemic. Being human-specific that avoids complete destruction of remaining ecosystems. Only problem is the low-emitters get tarred with that brush too 🙁

  5. DB, how do you propose to perform aquaculture without using fossil fuels? Not possible. Plant trees..without using any mechanized equipment? Build biodigestors – without using stainless steel, and welding? Build wind turbines and/or solar arrays – without using fossil fuel? Make and deploy a big raft(?) – without consuming energy? Crush seashells into lime, and transport, and spread- without consuming any fossil fuel? All your wonderful pie in the sky dreams are fossil fuel dependant. This is what Bill was trying to point out.

    • Andre 5.1

      Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any land-based energy users that couldn’t convert from fossil fuel to electric using existing technology. It’s simply a cost issue – fossil fuels are cheaper especially when there is no cost to dumping the waste into the atmosphere. The massive installed base of infrastructure around fossil fuels also adds to the inertia delaying the conversion to electric.

      Steel – google electrolytic steel. Welding is primarily done using electric welders. Crushers are often driven with electric motors, not combustion engines. Transport – are you not aware of Tesla and various competitors such as Nikola and Workhorse?

      From an engineering point of view, an electric motor is vastly preferable to a combustion engine, since an electric motor only has one moving part and most designs can deliver maximum torque from zero speed eliminating the need for a clutch or torque converter and transmission. The difficulty is just in storing useful quantities of electrical energy. But massive efforts are going into developing better batteries and other storage methods, as well as better methods to deliver electrical energy to mobile users such as in-road wireless and overhead wire systems for applications such as mining.

      • Andre, electricity is not energy. It is a carrier of energy. It has to be generated first. All energy comes from the sun. In depleting our fossil fuel derived energy we are approaching the last hours of ancient sunlight. Operation of our electrical devices will then be dependent on whatever energy we can derive from solar/wind/hydro etc. Whether we can capture enough energy from these sources to construct our electric devices, and run them, is the unanswered question.

        • Andre

          Can we harvest enough renewable energy to supply what we currently use?

          Yep, if we choose to. Very roughly, world primary energy consumption is around 6 x 10^20 joules per year. This is the amount of solar energy that falls annually on a patch of land 250km x 250km in a reasonably sunny place like Australia or the Sahara.

          If we harvest it at about 10% efficiency (existing solar installations do better) we could get all our current needs purely from solar from an area about 700km x 700km. A lot of that area could be existing rooftops. (Note that this overstates how much is needed, the primary energy figure uses the chemical energy going into a combustion engine, of which maybe a fifth actually ends up doing anything mechanically useful. If the motor was electric, about 90% of the primary energy would end up doing something useful).

          So, just pure solar *could* supply all our energy needs, without the additions from hydro, wind, geothermal, nuclear, or even fusion if the alien unicorns ever turn up and start excreting working fusion plants out their back ends.

          • Bill

            The question is less about the engineering/technical ability and more about managing to do stuff within the time available.

            And when the amount of non-carbon energy we generate is stacked against fossil is stacked against time…it simply doesn’t pan out.

            That’s why I signpost the necessary collapse of our current economic arrangements. We need to do things differently, do some stuff a lot less and do some stuff not at all.

            Profit – the current determinant for economic decisions – has no positive role to play any more. Profit, being largely an end in and of itself, suggests we produce and distribute stuff regardless of ecological or planetary impacts.

            • Andre

              From the post:

              “Here’s the question.

              How do you imagine all those things, and the things that make up those things, might be sourced, manufactured, produced, transported, assembled, distributed and put in place without using any energy that involves the creation/emission of CO2?”

              I can imagine it very easily, and have been personally involved in transitioning some fossil fuel users to electric.

              Looks to me like it’s a lot easier to make that transition on a global scale with incremental changes like adopting greenhouse gas taxes, with strong global institutions and agreements to make it work. If those global institutions and agreements collapse, well, then it will be a lot easier for locals to just go back to getting their energy locally from the easiest means possible. Which means burning coal, for most of the world’s population.

              • Bill

                Most of the world’s population do not burn coal as a primary source of energy. If you are talking about electricity being generated from coal, then you are talking about a very different thing, but would seem to have overlooked the fact that most of the world’s population do not have access to mains electricity.

                And yes, it’s perfectly do-able to imagine the room (and all of our food and personal movement) being fossil free. The point I was trying to get across was the sheer scale of the changes needed to achieve that.

                You think we can just switch everything to electric over the next 20 – 30 years, and so carry on more or less as we are? Sorry Andre, but if you think that, you’re not really thinking it through. Stuff takes time. And that’s something we simply don’t have enough of in terms of your ideas about transition.

          • Dennis Merwood

            Maybe…but not in Alaska, or Canada.
            Not too mention that storage of electricity generated by whatever means, is still the challenge to be solved. Batteries are not the answer. Too resource depleting and environmentally unfriendly.
            And completing an electricity delivery system to provide power at its point of use will require an enormous expenditure of fossil fuel. The infrastructure requirements for the “electrical’ future some see are being way underestimated.

            • Andre

              Alaska and Canada have abundant hydro and wind resource opportunity. Which will probably become even more abundant as the world gets warmer.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Maybe…but not in Alaska, or Canada.

              Did you know that the North American electricity system covers pretty much the entire continent?

              That means that power generated in one place can be used in another place.

              This is a really important concept for renewables because, as you point out, sometimes the sun don’t shine and the wind don’t blow – in one place. Probably is somewhere else though.

              And completing an electricity delivery system to provide power at its point of use will require an enormous expenditure of fossil fuel.

              As the beginning but that will decrease as more renewable electricity generation is brought online.

              We don’t actually need fossil fuels to make that infrastructure.

              And then of course, a hell of a lot of that infrastructure is already in place in the form of national and international grids.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Whether we can capture enough energy from these sources to construct our electric devices, and run them, is the unanswered question.

          Actually, it has been answered.


          So, no, there really isn’t a problem with converting to a fully electric society.

    • mauī 5.2

      We’re going to shift back to using coal as our main energy source and the West Coast mines will be reopened is what I reckon.

      Not too bad really it ran quite a complex society. Coal gave us steam trains and public transport, steel skyscrapers and urban living, and all sorts of tools and crazy machines.

      • Carolyn_Nth 5.2.1

        And pollution, environmental degradation and exponential population growth. Prior to mechanisation, steam and oil fuelled industrialisation, welfare and support services happened within extended families and clans/tribes.

        Industrialisation split up those support systems as people moved to cities.

        I’m sure when there is a major shift to combating climate change, systems of social and economic provisions will, or could, be found to suit that context.

        • Bill

          A bit of an aside. But industrialisation was driven by water at the outset. Obviously, that meant locating mills on water courses (not a problem in the UK).

          Water was preferred over steam in terms of cost, and James Watt didn’t make money during his lifetime trying to sell coal driven steam engines to mills etc.

          Andreas Malm published an excellent book that tracks and explores the reasons behind why industry shifted from water to coal in his book “Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming

          Highly recommended reading.

          • Carolyn_Nth

            Thanks. That’s interesting. And the blurb says,

            Contrary to established views, steam offered neither cheaper nor more abundant energy—but rather superior control of subordinate labour.

        • mauī

          A society needs an energy source though, whether that be Aztec’s using maize, Celts using peat, Maaori using bracken root. They all have their negative environmental effects. I agree coal is bad too, I wouldn’t want to live in a city full of smoke stacks, but I think I could handle living with it where necessary.

          The problem is we’re using oil as our energy source and it’s the most destructive of the lot. It isolates us from the natural world too. Going back to coal would be a much more efficient use of energy, so trains instead of cars, smaller scale production, a move back towards meaningful more manual work in nature. it would also be a feasible way for us to transition from a highly complex oil based economy to a still complex but simpler coal based one.

          • solkta

            Going back to coal would be a much more efficient use of energy, so trains instead of cars,

            If you mean by that steam engines then no they are a lot less efficient than internal combustion engines. I can’t see how oil is more destructive than coal given the lower efficiency of coal and the fact that it burns a lot less cleanly than petrol.

            • mauī

              Agreed burning oil provides much more energy than coal. But I’m talking in overall terms, during the coal era we didn’t have cars and plastics in almost every everyday item.

              If oil was switched off overnight we would have no choice but to use more sustainable materials that we used to like wood, plant materials, brick. We would also have to think about how we transport things and people and what takes priority. It would be a much greener world.

  6. Antoine 6

    I am not sure what purpose this all serves except to make you miserable


    • AsleepWhileWalking 6.1

      Speak for yourself!

      Humans are problem solvers by nature. I’m excited to see new energy sources revealed that will undo the pollution especially in our oceans (actually I heard its already been discovered). I think the best is yet to come and its a great time to be alive.

      The fact that most of us can’t conceive a solution yet makes for a more interesting journey.

      I’m not saying to continue on oblivious to damage, just keep the mind free of unresourceful thinking so when a solution presents itself we are ready to act. God knows we need every advantage we can get.

    • koreropono 6.2

      Well the prospect of humanty killing itself is quite a miserable one isn’t it?

      If that prospect makes one feel miserable then maybe it may prompt some action, rather than the apathetic ostrich syndrome that allows people to ignore the fact that they’re responsible for the demise of their children’s futures.

    • ropata 6.3

      Ignorance is bliss. You must be in a state of constant euphoria

  7. DB 7

    Dennis, while you have a point, it’s pointless.

    Power can come from many sources not just oil. All because you lack imagination does not mean we all do.

    If you can’t plant a tree with a spade you’re an invalid or an idiot.

    I could get an old mine battery stamper (water power) and crush shells.

    I could use a Trompe, solar, wind, tidal, biofuel….

    I could even TRY.

    Hundreds of thousands of working biodigestors in India. But – TOO HARD. Really?

    Our dependencies and your helplessness is largely a psychological construct. We are kiwis, we can and do adapt adjust and invent.

    Bill was hinting at a state of helplessness which I think is a total crock. It is, however, dire. I don’t think the point was to say, hey, let’s give up. I think, and it’s only my opinion, the point was that there’s some polemic shifts required. “Not making a break is not an option”.

    So where’s your ideas? Or do you just have brickbats to contribute.

    • My idea….how about we reduce the Worlds population? It has to happen. Your ideas, nor mine, are going to solve the dilemma mankind is in on this small finite planet. My brickbat for today. LOL

      • solkta 7.1.1

        How do you suggest that we exterminate the majority of the population without burning any carbon?

        I think we would be better killing off more women than men as that would reduce replacement breeding. Not sure why you keep talking about men only.

        • Dennis Merwood

          No “extermination” will be required. Darwin will take care of that. We men, and OK, women, will just die off.

          • solkta

            “Darwin will take care of that.”

            I have no idea what this means? How will we “just die off”?

            • Dennis Merwood

              We will “just die off” like hundreds of other living species on our small planet have. Google “animals that have gone extinct in the last 100-years”.

              • solkta

                Humans will not become extinct as small numbers will survive. We have the technology to build artificial environments. US and Russian military personnel will be the best placed to survive.

                But anyway, i thought we were talking about solutions? You were suggesting population decrease as a solution, i thought. People of course won’t “just die off” but will struggle and kill to survive. The carbon burnt from the resulting wars is likely to make our current carbon output tiny by comparison.

                • SpaceMonkey

                  Yes… there will be millions that survive and adapt well to their new environment. The point is, there will be a lot less than the 7+ billion that currently inhabit this planet. That is a substantial die off.

                  Yesterday I heard a medical professional on RNZ National talking about how not enough people are trained in end of life care. He was talking about how the number of deaths are going to increase 50% over the coming years as the baby boomer generation (presumably) begins to die. Based on this post… he might’ve been under estimating the numbers. But his point still stands… we need people trained in how to assist the dying better. Death on a large scale is something we might have to get used to

      • Carolyn_Nth 7.1.2

        The population growth rate for the world is now declining.

        There’s was a massive increase following the industrial revolution.

        During the 20th century alone, the population in the world has grown from 1.65 billion to 6 billion.
        In 1970, there were roughly half as many people in the world as there are now.
        Because of declining growth rates, it will now take over 200 years to double again.

        On the declining growth rate.

        Population in the world is currently (2018) growing at a rate of around 1.09% per year (down from 1.12% in 2017 and 1.14% in 2016). The current average population increase is estimated at 83 million people per year.

        Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at around 2%. The rate of increase has nearly halved since then, and will continue to decline in the coming years.

        • Dennis Merwood

          Carolyn my dear, you are confusing terms here. Sure the growth”rate” may be declining, but the total population continues on its path towards 9 billion. Maybe we will not get there as quickly as some are predicting, but we will get there.
          Unless of course, if we continue with our current modus operandi. Our species is cruising merrily to extinction.

          [Dennis. The condescending terminology. Don’t.] – Bill

          • solkta

            “my dear”

            oh dear.

            That is a rather condescending way to talk. Do you speak to men like that?

          • Carolyn_Nth

            Dennis, you tosser (see here for the proposed use of the term), do not presume what I mean or understand. I knew exactly how growth rate differs from growth numbers.

            However, the fact that the growth rate is declining means total numbers could also decline before too long – especially if we start to implement measures that will truly counter climate change.

            It is industrialisation that was the impetus for exponential increase in population.

        • Andre

          In percentage terms, yes it’s dropped a lot. In absolute terms, at 83 million more people per year we’re still very close to the peak of 91 million per year in the early 90s (figures in the table in your link).

          The faster that number drops, the better it will be for everyone. The problems we will face in 2070 will be a lot easier to tackle if the world population is 8 billion and dropping from a peak than if it’s 10 billion and still climbing.

      • mikes 7.1.3

        According to the late Hans Gosling, the human population will stabilize at a maximum of 11 billion. Very interesting lecture, only 16 mins long.


    • Bill 7.2

      As I responded to Andre, the problem isn’t technical know-how, it’s time.

      And population isn’t any kind of factor in terms of avoiding or avoiding 2 degrees of warming. Most people (about 50%) do not make a significant contribution to warming while a minority (about 10%) contribute about half of all our carbon.

      • Pat 7.2.1

        population per se may not be a direct factor in carbon emissions it does however impact land use options which DO impact net emissions

        • Bill

          As far as I’m aware, the 10/40/50 breakdown of population and emissions took land use into account.

          • Pat

            they may have done but the scale and type of activity required to support even the basic requirements (put the over consumption of the wealthy aside for a moment) of 7.5 billion (and still growing) cannot be ignored….the population and carbon producing practices are mutually reinforcing.

  8. Pat 8

    Well its certainly one one to make your point…..heres another

    We know where we are….and the science tells us where we need to be.

    -A human population not exceeding 2 billion

    -Half the planets land in wilderness

    -an energy source thats renewable

    -resource extraction thats sustainable

    -adaption to rising sea levels, increased weather variability and geological activity

    -repair of previous environmental damage

    and this has to largely occur in less than one lifespan.

    The problem is simple…..the solution not so much.

  9. DB 9

    Yes population control will help, obviously. Ideas to implement? Thought not.

    We have several major industries need a revamp and it’s all doable and entirely possible. Except HARD (for who?). Poor precious posers, might break a nail.

    Fishing, agriculture, transport. That’s a good start.

    Tesla, aquaponics, permaculture.


    Hard is watching the world turn to shit while trying to raise children in it.

    I chose not to breed. But, all the morons around me pump out children. Ever seen Idiocracy?

    Population control is such a huge ethical dilemma. China faced it and we all vilified them (some good reasoning why). There’s plenty of hard choices to be made. Many are too soft to do so.

    • Pat 9.1

      is that a reply to 8?

      • DB 9.1.1

        Sorry Pat, I still mess the reply function up. I was replying to 7.1.

        The only reason this is all so hard is the reticence of those embedded in the worlds power structures to let go of said power. Power companies, oil companies, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, fisheries. They’re all old school exploiters. Newsflash: The world is no longer a frontier.

        Humans love a common cause to get stuck into. We have the cause, now, the leadership…


    • Gosman 9.2

      Population control is not an issue in wealthy nations generally.

      • koreropono 9.2.1

        Do you mean wealthy nations that rely on the sweat and tears of poor people to get rich?

      • DB 9.2.2

        I dunno. 300 million seems far too many americans to me.

        Edit: It’s 325 million now. Even worse.

      • mauī 9.2.3

        NZ, Australia, UK, the US, etc. You’re right they rely on large amounts of cheap immigrant labour so they can make a profit which has the added bonus of putting significant pressure on the domestic labour force.

  10. Gosman 10

    What do you mean our politics is not fit for purpose? What is wrong with our politics exactly?

    • ropata 10.1

      Human societies have a bad habit of pillaging the environment, & industrial capitalism turbocharged that. The gospel of endless economic growth is a lie.

      Few cultures have any interest in regulating their behaviour or investing in future generations. And those that do are overwhelmed by freeloaders with exploding populations and low IQs.

      Overall the picture is not good, I don’t expect a dramatic collapse as some might imagine. But we will see more stories of Pacific Islands being deluged, and the current figure of 2 billion in poverty/ undernourished will only increase (or perhaps be held static by huge death tolls). Not to mention the stresses of mass migrations and war, and an economic and political climate that echoes the prelude of World War 2.

      A small list of critical things at risk:
      Agricultural soils
      Fresh water
      Bee populations
      All sea life

    • Bill 10.2

      I’ll entertain you briefly Gosman, on the basis this comment isn’t you launching off into some stream of disruption.

      The politics we have has done ‘nothing’ over the past 30 years to address global warming. Emissions today are about 60% higher than they were when political leaders said they were going to tackle warming.

      Many people say there is a lack of political will around global warming. The evidence points to that. My point is that that is a case for rejecting the politics we have, and getting on with it, instead of forlornly waiting for some Road to Damascus moment within political classes and across institutions presaging some kind of guidance. They are evidently not up to the task of facilitating the kind of action we require.

      • Gosman 10.2.1

        Funnily enough I agree with you. There is nothing stopping individuals or groups (both large and small) from making changes to counter Climate change outside of waiting for the Government to do something. This is likely to be far more effective than relying on a political solution.

        • solkta

          I think it is a complete waste of effort if done in a market economy where the government has no will for change. Less people using petrol just means that petrol gets cheaper so those who are in denial can afford to use more of it.

          • Gosman

            Organise consumer boycotts of companies/businesses that continue to use fossil fuels then.

        • Bill

          There is nothing stopping individuals or groups (both large and small) from making changes to counter Climate change…

          Sure. The fact that resources and access to them are all bound up in capitalist notions of ownership and market bound rules of production and distribution are big nothings. 🙄

          Actually (although I don’t think you meant this) the psychological break I mention in the post is the way through those barriers. But of course, that’s only practical and possible when substantial numbers of people have made that break – enough people, that forces of law and order, and/or current social norms that protect “the sanctity” of the way we do things become irrelevant to peoples’ decision making.

          • Gosman

            Which I am entirely happy with.

            What I’m not happy with is if people decide unilaterally (i.e. without reference to the political system) to decide that certain activities and behaviours should cease immediately ANd enforce said decision by using the coercive power of the State.

            As I pointed out you could immediately order everyone to have a blackout at night, stop eating meat, and get rid of all their pets (all actions which would make a significant difference to climate change) but doing so via state coercion would likely alienate huge numbers of people and cause civil unrest.

            • Bill

              We agree on the matter of coercion Gosman.

              But I’m curious. Since you are not happy with overt coercion, as it may be practiced by a state, why is it that you appear comfortable with the more covert or subtle (arguably far more pernicious and with much more impact) coercion inherent to the market and market relations?

    • Stuart Munro 10.3

      It favours short term irrational private gain over long term sustainability and improvement. Read Jared Diamond’s Collapse for the end points.

      NZ in particular has undergone a significant decline in quality of life for decades, and this was not something voters wanted, rather it was the will of corporates and wealthy individuals. The former are not supposed to have access to democratic institutions, and the latter are not supposed to be given carte blanche to skew the system in their favour.

      Democracies, being pluralistic are vulnerable to institutional capture, which is the process by which NZ acquired such a long succession of lousy governments. It’s fair to say we’ve been going backwards for nearly forty years.

  11. Jenny 11

    Google; WW II climate change.

    The missing ingredient is leadership.

    We saw the glimmer of the sort of leadership, when the Prime Minister abandoning her official schedule, and keeping the Indonesian ambassador waiting, photo bombed a Greenpeace protest rally on the steps of parliament to announce that there would be no more new block offers. And then went out and created the consensus among her coalition partners to make it happen.

    We saw a glimmer of this sort of leadership when Eugenie Sage withheld consent for the needed access for the Te Kuha coal mine on conservation land, against stiff opposition.

    We need to go further and faster.


    In the ’40s, despite being a small country we went to war with Germany.


    We were following the lead of another relatively small island nation with a doughty leader on the other side of the world.


    New Zealand becomes the first country in the world to go on a war footing against climate change.

    From the wire;









    We are at war, and we are losing

    • Gosman 11.1

      An all night black-out – Yes please! I would love to see the poll numbers after that was implemented and the crime rate spikes.

      • adam 11.1.1

        And there is the political problem right there, alamist and extremist BS from rwnj’s to get power and hold onto power at any cost. Even if it means extinction.

        Do you ever wonder why some of us think you’re a way beyond crazy Gosman, you are into the realms of hate for hate’s sake, and beyond. Power and being right for you is more important than actually doing the right thing, doing somthing constructive.

        Just another example of why liberalism is such a waste of time, Gosman.

        • Gosman

          Does this mean you will push for the compulsory blackouts and making everyone go vegan and get rid of their pets?

          • adam

            I see you back to your usual dishonest line of arguing, is it coz you got nothing, or that your a idiot? Crazy or lazy?

          • Ed

            If it’s that or climate collapse, What do you think?

      • Jenny 11.1.2

        19 June 2018 at 1:38 pm
        An all night black-out – Yes please! I would love to see the poll numbers after that was implemented and the crime rate spikes.

        in the 1940s an all night black out was implemented in all cities across the world, even here in New Zealand during WWII, and was not lifted until the conflict was over.

        Did it lead to a crime wave? Who knows? Who cares? There were bigger issues at stake. We were at war. A war that cost over 60 million lives.

        Are we in a war?

        The question is not, are we in a world war? The question is, will we fight back? And if we do, can we actually defeat an enemy as powerful and inexorable as the laws of physics?


        But to address your singular and rather specious objection, Gosman;

        My guess is, that such a measure would not lead to a crime wave, for a number of reasons.

        Modern police forces are better equipped to deal with any night time crime wave than any 1940s police force. With night vision technology, eye in the sky, etc. In fact I think darkness would give an advantage to the forces of law and order..

        Darkness hinders the nighttime movement of criminals just as much as it hinders the movement of everyone else.

        Without artificial lighting of our cities most people without any special reason to venture out at night, would probably choose to stay at home more and not go out at night. In the 1940s night time in-house entertainment amounted to 1 radiogram per household, nowadays our homes are host to personal virtual home entertainment centres.
        Who knows? Without light pollution people may even take up nighttime hobbies like astronomy.

        On the other side of the coin my rough guess is that shutting down all outside nighttime lighting would free up enough capacity in the grid to permanently shutter all our fossil fuel powered generators.

        One more thing;

        With human beings perception is everything.

        A nighttime blackout would signal to everyone that the government takes this problem seriously, and that climate change must be addressed. (A signal even visible from space). The psychological impact and resulting shift in public perception and the benefits resulting, can not be underestimated,

        • Carolyn_Nth

          I don’t think you’ve thought this through, Jenny @ 12.18am

          Firstly, conditions are different today. Growing up in the 50s and 60s in Auckland, we used to have the backdoor unlocked all the time, day and night. Couldn’t do that now – it’s just not as safe out and about at night.

          What about shift workers getting home by public transport? A blackout would definitely not be safe for women at night.

          And then, secondly, you are advocating shutting of lights for publicly shared spaces, and sending everyone home to their individual homes, to shut off their lights….. and switch on their various electronic devices and home entertainment centers.

          Blackouts in WWII served a different purpose.

          Today, there are various ways public and commercial uses of power can be cut back, without making things less safe for people. And that would be as important a signal as any ill-conceived blackout.

          eg end of commercial power-generated ads and light displays (looking at you Sky Tower; closing down businesses for more hours, eg supermarkets; end of elaborate opening ceremonies for international sports (just a big pissing contest anyway)…etc.

          • Jenny

            Kia ora Carolyn,

            The lighting blackout was only one the actions I suggested might be a part of our country going onto a war footing against climate change. (though possibly the most immediatly dramatic and psychologically compelling).

            However it is the one that people seem to reject the most.

            It is heartening to me that the other ideas, or even the concept itself, received no criticism, at all.

            Great, maybe people accept that this is what we will have to do, the details of how this would work out in practice I am happy to leave up for debate.

            In this vein, I appreciate your positive suggestions. Thank you. You get it.

            …end of commercial power-generated ads and light displays (looking at you Sky Tower; closing down businesses for more hours, eg supermarkets; end of elaborate opening ceremonies for international sports (just a big pissing contest anyway)…etc.


            These seem very practical ways of making a night time climate change blackout work in the 21st Century

            I also appreciate your constructive criticisms.

            I wish there were more.

            Another idea; Empty high rise office towers that stay lit up all night, just for the cleaners. Would it be such a hardship if the cleaners and the office workers had to interact during daylight hours?

            And I am sure other such work-arounds will come to people.

            In my defence of the blackout idea, just as you suggest, I do not envisage a full lighting blackout as in WWII. For instance it would only apply to grid powered lighting. Stand alone solar power lighting would not be included. Hopefully leading to more initiatives and development and roll out of this technology.

            Gosman’s criticism on the other hand that this will lead to a crime wave, I don’t think warrant as much merit.

            Statistics show that bad weather sees a dramatic drop in night time crime. Maybe, a return to natural darkness might do the same? Who knows?

            After all, after millions of years of darkness at night, 24 hour artificial lighting, relatively speaking, is only a recent innovation.

            It could just as easily be argued that it is artificial lighting, which allows human beings to move around more freely at night, that has led to more night time crime.

            Further critiques of the other ideas I raised, or the concept itself, would be welcome.

            • Jenny

              Further thought that it could just as easily be argued that, artificial lighting rather than Gosman’s premise that darkness, might cause a nighttime crime.

              In the past before artificial lighting where human nighttime movement was seriously hampered. The only exception being on a full moon. The full moon became synonym for madness, why?

              Was it because, by being able to get around more at night some people were able to get up to more mischief? Taking advantage of the fact that pre-artificial lighting, society was by necessity locked in diurnal pattern of daytime activity, and would be still in bed?

    • Gosman 11.2

      You could also force everyone to go vegan and get rid of their pets. That would go down a treat as well.

    • Ed 11.3

      Makes all public transport free.
      Stops dairy and meat farming.
      Rewilds 50% of the country in native forests.
      Taxes imports heavily.
      Bans commercial fishing in its waterways.
      Rations power.

  12. NZJester 12

    One thing that also needs to be looked at is more methods to help convert a lot of the CO2 back to oxygen. Something that all governments should be investing in.

  13. adam 13

    It’s 19 degrees out today here in my spot in Auckland. My glasshouse is 32, I’m venting the hot air out.

    It’s winter, my garden is in full bloom.

    But nothing to see here – move along.

    • DB 13.1

      Peach still hasn’t shed it’s leaves. Growing bananas, taro, macadamias, guavas and now even coffee is thriving in the Auckland garden.

      Change is here, adjustments required.

      • adam 13.1.1

        Just recently got a couple of Coffee tree in pots, and they are thriving. I’d brought them in to winter over, but they were doing better outside.

        • DB

          OMG get me started on gardening… (no really, don’t hehe)

          My coffee never took off till I put it where it should be, under other plants. It is naturally an understory species. It loves Taro as a nursery, maybe because they can be thermogenic, at least in flowering. The concept is a sub-tropical food forest the layers so far are macadamia nuts as a canopy with bananas under them and then the Taro and coffee. Various wildflowers I don’t have the names. Beans climb in there sometimes. This is a converted Tree Privet thicket – winning! Had some moringa in there for nitrogen and – it’s freaking moringa – but it died it was so spindly in shade and I chucked mulch on it one day (not seeing it) and stifled it. I think Moringa’s still possible, but other Fabaceae might be better for the purpose of N fixing.

          Section Hack:

          To kill tree privet just cut it down leaving some exposed trunk (or it sprouts all over, not on the trunk alone). Then pull the suckers off every few months for a couple years. Voila, dead privet no poison required. I reckon a lot of woody weeds will die in this manner. Only a few minutes of attention per tree once they’re down. Plant immediately in the area after cutting no problem at all. Let the dying roots feed your new and better purposed plants. Use the biomass to make hugel mounds, bed surrounds and mulch. Totally winning.

          I’ve spent 20 years studying trying to find solutions/alternatives to our impending (and now started) crisis. Mostly talking to a wall.

          • adam

            I’d argue that Gardening is one of the solutions.

            How we grow food, arguments like perennials or annuals? Is conventional (traditional) farming a barrier to finding good solutions?

            Yeah I love gardening to, I rent, so everything I have is in pots. Destroyed one to many gardens I had planted over the journey. Amazing what you can grow in pots. Strawberries are better, as are so many of the leafy greens. Nasturtium, being another which I love in a salad, loves a pot.

          • Robert Guyton

            DB – I’ve only just seen your gardening comment and hope you’ll expand upon it somewhere; it’s very interesting! Funny to hear that your moringa didn’t fly; interesting though, to hear that’s it’s in New Zealand. It doesn’t sound as though it will grow in Southland – yet 🙂

    • Tricledrown 13.2

      Adam maybe we are on the Eve of a global disaster.
      We could all just pray and it will go away like those right wing fundamentalist Christians like Jeff Session’s who think they are going to heaven and all you have to do is believe in Jesus.

      • adam 13.2.1

        The main problem with most fundamentalists, is they are otherworldly. They have their head in the clouds of coulda, woulda, shoulda instead of facing the reality here.

        This gets me through the day , “Heaven is paved with broken glass, take a hand full of wild seeds and make it green again.”

        Which reminds me, I’ve some seeds for outside the local mall I need to throw around.

    • Bill 13.3

      A slight segue from your comment on unseasonal temperatures and gardening Adam.

      The same question around energy related carbon applies.

      How do the seeds, cuttings, pots and containers or tools and the materials that go into the making of the tools, pots etc, and even the water, get obtained or procured and/or transported without any use of carbon emitting energy?

  14. Molly 14

    Thoughtful article on James Hansen in the Guardian today.

    James Hansen, who gave a climate warning in 1988 Senate testimony, says real hoax is by leaders claiming to take action

    Which is more and more apparent as time passes, and most accept a slowly, slowly approach to solutions and future proofing.

    James Hansen has some interesting articles and books, and in one – title of which eludes my aging brain – he relates the origins of the IPCC. A political tool for George Bush, to be seen to be doing something, while doing nothing. And so it goes.

    “The solution isn’t complicated, it’s not rocket science,” Hansen said. “Emissions aren’t going to go down if the cost of fossil fuels isn’t honest. Economists are very clear on this. We need a steadily increasing fee that is then distributed to the public.”

    Hansen faced opposition even before his testimony – he recalls a Nasa colleague telling him on the morning of his presentation “no respectable scientist” would claim the world is warming – and faced subsequent meddling and censorship from George HW Bush’s administration.

    He eventually retired from Nasa in 2013 and promptly reinterpreted himself as an activist who was arrested, wearing his trademark hat, outside the White House while protesting the Keystone oil pipeline.”

    Promptly reinterpreted himself as an activist – translates into – put his integrity and sense of service to the fore, and highlighted the hypocrisy and ineffectiveness of current systems and practice.

  15. Jackel 15

    All countries honouring the Paris Accord is the best and probably final hope. As individuals we can at least not be greedy because that is the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases.

    • Gosman 15.1

      What is your definition of “greedy”?

      • Robert Guyton 15.1.1

        Taking, rather than giving.

        • Gosman

          Everyone takes something Robert. That isn’t the definition of greedy.

          • Robert Guyton

            You’re being pedantic. There are people whose lives could be described as “giving” in tenor; they might serve in soup kitchens, grow “give away” vegetables etc. There are others who wouldn’t do those sorts of things if you paid them (hang on! The probably would). I don’t believe humans are inherently greedy – greed is a phenomenon that every human has to face and contain but in this culture of greed that we are immersed in now, it’s overwhelming many of us (Key, Hosking, Brownlee, Collins etc 🙂

      • Molly 15.1.2

        Hoarding or accumulating resources when others are in need.

  16. Philg 16

    I hear you Bill. Thank you. This is better than reality tv lol.

  17. Philg 17

    I hear you Bill. Thank you. This is better than reality tv lol. Goss. What do you tell your children, assuming you have any, about climate change, and what advice do you offer them.

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