The Last Warning
by Alex Morales

 
 

CO2, Peak Oil, Overpopulation
Planning for Survival

by Dick Clifford
Vice President
Humanist Society of South Australia

http://www.users.on.net/~rmc/hsofsa.htm
http://www.users.on.net/~rmc/lastwarning.htm

The universe is said to have started 13.7 billion years ago with a big bang, however the generally accepted theory is disputed on several grounds. The Hubbard deep field telescope has pictures that are 2 billion years short of the event, a remarkable achievement, but it is unlikely to get any closer.

Our sun was born some 5 billion years ago and the earth came a little later at about 4.5 billion years ago. Being hot, with many active volcanoes, the atmosphere was mainly CO2 that kept the planet warm, important because the young sun was 25% cooler than it is now. The first life to develop was a microbe, very different to us as it lived in CO2 and regarded oxygen as a poison. It is important to realize that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, that is, it allows sunlight to pass through it and hit the earth. 30% is reflected and would leave the earth, but as reflected light is at a lower frequency (infra red) where CO2 is no longer translucent, the gas warms up, retaining the heat on earth. We must also realize that some CO2 is needed, it is the carbon component which builds all trees and plant life.

There was no free oxygen in the early atmosphere and it was not until 1.5 billion years ago that photosynthesis produced oxygen using cyanobacteria and later from plants. For another billion years the oxygen reacted with rocks as recorded in Banded Iron Formations. It wasn't until 0.6 billion years ago that there was sufficient oxygen to form the ozone layer allowing animals and plants to spread across the land. Numerous fossils tell the history of the resulting development right up to Homo Sapiens in the most recent two million years.

The main points are: (1) The remarkable correlation between the greenhouse gases and the temperature over 420,000 years. (2) The four glacial cycles, about 100,000 years apart, are said to be due to variations in sunlight as the orbit of the earth changes. The temperature drop, down to -8°C, is the area of serious glaciation, with ice sheets covering most of Europe, Asia and North America. This had little effect on evolution, as climate in the Mediterranean would have been fine, but in the future it will force a population reduction of billions. (3) The most recent 11,000 years show an important change, a comparatively constant temperature over this period where many would have expected it to peak and then go into the next ice age. The next graph (2) (present time on the right) covers this period of 11,000 years, shows there are variations, e.g. there was the little ice agein which the Thames iced over so the orbit was still having some limited effect but there being no other cause it has been suggested that man caused it.

For 11,000 years man has developed agriculture, cleared land and used fire. It is possible that smoke from the fires reflected the suns rays causing some global cooling, sufficient to balance the heating that would have melted the ice caps before we went into the next ice age

That global warming is taking place is proved by the facts that the polar ice thickness has reduced by 40% and its area is shrinking by 4% a year. In 2000 a lake formed at the North Pole that had not been possible during the past 55 million years. The glaciers have been receding steadily for 100 years, (see graph 3 for recent 40 years.)

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change accepts that the increased land and sea temperature changes are higher than have been recorded for 120,000 years and are 90% due to man's use of fossil fuels. The IPCC is a large body of scientists reporting to the UN which is very conservative. It is clear that the IPCC's next report, due out later this year, will recommend increased greenhouse action.


Peak Oil

World oil production for 2006 was very slightly up on 2005, (about 0.18%, Oil and Gas Journal 18. 12. 05) suggesting that we have not yet reached peak oil. But this will be deceptive, what is important to many countries is the amount of oil they can import from countries that have a surplus.

Looked at from this point of view, peak oil occurred in December 2005. The two main exporters are Saudi Arabia (24%) and the former Soviet Union (21%). Nine other countries supply between 7 and 5 % each. The wells in some 26 countries are in a state of depletion. This must get progressively worse as fewer new wells are being discovered. See graph (6) below.

All the big discoveries of oil took place more than 30 years ago, and the discovery rate has fallen well below the consumption rate as shown in graph (6) above. This state of affairs cannot continue. As we are on the peak of the output curve we may notice little difference for the next 5 years but in 15 years time the supply will have gone down by 32%, the price will have trebled. So we must build alternative transport systems within 15 years starting immediately to avoid collapse in 2020.

The solutions to both global warming and peak oil are much the same. We must stop burning coal and oil and use alternative fuels instead. It should be realized that there is no alternative that has the power and convenience of oil therefore we will have to re-plan our lives to make simpler living possible. Our houses will have to be smaller and better insulated. They will have to be better located so that they are close to work and play. Flat dwellers should have the right to have an "allotment" for growing food. Our vehicles will be smaller and lighter, road speeds will be reduced, transport departments will have to re-write the law to provide for light cars and cycles and demote the V8 etc.


Population

Mankind is facing the same problem as the rats in a middle of a rat plague. If we were living 200 years ago we would find that the chances of any one of us reaching the age of 5 was one in 5. Women died in childbirth, men were more likely to die if they went to war, many died young because of poor conditions at work and at home. More people did not recover from disease. All these kept the population down - this was the natural order, you might say it was ordained by God or Gaia.

However during the last 200 years man learnt medical procedures, allowing millions to live or sue the doctor for the occasional one that dies. Mankind discovered how to use coal and oil to run machinery of all types, equivalent to an army of mechanical slave workers that allowed more of the population to have a higher standard of living and consume great quantities of resources causing increasing pollution. (see graph 7)

We are now realizing that there is a limit to the resources we can use.

Water: is getting scarce, all the large rivers in the world have much less water flowing due to the dams that have been built for irrigation and electricity. Many no longer reach the sea causing trees to die off and increase global warming. Farmers are pumping water from bores, but the levels are going down by several meters in one year, to very alarming levels in India and other countries. New satellites with water sensors report reduced flows in almost all rivers and lakes.

Fishing: The world peak fish catch occurred a few years ago due to over fishing. Today some of the increasing CO2 produced by mankind gets absorbed by the ocean, which is getting acidic and warmer and is not good for fish. Bad news for the many peoples dependent on a good fish catch.

Agriculture: Australian agricultural output will be down this year due to drought, as in many other places. Agricultural land is being eroded and damaged by salt. Thus there will be less food to feed a growing world population.

Raw Materials: of every kind are being mined, processed and dispatched to make as much money as possible. No thought is given to the needs of future generations, it is just expected that they will find substitute materials.

A population level of 6.5 billion, increasing to 9 billion by 2050, see graph (8),
World population change per annum reached a peak in 1990 and has been tending downwards ever since. ( The total population still increases because of the low death rate.) Improved education also raises the standard of living, reducing the need to have large numbers of children.
Governments major policy must be to insure that all their children, especially girls, have a good education and that all schools teach a curricula that includes science, greenhouse gasses, alternative energy, reducing pollution, good nutrition, family planning, etc. Since our country has the highest per capita pollution rate in the world we should spend more on education and assist Third World countries.

1st World Countries need to provide more education (and spend less on armaments) and also help 3rd World Countries (realizing that a better educated neighbour is likely to cause less problems than one with an increasing uneducated population.)


What Should Government Policy Be?

Governments spend a lot of their time considering carbon tax and the trading schemes encouraged by Kyoto. While that is better than doing nothing, I reject this attitude because they give firms a license to pollute,

it smacks of "business as usual", not recognizing the need for reform. It takes attention off the main objective, creating alternative energy and transport, ending the use of oil and coal. The cost of carbon tax and trading will simply be passed back to us, but we need to use much coal and oil in creating alternative superstructures, insisting on greater efficiency, expecting that renewable energy will replace coal and oil.

We need to devise a policy which retains the best of our civilization, but make it more sustainable

Instead governments should clearly set out a policy as follows:

Set up a plan with targets at 5 year intervals, 50% to be achieved by 2020.

Require businesses to prepare their 5 year plans to change to alternative energy.

Publish their plan on the WWW and give annual progress reports.

Geothermal energy and Concentrated Solar Thermal systems to be given top priority as they will be the base load generators of the future.

Subsidise solar panels and wind generators. Build at least one solar tower in each State. As sufficient power is produced, coal burning plant to be closed.

Where possible, coal burning generators to be converted to gas.
Sequestration is unlikely because of the quantity of waste to be buried. If it cannot be done in 10 years then the company should invest in alternative energy instead.

New generating plant should have double the capacity of that being replaced, so as to provide power for trams, trains and cars, all more economical.

Car manufacturers to be required to build small light electric cars. V8s etc. to be prohibited. Enhanced value cars to include two batteries on trolleys with automatic contactors as they are slid into the car, a charging unit, powered by mains, solar panels or sun cubes fixed on your garage or house roof.

Petrol Stations to be converted to battery charging stations. (you swap your discharged battery for a fully charged one and continue your journey) The consequent reduction of oil consumption should reduce the price rise of about 3 times by 2020 which should benefit agricultural and other heavy users.

Heavy transport will have problems. Rail should be upgraded and disused lines restored. In future it will be "local production for local consumption".
Whoever cuts down a tree must plant and water two trees in the same locality.

Note: The above targets do mean that all coal generating plants be replaced by Geothermal or Concentrated Thermal plants by 2020 and then doubled by 2035. It also means that 50% of existing domestic cars and light van fleets be replaced with light electric vehicles by 2020


WHAT CAN WE DO?

It is clear that our parliaments are not going to take adequate action,

All parties are jumping on green sustainable programs but are ignoring the problems of Peak Oil.

They are concerned about unemployment, the health of the big corporations.

They ignore the fact that the great industrial complexes which currently employ many, and burn fossil fuels, are part of the problem.

In fact, the need to build solar, wind and geothermal generators and the conversion of existing transport will provide all the employment needed, and more.

But governments are susceptible to public opinion and I find that the public readily understands the problems and do in fact act in constructive ways.

I have noticed two cycles and two scooters driven by electric batteries in my district. More low power cars are being sold. More people are buying fluorescent bulbs; solar panels are beginning to appear on roofs. Environmental housing is making an appearance, water is being recycled.

A news item has recently announced that the geothermal project at Paralana should be producing electricity by 2009, the eventual capacity might be 8 times Sth Australia's present consumption. This is very good news but still means that the distribution system must be upgraded to supply trains and trams and all the electric cars we are going to buy.

But it is clear that much more needs to be done, to do this we must influence more people and get them to take an active part as follows:
If you are on the www its easy. You simply search the web for pages that you approve, then send letters to all your contacts giving the URL. You can send them this article: paste in this reference: http://www.users.on.net/rmc/lastwarning.htm.

If you are on the www its easy. You simply search the web for pages that you approve, then send letters to all your contacts giving the URL. You can send them this article: paste in this reference:
http://www.users.on.net/rmc/lastwarning.htm.

A short list of books is given at the end of this pamphlet. Buy a few and after you have read them make a present to your relative.
Write letters to the Editor, your M.P. and Senator, look for the unusual angle, e.g. advocate development of trains and trams because these are far more fuel efficient than road vehicles.

Join a local association. There are many such associations that are discussion groups, explore ways to make you independent, safer, etc. e.g. in Adelaide there is an organization that used to be named "Peak Oil", now called "Beyond Oil". See their web page.

For improved education for children world wide, join "the World Campaign for Children's Education and Sustenance" which you will find at "Concern for kids".

For a more direct help to education there are many charities. The author runs a Scholarship Fund for Liberian Children living at Buduburam refugee camp in Ghana. The time is coming when they will return to Liberia and build a comprehensive school. Current funds make this a distant dream. For details and photos go to Buduburam Report.

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