It Really Doesn’t Matter
Civilisation is collapsing and there is nothing we can do about it.
Climate change, or global heating, is almost certainly happening, and it is almost certainly caused by man-made activities, specifically our prolific production of carbon dioxide, although even if neither of these statements is true, it doesn’t matter because our civilisation is still doomed, for the same reason that every civilisation is doomed; we have outrun our resource base. The hyper-complexity of our technological system depends on fossil fuels; gas, coal and, most of all, oil. Everything we use is made from oil, transported with it, our food is effectively grown on a layer of it and our economies are entirely dependent on petrochemical products produced from oil which, very soon, will be too expensive to extract. When this happens — when the energy required to extract coal, oil and gas approaches that which they provide — it will be game over.
The collapse that we’re facing, and the suffering it will entail, will be, first of all, unprecedented. Unbelievable — we’ll all be walking around saying ‘I don’t believe it, I don’t believe it…’ We’re already starting to say this, particularly those of us who live in poorer towns, or who work in A&E, or who have to deal with ‘low-income groups’; but these are early days. The misery and madness facing us will make these days of frustration and fear seem like paradise. Not convinced? Keep watching the news, see if it gets any better.
The collapse we’re facing, that has now begun, is also our fault. Man-made. We have based our societies on intensive agriculture, a practice which demands more energy than it provides, and then provides a surplus which must be managed and defended, which demands more energy. We have created societies based on exploitation, of nature and of human nature, which has compelled us to ‘progress’ to a point, after a thousand years of intensive agriculture, and a hundred years of hyper-intensive industrialisation, when there’s nothing left to exploit. Our ability to create more and more complexity from fossil fuels has only served to dig ever more rapidly through the raft we are floating on, while making it ever more flimsy and fragile; not to mention desolate, inhuman and hideously ugly.
So it really doesn’t matter if the earth is warming or cooling, if either is caused by CO2, or volcanos, or solar radiation, nor does it really matter how much or how little global heating, or cooling, will end up contributing to the series of punishing blows that we can expect in the years ahead. Who knows what will be the ‘final’ cause of our collapse. Perhaps a nuclear war? Or a series of violent revolutions? Or mass starvation? Or a mass cull? There might even be a real pandemic? Probably all of the above, but it’s unimportant, just as it’s unimportant what disease finally claims someone dying of old age. Cancer? Pneumonia? Heartbreak? Furniture? Interesting perhaps, but in the end it’s irrelevant. And now they’re dead.
The truth isn’t obscured with lies; it is obscured with facts.
The stupendous technological and structural complexity of our civilisation can no longer be sustained by the energy that such complexity demands and so, as with every other civilisation that has collapsed before ours (the Mayans are a good example), we’re entering a rapid period of contraction, manifesting as financial collapse; the inability of slaves and slave states to pay their debts. How rapid is hard to say, it could be a mad, precipitous decline, over a decade or so, or even more rapidly — despite the emotional attraction of apocalyptic visions of the future, they are always a possibility1 — or it could take a generation or two. I don’t know. A hellish cliff-fall crash of unprecedented suffering looks more likely to me, but in either case, by the time children being born today are in their eighties, if they live that long, a drastically reduced world population will almost certainly be living in tiny villages again after having gone through a far rougher ride than my generation did. It’s really only possible to maintain any other image of the future by making outrageous assumptions about the power of technology.
Is Climate Change An Elite Conspiracy?
Returning to climate change, as is often claimed by conspiracy theorists, a clever trick to get us to accept more lockdowns, 15 minute cities and various forms of green austerity? Perhaps — but that certainly doesn’t mean that it’s not happening. Climate science is still a ‘young discipline’, but thousands upon thousands of specialists, in diverse institutions, have produced a colossal number of research papers confirming that CO2 traps heat, that we’ve been pumping out unprecedented quantities of it for over a century, and that this is influencing the climate, making it warmer. There appears to be an overwhelming consensus on this — there have been numerous surveys and meta-studies (e.g. Carlton et al. (2015) Lynas at al. (2021), Myers et al. (2021)) which show that AGW is supported by most climate scientists (or by most who have given an opinion; the heavily — and rightly — disputed Cook study of 2012 discounted papers which gave no opinion on the subject).2
Of course they might well all be wrong, or in the employ of Al Gore, Klaus Schwab and the Thunbergs, but anyone who thinks that they are wrong, or that this is an elite conspiracy, has to show how their data are fundamentally wrong and how the hypotheses offered to explain these data are also wrong. The normal way to do this is by publishing a paper which addresses or critiques the facts as they are, that suggests different hypotheses to account for them, and that proposes and presents the results of different tests of those hypotheses. Alternatively, critics could point to the hundreds or thousands of published papers which, if there is a real debate on the issue, indicate an opposing view (which, given that such a view was is supported by ‘business as usual’ corporate power should be very easy to find).
Has any of this been done? As far as I can tell the answer is, effectively, no. Even taking into account the appalling, innate, flaws of the peer-review system and the blindness of those who adhere to it, it is striking how few papers have been published over the course of the last fifty years which have challenged the consensus and how flawed they appear to have been. I’m certainly no climatologist, but I know of no serious attempts, by experts in the field, to address and overturn the consensus that haven’t been riddled with inconsistencies and flaws. Do you?3
The number of papers published by climate sceptics appears to be very low. Again, the peer-review system doesn’t help outsiders get their foot in the door, but it is still striking how few of the prominent voices against the ‘climate change conspiracy’ have, outside of blog posts and opinion-pieces, tried their hand against the experts. As far as I can tell Christopher Monckton has published nothing; Denis Rancourt, nothing; Piers Corbyn, nothing; Nils-Axel Mörner, nothing; Valentina Zharkova, one paper (retracted, from her own journal)… and so on. The list is long. Even taking the most unlikely estimates of authoritative papers which argue against anthropogenic global warming (AGW), the number is a minute fraction of those in support of it.4
Some climate change deniers point out that the percentage of CO2 in the atmosphere, relative to other gases, is minuscule. That this amount is small relative to the vast quantities of inert gas in the atmosphere no more means that it has no effect on climate than doubling or halving trace chemicals in your body — which make up a minute percentage of your body mass — wouldn’t negatively, even catastrophically, affect your health. Ask someone who makes this objection to eat a minuscule piece of the Death Cap mushroom, and then ask why he’s not too keen on the idea.
It is also often claimed, with good evidence, that Earth’s climate has been changing for millions of years. Cool periods (‘ice-ages’) and warm periods (‘interglacials’) have succeeded each other in hundred-thousand year cycles, with global average temperatures oscillating between 3 and 8 degrees C, all as a result of moving tectonic plates and our oscillating exposure to the sun. All true, it would seem; but so what? What is at issue here is the effect that civilisation and, more specifically, industrial civilisation has had on the climate in the last century.
Another common objection is… Oh, I can’t be bothered. Check for yourself. They’re pretty easy to address (here, for example), but; it doesn’t matter. So what if CO2 doesn’t turn out to be driving global heating? Speaking personally, if I were confronted by good evidence and analysis demonstrating that yes, in truth, our climate is changing now, after a hundred years of tearing up the earth and setting fire to it, because of an almost miraculous coincidence; if it were demonstrated to me beyond all reasonable doubt, that CO2 has had nothing to do with any local or global changes of climate (such as the abrupt climate change that disrupted early civilisations in the fertile crescent), or that, actually, solar radiation is behind ‘natural’ cycles of heat and cooling, or even that the climate is absolutely the same as it has been over the past five hundred years, or is even cooling down, or that, yes it’s heating up, but this is not as serious as eco-warriors tell us it is, then I would accept these things. Why not? I don’t care either way and, I put it to you, neither should anyone else.
Left and Right Are One
Many climate change deniers care about The Big Climate Conspiracy because they are fair obsessed with elite tittle-tattle, with the machinations of Rich and Powerful People. It is useful and interesting to read about the moustache-twirling plans of cartoon monsters like Rockefeller, Kissinger and Blair, but a lot of people on the dissident extremes have a morbid obsession with the bad guys which blinds them to the second, and most important, reason they tend to care about climate change and make a big deal of the fact it’s a ‘hoax’, which is that they are unwilling to critically explore the civilised, technocratic system as a whole.
Blindness to the whole problem is an affliction shared by both the left and the right. On the right we find ordinary fellas like Lord Monckton, Peter Hitchens and Michael Shellenberger, highly privileged members or defenders of the owner-class who say yes, the climate might be changing, and we might be influencing that, but really, it’s no biggie; civilised progress is elevating us to heaven on earth, equably sharing out unheard-of wealth and nobly bearing the light of civilisation into a glorious future. In the real world, ‘progress’ means the alienating unlife of the modern factory worker (now pushed safely out of view, down there in China), ‘wealth’ means the shredded social wasteland of modern techno-slavery and ‘civilisation’ means the obliteration of anyone or anything that stands in its way, but the real world is not a place that the owner-class have much experience with.
On the left we find the same blindness (and much the same privilege, just a few steps down on the pyramid of glory), but coloured with resentment, angst and self-hatred, the kind that, by her own admission, motivated young Greta Thunberg. Leftist climate-change deniers, resentful of their lack of power, assume that because powerful vested interests are using the pretext of global heating as a means to further the development of that system—by, for example, closing down farms and generating artificial food scarcity—it must be a conspiracy, a lie. The pseudo-pandemic didn’t help there, it being largely an elite-generated (and professionally-maintained) illusion, although it’s worth bearing in mind that there was a virus, and it was killing some people.5 It is actually quite rare for power lie outright; it is much more effective when propaganda is based on truth, clearly communicated.
Left and right therefore dissolve into the same systemic entity, strenuously at odds over their approach to the various problems the system faces—the right believe we should unsentimentally crush or obliterate nature, foreigners and poor people, while the left believe we should compassionately include and then manage them—but absolutely as one in their defence of the system; of coercive democracy, alienating technocracy and all the miseries of civilisation. This is why, when a threat comes from outside of the system—actual anarchism—left and right instantly unite to dispose of it; the right to crush it, the left to co-opt it.
Returning to Anthropogenic Global Warming, for many years it did not serve those in power to accept the fact and reality of it, so it was often ignored, or strenuously denied across the media ‘spectrum’. Now some sectors of the owner-management classes find their interests are best served by accepting (or pretending) that the earth is catastrophically heating and that we might be responsible, so it is accepted as fact and promoted as something for us all to fear. ‘Solutions’ are then offered — ‘net zero’, insect protein, climate lockdowns, digital currencies, closing down farms, shutting down the bank accounts of dissidents — in order to justify further technolotrous tyranny in the name of assuaging this fear,6 just as similar system-enhancing measures were and are offered to assuage the fear of commies, drug barons, terrorists, the ‘pandemic’ and, most recently, Putin, who, as I write, is the reason we’re all going broke, getting fired, starving hungry, freezing cold and, presumably, will be offered a new form of techno-slavery to ‘defeat’.
Meanwhile, nothing has changed in the real world, because nature is uninterested in politics. We’re still filling the air with pollution, we’re still dredging the seas empty, and we’re still stripping our arable land of soil. We’re still guzzling unimaginable quanta of energy (there doesn’t seem to be too much being done about the ruinous energy requirements of the internet; can’t think why). We’re still running out of oil, we’re still running out of gas (even if Russia’s were available), we’re still running out of essential metals, we’re still running out of sand (usable sand of course; desert sand is useless for concrete), we’re still running out of water, and the use of all of these materials is rising at the same exponential rate as urban populations. And so society is collapsing before our eyes. Have you noticed?
While climate-change deniers care about the causes of global heating because they are unwilling to accept the nature of the civilised system, climate change activists care about the causes of global heating because… they are unwilling to accept the nature of the civilised system! That’s right, they are the functionally the same. A false dichotomy. The only difference between the two groups (climate change deniers, left and right, and climate change activists) is that the crusading Green army, largely made up of the professional management-class, is eager to professionally manage a transition to a Brave New World of magical energy.
Alas they are, as is well known to anyone without an ideological commitment to technology, deluded. It will never happen because our resource base will soon be unavailable to us. We do not have what we need to make a transition to any other kind of energy. Both green energy (which is intermittent, and so effectively useless) and, to a lesser extent, nuclear energy, demand both colossal inputs of energy (making their net output low) and vast quantities of non-renewable resources, as does the world they power. In addition, phasing out coal, oil and gas in order to transition to a Brave Green World would itself require vast quanta of energy which renewable energies cannot provide.
A world powered by energy would also require enormous quantities of plastic (which come from petrochemicals), copper (how are we going to extract all the copper that green tech needs from depleted mines and smelt it all without coal?) along with lithium, graphite, sand, oil and water, not to mention all the other rare-earth elements which we don’t have and which are ruinous to extract in anything approaching the quantities we need.7 Even with miraculous new batteries that run on plentiful chemicals8 the whole system — all of its roads, wires, fertilisers, switches, sealants, pipes, rails, processors, diodes, engines, turbines, cartons, and so on, and on, and on — requires resources which we do not have. It is nothing short of a belief in magic to assert otherwise.9
It’s not so much that we’re running out of resources though — there will always be plenty of minerals in the ocean, for example — rather they are becoming far too costly to get at. There is no point in extracting, refining and transporting a barrel of oil if it takes a barrel of oil to do so. This problem can be temporarily delayed by discovering other cheap sources of energy — England solved the problem of running out of wood by turning to coal, and the US solved the problem of running out of oil by fracking — but we have now literally reached the bottom of the barrel. The dregs. And there are no more barrels we can open. The only solution, for those currently in control of the world’s energy resources, is to reduce consumption, reduce the world’s population and do whatever you can to keep your fat fingers on whatever puddles of oil still remain.10
Disciples of the worldwide religion of technophilia believe that our problems will be solved by adding more technological complexity to the world — which is precisely the cause of them. Nobody has solved the problem of powering a society that can only solve its problems by adding complexity with finite resources, or ever can, because the power has to run out. The EROI (the ratio of energy returned to energy invested to extract and refine it) in the US has gone from something like 100 to 1 (a hundred barrels of oil produced from one barrel of oil invested) down to something like 15 to 1 in the last seventy years.11 There is no way to reverse this. The only solution is to find a perfect replacement for crude oil, which is impossible, or radically simplify society; something which no society has ever done.12
People with nominal power do try to simplify society, sometimes, and appear to be trying now, with the chaotically controlled mega-crash we’re in the middle of, but they cannot succeed. Attempts by the owners of the system to limit consumption and pump funny money into the economy, which appears to have been the primary purpose of lockdowns, or to generate scarcity, which is probably behind the throttling of agricultural production, or to develop even more invasive techniques of control, such as digital currencies and technofascist ‘smart’ cities, which (who knows?) seem to be what our toppermost technocrats are planning at the moment, are as futile as attempts by the managers of the system to protest or disrupt oil and gas production. They are futile because the system has its own requirements, its own laws and its own limits, none of which are amenable to the mad fantasies of civilised human beings.13
This doesn’t mean that the owners or managers of the system (elites and professionals; the latter often ignored by dissidents, who are usually professionals themselves) are any less responsible. Difficult as it is for many people to accept, it is possible to criticise the activities of those in power while also accepting that they are relatively powerless, just as it is possible to condemn the cold, heartless hyper-wealthy, while also condemning the moronic, masochistic insanity of the masses, just as, finally, it is possible to accept that man-made activities might be responsible for global heating while also refusing to accept the solutions (and fear porn) the system proffers to deal with it.
But, I’ll say it once more, it really doesn’t matter. Prove, beyond all doubt, that AGW is a myth, and we are still doomed. Remove all our elites and professionals from power and organise an inoffensive, socialist, vegan paradise — or, if you prefer, an offensive, capitalist, meat-eating paradise — and nothing will or can change. Replace all our plastics and cars and engines and copper wires with some kind of magical leaf, and we are still ruined.
We are guaranteed to self-destruct while the inhuman, unnatural technocratic system (and the ego it feeds from) rules us. It’s almost impossible for socialists or capitalists to accept this, because the former want to manage (or write thrilling opinion pieces about) the system and the latter want to own it, and they’re all addicted to it, which is why it never comes under their critical eyes; but it’s the truth, and as it is the truth, although I enjoy thinking about the truth, and even presenting a case for the truth, I don’t need to convince anyone of it, and neither do you, because, sooner or later, the truth becomes impossible to ignore.
So chill out. Go into the garden. Chat up that girl who works in the coffee shop. Cook a nice curry. Read a big book. Take a walk in the woods. For God’s sake do what you love. Life is good, even facing the end.
Especially facing the end.
We live in hell, and what happens when hell comes to an end?
Further reading: The Technological System (A Guide to the Machine) Hell, No (The Pastiche of Paradise) or, for a wider and deeper perspective, Ad Radicem.
And despite what John Michael Greer might aver. I have the greatest respect for Greer, one of the only modern writers who seems capable of saying something, and I agree with him that warnings of a dramatic apocalypse are often self-serving, but such things certainly do happen, and certainly are possible.
Cook conducted a second survey (Cook et. al, 2016) which was far more thorough and which, consequently, didn’t receive the same critical attention. Note also that many counter studies that claim that thousands of ‘scientists’ believe that AGW is a myth are regularly packed with physicists, civil engineers and animal nutritionists, such as the famous ‘World Climate Declaration’, fewer than 1% of the signatories of which were climate scientists.
To take an example, the famous 1998 ‘hockey stick’ paper of Mann et al., shows rapid warming in the last fifty years. Its findings have been replicated over two dozen times, by different teams, in different parts of the world, using different data sources and different methodologies. Only one person, as far as I know, has seriously disputed Mann, Stephen McIntyre, in 2004, and he did not address any of the subsequent replications. There has, unless I’ve missed something, been nothing since McIntyre. Do you know of any?
Not that we really need scientists to tell us the climate is changing. Any conversation with an eighty year old pretty much anywhere on earth will do (particularly in dry climates). One reason that nobody is seriously trying to debunk people like Mann is because so many people can see that the climate is changing, that all kinds of odd things are happening. The question now is ‘why?’ Have we influenced the heat of the earth by setting fire to it, or is it because of clouds behaving strangely, or solar flares, or some other cause?
Just not the astronomical numbers claimed, which were inflated by counting deaths from any cause as from Covid after a positive test from a test which was known by everyone, including its inventor, not to work. This is why excess all-cause mortality rates (a statistic which cannot be manipulated) did not show any sign of a real pandemic, and why children and Africans — two groups you’d expect to be decimated by such a virus, got through the unprecedented ‘pandemic’ unscathed.
Others, usually on the right, push for the use of more fossil fuels. This, from a system-serving perspective is certainly more realistic, but it leads to the same technological slavery and degrading, alienating misery.
It has been estimated that over the next 30 years we will consume more minerals than the last 70,000 years. Vanadium, cerium, gallium, lutetium and other minerals are all essential for a high-tech world, green or otherwise, but where are they going to come from?
Where are we going to get the energy to extract all these metals? Where are we going to get the water we need to mine them? How are we going to deal with the colossal pollution that refining four and a half billion tonnes of copper would entail?
This is without getting into the inherant limitations of technological development, (e.g. of batteries, which have been around now for over a century, and will never beat ‘the s-curve’).
But which still require tremendous energy inputs from fossil fuels; it takes the energy equivalent of 100 barrels of oil to fabricate the batteries to store the energy equivalent of a single barrel of oil.
The current industrial system is highly dependent on fossil fuels (oil, gas, and coal). To transition away from fossil fuels would take something like 20 years if done in an organized fashion without disruption.
Coal is used by industry to generate high temperature heat for manufacturing and smelting. Current renewable systems are unable to deliver such high temperatures in the quantities needed for much of existing manufacturing requirements. At this time, if we phase out fossil fuels, then much of existing manufacturing will also have to be phased out.
81% of existing oil fields are declining at a rate of 5 to 7% per year. Most oil was discovered in the 1960s and 1970s. 2020 showed the lowest volume of oil discovery in the previous 70 years.
A good summary of the situation here. There is a fringe theory called ‘abiotic oil theory’ which hypothesises that ‘hydrocarbon compounds are generated in the upper mantle and migrate through the deep faults into the Earth’s crust.’ It seems to be deeply flawed, but even if it were the case, the exponential expansion of systemic complexity must — and clearly has — far outstrip[ped] this remarkable replenishment, leading to the declining EROI noted elsewhere, otherwise there would be no need to go to such absurd lengths to extract more and more sour oil.
Just think what it would take to reduce the complexity of our world, within twenty years, to a state that could run on green energies; essentially a medieval-level of energy consumption.
Blackrock, the enormously powerful asset management behemoth which manages ten trillion dollars of assets across the globe, is well aware of this. In their 2023 report they predict that we are entering a period of precipitous decline which will entail ‘brutal tradeoffs’ between starvation and misery for the masses so that elites can continue to eat pomegranates on the river bank. Brutal tradeoffs — think about that.