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Page added on December 22, 2010

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Simple Thoughts on Risk…and Peak Oil


Consider the following…

Scenario 1. If you were attending a dinner conference tonight with 100 seats and I told you that 1 of the 100 servings would be poisoned with deadly cyanide, would you eat?

Scenario 2. If I told you there was a 1 in 100 probability that the bus you ride to work would be bombed, would you ride it?

Scenario 3. If I told you there was a 1 in 100 probability that North Korea was selling nuclear suitcase bombs to terrorists, would you invade North Korea?

Notice how the successive risks become less clear, although the probabilities remain constant. Also, notice how risk can be mitigated in scenario 1 & 2 by simple avoidance, whereas scenario 3 requires active preventative engagement.

Also, the scenario outcomes differ. In scenario 1, there’s a 100% chance someone will die (assuming full attendance). In scenario 2 & 3, there’s a 99% chance that nobody will die. In scenario 2, your personal lifestyle is directly impacted but the risk is easy to mitigate. In scenario 3, it is unclear who will be affected…but there’s a 1% risk that tens of thousands of innocent people somewhere, sometime will die.

If the government was aware of risks 1 and 2, they’d be expected to take immediate preventative action. But do we, as a society, have the moral authority to take preventative action on a threat that is less clear but more significant (i.e. scenario 3)?

Peak oil and climate change are two examples of unclear yet big risks facing the world. Both are large enough threats to recognize, yet the probabilities are highly unclear.

Nobody has the willpower to tackle problems that aren’t yet tangible. This is a major reason why nothing is being done about peak oil.

5 Comments on "Simple Thoughts on Risk…and Peak Oil"

  1. Rick on Thu, 23rd Dec 2010 1:15 am 

    I agree with this: “Nobody has the willpower to tackle problems that aren’t yet tangible. This is a major reason why nothing is being done about peak oil.”

    But, a lot of people don’t think Peak Oil is real, nor Climate Change. I do. But, that’s another reason nothing is being done. Also, the status quo folks who make billions off of oil/coal/etc have no reason to change.

    Nothing is going to be done, until it’s too late. Personally, it’s too late, right now.

  2. Kenz300 on Thu, 23rd Dec 2010 2:24 am 

    Think of it like insurance….

    We need to move ahead and reduce the risk of a disaster.

  3. jmnemonic on Thu, 23rd Dec 2010 11:15 am 

    I believe the risk of disaster is already 100% and there is no way to reduce it below that point, no matter what we do. That’s the overall situation, from what I can tell. What you can do is move ahead in your personal life and try to reduce the risks of the approaching disaster to YOU. Saving ‘the system’ does not appear to be possible, at least not to me. (And I’m generally a pretty hopeful person!)

  4. norlight on Fri, 24th Dec 2010 3:45 am 

    Despite my personal certainty about peak oil I am taking deliberate incremental steps towards a post carbon life style without taking drastic steps at this time.

  5. Kenz300 on Mon, 27th Dec 2010 7:04 am 

    It is time to start taking steps to reduce our personal energy use and to support a transition to clean, safe alternative energy.

    When oil gets expensive like it was in 2008 ($147/barrel) everyone will be looking for alternatives.

    Wind, solar, geothermal and second generation biofuels will be much more cost competitive going forward.

    Might be time to dust off that bicycle in the garage. I just wish there were safe bicycle paths to ride to work, school or play.

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