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2015: the Year that Changed Everything?

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There has been no lack of disasters taking place in 2015. Some can be classified as “natural” others as human caused. In all cases, anyway, they are an indication of the stress felt by the ecosystem and by the economic system at the same time. We are, finally, reaching our limits as we knew we had to, from the time when we were warned, in 1972, by the study titled “The Limits to Growth.”

But not everything was bad in 2015 and, in this post for the end of the year, let’s concentrate on the good things that happened. If we do that, we see that 2015 has been a very special year. Not that any of the big problems we face has been solved; but there is something new going on; something unexpected, but that may give a boost to a new direction that the world may take; a direction that may lead us to a better world. We may be learning something, after all.

So, let me list some of the good things that happened in 2015

– The Papal Encyclical on climate, the “Laudato si'”. This has really been something big. For one thing, it was clear from the way it affected the debate. Mostly, climate scientists, and scientists in general, are no-nonsense people, often atheists or agnostics, rarely churchgoers. So, the arrival of the Pope in the debate took them by surprise: “The Pope? What? Does he agree with us? Really? He said that God orders to us to safeguard the creation….. Eh….?” You can’t imagine how happy these solemn scientists were; like children receiving a Christmas gift in August! But the main effect of the Pope’s encyclical has been on the anti-science camp. They were, clearly, in difficulty. As a reaction, they could have demonized the Pope, saying that he is a communist, or he is possessed by the devil, or something like that. Some weirdos have done exactly that but, by far and large, the mainstream anti-science camp has decided that their best (and probably the only) strategy was to keep a low profile and hope that the “Laudato si'” would be ignored and then forgotten. It wasn’t and it won’t. The effect of the encyclical has been large on the public’s understanding of climate change. It is an effect that’s continuing and that can only increase in the future.

– The COP21 climate conference in Paris. I know that many people say that not enough has been obtained, which is true. But it is also true that the conference has been a success mainly in showing the marginality of the anti-science camp. They had spent so much money trying to demonize science and scientists, trying to ridicule climate science, spreading various conspiracy legends and then, what? They found that the delegations of 190 countries in Paris declared that climate change is real, it is human made, and something must be made to stop it. Now, think about that: if you were in their shoes, how would you feel? That’s the main reason why the Paris conference was a remarkable success. It was just a first step, of course, but you can’t go anywhere without a first step!

– The new perception of the need of clean energy. This year has seen a true explosion in the endorsements of renewable energy. A set of technologies that once were seen as just toys for Green Nerds, now are increasingly seen not just part of the solution of the problem of climate change, but THE solution. Among those who came out strongly in favor of renewable energy in 2015, I can cite Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Klare, Naomi Oreskes, Bill Gates, and, yes, the Pope himself! True, not everyone has understood exactly the terms of the problem. Some, like Bill Gates, still think that renewables need to be substantially improved before being deployed, without realizing how pressing is the need of the renewable transition. Others have understood that energy is the problem, but they picked up the wrong solution: nuclear energy – as James Hansen and others did. Within some limits, it is an understandable mistake on the part of people who are not energy experts, but, at least, they understood the need of producing energy. This is the real change in perception: we are moving from a perception that sees emission reductions as the priority to a perception that sees clean energy production as the priority. If we can manage to produce clean renewable energy at a cost lower than fossil energy, then we’ll move to renewables without the need of laws, treaties, and special taxes (and we can do that, already!)

– The collapse of the oil markets. At first sight, low oil prices would seem to be exactly the opposite of what we need to fight climate change. But that’s not the case: think that we have been telling people that we need to “leave oil in the ground” without much success, so far. But now low prices are doing the job for us by making extraction unprofitable! The low oil prices of 2015 show the impossibility for the market to keep producing from expensive (and dirty) sources such as shale oil. As a consequence, the shale oil industry giving out its death rattle and we are facing the start of the terminal decline of the world’s oil production. That will carry with it the decline of all fossil fuel production. The importance of this event can hardly be underestimated. It means that the decline in emissions is likely to be much more rapid than anything that was even vaguely imagined at the COP21 in Paris and that the scenarios contemplated in the INDCs (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) will soon be as obsolete as flying cars and nuclear water boilers. The emission decline could even take the shape of a “Seneca Collapse” that might stop the growth of greenhouse gas concentrations short of the dreaded climate “tipping point”. That would surely be a good thing but, of course, a Seneca collapse of the world’s energy production would be a major disaster in itself; possibly able to destroy the world’s economic system. But there is a middle way: the Seneca effect could help us manage to sharply curtail fossil fuels use, but not so much that we would be left without the resources needed to build a new energy system based on renewables. It is difficult, but not impossible, as shown by quantitative calculations.

Of course, things might go wrong in other ways. For instance, a major war could push up the need of fuels and cause the oil industry to restart extracting resources that a market economy cannot extract. It is possible, indeed, that the current drive for war is the result of exactly this kind of considerations. Nevertheless, war is not unavoidable and, if we manage to avoid it, then 2015 may be remembered as the year when everything changed. A year of hope!

Cassandra’s legacy by Ugo Bardi  

39 Comments on "2015: the Year that Changed Everything?"

  1. ghung on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 1:24 pm 

    “There has been no lack of disasters taking place in 2015.”

    Add at least one more. I’m watching “The Address; Dubai’s finest 5-star Hotel” go up in flames on CNN. Seems everyone got out, but a lot of rich peoples’ stuff is getting cooked. Officials are saying that Dubai’s world-renowned fireworks show is still planned for midnight (about 40 minutes), with a burning skyscraper in the background. Hot time in Dubai tonight, eh?

    Crazy freakin’ world.

  2. onlooker on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 1:30 pm 

    Another feel good article. It seems their is an inverse equation working here. The more bad stuff happens, the more feel good articles appear. Wonder why? Maybe as AP has always maintained we fire apes/monkeys just want to feel good and damn reality.

  3. penury on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 1:33 pm 

    The items which he highlights as hopeful signs are complete and utter BS nothing in anything mentioned will haver any effect upon the wheels coming off. All you doomers (me included) should really enjoy 2016.

  4. Go Speed Racer on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 2:15 pm 

    2015 was a year that did not change anything. it was just more downhill ski slope.

  5. shortonoil on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 2:33 pm 

    “True, not everyone has understood exactly the terms of the problem. Some, like Bill Gates, still think that renewables need to be substantially improved before being deployed, without realizing how pressing is the need of the renewable transition.”

    Few people realize how desperate the situation is getting. I seems very likely that what we have now, and what is built in the next five years will be most of what we have for a long, long time.

  6. pennsyguy on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 2:46 pm 

    The 19th Century ended–its spirit, ethos,zeitgeist?–in 1914 and the 20th ended in 2008. It’s a new world, even if the posers-that-be pretend it isn’t.

  7. Apneaman on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 3:07 pm 

    Sometimes professor Ugo sounds like every other professional optimist. Let’s see what the hopey changey POTUS was up to behind the scenes at the same time he was making all the hopey changy COP21 speeches.

    During Paris Climate Summit, Obama Signed Exxon-, Koch-Backed Bill Expediting Pipeline Permits

  8. onlooker on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 3:24 pm 

    Yes AP, they are like magicians in the sense they work with deception and distraction. Look at my hand here and do not pay attention over there to my other hand haha.

  9. Apneaman on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 3:45 pm 

    The Scariest News Story of 2016

    “Correct. The scariest news story of 2016 is already in. Saudi Arabia is starting to come apart, and when its unscheduled rapid disassembly is a little farther along, the Industrial Age will come to an end.”

  10. onlooker on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 4:36 pm 

    This in fact may be the scariest News story of 2016:
    Hunger threatens millions as El Niño causes drought and floods

  11. Rodster on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 5:30 pm 

    “War, Terrorism and the Global Economic Crisis in 2015: Ninety-nine Interrelated Concepts”

  12. onlooker on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 5:40 pm 

    Thanks for that link Rodster. Quite informative and revealing. Much of it I was aware of but very well distilled and summarized for any wishing to learn about the “real” state of the world.

  13. makati1 on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 6:50 pm 

    Well covered, guys. Nothing to add.

  14. JuanP on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 7:08 pm 

    Professor Bardi has written some good stuff in the past, but his writing style changed after he published his book, and now he pretends to be an optimist. I wonder why? I now skip most of his articles. After reading the cmments here and that last phrase, “2015 the year of hope”, I couldn’t even start reading this one. You just saved me five minutes, thank you, guys!

  15. adonis on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 8:45 pm 

    ‘rage rage against the dying of the light’

  16. Apneaman on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 9:03 pm 

    Amidst Disasters Around the World, Top Scientists Declare Links Between Extreme Weather and Climate Change

    “Andy Lee Robinson said it all-too-well — “El Nino + Climate Change = El Diablo.”

    And as the Washington Post so cogently notes — the world is now experiencing a rash of Freakish Weather from the North Pole to South America. It’s what appears to be happening as these two major record weather makers fire off simultaneously. A grim tally that includes the highest river levels ever seen in Missouri, the worst floods England has seen since the Middle Ages, the first time the North Pole has seen significantly above freezing temperatures during Winter in modern record keeping, city and region-crippling droughts spanning Central and South America, and seemingly everywhere, but especially in the North Atlantic where Greenland melt outflow has backed up the Gulf Stream, storms that seem to laugh in the face of our weather history.”

  17. theedrich on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 9:17 pm 

    Another current sample of great Mohammedan culture:  in the last two hours of 2015, before midnight on New Year’s eve, the 63-story, five-star, luxury Address Hotel in the Emirate of Dubai (United Arab Emirate) caught fire due to some unknown cause.  Not far away, downwind, was the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, ready to set off a gorgeous display of fireworks to blast off the New Year of 2016.

    Any civilized (i.e., White) country would have canceled or at least postponed the fireworks spectacle.  But not Dubai.  Ignoring the massive blaze, its high command ordered the glorious festival of whiz-bang to start on schedule.  Given that Dubai was constructed in part with some of the trillions of dollars supposedly meant for the build-up of Afghanistan, the oil-rich camel jockeys wanted to show how snazzy they were.  The pyrotechnics proceeded on schedule, even though they were frequently obscured by the smoke from the conflagration.

    Following their masters’ orders, the Dubai media focussed primarily on the fireworks, giving short shrift to any news about the flaming hotel.  (Undoubtedly they have learnt from the American media, which suppress any news which might tarnish the image of the ruling class.)  While pieces of fiery debris were falling on the surrounding residential area, no news was emitted about any possible loss of life;  only 16 people were said to have suffered injuries, 14 of them minor ones.  There were assurances that all was well and that the disaster was 90% “under control.”  (In America, “under control” means that a fire is OUT, and fire personnel are able to search the burnt building looking for bodies.)  The blaze will continue for days, according to U.S. experts.  But the esteemed emirate must keep up pretenses.

    And it was indeed a fantastic media stunt.  Perhaps the locals considered the enormous hotel blaze as part of the New Year show, itself otherwise the most spectacular in the world.  Fun-seekers apparently found the celebratory pyrotechnics much enhanced by the destruction of the hotel.  In any case, the Mohammedan show had to go on, and the masses agreed, clapping and greatly enjoying the extravaganza.  See what fun it all is, sheeplings?  Almost as good as a public beheading.  A hotel turned into a midnight furnace:  an added treat.

  18. Apneaman on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 10:22 pm 

    Theedouch, that country is what it is, but trying to claim the US is civilized is the stupidest fucking thing you have puked up to date – and you have a fat catalog of retard comments. Any fucked up thing about any muslim country you can find and there’s plenty – I can find 10 for yours.

    Time-lapse video shows how US averaged more than one mass shooting per day in 2015

    Police shot and killed nearly three Americans every day in 2015: report

    Civilized indeed.

    Enjoy your hate filled 2016 loser.

  19. GregT on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 10:47 pm 

    Happy New Years to everyone!

    One more orbit around the Sun. Cheers to you all!

  20. Truth Has A Liberal Bias on Thu, 31st Dec 2015 10:51 pm 

    On a positive note for 2015 I stashed away a shit load more ammo to ad to my hoard. Due to retards like thedouche lurking around on this continent my resolution for 2016 is to hoard more. Won’t even hear the bang.

  21. Apneaman on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 12:25 am 


    “Eighty-five people died in the fire, nearly all of them from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. More than 650 people, including 14 firefighters, were hospitalized.”

    Guess what the rest of Vegas did on that day? Kept right on drinking and gambling and entertainment. Wouldn’t civilized people have postponed their merriment out of respect for the dead and wounded? I have never heard of the world stopping for a building fire, no matter how tragic. Sounds like one more bullshit double standard from theedouch.

  22. Apneaman on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 12:29 am 

    Best of luck in the new year, y’all.

  23. Davy on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 5:30 am 

    What is hope? Hope is so many things. How can we say there is no hope? Hope can be for a few more years of precious life. Hope can be seeing the fruition of an important project. We do have hope even in the face of disaster. We can hope for less pain and suffering. If you give up hope you are giving into the depressions of the mind.

    Nature’s “nature” is hope. It is called survival. If you don’t care about your own care about another. Humans have the option of no hope and it is part of our existential predicament. Our self-consciousness allows a duality of existence that separates us from nature. It creates a denial of death with a drive to control our environment. In extreme cases of modern man it creates the never before seen condition we see in the status quo today and that is a divorce from Nature’s reality.

    We should have hope that the end of the status quo is less painful and deadly. Hope is a choice and we have a choice to make what is coming better or worse. Hope is vital to motivate people in a potential disaster of global proportions. Hope is a vital orientation that is positive within the parameters of reality. Hope should reality test and not create denial narratives. Don’t give up hope or my hope is threatened.

  24. onlooker on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 5:55 am 

    “Hope is a vital orientation that is positive within the parameters of reality. Hope should reality test and not create denial narratives. Don’t give up hope or my hope is threatened.”
    Yes and I think that is a big problem for many that they cling to false or unrealistic hope. In my experience acceptance is a big part of what gives us peace. Be positive, be energetic but do not live in a fantasy world as that will catch up to you.

  25. ohanian on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 6:35 am 

    Relax and enjoy your life. Let’s hope 2016 is the year that mankind comes to its senses. Yeah right!

  26. JuanP on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 6:47 am 

    Onlooker “In my experience acceptance is a big part of what gives us peace.” Wise words! I couldn’t agree more. For me, personally, the big change came when I finally accepted that there was nothing I or anyone else could do to save the biosphere from being obliterated by humanity after fighting this realization for many years.

    On my way to work on the Monarch butterfly Waystations with my wife now. Yesterday I collected hundreds of Milkweed seeds and I am already germinating fifty, this is a continuosly ongoing process. I had five Monarch eggs hatch at home last night. I also planted hundreds of Milkweeds and raised more than a hundred caterpillars last week.

    Am I hopeful that this will help save the Monarchs? Absolutely not! I do feel it is a worthy investment of our energy, time and money anyway though, because of the joy it gives us.

    I would want some board members to help me with this. Please visit
    You can also watch the two video series on the subject Rich Lund has posted on YouTube, “Raising Monarchs” and “Planting Milkweed”

    The fact that humanity’s situation is completely hopeless, no matter what most people might think, doesn’t mean we have to give up the good fight.

  27. dave thompson on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 5:11 pm 

    Interesting that this blaze consuming this steel and concrete structure in Dubai, did not collapse into it’s own foot print as building 7 on 911.

  28. makati1 on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 7:22 pm 

    dave, the laws of physics are ‘exceptionally’ different in the FSofA. Especially in New York City. LOL

  29. Pete Bauer on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 10:42 pm 

    Yes 2015 is the year COP21 was signed by 195 countries and dealt a blow to OPEC countries and also climate change deniers. 2015 could be the hottest year on record overtaking 2014.

    This is the year 1 million Electric & Plugin vehicles were sold.

    This is the year 10 million Hybrid vehicles were sold.

    This is the year 100 million alternative fuel vehicles running on Biofuels, Natgas, LPG, Hybrids, Plugins & Electrics were sold.

    We will carry forward all this achievements into 2016.

  30. JuanP on Fri, 1st Jan 2016 11:02 pm 

    Pete, Electricity is not a fuel.
    “Fuels are any materials that can be made to react so that they release chemical or nuclear energy as heat or to be used for work.”

  31. makati1 on Sat, 2nd Jan 2016 1:05 am 

    Pete, electric cars are already on their way out. too dangerous and expensive to own. They are NOT independent of oil. They cannot exist without oil, natural gas, coal or nuclear that produce the electric to run them.

    Bingo! NOT alternative, just different. A fad of the rich and the wannabee techies. Never amount to more than a temporary interest. No real advantages. None.

    I hope your career is not dependent on tech or investments in tech. I think you are going to be disappointed badly, and soon, if you are.

  32. Welch on Sat, 2nd Jan 2016 10:21 am 

    Look for Doom or look for good. Your choice really. Half full or half empty. We have always faced challenges. So what? Enjoy life it’s very short! Happy New Year!

  33. Apneaman on Sat, 2nd Jan 2016 1:34 pm 

    Welch, you are correct – we have always faced challenges and now we face many the species has never seen before. Good advice though.

  34. Apneaman on Sat, 2nd Jan 2016 1:38 pm 

    Things to be Grateful for in 2015

    “Economists, in their role in peddling Neoclassical/Neoliberal dogma as a great success, need to perennial Panglossians, of course. So, let’s examine some of these tropes in detail as typical of the genre. Maybe I need to start an economics tropes Web site.

    1. The world is becoming more equal. I call this “The Chinese are buying toasters” argument. Sure, Middle America is bombed-out wreck of ghettos, prisons, decrepit homes, and meth labs where lifespans are actually shrinking, but, hey, the Chinese and/or Indians are doing great! Remember kids, the economy is not a zero-sum game!

    2. Even the poor have indoor plumbing! The variants of this argument essentially say that because we do not see people wandering the streets in rags and starving in back alleys, that our economic system is a great success. After all, the argument goes, poor people have things that nobody had in 1750 like indoor plumbing and electricity. Note how low a bar this is. It only started appearing after the 1990’s or so as incomes started to permanently decline. It’s defining success down. Usually, it’s coupled with a defense of the enormous fortunes of the rich, i.e. only by letting them accumulate wealth without bound will such things “trickle down” to the poorest. A perennial favorite among Libertarians.”


  35. onlooker on Sat, 2nd Jan 2016 3:20 pm 

    Fantastic filtering of the hype from the real. Thanks AP for that link it would be funny if it were not sad

  36. Apneaman on Sat, 2nd Jan 2016 6:20 pm 

    Record-Breaking 2015 Temperatures Connected To Ongoing Fish Kill on Mississippi Beaches

    “Although red tides are a natural occurrence along the Gulf Coast, they don’t occur in the winter. The record-breaking temperatures and less than average rainfall have created favorable conditions for the red tide.

    “Nutrients from fertilizer, human wastewater, and animal waste all contribute to increasing severity and duration of red tide events,” Hecker wrote.”

  37. JuanP on Sun, 3rd Jan 2016 6:22 am 

    Uruguay is changing for the better thanks to our moderate socialist government. Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy,
    Thanks to Apnea I found this article which I had missed. Uruguayans can’t take any credit for this because we were just blessed by this natural gift. Most Uruguayans have no idea how lucky they are.

  38. Apneaman on Mon, 4th Jan 2016 9:14 pm 

    California will see a lot more disease-carrying mosquitoes this year, experts say

    “Two types of nonnative mosquitoes that can transmit potentially fatal diseases have spread throughout California, and their populations could explode come spring.

    The mosquitoes’ expansion of territory was largely attributed to abnormally warm weather in the summer and fall.

    “It was quicker and more widespread than any of us could have anticipated,” said Chris Conlan, an ecologist with the San Diego County Vector Control Program.

    The yellow fever mosquito (Aedes aegypti) and Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) can carry diseases linked to birth defects, painful illness and tens of thousands of deaths around the world each year.”

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