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"Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

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"Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby Pops » Sat 27 Nov 2010, 13:06:00

This was discussed at TOD earlier this year, I just got around to reading the full paper:
Tipping Points: Near-Term Systemic Implications of a Peak in Global Oil Production

This is the Overnight Armageddon Scenario updated with lessons from the Great Recession.

The credit crisis exemplifies society's difficulties in the timely management of risks outside our experience or immediate concerns, even when such risks are well signposted. We have passed or are close to passing the peak of global oil production. Our civilisation is structurally unstable to an energy withdrawal. There is a high probability that our integrated and globalised civilisation is on the cusp of a fast and near-term collapse.



Basically the paper outlines the case for a "fast-crash" scenario centered around a collapse in monetary confidence due to peak oil:
The world economy functions on credit, which requires growth to sustain. Once it becomes generally accepted that energy growth and so economic growth have ceased, banks, bondholders, shareholders, etc will realize they will not be repaid their principle (let alone their profits) and world trade will collapse as the "haves" attempt to change their imaginary (soon to be nonexistent) assets into tangibles.

Which brings in the second major topic; the de-localized and globally interdependent economy. Simply put, there is no local economy without global trade since few local businesses today produce anything which isn't, in whole or part, sold into or sourced from the global economy. Once faith in world credit markets evaporate, so will "local" business large and small.

Leading to the final element (in my summary anyway) which is the dependance of the critical on the trivial. We talk here a lot about wasteful consumerism supporting lots of real jobs and this is the same idea applied to the greater infrastructure, i.e.: trivial Facebook (and PO.com) use enables the economy of scale that allows banks, business - infrastructures of all kinds, to function over the internet. Just one other example, cheap chip manufacture for games and refrigerators and cellphones enables cheap, readily available parts for all manner of critical infrastructure; electrical grid, military hardware, etc. The loss of the trivial greatly impacts on the critical.

---
The idea of our self-organized, infinitely interconnected, energy/growth/credit dependent global economy tripping over it's own complexity is my personal default doom scenario. I work hard to keep my optimism up by encouraging self-reliance, localizing and "de-growth" and a variety of fixes - which, unfortunately, are the main targets of the paper:
They [cornucopians and optimists like me] have made suggestions including changing the debt based money system; pricing environmental externalities; reducing the working day; consuming less, controling population, increasing the lifetime of goods. In the context of the current financial crisis they often include some control on financial speculation.


There are way too many authors who spend time arguing their predictions for the future. The best part of this paper in my opinion is the author spends most of his effort outlining possible connections instead of justifying conclusions or selling his version of mitigation.


So anyway at least take a look at the summary, and read the entire paper (50pgs) if you have time and tell us what you think. I'll try to bump this thread now and then so take your time.

Of course, feel free to pull your usual opinion out of your butt without expending any effort but be advised, this thread is about the ramifications of the end of energy/economic growth, therefore "there will be no energy shortage" is off topic and will be deleted.
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-- Abraham Lincoln, Fragment on Government (July 1, 1854)
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby Cog » Sat 27 Nov 2010, 17:25:18

I've spent the afternoon reading the paper and I do have some disagreements with his conclusions. I'm going to re-read it later to make sure I understood fully where he is going with this.

He makes the case that a planned power-down is somewhat impossible. I would not go that far. I would say it probably won't happen and its extremely difficult. What I have seen so far from our political class, the banking system, and corporations is a desperation to keep business as usual going. The bank bailouts in 2008, the midnight meeting with the Congressional leadership, is evidence that instead of letting debt default, and changing our current system, the political class and banking system will do everything it can do to avert that.

There is a great deal of momentum in the global system. His remarks that peak oil/energy can result in a systemic crash is one that I don't buy just yet. There remains a great deal of waste in our use of energy. The political class can pass just about any law you want to envision to cut energy use below oil depletion levels. Yes, this results in unemployment as he correctly pointed out. But you can keep things running for a while with draconian energy conservation laws. People will still go to work if they have a job that is paying to keep them in their house. Even if we go to 30% unemployment/underemployment instead of the currently accepted 17% level, things would not change much for most people who are working.

Instead, what I have envisioned is a stair-step down in quality of life(BAU) with intermittent and more frequent major recessions that are handled with the usual crisis management that leads to short term solutions. Consider recessions every 5 years or every 3 years as common. The end result is grim since nothing is ever really solved and you do end up in a collapse of the current system but I'm thinking a little further down the road then he alludes to.

I will have more to say on this after a re-read of his conclusions but this is my thinking right now.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby Pops » Sat 27 Nov 2010, 18:43:35

Here is an article referenced in the paper (#52), just barely within my grasp,
Early-warning signals for critical transitions (pdf)
The legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves -- in their separate, and individual capacities.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby KingM » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 11:38:52

pstarr wrote:I will have more to say on this after a re-read of his conclusions but this is my thinking right now.
This stair-step down is what John Michael Greer calls "Catabolic Collapse" (I have no idea why?) I believe this is what have been undergoing since the early 1970's when the US peaked (with brief periods of Bubble Economy). Rotten cities, rusty and deteriorating bridges, corroded gas and water systems were just the first steps. The current depression is another stair-step down. How many before we slide over the peak/olduvai cliff forever?[/quote]

This sort of thing could go on for generations as it gets gradually harder to stay in one place by running as hard as we can. It might be that it takes a hundred years before you could look back with any certainty and say, yes, things are definitely worse now than they used to be. After all, there are plenty of people who say the world has never been better and others who think people were richer 50 years ago.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby diemos » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 11:55:27

KingM wrote:It might be that it takes a hundred years before you could look back with any certainty and say, yes, things are definitely worse now than they used to be.


1968 was the peak of general prosperity in the US. In 1968 a man with a high school education could work 40 hours a week on the assembly line and make enough money to support a non-working wife and children. Own a home. Educate his children. Own a car. Afford medical care. Save for retirement.

Can't be done today.

Oh, we definitely have neater gizmos today but the basics are getting farther and farther out of reach.

Its hard to see because we acclimate to whatever conditions we find ourselves in, it just becomes the new normal.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby ian807 » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 11:58:59

I too think there will be a stair step collapse with recession happening every 3 to 5 years due to oil price feedback and derivative-induced monetary collapse until we finally slide into a semi-permanent depression. The bottom line is that the USA and every other country essentially becomes a third world country. If we're collectively smart, the wealthy will be forcibly eliminated to prevent future occurrences of the same type. We're probably not that smart.

Regardless, we have a lot of slack, and a long way to fall. Furthermore, the effect of centuries of industrialization is that there is quite a bit of refined metal and materials floating around. There will be electricity, even if it's in very small amounts made from a a few hundred antique truck alternators being turned by paddle wheels on a river. There are buildings and building materials aplenty. Rocks still exist. Trees will still grow (assuming we don't cut them all down - a real possibility). Steam engines will one again become a popular item. The folks who survive the initial 50 year powerdown/decline won't be living high on the hog (Think rural Mexico), but they'll be living.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby diemos » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 12:02:49

ian807 wrote:There will be electricity, even if it's in very small amounts made from a a few hundred antique truck alternators being turned by paddle wheels on a river.


The existing base of hydro and nuclear isn't going to just disappear. 15 Quads/year in the US.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby Whitefang » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 12:46:23

That tipping points paper might make us feel elevated with them equations, bifurcations.....blablabla....
It is a simple fact anyone with 3 braincells can grasp that we are at the end of the line here.
We are way to late to avert disaster.

Let us summerize:

Climate is over the top, polar icecap broken up last september, methane venting which is an extinction level event by itself. Result is mass extinction, human life by crop failure. Moderate climate down the drain. Warm and cold spells.

Ocean life at risk from acidification, loss of plankton, base from the food chain. Many species already at risk or over the hill, cliff actually. Aridification, widespread loss of ecosystems.

Peakoil and about everything else has happened, no more growth, paper money or stock not backed up, western global empire bankrupt.
Global war on terror, worldly elites using home made fantasy of OBL beating Pentagon with knife and cellphone from cave , arming themselves against locals to hold palace and Benz. Using fear to make people give up car and mass consumption, their priviliges and freedom. The end game starting with global fin.crisis, riots and Gulags, FEMA camps for the whole family, with playgrounds for the little happy campers!
Also plastic coffins for the dead where the chipped bodies can be transported to the local mass grave, RIP.
Our management east and west, have been extremely busy making preps for peakoil and the life after, only 911 involves a great deal of planning for the future, London bombings, Madrid etc etc.....the whole economy ponzy scheme, wars in Africa, Middle East, Far East....idiocy that takes tonnes of energy and did accelerate that human die off-tipping point by years.


Thing is how much time before it hits? months, years?
Indeed a large system, so hopefully more than a few months, cannot see it peacefull for another 5 years.....best guess 2 or 3 years, then finally the civil war out in the open.
After disregarding the obvious we get anger, frustration and fear, the mess will be enormous, no planned cut down in steps, no order beyond the green zones. The boys oversea will take the fight home, shoot terrorists in the US instead faraway places, maybe the smart ones will turn thier guns on our masters.
Will take a long time before our state enemies, traitors are killed.
No more traffic jams.....clean air.....less people, who knows what good might come from all that shit hitting the fan?
Last edited by Whitefang on Sun 28 Nov 2010, 13:04:39, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby Whitefang » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 13:08:59

Whitefang wrote:That tipping points paper might make us feel elevated with them equations, bifurcations.....blablabla....
It is a simple fact anyone with 3 braincells can grasp that we are at the end of the line here.
We are way to late to avert disaster.

Let us summerize:

Climate is over the top, polar icecap broken up last september, methane venting which is an extinction level event by itself. Result is mass extinction, human life by crop failure. Moderate climate down the drain. Warm and cold spells.

Ocean life at risk from acidification, loss of plankton, base from the food chain. Many species already at risk or over the hill, cliff actually. Aridification, widespread loss of ecosystems.
Hey, even ol'Hoover going down by 2013
hoover-dam-could-stop-generating-electricity-as-soon-as-2013-t59557.html

Peakoil and about everything else has happened, no more growth, paper money or stock not backed up, western global empire bankrupt.
Global war on terror, worldly elites using home made fantasy of OBL beating Pentagon with knife and cellphone from cave , arming themselves against locals to hold palace and Benz. Using fear to make people give up car and mass consumption, their priviliges and freedom. The end game starting with global fin.crisis, riots and Gulags, FEMA camps for the whole family, with playgrounds for the little happy campers!
Also plastic coffins for the dead where the chipped bodies can be transported to the local mass grave, RIP.
Our management east and west, have been extremely busy making preps for peakoil and the life after, only 911 involves a great deal of planning for the future, London bombings, Madrid etc etc.....the whole economy ponzy scheme, wars in Africa, Middle East, Far East....idiocy that takes tonnes of energy and did accelerate that human die off-tipping point by years.


Thing is how much time before it hits? months, years?
Indeed a large system, so hopefully more than a few months, cannot see it peacefull for another 5 years.....best guess 2 or 3 years, then finally the civil war out in the open. 2012/2013 will be critical I suppose.
After disregarding the obvious we get anger, frustration and fear, the mess will be enormous, no planned cut down in steps, no order beyond the green zones. The boys oversea will take the fight home, shoot terrorists in the US instead faraway places, maybe the smart ones will turn thier guns on our masters.
Will take a long time before our state enemies, traitors are killed.
No more traffic jams.....clean air.....less people, who knows what good might come from all that shit hitting the fan?
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby Cid_Yama » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 13:48:39

We already have a good example of what will happen, in the form of Pakistan prior to the flood. (The flood took a large segment off the grid and they will never return.)

Prior to the flood, large segments of Pakistan were simply cut off the grid. These areas were the poorer sections and they would go days without power, then as things hit the boiling point, the power would miraculously come back on just long enough for things to calm back down, then be cut again.

You will see riots, but people will still need to eat and those that still have jobs will continue to go to work.

There will be no public protection of property rights (except for the wealthiest communities) and you will own what you can hold on to.

Nigerian and Somali warlords are a good example of this. You will see in this country something like the 1930's Chicago gangsters rise again as blackmarkets in all manner of hard to acquire goods thrives.

Those already running blackmarket networks in illegal items such as drugs and guns will be well placed to step into these roles as their merchandise list grows.

Much of the organized crime that already exists in the shadows, will suddenly become a visible structure as law enforcement and governance ceases to be evident.
"For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst and provide for it." - Patrick Henry

The level of injustice and wrong you endure is directly determined by how much you quietly submit to. Even to the point of extinction.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby Whitefang » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 14:46:57

After grid goes down here in lowlands.....panic...chaos. looting stores, army trying to control masses.
Known for a decade this were in the bottle, been busy watching ultimate survivor! hihi, more words than action, stupid me. I am outnumbered, clearly unable to defend my house here.

Solution is surely to go North to boreal forest, if needed live of the land until things are safe to settle.
My ideal place near Birkenhead lake, take the road left after the Devine transfer station.......great spot for basecamp before North, if needed. They do have an Energy Resilience Task Force in the region Squamish-Lillooet. Got the books, maps, plans, some tools to stay alive. Best place on earth to weather the storm.
Last edited by Whitefang on Sun 28 Nov 2010, 15:26:26, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby Pops » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 15:12:56

With another read, I've keyed in on the idea that the "collapse" can be all 3 shapes depending on the time scale and proximity of the viewer to a particular "process".

Image

The scales and plot here mean nothing except to illustrate losing 100k constructions jobs (for example) only matter if you are one of the 100k over the cliff - they don't even show up in the long view except as part of the trend.

---
The existing base of hydro and nuclear isn't going to just disappear. 15 Quads/year in the US.


This is a very important idea from the paper:
In the energy-economic environment so far discussed, this process goes into reverse. The rising prices of goods (because of the energy and resource cost, supply-chain and money risk reasons) and reduced discretionary income reduces the number of goods sold, reducing broader economies of scale, feeding back into the rising cost of goods, reducing further the number of sales. This dynamic is expected to be most forceful for the most advanced technologies.
For example, as fewer users can afford to replace mobile phones or computers, or use them less, the cost of the personal hardware and maintaining the network rises per user. Rising costs mean less discretionary use. But because common IT platforms require a large number of users, and economies of scale support the most discretionary use (say Facebook, texting, and Playstation) and the more important uses (business operations, banking, electric grid emergency services), the cost for businesses and critical services begins to escalate.

And because our supply-chains are so complex and globalised, we may not be able to import important [parts/supplies?] even if we had something to exchange. For our supplier may have lost some critical inputs into its supply-chain, or lost its operational, social, or informational capacity locally. This means that local supply-chain failures quickly become globalised.


And not too far fetched, from Supply Chain News:
The Wall Street Journal quotes Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial in Chicago, as saying that "The earthquake that we felt [Great Recession] was so big, and the aftershocks so strong, that we could easily destroy perfectly good manufacturers that are crucial in the supply chain," such as auto-parts makers that supply the entire industry. That's the great danger, and it's still a risk."


So imagine the weak link at the power plant this time is the chip that controls the turbine speed (same chip that is now out of production because the maker also sold millions to a now bankrupt playstation mfgr) and next time it's the remote controlled switch that used to be mfgd for cell phones, etc.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby americandream » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 15:56:57

Cog

I'ld suggest you recommend a planned powerdown to anyone who runs a business and take note of the response. :lol:
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby americandream » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 16:02:28

Cid_Yama wrote:We already have a good example of what will happen, in the form of Pakistan prior to the flood. (The flood took a large segment off the grid and they will never return.)

Prior to the flood, large segments of Pakistan were simply cut off the grid. These areas were the poorer sections and they would go days without power, then as things hit the boiling point, the power would miraculously come back on just long enough for things to calm back down, then be cut again.

You will see riots, but people will still need to eat and those that still have jobs will continue to go to work.

There will be no public protection of property rights (except for the wealthiest communities) and you will own what you can hold on to.

Nigerian and Somali warlords are a good example of this. You will see in this country something like the 1930's Chicago gangsters rise again as blackmarkets in all manner of hard to acquire goods thrives.

Those already running blackmarket networks in illegal items such as drugs and guns will be well placed to step into these roles as their merchandise list grows.

Much of the organized crime that already exists in the shadows, will suddenly become a visible structure as law enforcement and governance ceases to be evident.


Curiously enough, market commentators have noted the emergence of rudimentary markets from the chaos of Somalia (as a rising class of surplus owners seek more sophisitcated applications of said surplus.) This tendency mirrors the rise of the market from the chaos of feudal Europe. Consequently, I am not sure that Somalia will be the model for a post capitalist planet on a terminal trajectory with the activity of accumulation.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 16:39:27

8) From the executive summary in the paper.
"We are at the cusp of rapid and severely disruptive changes. From now on the risk of entering a collapse must be considered significant and rising. The challenge is not about how we introduce energy infrastructure to maintain the viability of the systems we depend upon, rather it is how we deal with the consequences of not having the energy and other resources to maintain those same systems. Appeals towards localism, transition initiatives, organic food and renewable energy production, however laudable and necessary, are totally out of scale to what is approaching.
There is no solution, though there are some paths that are better and wiser than others. This is a societal issue, there is no „other‟ to blame, but the responsibility belongs to us all. What we require is rapid emergency planning coupled with a plan for longer-term adaptation."

This is a bit of truth that escapes many here. No group planned this to rip you off. The rich will lose all just as you will.


The diatribes such as this." Whitefang
Peakoil and about everything else has happened, no more growth, paper money or stock not backed up, western global empire bankrupt.
Global war on terror, worldly elites using home made fantasy of OBL beating Pentagon with knife and cellphone from cave , arming themselves against locals to hold palace and Benz. Using fear to make people give up car and mass consumption, their priviliges and freedom. The end game starting with global fin.crisis, riots and Gulags, FEMA camps for the whole family, with playgrounds for the little happy campers!
Also plastic coffins for the dead where the chipped bodies can be transported to the local mass grave, RIP.
Our management east and west, have been extremely busy making preps for peakoil and the life after, only 911 involves a great deal of planning for the future, London bombings, Madrid etc etc.....the whole economy ponzy scheme, wars in Africa, Middle East, Far East....idiocy that takes tonnes of energy and did accelerate that human die off-tipping point by years."

are a waste of time.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby diemos » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 17:40:57

Pops wrote:So imagine the weak link at the power plant this time is the chip that controls the turbine speed


It's a valid point but I suspect that the power plants will be high enough priority that a fix will be implemented. We had turbines and nukes before there were microchips.

What worries me is that we've computerized everything. When the payment networks stop processing everyone's card swipe. When all of the record keeping stops working. It'll be an amazing kerfuffle to go back to the old ways of doing things.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby vtsnowedin » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 18:05:52

:( I've gotta say Pops that is one depressing paper and I didn't much care for the writing style as well. Another fine example of polysyllabic verbal diarrhea.
I would have preferred it to give some examples of the chain reaction declines they envision rather then just speak in generalities.
Sometime soon we will have to get into the nuts and bolts of decline so we can begin to make plausible predictions of conditions a few months or a few years ahead. Just saying that the whole world is going to go to S*** in a hurry some time soon isn't much help for those that plan on giving it their best shot.
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Re: "Tipping Points" paper (Overnight Armageddon)

Unread postby Pops » Sun 28 Nov 2010, 18:08:31

diemos wrote:
Pops wrote:So imagine the weak link at the power plant this time is the chip that controls the turbine speed


It's a valid point but I suspect that the power plants will be high enough priority that a fix will be implemented.

Yea, I'm sure it would get fixed, too, we'd plug in some $1,000 part or custom build a $100k part.

It may be a poor analogy but I'm sure you can see the solution wouldn't be to simply rebuild the grid back to where it was in 1952. The point is, the lack of a once-common $10 chip shuts down the billion-dollar-a-day grid for a week because the playstation maker who once bought millions went broke.

The whole thing has grown together - independently, all the tech, all the distribution, all the money, it all said "hey, there's a niche" and filled it. Then along came a problem and the solution was already there, just plug and play.
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