Some notes on the worst-case scenario

We are looking at an administration that is very clearly being operated on behalf of carbon extraction industries.

There is a huge asset bubble tied up in uncombustable fossil fuels -- the carbon bubble. In addition, there is a base of approximately $70Tn ($70,000 billion--let that sink in for a moment) of installed infrastructure for processing fossil fuels and petrochemicals [...] It follows logically that if you have heavily invested in fossil fuels, time is running out to realize a return on your investment. Buying a US administration tailored to maximize ROI while fighting a rear-guard action against action on climate change and roll-out of a new, rival energy infrastructure is therefore rational (in business terms). Russia and the Putin angle is best understood as part of this. [...]

Note that climate change denialism is a flag of convenience for the folks at the top. It's a loyalty oath and a touchstone: they don't necessarily believe it, but it's very convenient to fervently preach it in public if you want to continue to turn a profit.

If you believe in anthropogenic climate change but dare not admit it, you cannot be seen to do anything obvious to remediate it. But there is one remediation tactic you can deploy deniably: genocide.

We are on course to hit 10 billion people by the end of the 21st century, and although the second derivative of the curve of population increase is flat, our peak population won't begin to decline at this rate until well into the 22nd century. [...]

While the gas chambers and extermination camps of the Final Solution get the most attention, people tend to forget that a large chunk of Hitler's plan for conquest, Generalplan Ost, relied in the short term on the Hunger Plan -- to kill 20-30 million people in Eastern Europe and Russia by systematically stealing their food. [...]

But the Neo-Nazi International won't need death camps in the 2020s to 2030s if their goal is to cut the world population by, say, 50%. Climate change and a clampdown on international travel will do the job for them. [...]

Never say Nazis don't learn the lessons of history. This time round, the Final Solution to Anthropogenic Climate change will be entirely deniable! There are no gas chambers or Einsatzgruppen involved: any bullets will be fired by autonomous robots, without a human finger on the trigger, and will be an automatic reaction to an attempted border crossing, so not the fault of the perpetrators. The victims will have only themselves to blame, for being born in the wrong place, in the wrong century, and for failing to adapt, and for starving themselves, and for inviting the attention of the border patrol drones. It will be a slow-motion atrocity on a scale that dwarfs the Holocaust. And it is the logical conclusion of the policies our new fascist international overlords appear to be working towards implementing.

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31 Responses:

  1. A little something to brighten your day,

  2. Cthulhu's Dad says:

    Request: that the "grim meathook future" tag be changed to "grim meathook present".

    It's arrived.

  3. tfb says:

    The trouble with that article is that it suffers badly from the myth of competence. This is the assumption that, although no-one has ever had first-hand experience of a large organization -- still less a government -- which was competent, such organisations exist, 'just over there' somewhere. They don't, of course: the Trump administration does not consist of evil geniuses with masterplans which they are in the process of executing, it consists of evil people of course, but they are blundering around like everyone else failing to even formulate an evil masterplan. Indeed, all the evidence seems to be that they are evil buffoons who can't spell very well: they are probably not even competent to understand what a masterplan is.

    Of course the myth of competence answer to this is that they are merely hiding behind this facade of incompetence. There's no good answer to that.

    [Note: competent organisations can exist in fact, but only if they are either very small or large and very young and with a well-defined goak: NASA put people on the Moon, but quite soon after that chaos descended.]

    • dzm says:

      You don't need a vast conspiracy to facilitate a massive die-off. In fact, as time goes on, you increasingly need a vast conspiracy to prevent one. Benign neglect will do just fine to kill off an awful lot of biomass.

      • tfb says:

        I completely agree: the business-as-usual scenario for our civilisation is an extinction event (probably not of humans, quite). What I meant was that I think Charlie's theory that

        [...] the following scenario assumes that what we are witnessing is deliberate and planned and that the people in Trump's inner circle actually have a coherent objective they are working towards

        is wrong however.

        • dzm says:

          Yeah, I think I was agreeing with you inarticulately. The only additional value (if someone was kind enough to describe it that way) is that the end-point of the article is achievable without it being some 3D-chess-master-move but rather as the eventual outcome of business-as-usual.

    • Thomas Lord says:

      The trouble with that article is that it suffers badly from the myth of competence.

      Ugh. Please, no.

      No genocide in history has been "competent" in the sense of being some complicated act of unimaginable technocrats. Every case is both deliberate, led by bunglers, and nevertheless all too successful.

      Genocides exploit pre-existing fault-lines in society. They persuade factions within society, ones with relatively more power than their neighbors, that brutality is free to proceed. That alone is enough to do most of the work, I think. It is a distributed, decentralized free-for-all.

      You may hear a lot about nazi concentration camps with elaborate record keeping and IBM-assisted databases to help the round-ups but don't forget that, in the end, this was incompetent. They conducted the war badly and lost. The incompetence was no obstacle to genocide, though.

      And the technocratic fetish is not a necessary component. For example, one today still learns of east Europe towns where, on hearing the nazis would arrive soon, non-Jews proactively rounded up and slaughtered their Jewish neighbors. Simple as that.

      In Rwanda, incitement via radio was enough to do much of the work.

      Trump's executive orders haven't even really been digested into the system and yet just knowing their general tone, in many situations, police and immigration officials changed their behavior for the worse almost overnight -- improvising locally.

      Right now every single business worm in the U.S. who has been carrying resentment over plans thwarted by environmental regulation is now proactively launching a counter-attack. They will improvise. They will self-organize and compare notes and in rare cases where it is necessary they'll come in groups to D.C. to ask for and receive any last minute overturns of this or that rule or regulation.

      I can't think of a single case in which genocide has not been accomplished mostly by incitement, salted with just a little, ordinary technical help.

      Lastly, it would be foolish that those doing the incitement don't know the likely effect, or don't count it among their goals. If nothing else, you now (should) know that the likes of oil executives have been actively circulating and keeping hidden from the public their assessments of climate change.

      • tfb says:

        I'm not sure you are disagreeing with me: I think we both disagree with the original article. In particular I emphatically do not believe that genocide requires competence: since genocides have happened & I don't believe in large-scale competence I obviously can't believe they require competence. I also believe that the the default option for the next 50-100 years is genocide, whether or not we call it that. So I am not saying that because they are not competent there will be no genocide: there will.

        What I don't believe is that the Trump administration are supervillains with a secret masterplan. Villains, certainly, but people who can't spell don't formulate masterplans. There are no supervillains, in fact: they're a myth we like to believe to explain how things are so awful, but in fact things become awful all on their own without them. And we need to know who the real enemy is and stop pretending there is a conspiracy.

        • Thomas Lord says:

          What I don't believe is that the Trump administration are supervillains with a secret masterplan.

          You've never met any such people, I gather.

          Well, in any event, even the public information before you should give you pause. You know about tobacco companies plotting mass deaths. You know about car manufacturers doing that. You've heard recently about oil companies doing same. This only scratches the surface. You should see how corporations behave in poorer areas where scrutiny is low.

          These asses plot mass extermination routinely, as a matter of habit, explicitly, knowingly, in the course of their ordinary business. In their own social milieu, this is considered something like "realism".

          > "but people who can't spell don't formulate masterplans"

          Nobody needs masterplans when the unfolding of events requires constant improvisation, and everyone in the room already agrees as to the broad outlines of strategy.

          > There are no supervillains,

          Even just sticking to uncontroversial, banal accounts of the facts, you can't uphold that position. That's some real Annie "Sun'll come out tomorrow" strangeness, there.

          > And we need to know who the real enemy is

          The working class, who give rise to those shits. Ourselves.

          • tfb says:

            You've never met any such people, I gather.

            No. But I've worked places (investment banks in the run-up to 2008) where, although I wouldn't expect to have met them, I would expect to have met people who had met them, and I never did: there was no evidence of anything but blundering incompetence.

            And my inference is that there is never anything but blundering incompetence: I don't expect you to agree with me on this.

          • James says:

            These people are less than incompetent. They are existing parasitically on the fading last-gasp largesse of the obsoleted fossil fuel industry, and I think they know it. There are a lot of reasons to be afraid of them, but climate change is not in the top five, because the market is moving on without them.

            • nooj says:

              Wow, those graphs are relentlessly awful. Graphs like this teach people to be data-illiterate and make bad choices.

              The first one is straight-up speculation. You showed us a graph where someone decided your pet energy sources get cheaper (wind, solar), and others remain constant (coal, ccgt). As if a massive and intelligent industry like coal, which clearly has price fluctuations, would remain stagnant in the face of competition.

              The second one is some data that has little, if any, long-term effect on consumer prices per kilowatt-hour. Also, why are the dots connected in a line graph? Whoever did that needs to concentrate less on the graph looking cool and more on faithful representation of data.

              The third one is completely mental, with no source and no data points. Talk about a meaningless graph! Someone literally plotted an exponential curve and put "today" kind of in the middle. Which, incidentally, is exactly what Bloomberg did above.

              • James says:

                If you didn't like those, you'll hate this one:

                The only one of these four I did is the wind extrapolation, which is based on data from 2006 through 2012. It's remarkable because the green dashed line are 95% confidence intervals of prediction. I've never seen data from human activity which fits an exponential so closely.

                Coal has already been cost-cutting in the face of competition from wind, since 1995 in fact, when they entered a competitive equilibrium in Appalachia. Where where are they going to cut costs? Solar just undercut coal this month in India, where they have the least regulated coal of all the nations with more than 20 million people. And solar is only going to get cheaper as patents expire and aqueous phase precursor wash manufacturing goes commercial.

                What do you think the fourth BP graph in this post above is going to look like in 2025?

                • nooj says:

                  Way to join me in a conversation, and yet fail to address any of the concerns I raised.

                  What do you think the fourth BP graph in this post above is going to look like in 2025?

                  Since its assumptions are completely divorced from the vagaries of reality, I expect it to be conveniently forgotten, and look like spices swirling around in a bit bucket soup.

                  • James says:

                    >>> The third one is completely mental, with no source and no data points.

                    >> The only one of these four I did is the wind extrapolation, which is based on data from 2006 through 2012.

                    > Way to join me in a conversation, and yet fail to address any of the concerns I raised.

                    Let me know if you figure it out.

                  • nooj says:

                    You idiot.

                    Question 1: What is your data source? Is it fictional data? Observed data? From where? Is it published somewhere or otherwise verifiable?

                    Question 2: What reason do you have to assume that because past data fits an exponential, that future data should also fit? For how long?

                  • James says:

                    This is the source, which has since been updated here, which is in turn sourced to this document.

                    I created the graph this way:

                    R version 2.10.1 (2009-12-14)
                    Copyright (C) 2009 The R Foundation for Statistical Computing
                    ....
                    > gwpc <- c(6.1, 7.6, 10.2, 13.6, 17.4, 23.9, 31.1, 39.4, 47.6, 59, 74.1, 93.8, 120.3, 158.7, 194.4)
                    > year <- 1996:2010
                    > lgwc <- log(gwpc)
                    > lpm <- lm(lgwc ~ year)
                    > summary(lpm)

                    Call:
                    lm(formula = lgwc ~ year)

                    Residuals:
                    Min 1Q Median 3Q Max
                    -0.079265 -0.033340 -0.004355 0.018393 0.095745

                    Coefficients:
                    Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)
                    (Intercept) -4.908e+02 6.524e+00 -75.22 <2e-16 * * *
                    year 2.468e-01 3.257e-03 75.77 <2e-16 * * *
                    ---
                    Signif. codes: 0 ‘* * ’ 0.001 ‘ *’ 0.01 ‘*’ 0.05 ‘.’ 0.1 ‘ ’ 1

                    Residual standard error: 0.05451 on 13 degrees of freedom
                    Multiple R-squared: 0.9977, Adjusted R-squared: 0.9976
                    F-statistic: 5741 on 1 and 13 DF, p-value: < 2.2e-16

                    > new <- data.frame(year = seq(1996, 2030, 1))
                    > pred <- predict(lpm, new, interval = "prediction")
                    > epm <- exp(pred)
                    > matplot(new$year, epm, lty = c(1, 3, 3), col = c("black", "green", "green"), type = "l", ylab = "gigawatts", ylim=c(0,40000), xlab="year", xlim=c(1996, 2030), main="global cumulative wind extrapolation")

                    Why don't you try the same procedure with the new data and see what the confidence intervals of prediction look like?

                    To answer your second question, all but one of the curves on the BP graph fit exponentials very well. Of course it's going to be a sigmoid.

                    I answered your question, so you answer mine: What do you think coal, gas, and nuclear are going to do after 2025?

                  • James says:

                    Here's the new one:

                    Looks like we lost a couple terawatts by 2025 and 0.0017 of degree of freedom-adjusted r-squared. Brace for impact!

                  • nooj says:

                    What do you think the fourth BP graph in this post above is going to look like in 2025?

                    My speculations: Solar's growth will be quickly limited by our ability to install infrastructure on a scale large enough to compete with coal's current output. You're predicting three orders of magnitude increase in the next ten years! No way.

                    (I don't know what BP stands for (box plot? British Petroleum? Bloomberg something?) so I'll comment generally on all your graphs, and specifically on the "Energy produced (Mtoe)" graph.)

                    The energy output for each of solar, wind, and biofuels will remain well below nuclear (in 2025).

                    Recall you're looking at a logarithmic graph. Solar looks like it's going gangbusters, but that's because the numbers for coal, oil, and gas are ridiculously huge, and will continue to increase plenty fast.

                    I'll end by saying, overall, I don't believe you are wrong to predict non-fossil-fuel energy sources are being welcomed by "the market." Every energy reseller out there is as happy to suck on the electric nipple labeled "solar" as the nipple labeled "coal", if they could negotiate a cheaper contract for it.

                    I just hate your graphs and overuse of exponential growth. Your models aren't sophisticated enough to support the predictions you're trying to make.

                • Psychophysicist says:

                  "It's remarkable because the green dashed line are 95% confidence intervals of prediction."

                  In that case you should reject the exponential model out of hand because the fitted data falls outside the prediction interval far more than 95%.

                  • James says:

                    Which data fall outside the prediction interval? You mean the new, revised 2014 source with data through 2013? Many of the figures were revised in that source, not just the most recent. Both the 2011 source with data through 2010 and the new source fall in their prediction intervals.

                    Of course I'm not happy that the new projection for 2030 falls just at the lower end of the prediction interval for the old projection for 2030.

                    However, I think critics of these projections are failing to account for two important factors. One being the law of supply and demand, and its implication for competing services one of which is supply-limited and the other of which is not. Seriously, have you seen how much further oil rigs have to go off shore each year? And fracking is a temporary gain which is going to shock those who have been depending on it far more than the gradual price increase of dwindling supply. Secondly, at that time, I think governments especially in the developing world will find little use for respecting the latest solar cell manufacturing patents, and I doubt that anyone will have access to inspect the infringing production facilities.

                    I am really worried about a lot of things, but the time for being able to do anything about global warming now and in the future is already several decades past.

        • jwz says:

          What I don't believe is that the Trump administration are supervillains with a secret masterplan.

          I think your hang-up on "large-scale competence" and "supervillains" largely misses the point.

          It makes you sound like you're saying, "Well, since there's not a small group of people with the plan to murder the world per se, but rather there is a larger group of people "just" trying to make a lot of money that happen to be causing exactly the same outcome, these are totally different things."

          Do you not believe that this is the administration that the multiple actors in the oil industry would buy, acting in their own own self interests?

          Do you not believe that climate denial preserves profits and therefore many corporations do that, knowing it is a lie?

          Do you not believe that once closing borders and leaving refugees to die increases the corporate bottom line, that that will also happen?

          You don't need a "conspiracy" for any of this, just a sufficient number of amoral shitheels each acting individually in their own self-interest. The Invisible Hand takes care of the rest. The rules of the game give all the incentive necessary.

          Also, you know, none of this is secret.

          • tfb says:

            I think your hang-up on "large-scale competence" and "supervillains" largely misses the point.

            Quite possibly so. However I think that understanding why various bad things happen matters for countering them, and we all want to believe in conspiracies because that makes it someone else's fault, and we can absolve ourselves of guilt.

            Climate change is a good example (disclaimer: I work in a climate-research place & am opinionated): it's nice to think that the oil companies are the problem, but in fact people kind of like their SUVs, air conditioning, cheap air travel and meat-heavy diets. The oil companies are certainly not the good guys but they're not the real problem, but they're also scapegoats: the real problem is us.

          • Mark says:

            This.

  4. I've been suggesting that their plan is more like a 98% die-off, leaving just enough to provide personal servants. The rest of us are taking up space they need for estates and palaces.

    So no, a 50% die-off is not the worst-case scenario.

  5. apm74 says:

    Worst case scenario should always still be a full scale nuclear exchange. And exceedingly possible in various ways despite Trump's apparent envy/appreciation of the guy with the other megadeath-sized arsenal.

  6. FoodForThought says:

    No ecosystem can sustain indefinite population growth. Earth is no excuse. Global Warming and Climate change aside.

    I recommend reading http://cassandralegacy.blogspot.com/2012/04/story-of-rabbit-island.html

    India and China grew out of control. The USA did not.
    Why? I don't know.

    Is it too late now? Probably...

    • pavel_lishin says:

      India and China grew out of control.

      [citation needed]

      The USA did not.

      [citation needed]

      • Unholyguy says:

        It's actually not true both India, China , the US and Europe followed pretty similar growth rates from medivial populations (due to medicine and industrialization) they were just offset in time based on when the medicine / industrialization got into full swing, but before education / birth control started limiting it

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