Confluence #1 [CSP]: Climate Change, Species Collapse, Peak Oil|
We find CSP to be the most credible Confluential Collapse among our
triumvirate. In this Confluence, Climate Change -- even "merely" a two or three degree
average change -- will have profound effects far beyond what we are
seeing in the late Null Decade of the 21st century.
Hypotheses Regarding Climate Change:
Hypotheses Regarding Species Collapse:
- An increase of dramatic coastal events
such as record tides, hurricanes, tidal waves, and red tides;
- Drought and deluge conditions in areas of the world accustomed to
- Changes in prevailing winds and in prevailing currents,
because of changing temperature gradients;
- Earlier springs, and later falls across the northern breakbaskets
- Increased meltoff of Greenland and the Arctic, flowing massive
fresh water into a fundamentally salt-water system
- Methane releases of massive proportions from now-rotting
post-permafrost, exacerbating the greenhouse effect
- Political upheaval, because the populace "gets it," while the moneyed
interests controlling governments struggle to maintain their lucrative
status quo through denial, halfmeasures, and delaying tactics
- An increasing population of "telecommuting refugees" (among first
world nations) and "teeming refugees" (among developing nations)
move inland from the coasts
- Catastrophic insurance, and the reinsurance industry itself, has a
crisis of liquidity, as do multinational banks, retirement funds, and
other large financial organs deeply invested in the status quo.
Hypotheses Regarding Peak Oil:
- Pollution -- plastic in the sea, hormones in the water, fertilizer
runoff, chemical stews, pesticides, herbicides, and a thousand other
elements that our natural world never evolved to defend against
is stressing most organisms.
- Many birds have evolved to have their eggs hatch when a particular
larva or insect emerge at a particular few weeks in the spring. If
those larva don't come out, or come out too early because of a warming
climate, the chicks will
literally starve. Imagine that, times a thousand thousand relationships
that have evolved over ten thousand thousand years. That
delicate web is distressed.
- Extinctions are happening at an increasing rate, most from human
actions, and are expected to increase. Biologists, currently mute,
may begin to become militant.
- As the climate warms, the oceans absorb more
CO2. This in term creates carbolic acid, essentially
acidifying the ocean worldwide. This is currently killing the coral reefs, as
that carbolic acid prevents the formation of calcium carbonate,
the hard stuff that forms not
just corals, but also clams, mollusks, snails... At the current rate
of acidification, the reefs are unlikely to survive beyond ten to
fifteen years. Tens if not hundreds of thousands of species are dependent on those
reefs as their primary ecosystem.
- Infestations of out-of-control organisms -- some benign, some
certainly not -- erupt in various parts of the world, as the
controlling species (of bird, wasp, ladybug, raptor, krill, ant)
precipitously declines, because some other species upon which it depends,
has died out.
- Huge swathes of forest, farmland, and ocean become dead zones, via
infestations and species imbalances, no
unlike the Chesapeake Bay's -- and the Gulf of Mexico's --
oxygen-free "zones of death," though the causal agent is different
- Agriculture becomes very difficult, especially in large-scale
plots. Local, hand-tended agriculture, with hand-fertilized plants,
may begin to sweep the backyards of even suburbia.
- Bacterial, viral, and microbiotic species seek new arenas for
survival, which will likely include sparking new diseases and
antibiotic and antiviral-resistant infections, affecting the
already-weakened immune systems of most vertebrate and invertebrate species.
(note: this is distinct from the Plague Scenario described elsewhere.)
The final Confluence is Peak Oil, which increases the costs of
addressing both of the previous two. If you are new to Peak Oil
thinking, you may want to visit
The Oil Drum or other Web
resources for an overview
of Peak Oil.
The fundamental premise is that humankind has already expended
the most easily acquired oil and natural gas in the world.
The most easily pumped has been pumped. Everything else costs
more energy to get out than before, causing a spiral in costs
- When humans reach the tipping point (and many say that
happened in 2006), then the cost of energy begins to inevitably rise
dramatically and rapidly. For modern society, when oil hits $125/barrel
to $200/barrel (or $5-$10/gallon), then many aspects of our
energy-intensive society become exceedingly costly.
- With Climate Change's destructive wrath hitting the coastal zones
disproportionately, the need for steel, concrete, aluminum, as well as
other construction supplies, will rise -- all oil- and energy-intensive
activities -- as will the costs for those basics.
- The suburban lifestyle of an hour-long commute each way becomes
untenable. Those $700,000 mini-mansions far away from public
transportation, with their poor insulation and
high ceilings, plummet in value, leaving the upper middle class with
negative equity across the US and other parts of the developed world.
- All transported commodities cost two to three times as much to
transport from place to place -- food, medicine, clothes, tools, etc.
- China, Russia, and the US all burn the cheapest energy source -- coal
-- for raw energy,
adding carbon to the atmosphere, exacerbating Climate Change and
- All oil-derived commodities (fertilizers, pesticides, plastics,
etc.) double to triple in basic costs, affecting all industries
dependant upon them.
- These higher transportation and production costs
raise the projected and actual costs of nearly all remediation
projects, decreasing the political will (and the tax base) to address:
- environmental dead zones
- migrations and refugees
- rising waters
- collapsing financial systems
- collapsing agricultural systems
- overwhelmed medical and public health systems
As should be clear from the above, these interdependent Scenarios
are intertwined, and functionally impossible to treat independently. To fully
reckon the social, economic, political, environmental, even cultural
characteristics of an Apocalypse (as is made clear in
On Confluentialism, in contrast to
the Institute for PostApocology's
more limited approach, not to mention our former colleague Frank's KissMyA**pocalypse site), it is vital to apprehend this
Apocalyptic scenario from a Confluential perspective.