Common Sense Canadian

Andrew Nikiforuk on the end of cheap fossil fuels

PostedApril 10, 2014 by in Canada

John Twigg interviews award-winning energy journalist and author Andrew Nikiforuk on his latest book, The Energy of Slaves. “The era of cheap hydrocarbons is gone,” says Nikiforuk.

We’re now into the difficult and ugly stuff – and it’s expensive. It’s going to affect the siz e of the middle class, which is already beginning to shrink.

Nikiforuk spoke to Twigg for Shaw TV North Island in Campbell River, where he is serving as the Haig Brown Institute’s writer in residence this year.




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Common Sense Canadian



    John Twigg–thanks for interview with Andrew Nikiforuk.

    Some of your queries about “urgency” are addressed by the science journalist, David Roberts —who writes in “ordinary” but accurate language—- about the TIME LAG–

    “Two reasons climate change is not like other environmental problems”

    You’ll then appreciate his tweet record during Sandy and his TED talk if you are so inclined:

    David Roberts’ “tweet record” while Sandy worked its devastation Oct 30/12
    David Roberts@drgrist

    The oceans will continue to rise for at least 50 years no matter what we do. We can only affect the latter half of century.
    There’s nothing Obama (or Bush, Clinton, Bush, or Reagan) could have done to prevent Sandy. Climate don’t work that way.
    Big time lags.
    The mega-hurricanes that we CAN prevent are the ones that will bedevil our children in the latter third of this century.
    The best we can do for ourselves and those alive in the next 50 years is enhance the resilience of our communities & infrastructure.
    Luckily, distributed renewable energy accomplishes both: reduces carbon emissions & enhances resilience. A two-fer! Let’s do it”

    Oct 17/12 David Roberts TEDx Climate Change is Simple

    The twin and lethal effect of excess CO2 –measurement that cannot be disputed–is how ocean acidification has increased in match step with industrialization –burning of fossils:

    Oct 3/13 Ocean acidification due to carbon emissions is at highest for 300m years

    “… is unprecedented in the Earth’s known history. “People are just not aware of the massive roles that the oceans play in the Earth’s systems. Phytoplankton produce 40 per cent of the oxygen in the atmosphere…90 per cent of all life is in the oceans.”

    Feb 26/14 Carbon dioxide pollution just killed 10 million scallops

    April 3/14 How can we deal with ocean acidification? Step one- Study it

    “Even if we were to magic our way out of carbon emissions tomorrow….it is going to take somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 years just to get back to the baseline”

    Nov 23/13 THE ECONOMIST The world’s seas are becoming more acidic.

    Jan 29/14 The Keystone Principle: Stop Making Climate Disruption Worse


    Twigg didn’t distinguish himself with this interview. He should have been far better prepared but, then again, such is retirement.

    Nikiforuk did a fine job in presenting the contributory role played by cheap energy in the lemming-like growth in population over the last two centuries. Yes, nature will deal with overpopulation – if it gets the chance. It won’t. Recent studies released by the Pentagon and Brit MoD suggest we’ll do the job, or a good deal of it, by our own hand. Gwynne Dyer deals with this is “Climate Wars.” The Syrian civil war was triggered by severe drought. The governments of Tunisia and Egypt were topped, in part, by food shortages.

    Tensions are building in northern India/Tibet over competing access to the Himalayan headwaters by China, India and Pakistan, all nuclear states. Iraq is struggling with Syrian and Turkish developments on the Tigris and Euphrates. Egypt is barking threats at its upstream neighbours over their energy and diversion plans for the Nile.

    Our global civilization has become dependent on consumption of 1.5 times our planet’s replenishment rate of natural resources. Soon we’ll be using twice the sustainable supply. This is accomplished, for now, by ‘eating our seed corn’, nature’s reserves. That manifests in desertification, deforestation, collapse of global fisheries, the depletion of essential groundwater aquifers, and so on. It’s tangible, measurable, visible to the naked eye from space. We’re dependent on consumption levels that our planet cannot hope to meet and our ecological footprint is steadily growing, pushed along by the burgeoning “consumer class” that is expanding through China and India.

    Nikiforuk made passing reference to our slavish embrace of exponential growth. Yet just as we won’t depopulate peacefully, we certainly won’t accept the radical restructuring of how we’re organized – socially, economically and politically. Once you exceed nature’s carrying capacity (we passed that point in the late 70s), neo-classical, growth based economics becomes a mental disorder. Yet here we are.

    As Jared Diamond reminds us in “Collapse, How Societies Choose to Succeed or Fail,” history is rich with examples of civilizations that have collapsed from wilfully making bad decisions, bad choices. Sometimes this is done knowing full well what it means for the next generation or two. We’re living in one of those times.

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