Man-made climate change has been caused by burning life – both contemporary & fossilised.
Burning living biomass is a more potent climate changer than burning fossil biomass. It releases the same CO.2, but also reduces both the photosynthetic mass of life and the mass of life which is returned to soil. In consequence the mass of life is reduced season by season. Carbon is increased in the atmosphere and diminished in soil.
Burning fossil biomass releases the same CO.2, but the mass of life continues to live and breathe.
I propose that the rapidity of climate change has been unexpected, because “non-land-use-change” biomass burning (forest and biomass crops from existing agricultures) has been calculated by the IPCC, Zero Carbon Britain 2030 and so on as “carbon zero”.
Similarly (though far less significantly) the value given to carbon sequestered outside life-cycles – in “embedded structures”, “carbon sumps” and so on, is false. If we remove biomass from its cycles, then we diminish both its photosynthetic power and the re-growth of biomass in subsequent seasons. Such “sequestration” increases atmospheric CO.2 (and diminishes Oxygen) by diminishing the active mass of life.
Increasing the speed of the flow of life increases its mass until an optimum mass is achieved. Slowing that flow diminishes its mass. Velocity is missing from carbon calculations.
Life has energy, fossil life has not. Of course fossil life can become energetic as its burnt mass diminishes. But life (biomass) has both mass & energy and it is that energy which is missing from IPCC’s carbon scales. Can we devise a Carbon in biomass/hour system?
Consider life as a pond (as do IPCC) which we can measure as a still mass of water – or then consider it as a river in which the mass, or pond-sized section of the river is actually increased per second; per minute; per hour…
Of course life cycles, and so IPCC would say that it considers the whole mass of the cycle – making velocity irrelevant – just as the flowing river of water is actually part of a nearly stable planetary mass of water – or at least of its chemical components. But life can return to its original components of mere chemistry in lifeless matter and energy. Life can diminish to nothing – to a lifeless Earth, or it can expand to an optimum flowing mass. So IPCC is making a dangerous error to consider life as it would the chemistry of Carbon.
Fermentation is an essential part of life cycles. Cycle too fast & an excess of fermented gas is released to the atmosphere. Cycle too slow and terrestrial biomass is reduced. Biomass is mineralised (& vaporised) by soil life – creating the simple minerals necessary for plant growth. A cycle which has maintained an optimum biomass, will find gasification and mineralisation matched by the uptake of gases and minerals by that mass of life.
The swelling biomass of the species, Man should urgently reconsider the optimum biomass of the species her activities are currently fast-diminishing. Otherwise she epitomises the comic cartoon of a bloke happily sawing away at the wrong side of the branch he is standing on.
So there is both an optimum mass and an optimum speed in life cycles. Achieving that optimum speed/mass is of course, the first principle of agricultural husbandry. Bearing in mind both resource depletion and climate change, economists and politicians should adopt it as the first principle of economies. It has long been a first principle of agricultural husbandry. It is called the rule of return.
We have been deluded in our carbon calculations by a false understanding of “carbon cycles”. Carbon cannot cycle. It is inanimate – life cycles. The two terms are not interchangeable. It is a physicist’s delusion – matter & energy always remain in either form and so our deluded physicist’s assumption is that life (she thinks carbon) always remains as either matter or energy.
But life can diminish to nothing, or increase to an optimum speed/mass. Once upon a time, there was no life on Earth and it shall be so again. What was life can re-appear as its original components of lifeless matter and energy (minerals, gases and energy). The IPCC physicist has confused lifelessness with death. Death is regenerative. Lifelessness is not.
Below is the hypothesis give to me by Peter Harper of CAT which has been assumed as a consensus by most and remains unchallenged. It is a ridiculous hypothesis, but perfectly demonstrates the physicist’s (or the chemist’s) delusion. Any practical allotment-holder could easily refute it. If she took a harvest and returned nothing to the soil to replace it, then her following year’s harvest would be much smaller, because the biomass of her soil (physicist’s Carbon) had been depleted. Furthermore, the smaller leaf area would command a smaller photosynthetic power.
The hypothesis clearly demonstrates why IPCC climate change calculations have been dangerously optimistic. It is why Zero Carbon Britain 2030 proposes that Britain can maintain air traffic at a third of existing capacity by using non-land-use-change biofuels.
“If biomass is burned, the chemistry is more or less reversed, and the original energy and raw material (CO.2 and water) are released. There is then no net gain or loss of CO.2, which is why biological fuels are considered to be “Carbon neutral”.
Because living biomass cannot replace fossil biomass as an energy source for burning, we must settle our economies within the reduced means, which remain to drive them. Anaerobic digestion is a case aside – I think we can probably use such gas, because we gather it from a natural process of breaking down biomass. We change the more dangerous methane into less dangerous CO.2 – while also returning “digested biomass” to the soil. Of course my methane/CO.2 argument is a sophistry, because we could have broken down the same biomass by other means, but nevertheless we make use of a natural cycle. All biomass breaks down, releasing gases and minerals. However, our “unnatural” contribution is by fire. We mustn’t forget that burning (putting aside bad farming practice) is the cause of anthropogenic climate change. Whenever we burn – we must watch our step.
Our new social; political; personal aim must be to settle economies within their ecologies so that both find optimum symbioses. I think that could also form part of a new technological, spiritual, moral and political understanding.
It is not possible to supply the ways we Europeans have been living with renewable energy alone – & renewable soil; renewable water… so we must change the ways we have been living to fit within those limits, since of course, we must live by renewable energy alone.
The idea of burning fossil energy and biomass energy more efficiently to maintain our “modern achievements” is a delusion which will very soon bring havoc to what we know as modern culture. Even if we leave climate change aside, the ways in which Europeans and Americans have been living are set to bring wide-spread economic collapse. We have been consuming what should have remained for the future and also the near future, and so when we reach that near future our economies will collapse.
It is essential to the survival of modern cultures that we shift our thinking from devising renewable energy systems to power current ways of life – towards changing current ways of life to fit renewable energy systems.
We must also debunk the modernist idea of progress, which assumes that the future will solve what is insoluble today. Modernism has forgotten that present action creates the future. It is ridiculous to propose that future action can resolve the present. Yet, that very silly modernist idea has become subconsciously adopted as a driver of policies of governments and corporations. It is central to the thinking of mainstream journalists – in particular of those in the BBC.
We can also shift our thinking from the stifling anxiety of merely paring down consumption, towards the brave new liberty of a changed moral and technological culture. It will be invigorating to consider social justice, social roles, commons, value, tools and techniques – bringing of course, new spiritual and artistic responses to those changes. Resource depletion and climate change can be catalysts for the good life – for renaissance.
We should remember that money flow is directly related to energy flow. Even the idle casino of land monopoly can accumulate only the value which energy supplies by both human labour and a variety of other energy sources. It has been variously said that just a litre of oil replaces the labour of a man working full-time for between two to three weeks. So, for a few decades we (or some of us) have been living like demigods – powered by millions of summers-worth of accumulated photo-synthesis.
The certain truth that we must return to our ordinary and far from god-like human natures should bring an ordinary sigh of relief. Extreme consumption has not brought happiness. Just about every philosopher from every culture and from every period has told us so.
Anyway, as we leave fossil fuels in the ground we must simultaneously reduce our money flow to match that seriously-reduced energy-flow. No power on Earth can replace that of fossil fuels – which is why we’ve lived as demigods and must now return to living like people.
I think that we can probably supply our domestic electricity needs by wind, solar, and hydro power – and also by the remaining nuclear capacity as we run it down. We can build inexpensive housing, which has almost no heating requirement, but of course existing housing (the bulk of it) will need methods of heating. Electricity provides the answer.
Can we produce enough? – We have no choice, but to produce enough – that is enough for a revised way of life. For instance, if we take the £94 billion set aside for the Trident and High Speed Rail programmes, we could buy every household in the UK 2kw generating capacity of solar panels at the current retail price! – Given that level of spending it would probably buy 3 – 4kw at wholesale price. Spent sensibly, on a mix of hydro, wind and solar to match circumstances, Trident and High Speed Rail moneys would go a long way to completely solving domestic renewable energy needs.
Those figures are peanuts relative to the £375 billion spent into utterly futile “quantative easing”of which only 13% ended in productive business – the remainder paid debts and bought property. Then we have the equally futile £17 billion for the Heathrow runway extension…
Green deals would create both new assets and worthwhile employment. You’ll have noticed that I’ve shifted from the physics of the world to money. Money is one step removed, but even so money and energy are directly related. Energy by coal, oil, gas, biomass, wind, tide, gravity and human labour transforms materials into usefulness. Our new economy must remove coal, oil, gas and biomass from that transformation. A far greater contribution by human labour could also return a far greater conviviality to that economy. Naturally, money should divert from oil to that human energy flow. Of course oil has been controlled by a tiny and quite stupid elite (protection of extreme wealth does evoke stupidity). Our newly populated economy will provide a flood of ingenuity, which has been missing from corporate/government monopolies. As we’ve seen governments and corporations sit on their hands as money flows in from their anachronistic fossil-fuelled technologies. Wealth does provoke a fortressed mentality – remedies for what threatens that wealth’s security is directed at fighting those who oppose the oil-flow bonanza – leaving no time for curiosity about what is truly important – even for the survival of governments and corporations!
The elephant in the room is the way we live and work – principally the ways we travel for both work and pleasure.
Flying without fossil fuels is impossible. Fortunately, it is also unnecessary.
Centralised distribution and retail chains are impossible without fossil fuels. Fortunately, they are also unnecessary.
Many “green” proposals (such as Zero Carbon Britain 2030) suggest reduced air capacity fuelled by “non-land-use-change” bio-fuels. They are fantasies.
17th Century Britain faced economic collapse, because she had felled the last of her trees for fuel, house & ship-building (mostly fuel). The pillage of empire had not yet begun. Commons (and their human ingenuities) had long been enclosed for the mere money of sheep fleeces, villages lay deserted and dispossessed commoners migrated to city slums. The landscape would have been an open wilderness of mostly grass – interspersed with cropping.
Despicable and foolish behaviour of the powerful is not new. We can see a 17th Century echo in today’s New Labour and Conservative politicians and money-men, who seem equally intent on getting rich by destroying the source of riches – labour, resources and the commons of nature.
Fortunately for 17th Century rogues, coal came to the rescue and created the industrial revolution. Unfortunately for today’s rogues the industrial revolution has ended and there is nothing to replace coal, oil, gas and timber, but labour, soil, water and the commons of nature.
Of course, riches come, not to those who work for a wage, or for a just price for their productivity, but to those who hold enclosed monopolies.
The principle monopoly is land. Others monopolies include status, intellectual property, money-creation and violence.
1 – Houses decay. Like all material things, they depreciate and need expensive maintenance. It is the entirely abstract value of the land beneath which inflates. It inflates by appropriating the productive labour adjacent to it in increasing rents and by the effects of the property casino. Repairs to property bring not, as we might expect, a “trickle down” of increasing wages, but the opposite. The repairer faces increasing material costs, increasing rents and, since she bids for work in competition with lowest bidders – decreasing wages.
Land enclosure is the single largest cause of social inequality. It swells the wealth of proprietors by draining that of productivity.
2 – Status, such as lawyer, medical practitioner, or member of parliament commands wages so far above the normal, that they are exclusive to the enclosures of those sects. It drains the wealth of the poor to increase that of those with status. An “ordinary” worker earning £6 an hour may be forced to seek help of a solicitor, who demands £200 an hour. The effect is exacerbated, because Lawyers, GPs, dentists and so on, usually (& swiftly) become property owners.
There is no justification for those wages to be so far above the normal, other than that of the violent demands of monopoly.
3 – Increasingly, over the last hundred and fifty years or so, intellectual property has enclosed common knowledge and common knowledge of crops and tools. It encourages complacent wealth accumulation of the few inside those enclosures and both shuts-out and discourages the ingenuity and dexterity of the many outside it. Of course, both new innovation and the responsible behaviour of those who hold intellectual property are considerably reduced. I’ve referred above to how in recent times, corporations such as Monsanto & Syngenta sit on their hands as money is created from their anachronistic, but licensed technologies. Defence of those money-creating enclosures has taken precedence over the (now urgent) needs of the times for more appropriate technologies.
4 – Military, protection and piratical violence are ancient monopolies. Modern “democracies” have police monopolies to enforce all the others: land property, status & so on.
Of course, people from ancient times have agreed to monopolies such as an inherited skill status (shaman, healer, priest, metal worker, stone mason, house builder and so on) or of inherited hierarchies with defined roles. Monopoly can be beneficial, if we consider it in the sense of trust – both bequeathed and inherited. An ordered distribution of trusted roles can make up a whole society of functions – held in trust for inheritance of a common good. For instance, clan chief, farmer, bard… can all contribute to an agreed inherited whole in which their roles are morally-defined to mutually hand on an ancestry to descendants.
THE TRAGEDY OF THE ENCLOSURES
An inherited trust is an enclosure of a kind, but one very different (and definably so) from property enclosure. The first is a right to responsibility – and the responsibility is usually defined by law and/or custom. The second is a right to irresponsibility.
This becomes complex if we consider, let’s say the rights of a GP – Firstly, she does have a right to responsibility & if she fails that responsibility, then she can lose her right. But secondly, her right to status as GP gives her a property right – a monopoly. She can sell that property for considerably more money than most of her neighbours in the community can ask for their own labour value.
So the GP’s role is a morally responsible one, but her monopoly is irresponsible.
And so the GP acts both on the common (her inherited trust) and in an enclosure (her right to monopoly status).
I propose that modern societies are in crisis, because they have become organised from within enclosed, unresponsive monopolies. It is largely because of those irresponsible monopolies that the climatic period we’ve begun to call the Anthropocene, is evoking no response from the humanity which caused it. Responsibility lives on the common. We are witnessing the gravest tragedy of the enclosures.
Responsibility, curiosity, ingenuity, dexterity and conviviality have been cleared from economic behaviour, to be replaced by fenced monopolies (It may as well have been by sheep). As I mentioned above, our most important (potent) activity is agriculture and nearly all (at least European & American) farming and growing is organised by following instructions on the sides of the anachronistic, patented pesticide, herbicide and fungicide drums, and by buying the seeds, fertilisers and machinery supplied by irresponsible corporations.
The European and American farmer presents the most extreme example of consumerism. Their job is to buy products and apply them according to instruction.
When we consider that everything we do has consequence and so has a moral, we must also consider that such consumerism is a process of dehumanisation, since morality has been removed from the farmer/actor and assumed to be “in place” in Corporate HQ.. If my moral choice is assumed by another, then I have become a slave.
Moreover – those emergent properties of agriculture – towns, cities & the trades, have been similarly fenced, so that people have become reliant on what neither they, nor their political representatives had a part in creating – the brands; the retail park; the ring road; the centralised distribution; the family car…
By enclosing the common, we are set on a course, which exploits the present, ignores history and destroys the future.
RECLAIMING THE COMMON
The Paris Climate talks have ended by producing what (given expectations) is a wonderful document. Although much that will be essential for humanity to live within her means is missing, nevertheless, much is included which can be used to hold politicians to account.
It is evident that many politicians do not understand what they’ve signed to – In other words the document is fraudulent, since many have signed it as a meaningless profession of a vague political aspiration.
They need take no action before 2020 and then what action will be taken can be argued as any vested interest wishes. For instance, what is renewable energy? Burning biomass of forest and arable crops is accounted by many as a renewable activity. It is at the centre of UKs future planning. The future’s plans are very convenient because they belong to the future. Carbon capture and storage does not exist, yet it is also at the centre of UKs plans. Similarly, nuclear power stations are just a distant gleam in their progenitors’ eyes.
Economic growth has been possible by military conquest and then pillage of empire and also by a similar pillage of fossilised years (coal, oil & gas).
Without fossil fuels economic growth is possible only by pillaging the future – that is by future economic and ecologic collapse. The truth is that economic growth has caused climate change, and yet most (at least European & North American) signatories to the Paris agreement have one certainty – that European and American fossil-fuelled achievements are essential to a civilised life.
It is not unique to our times that politicians have not a thought in their pretty heads. It has been universally so throughout history.
Here’s a proposition – since politicians (& lairds, squires, lords, chieftains…) have never had a hand in the creation of cultures, why should we expect them to do so now?
The Paris Agreement remains a wonderful document and signatories can be held to what they’ve signed. However, it we who make the culture and by all the roles we play, it is we who must act. If we want even a near future, then we must utterly change how we farm, trade, manufacture and travel and we must re-consider what should always have been a perennial question – What is happiness?