The last two years in particular has seen the steady rise of political pressure in the developed world to progressively reduce CO2 emissions. It is reaching the point were decisions are pending that will cause the economy to shift a great deal of its resources. A good part of this shift was inevitable in view of the advent of peak oil supply market behavior. After all, we have gone from a perennial surplus position to a clearly perennial shortfall situation. The working price range has tripled and is now choking demand and forcing the development of alternatives. True global energy security is gone.
There is plenty of merit in weaning ourselves from the hydrocarbon based energy system as the current price regime makes very clear. The first comments have come out suggesting that this price shock will be worse than that of the seventies. This is regrettably very possible. The economic reality that we are all just beginning to wrestle with is that oil has actually priced itself out of the market. Current levels will force a rapid shift in hardware and behavior and a fair bit of hardship. A price move to $300 will actually shut down economic activity which is an unwanted consequence.
What can make this crisis far worse is a decline in deliveries due to loss of production. Right now the new price regime, which I think is already maxed out, is forcing demand to be curtailed directly freeing up production and in the process rebuilding reserves. This process has only begun. We need $100 oil and the world awash in oil to restore some level of confidence. We can survive that. At twice the price, we are looking at a global economic depression sparing no one.
This makes direct interference in the CO2 end of the business terribly ill timed and actually inappropriate. Everyone in the world is now working at reducing their oil footprint as fast as possible. It hardly needs a push and such steps can be very damaging.
We already know that several strategies now exist to comfortably get us out of the oil business and onto a sustainable protocol. Just read my many posts on the various options. Ethanol from cattail farming is a gimme and the advent of printed solar cells will produce a distributed peak energy supply for transport very soon. Both will be very price competitive.
What I find frustrating is that the current scenario was clearly developing and was certainly obvious to astute observers even several years ago. In fact I personally predicted that the price shift would arrive during the last year of the current president’s term of office. And I was hardly an insider. The industry has known that this day was unavoidable, but they had no answers either. The result has been that no preparation was promoted except a little silliness over corn ethanol.
We now have to move our economy on a dime to avoid the worst effects.
So what about CO2? The argument that CO2 is the causation of the very real phenomena of global warming is likely very misplaced. The science itself has been forcefully challenged and is difficult to actually prove anyway. A warming climate is certainly not a proof. We have a soft theory made up to support the facts on the ground that appears to be independent. Just the temperature experience that we have uncovered for the whole of the Holocene tells us that we had better be a lot better prepared before we attempt to link CO2 levels to apparent global temperatures.
The global economy is now beginning a transition over to an energy regime that will eschew fossil fuels, just as we transitioned out of using wood for fuel. It will not take very long and will be largely done in the next two generations.
That then leaves us with the question of what to do with the surplus CO2 in the atmosphere. Once we stop adding to the inventory, just letting nature take its course is a very viable option. It will surely take centuries but we can expect a steady increase in biomass to offset the surplus CO2.
I personally see a far better answer for humanity. Without question, the addition of elemental carbon to all our soils promotes a vast increase in general fertility and general soil nutrient stability. The argument is also made that is also promotes a sharp increase in biological activity that sometimes releases carbon. It is still easily fixed by the expedient of adding a major surplus of carbon as exists in the original terra preta soils.
It can be easily accomplished using both primitive methods and now with solid technological means.
The one other thing that we need to do is to completely revegetate the Sahara and the Sahel. This is a tall order that is best done over a couple of centuries. The remaining deserts can also be so converted provided we are able to tap atmospheric water. The huge benefit of this is to capture a huge amount of heat and moisture in the northern hemisphere now lost to desert heat as well as all the carbon we ever produced.
The hemisphere will become even more suitable for agriculture and we may even make the boreal forest partially productive for agriculture.
The problem we all face is how to guide the political drive to rein in the CO2 production problem into beneficial protocols such as I have described. The technical problem is thought daunting and my proffered solutions are also thought daunting. That means that most minds simply cannot comprehend the actual scale of what they want. Yet I think that it can all be done be the simple expedient of modestly empowering and educating every individual agriculturist on the globe. We only have to recall the organizational achievement of micro finance by Muhammad Yunis.