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End Game for Green Utopia

Wind Turbines, Tehachapi Pass. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

On these two opposing types of responses to the movie “Planet Of The Humans”:

PRO: “The key, however, is that all these [‘greenish’] energy policies have to be carried out after capitalism has been wiped out and under conditions where production is based strictly on use.“

CON: “This documentary is trashy fake news. It’s Trumpian in its disdain for the facts…, they point away from real climate action solutions (such as renewable energy infrastructure) and peddle fascist snake oil of population growth i.e. advocate ecofascist genocide…Meanwhile, those of us who aren’t raving ecofascist lunatics will continue to fight to change society.”

Dreams of Utopias and illusions of self-importance die hard, even in the face of reality. Nature doesn’t care about how we fantasize; it just keeps on with its grand cycles, which those of global heating, environmental destruction and species extinction are now overstimulated by us, homo sapiens. The fundamental question here is: how good of an equitable world society could we energetically have, and by ‘greening it’ can we limit global warming?

PART 1:

The best we could possibly do would be to equalize the standard of living (Human Development Index) worldwide to HDI=0.862 (the range is from 0.28 for the poorest, to 0.97 for the richest nations), with a per capita electrical energy use of u=4000 kWh/c (kilowatt-hours-per-year/capita). The world average by nation (in 2002, and similar now) was: HDI=0.741 at u=2465 kWh/c. The U.S.A. had HDI=0.944 at u=13,456 kWh/c (a rich highly developed country). Niger had HDI=0.281 at u=40kWh/c (a poor underdeveloped country).

The recommended leveling is for nations with u>4000kWh/c to REDUCE energy use (a.k.a economic activity AND militarism), and nations with u<4000kWh/c to INCREASE energy use ENTIRELY APPLIED to raising living conditions (a.k.a. human-centered health and welfare: “socialism”).

This means world socialist government and no wars, and no nationalism.

Examples of enlightened HDI=~0.861 countries (ranked by energy efficiency) are Malta (HDI=0.867), Czech Republic (HDI=0.874), Estonia (HDI=0.853). There is no excuse for a nation to expend more than u=6560kWh/c, because that was Ireland’s usage and it had an HDI=0.946 (and a phenomenal energy efficiency as I calculate it).

All of this is to equalize the experience of whatever is going to happen to humanity because of geophysical changes (“global warming”).

My numbers for the above come from the following linked analysis (using 2002 data).

PART 2a:

From where do we source that energy powering the world-equalized “decent life”? Obviously, we use the fossil fuel and nuclear power infrastructure that we have now to power a maximum effort “full speed ahead” program of developing, building and installing greenish energy technology based on:

– solar (from light-to-heat in water, oil and brine slurry pipes; and also photovoltaics but that is materially limited for the needed exotic elements),

– wind (especially offshore),

– hydro (using existing dams-plus-reservoirs as “pumped storage” facilities, so “excess” solar energy collected during the day pumps water “uphill,” which can then be released “downhill” through the turbo-generators to produce nighttime electricity),

– wave/tidal as possible (without wrecking important inter-tidal bio-zones),

– energy conservation by building/home design (both for insulation, energy capture and greenhousing),

– energy conservation by design of appliances and the mechanical and thermal systems used industrially and for personal living,

– also a necessary transformation of our transportation sector (for bicycles, trolleys, trains, ships even with sails; and bye-bye to most planes, most cars especially big-engined SUVs and trucks, cruise ships, and all that high-waste military gear),

– also necessary is a transformation of agriculture to localized small organic multiculture farms, and away from international-aimed large oil-chemical stimulated monoculture agro-factories/feedlots/plantations.

PART 2b:

As greenish energy sources come on-line, an equivalent generating capacity of fossil and nuclear infrastructure is taken off-line AND SCRAPPED (and materially recycled/reprocessed).

The goal is to always increase the proportion of greenish technology and always decrease the proportion of old energy technology, while keeping the total energy generation such as to provide u=~4000kWh/c worldwide (to maintain HDI>0.862 worldwide).

It will never be possible to eliminate all of the old energy technology and still maintain the decent level of HDI “we” experience and is the moral right of all 7.78B (and growing) of Earth’s people to experience.

Note that fertility rates decrease (they are already negative in some rich countries) as HDI increases; so the rate of population growth will diminish as higher standards of living are widely experienced; with greater physical, heath, child, and economic survival and security, as well as education, provided socialistically worldwide.

ENDGAME:

Global warming would most likely still continue, but at a slower pace, if given all the above. So the endgame is to equalize the experience of “the geophysical inevitable” (whatever it actually ends up being), while always striving to increase energy efficiency so as to maximize HDI given the energy used.

It seems PHYSICALLY POSSIBLE to have a very high standard of living worldwide (HDI~0.9) with a per capita energy use that is at least 3x less (or, at 1/3 current US-level usage) to 7x less (or, at 1/7 current usage by the most profligate) of ‘rich, energy-wasting nation’ usage.

But global warming (the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere) may be too far advanced to ever stop by throttling back or even eliminating human (economic) activity; though undoubtedly it could be noticeably slowed by such cutbacks, as has been vividly demonstrated in a very short time by the COVID-19 economic slowdown that has visibly reduced pollution, and afforded greater freedom to wildlife (seen roaming in emptied city streets around the world!).

All of this would mean the ‘best world available’ for ‘everybody’ for as long as it is energetically possible to maintain it. And if human extinction is ultimately unavoidable, then we’ll all go together as brothers and sisters of equal rank.

Now to all who would say that this “all in” paradigm is so psychologically and politically improbable that it will never happen, I say fine, I won’t argue it, but realize that in order to accurately and realistically gage the actual (really potential) value of whatever your scheme or dream for Utopia is, it is essential to know how to calculate what is POSSIBLE within the limits imposed by geophysics (the laws of physics and the workings of Nature) given the natural resources sustainably available from Planet Earth (this is to say without the degradation of its environments and biodiversity).

One small example. Today it is possible to use an ‘app’ on your smart-phone to alert your local coffee shop to prepare your preferred caffeinated concoction, and pay for it electronically over the vast internet-banking computer network (humming and exhausting heat 24/7), then drive to your Java pit-stop and pick up your to-go order, discarding the container after consuming the contents, which container may end up as soiled waxed paper in a municipal organic compost pile, or as plastic in a solid waste landfill, or at worst as litter.

Imagine that modality of coffee consumption is gone in the “all in” world, and instead you have to appear in person at your coffee shop — perhaps on one of your walks into town, or on the walk home from the trolley stop after work — place your order to a human being manning the Java-preparing technology, pay cash (to eliminate all the internet energy-to-heat waste), and drink your coffee from a washable mug you carry or they provide; or, extravagantly, from a paper cup that easily composts. Even more efficiently, you could buy a bag of coffee beans, take them home and grind them with a handcrank grinder, and make delicious coffee at home.

The quality of life is not diminished by simplifying it energetically, or by relaxing its pace. More likely these increase it.

4000kWh/c HDI>0.862 Equalized Green Utopia World:

The 4000kWh/c Equalized Green Utopia World (HDI>0.862) would need 18% more electrical generation than in 2017 (for a world total of 30,189TWh), and applied with 62% greater efficiency for producing social value than we currently do.

In our current World Paradigm, we only get an average of 62% of the potential social value inherent in the world electrical energy generated, and which social value is also very inequitably distributed. The average 38% of annual socially wasted (SW) electrical energy (9,730TWh total at 1,289kWh/c in 2017) goes into all the Social Negativity (SN) of: capitalist-economic, nationalist-political and prejudicial-societal inequities; militarism and wars; and to a lesser degree some technical inefficiencies of electrical generation and of appliances.

The potential (or Primary) energy (PE) contained in the natural resources (all raw fuels and sources) used to generate the World Energy in 2017 was 162,494TWh; and 25,606TWh of electrical energy was generated that year, which was 15.8% of the Primary Energy. That percentage can be taken as a lower bound on the efficiency of our current conversion of raw energy resources into socially applicable energy, because some quantity of fuel (PE, with some refined) is converted by combustion directly to heat, both to drive heat engines and for industrial and personal uses (e.g., smelting, cooking, heating).

CONCLUSIONS:

For a 4000kWh/c Equalized Green Utopia World “today” we would need 18% MORE usable (electrical and available heat) energy than consumed in 2017, applied with 62% GREATER EFFICIENCY for producing social value than we do currently. Eliminating today’s Social Negativity (SN) would be the energetic equivalent of gaining 38% more energy (in our current paradigm).

But global warming will continue because it is impossible to eliminate all CO2 and greenhouse gases producing processes of energy generation and use. The rate of increase of global warming (the upward trend of temperature) can be reduced as the purely Green (non-CO2 and non-greenhouse gases producing) methods of energy production and use provide a larger portion of the total World Energy production and consumption.

EXCERPTS FROM: World Energy Consumption [HEAVILY EDITED and AMENDED by MG,Jr]

 

According to IEA (in 2012) the goal of limiting warming to 2°C is becoming more difficult and costly with each year that passes. If action is not taken before 2017 [sic!], CO2 emissions would be locked-in by energy infrastructure existing in 2017 [so, now they are]. Fossil fuels are dominant in the global energy mix, supported by subsidies totaling $523B in 2011 (up almost 30% from 2010), which is six times more than subsidies to renewables. So, limiting the global temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius is now doubtful.

To limit global temperature to a hypothetical 2 degrees Celsius rise would demand a 75% decline in carbon emissions in industrial countries by 2050, if the population is 10 billion in 2050. Across 40 years [from 2010 to 2050], this averages to a 2% decrease every year.

But, since 2011 the emissions from energy production and use have continued rising despite the consensus on the basic Global Warming problem. Hypothetically, according to Robert Engelman of the Worldwatch Institute [in 2009], in order to prevent the collapse of human civilization we would have to stop increasing emissions within a decade [by 2019!] regardless of the economy or population.

Carbon dioxide, methane and other volatile organic compounds are not the only greenhouse gas emissions from energy production and consumption. Large amounts of pollutants such as sulfurous oxides (SOx), nitrous oxides (NOx), and particulate matter (like soot) are produced from the combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. The World Health Organization estimates that 7 million premature deaths are caused each year by air pollution, and biomass combustion is a major contributor to that pollution. In addition to producing air pollution like fossil fuel combustion, most biomass has high CO2 emissions.

FINALLY:

Even with the 4000kWh/c HDI>0.862 Equalized Green Utopia World, global warming would continue at a rate faster or slower depending on how low or high, respectively, a proportion of World Energy is generated and used by purely Green methods. To repeat:

All of this would mean the ‘best world available’ for ‘everybody’ for as long as it is energetically possible to maintain it; and if human extinction is ultimately unavoidable, then we’ll all go together as brothers and sisters of equal rank.

The quality of life is not diminished by simplifying it energetically and by relaxing its pace. More likely it would be increased even in today’s paradigm; and most decidedly so with the elimination of Social Negativity in all its forms, which are so wasteful of energy.

Our potential civilizational collapse and subsequent extinction is up to Nature; but whether that occurs sooner or later, and with what level of shared quality of life we experience our species’ remaining lifetime, as well as its degree of equitable uniformity, is entirely up to us.

Manuel Garcia Jr, once a physicist, is now a lazy househusband who writes out his analyses of physical or societal problems or interactions. He can be reached at mangogarcia@att.net

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