Tuesday, 11 November 2014

"Civilisation is a heat engine": Introducing Prof. Tim Garrett

Critics of Guy McPherson would have us believe that Tim Garrett (in fact Professor Tim Garrett) has no independent existance of his own.

Far from it. Here he is - professor of Atmospheric Studies at the University of Utah

University of Utah professor Tim Garrett says conservation is futile
Although he continues to ride a bike or bus to work, line-dry family clothing and use a push lawn mower, University of Utah professor Tim Garrett believes humans can't really affect climate change.



24 November, 2009


Instead, he says the Earth's course will run along a "predetermined trajectory."

He doesn't see the major cause of global warming being stabilized any other way than if the increasing flow of carbon-dioxide emissions ultimately collapses the world's economy or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day. Nuclear plants, which produce one gigawatt of continuous power, would be necessary to compensate for the increasing growth in energy consumption around the world, said Garrett, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences at the U.

Although it "feels good to conserve energy," he said, "there shouldn't be any pretense that it will make a difference."

These views, both radical and controversial, will be published this week in Climate Change, an online academic journal edited by renowned Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider. Other research journals declined to publish Garrett's research.

Garrett believes current options to potentially avert climate change — increased energy efficiencies, reduced population growth and a switch to power sources that don't emit carbon dioxide, as well as underground storage of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning — are "not meaningful."

"Fundamentally, I believe the system is deterministic," Garrett said. "Changes in population and standard of living are only a function of the current energy efficiency. That leaves only switching to a non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power source as an available option." Some economists are critical of his approach, but his solution is targeted to solve economic issues as "physics problems," looking at civilization as one big problem instead of calculating individual problems based on population growth, increasing energy efficiency and other things.

"I end up with a global economic growth model different than they have," he said. Garrett treats civilization as a "heat engine" that "consumes energy and does 'work' in the form of economic production, which then spurs it to consume more energy," he said.

"Economists think you need population and standard of living to estimate productivity," Garrett said. "In my model, all you need to know is how fast energy consumption is rising."

It's like a child who "grows by consuming food, and when the child grows, it is able to consume more food, which enables it to grow more," he said, adding that when the food supply runs short, the child will stop growing and eventually die.

"If society invests sufficient resources into alternative and new, non-carbon energy supplies, then perhaps it can continue growing without increasing global warming," he said, adding that it would be "too bad" if civilization pursued avenues for climate change that ultimately backfired. "Ultimately, it's not clear that policy decisions have the capacity to change the future course of civilization."


Is Global Warming Unstoppable?
Theory also says conservation doesn’t help

Atmospheric methane and other GHG through November 2013
Tipped Ov
22 November, 2009

Nov. 22, 2009 – In a provocative new study, a University of Utah scientist argues that rising carbon dioxide emissions – the major cause of global warming – cannot be stabilized unless the world’s economy collapses or society builds the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant each day.

It looks unlikely that there will be any substantial near-term departure from recently observed acceleration in carbon dioxide emission rates,” says the new paper by Tim Garrett, an associate professor of atmospheric sciences.

Garrett’s study was panned by some economists and rejected by several journals before acceptance by Climatic Change, a journal edited by renowned Stanford University climate scientist Stephen Schneider. The study will be published online this week.

The study – which is based on the concept that physics can be used to characterize the evolution of civilization – indicates:

Energy conservation or efficiency doesn’t really save energy, but instead spurs economic growth and accelerated energy consumption.

Throughout history, a simple physical “constant” – an unchanging mathematical value – links global energy use to the world’s accumulated economic productivity, adjusted for inflation. So it isn’t necessary to consider population growth and standard of living in predicting society’s future energy consumption and resulting carbon dioxide emissions.

Stabilization of carbon dioxide emissions at current rates will require approximately 300 gigawatts of new non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power production capacity annually – approximately one new nuclear power plant (or equivalent) per day,” Garrett says. “Physically, there are no other options without killing the economy.”

Getting Heat for Viewing Civilization as a “Heat Engine”

Garrett says colleagues generally support his theory, while some economists are critical. One economist, who reviewed the study, wrote: “I am afraid the author will need to study harder before he can contribute.”

I’m not an economist, and I am approaching the economy as a physics problem,” Garrett says. “I end up with a global economic growth model different than they have.”

Garrett treats civilization like a “heat engine” that “consumes energy and does ‘work’ in the form of economic production, which then spurs it to consume more energy,” he says.

If society consumed no energy, civilization would be worthless,” he adds. “It is only by consuming energy that civilization is able to maintain the activities that give it economic value. This means that if we ever start to run out of energy, then the value of civilization is going to fall and even collapse absent discovery of new energy sources.”

Garrett says his study’s key finding “is that accumulated economic production over the course of history has been tied to the rate of energy consumption at a global level through a constant factor.”

That “constant” is 9.7 (plus or minus 0.3) milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar. So if you look at economic and energy production at any specific time in history, “each inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar would be supported by 9.7 milliwatts of primary energy consumption,” Garrett says.

Garrett tested his theory and found this constant relationship between energy use and economic production at any given time by using United Nations statistics for global GDP (gross domestic product), U.S. Department of Energy data on global energy consumption during1970-2005, and previous studies that estimated global economic production as long as 2,000 years ago. Then he investigated the implications for carbon dioxide emissions.

Economists think you need population and standard of living to estimate productivity,” he says. “In my model, all you need to know is how fast energy consumption is rising. The reason why is because there is this link between the economy and rates of energy consumption, and it’s just a constant factor.”

Garrett adds: “By finding this constant factor, the problem of [forecasting] global economic growth is dramatically simpler. There is no need to consider population growth and changes in standard of living because they are marching to the tune of the availability of energy supplies.”

To Garrett, that means the acceleration of carbon dioxide emissions is unlikely to change soon because our energy use today is tied to society’s past economic productivity.

Viewed from this perspective, civilization evolves in a spontaneous feedback loop maintained only by energy consumption and incorporation of environmental matter,” Garrett says. It is like a child that “grows by consuming food, and when the child grows, it is able to consume more food, which enables it to grow more.”

Is Meaningful Energy Conservation Impossible?

Perhaps the most provocative implication of Garrett’s theory is that conserving energy doesn’t reduce energy use, but spurs economic growth and more energy use.

Making civilization more energy efficient simply allows it to grow faster and consume more energy,” says Garrett.

He says the idea that resource conservation accelerates resource consumption – known as Jevons paradox – was proposed in the 1865 book “The Coal Question” by William Stanley Jevons, who noted that coal prices fell and coal consumption soared after improvements in steam engine efficiency.

So is Garrett arguing that conserving energy doesn’t matter?

I’m just saying it’s not really possible to conserve energy in a meaningful way because the current rate of energy consumption is determined by the unchangeable past of economic production. If it feels good to conserve energy, that is fine, but there shouldn’t be any pretense that it will make a difference.”

Yet, Garrett says his findings contradict his own previously held beliefs about conservation, and he continues to ride a bike or bus to work, line dry family clothing and use a push lawnmower.

An Inevitable Future for Carbon Dioxide Emissions?

Garrett says often-discussed strategies for slowing carbon dioxide emissions and global warming include mention increased energy efficiency, reduced population growth and a switch to power sources that don’t emit carbon dioxide, including nuclear, wind and solar energy and underground storage of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning. Another strategy is rarely mentioned: a decreased standard of living, which would occur if energy supplies ran short and the economy collapsed, he adds.

Fundamentally, I believe the system is deterministic,” says Garrett. “Changes in population and standard of living are only a function of the current energy efficiency. That leaves only switching to a non-carbon-dioxide-emitting power source as an available option.”

The problem is that, in order to stabilize emissions, not even reduce them, we have to switch to non-carbonized energy sources at a rate about 2.1 percent per year. That comes out to almost one new nuclear power plant per day.”

If society invests sufficient resources into alternative and new, non-carbon energy supplies, then perhaps it can continue growing without increasing global warming,” Garrett says.

Does Garrett fear global warming deniers will use his work to justify inaction?

No,” he says. “Ultimately, it’s not clear that policy decisions have the capacity to change the future course of civilization.”

The paper (access restricted) Is HERE



The Biophysics of Civilization, Money = Energy, and the Inevitability of Collapse



27 March, 2014

“…the Second Law also demands that nothing can do anything without consuming concentrated energy, or fuel, and then dissipating it as unusable waste heat. For example, the Earth “consumes” concentrated sunlight to power weather and the water cycle, and then radiates unusable thermal energy to the cold of space. Like the weather in our atmosphere, all economic actions and motions, even our thoughts, must also be propelled by a progression from concentrated fuel to useless waste heat. The economy would grind to a halt absent continued energetic input. Buildings crumble; people die; technology becomes obsolete; we forget. Civilization must constantly consume in order to sustain itself against this constant loss of energy and matter…” 
Tim Garrett

On average the human brain experiences 70,000 thoughts daily and requires roughly 24 watts or roughly 500 Calories during that time to function. To keep modern civilization running, 17 trillion Watts of power are consumed, 4% of which goes to keeping humanity’s 7 billion bodies alive while the rest powers our buildings, machines, and agriculture. The laws of thermodynamics require that all systems, whether natural or inorganic, evolve and grow through the conversion of environmental potential energy into a dissipated form known commonly as waste heat. Most of the energy we need to run industrial civilization still comes from fossil fuels with coal being the primary source, and projections are that this will remain so far into the future. Since fossil fuels give off nasty greenhouse gasses that heat up the planet and destabilize the biosphere, the obvious question is whether our economic engine can be decoupled from CO2 emissions.
Atmospheric scientist Tim Garrett has a few papers on this subject and a new paper on collapse which I’ll mention at the end, but first let’s review and get an understanding of what he said in his censored paper, ‘Are there basic physical constraints on future anthropogenic emissions of carbon dioxide?‘, as well as the following recorded speech. I consider Garret to be a biophysical economist firmly rooted in geophysics and reality, much like Albert Bartlett and Charles Hall.

Is it possible to decouple economic wealth from carbon dioxide emission rates

Is it possible to decouple economic wealth from carbon dioxide emission rates
Improving energy efficiency accelerates CO2 emissions growth.

Absent collapsing the economy (In other words turning the inflation adjusted GDP to zero), emissions can be stabilized only by building the equivalent of one nuke plant per day globally (or some other non CO2-emitting power supply)
Emissions growth has inertia (due to the high probability of points one and two)
The present state and growth of civilization are determined by the past, and the past fundamentally cannot be changed. Thus we are set on a trajectory that can lead to simplified predictions of the future.

Where does the value of money come from?

An economist would say that its value is fundamentally belief-based. I believe it has value and you believe it has value; therefore, it has value.

From a physics perspective, this explanation is a bit unsatisfactory because it doesn’t really explain where that belief comes from. Why is that belief so resilient? Presumably that belief has some physical representation because civilization certainly is part of the physical universe. It’s not separate from it. We are all pat of the physical world.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 11.10.19 AM

Civilization is an organism that can be defined by how it consumes/transforms energy. Physics can be used to describe civilization. There are basic laws of thermodynamics and, fundamentally, physics is about the transformation of energy from one state to another or really the flow of energy downhill, or more strictly, the flow of material downhill from a high potential state to a low potential state. You can think of a ball rolling from a high gravitational potential to a low gravitational potential.

Money is a representation of some energetic flow [economic activity] from high potential to low potential. Economic wealth represents the rate of consumption of energy in civilization. An example of this in nature would be a beaver dam which represents civilization.

Beaver

The energy reservoir for the beaver dam (civilization) is the water behind the dam. The flow of water across the dam from a high gravitational potential to a low gravitational potential represents the size of the beaver’s ‘civilization’. Something similar applies to human civilization which represents a gradient between available energy supplies (coal, oil, uranium) and a point of low potential (outer space).

We consume energy, things happen in civilization due to the flow across that potential gradient (high to low) releasing waste heat which radiates to outer space at a cold temperature of about 255 Kelvin (-18ºC).

We can treat civilization as a single organism that interacts on a global scale with available energy reservoirs and through the transformation of that energy (stuff is done, economic activity occurs). Money is a representation of that capacity to do stuff physically (or how fast it can consume that energy).

This is a testable hypothesis and it can be expressed mathematically which means we can look at this quantitatively.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 12.05.06 PM

Wealth is the value of something that has accumulated over time. Based on what we currently have, we are able to produce more which gives us more power to produce even more in the future. It’s through this spontaneous feedback process that civilization (or a beaver dam) is able to grow.

The question is, “How do you calculate this accumulated wealth?”

Economists use GDP as a wealth indicator. All the economic production added up from the beginning of history up to the present is the total accumulated wealth for civilization.

GDP has units of currency per time, so it’s a production per year. Inflation-adjusted production is producing something new to be added to what we currently have and that added over time creates our wealth. The hypothesis says that this process is related to our rate of energy consumption through a constant value λ (9.7, plus or minus 0.3, milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar].

This can be tested with various historical GDP statistics along with records of world total energy production and CO2 emissions.
Screen shot 2014-03-25 at 11.47.45 PM

This hypothesis is supported by the data to an extremely high degree of confidence.

What turns that piece of paper (currency) into a potential to do something is the milliwatts per dollar, as calculated in the chat below

Screen shot 2014-03-25 at 11.50.38 PM

The graph below shows statistics from the year 1700 onward for inflation-adjusted world GDP(P) Green line. The time integral of GDP, or wealth of civilization(C), is represented by the blue line which has increased by a factor of 6 or 7($300 trillion to $1700 trillion) since 1700. Bursts of growth are seen around 1880 and 1950 in the purple line(η) which is the annual percentage growth rate of world GDP, calculated by dividing the GDP(P) by the wealth of civilization(C). Today the world GDP is about 100 times larger than it was in 1970.

The growth of red line(a), primary energy consumption rate, is essentially moving in tandem with the wealth of civilization (blue line). This suggests that, fundamentally, money is power.

The black line represents the constant coefficient of the power of money λ (9.7, plus or minus 0.3, milliwatts per inflation-adjusted 1990 dollar).


Snap 2014-03-26 at 02.10.04
How is emissions related to wealth?

It is the relation of energy consumption and the resultant emissions. Emission rates are fundamentally linked to the wealth of civilization:

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 12.02.23 AM

You cannot reduce emission rates without reducing the “wealth” of civilization. Wealth is energy consumption; energy consumption is carbon dioxide emissions. The two are inseparable.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 12.08.32 AM

In order to just stabilize CO2 levels, you would have to decarbonize as fast as the current growth rate in energy consumption which would work out to about one nuclear power plant per day (or some other comparable non CO2-emitting energy supply).

If you look at atmospheric CO2 concentrations in parts per million by volume (from various sources including ice cores) and compare that to the world GDP going back to 2 A.D., the values increase pretty much in tandem through history:


Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 12.15.34 AM
If we want to reduce CO2, something has to collapse.”
In more recent years, the world GDP plotted against atmospheric CO2 shows an even more tight relationship between the two:

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 12.20.16 AM


You could just go to the top of Mauna Loa with a CO2 monitor and measure the size of the global economy to a high degree of accuracy.”

The positive feedback of building wealth in civilization

Wealth is a representation of energy consumption rates. Real GDP is a representation of the growth rate in energy consumption rates. This cycle is fundamentally linked to physics through the parameter lambda λ (9.7 milliwatts per inflation-adjusted dollar).

GDP is really just an abstract representation of an ability to increase our capacity to consume more energy in the future.  That’s what the production really represents.

Civilization is always trying to expand its energy consumption to accumulate more wealth, or reduce the cost of maintenance by improving energy efficiency. More available energy translates into more accumulated wealth which in turn requires more energy for maintenance, creating a vicious circle of unending growth. Energy conservation essentially does not help. The fear of contraction permeates every corner of the economy.


Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 12.25.31 AM

In nature a tree takes available energy in sunlight through photosynthesis to incorporate nutrients from the soil and air in order to grow, and as it grows, it is able to do more of that process in the future. For a healthy tree, increased efficiency speeds up this process. If the tree is diseased, then the efficiency would be compromised until it dies, creating exponential decay.

We could apply this to civilization. If we increase efficiency, it leads to accelerated growth and more energy consumption. This phenomenon is known as Jevon’s paradox, first noted in 1865.


Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 12.55.48 AM

Increased energy efficiency increases the positive feedback of building wealth in civilization which can lead to super exponential growth, and that leads to an ever accelerated increase of CO2 emissions. This feedback loop (rate of return) for building wealth in civilization has increased from about 0.1% per year in 1700 to 2.2% per year, the highest it’s ever been in history.

As mentioned before, there are a couple of inflection points in history for this rate of return, one in 1880 and another in 1950 which likely correspond to new energy reservoirs coming online. This means the problem is fundamentally a geologic problem. 1950-1970 was a boom time for the wealth rate of return. This rate of return has been stagnant in recent years for the first time since the 1930’s, probably related to the current economic crisis. The sheer size of modern civilization has vastly overshot the Earth’s regenerative abilities. Biophysical limits on resource extraction are likely a major contributor to this stagnant rate of return. 

The extraction of low-grade, dirty fossil fuels is a sign of civilization’s energy desperation.

Future Scenarios

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 1.59.26 AM
Emissions Impossible

Snap 2014-03-27 at 02.32.20

We aren’t really decarbonizing. Perhaps we’re trying to, but not really.

The model shows that reducing carbon requires a rapid reduction in the size of maintained wealth, as well as rapid abandonment of carbon-burning energy sources at the global rate of 300 GW of new non carbon-emitting power capacity—approximately one new nuclear power plant per day.

Extending the model to the future, the model suggests that the well-known IPCC SRES scenarios substantially underestimate how much CO2 levels will rise for a given level of future economic prosperity. For one, global CO2 emission rates cannot be decoupled from wealth through efficiency gains. For another, like a long-term natural disaster, future greenhouse warming can be expected to act as an inflationary drag on the real growth of global wealth. For atmospheric CO2 concentrations to remain below a “dangerous” level of 450 ppmv, model forecasts suggest that there will have to be some combination of an unrealistically rapid rate of energy decarbonization and nearly immediate reductions in global civilization wealth. Effectively, it appears that civilization may be in a double-bind. If civilization does not collapse quickly this century, then CO2 levels will likely end up exceeding 1000 ppmv; but, if CO2 levels rise by this much, then the risk is that civilization will gradually tend towards collapse.” ~ Tim Garrett

With business-as-usual, by 2100 the world GDP would be 10 times higher than today and the atmospheric CO2 would be around 1200 ppm.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 2.03.56 AM
The developed countries like the U.S., Britain, and Europe have simply offshored their manufacturing base to China and elsewhere for the most part:


Summation
Screen shot 2014-03-27 at 2.08.53 AM

Garrett’s latest paper “Long-run evolution of the global economy: 1. Physical basis” explains key components determining whether civilization can “innovate” itself toward faster economic growth through new energy reserve discovery, improvements to human and infrastructure longevity, and more energy efficient resource extraction technology. Growth slows due to a combination of prior growth, energy reserve depletion, and a “fraying” of civilization networks due to natural disasters… While growth must initially be positive for civilization to emerge, positive growth cannot be sustained forever. Civilization networks are always falling apart, and presumably in a world with finite resources, we will eventually lose the capacity to keep fixing them.” Future loss of useable Land and Water is already in the pipeline from all prior carbon emissions, and CO2 emissions continue to rise unabated. “Whether collapse comes sooner or later depends on the quantity of energy reserves available to support continued growth and the accumulated magnitude of externally imposed decay… Theoretical and numerical arguments suggest that when growth rates approach zero, civilization becomes fragile to such externalities as natural disasters, and the risk is for an accelerating collapse.”

Rip rip woodchip
Turn it into paper
Throw it in the bin
No news today
Nightmare dreaming
Can’t you hear the screaming
Chainsaw I saw more decay






Prof. Tim Garrett is,and continues to be professor of Atmospheric Studies at the University of Utah and is part of the Aerosol-Cloud-Climate Systems Group


His biography can be read HERE

1 comment:

  1. We aren’t really decarbonizing. Perhaps we’re trying to, but not really. - No really, Australia is trying increase coal exports. Approving new large coal mines for India and China to extract - Shenhua, Carmichael. NSW State governments letting Rio Tinto coal bulldoze villages, send species extinct, ruin Agricultural areas and water sources.

    Clean energy? - The Australian government keeps trying to halt it. New inquiries into health effects of wind farms. No inquiries (seriously prevented) into health effects of coal mines and coal burning.

    What more do we need to know? Looks like only economic oil collapse, plague, or nuclear holocaust. Maybe a well place nuclear device in the straits of Hormuz - about 20% of global petroleum.

    Abandon wealth to survive through the ecological catastrophe? - "Bottleneck" - The Straits of Survival.

    “You could just go to the top of Mauna Loa with a CO2 monitor and measure the size of the global economy to a high degree of accuracy.”
    "Changes in population and standard of living are only a function of the current energy efficiency. The model shows that reducing carbon requires a rapid reduction in the size of maintained wealth, as well as rapid abandonment of carbon-burning energy sources at the global rate of 300 GW of new non carbon-emitting power capacity—approximately one new nuclear power plant per day.
    -- Nuclear cannot be managed, too dangerous, too expensive, too slow to build, uses too much water, not enough Uranium left.
    -- Wind, solar, tidal, wave, whatever, go for it.

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