[ExI] Why do political and economic leaders deny Peak Oil and Climate Change?

Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com
Sat Sep 7 17:03:55 UTC 2013

On Fri, Sep 6, 2013 at 3:06 PM, Eugen Leitl <eugen at leitl.org> wrote:

> Ever so subtly and unflaggingly, I try to get people to realize that
> the boat has sailed, and we *now* must jump into the cold water, so that
> we still have a chance to reach it. The longer we falter, the more
> people are going to drown.

Actually, there's no boat; you're just telling people to drown.  Like John
said, how dare those billions of people in eastern China and northern India
demand three meals a day - by your logic, they should go back to the
standard of living they had previously been on.

> Assume I'm wrong, and you're right. Now assume the opposite.
> See the asymmetry in outcomes? Does that give you pause?

Nope.  That's like Pascal's Wager: "If God exists, then to believe in Him
(and not sin) is to gain infinite, while to disbelieve (and commit sin) is
to lose infinite.  If God does not exist, then to disbelieve (sin) is to
gain a little, while to believe (not sin) is to lose a little.  Therefore
you should believe in God."  This ignores the probabilities of both sides,
and all possibilities other than the two being proposed.  It's a logical

The probability of you being right about this, given the evidence, is about
the same as the probability of the most utopian of visions that say there
will "soon" (say, before 2030 - or 2040, being generous) be TW available
for < $0.0001/MW with no carbon output.

You never put a date on it, so when civilization fails to collapse, you can
keep saying it's about to.  But summing up the chances of you being right,
up until (the Singularity/you go into cryo/etc.), the odds come out about
the same.

This is a well known problem with predicting collapse.  Logically, you can
keep claiming it's about to, and so long as you never give an exact date
you're never "wrong" so reason can't dislodge your conviction.
Emotionally, it feels SO GOOD to absolve yourself of all responsibility and
insist everyone else is screwing themselves over - this is addictive just
like tobacco and alcohol.  So you keep doing it...and yet, despite your
prophecies, civilization keeps trucking along.

If it just harmed you, that would be one thing, but this harms other
people.  Occasionally you convince people not to build a new power plant,
or some other measure that would actually address the pain.  You feel that
your convictions are supported as people continue to suffer, believing that
the fix would surely have been short-lived.  You turn a blind eye to cases
where people build these "short-lived" fixes and peoples' lives improve:
just because those fixes haven't collapsed yet, doesn't mean they won't
tomorrow, or the day after that - no matter if they were built yesterday or
50 years ago.

> > > > The best possible solution is de-industrialization, starting with
> > > > > Heinberg’s
> > > > > 50 million farmers, while also limiting immigration, instituting
> high
> > > taxes
> > > > > and other disincentives to encourage people to not have more than
> one
> > > child
> > > > > so we can get under the maximum carrying capacity as soon as
> possible.
> > > > >
> > > >
> > > > So is this a world problem or a US problem?  "Limiting immigration"
> > > doesn't
> > >
> > > It is a world problem.
> >
> > Then what's that note about limiting immigration doing there?  That's
> > inapplicable in the context of the world.
> I don't know what you're talking about, but it's impossible to fabricate
> solutions if everything is coming crashing down around you. That assumes
> that you're at all trying, if you're just fiddling while Rome burns, the
> footnotes don't matter.

Civilization hasn't collapsed yet.  Whatever the ominous signs and
portents, the majority of the world's people are not starving and rioting
at this second.  Argue all you like about how that will and must happen,
but any future - no matter how supposedly inevitable - is distinct from the

Besides, you missed the question.  If it's a world problem, then how does
"limiting immigration" help?  Where do people "immigrate" to the world
from?  (This isn't births: the author addressed that separately.)  My point
is that this is evidence the original author was, at best, confused.

> What exactly are you doing to solve the root problem?

Working on ways to reduce the cost of getting things into orbit, so that
space-basd solar becomes a lot more practical.  For that matter,
space-based anything: EROEI becomes less of a factor if you only measure
initial energy from Earth vs. eventual returns to Earth, with the system
acquiring more energy in space and using that exclusively to bootstrap its
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