A very enlightening article entitled "Why is peak oil politically incorrect?" was published by Ugo Bardi in the June Italian ASPO Newsletter, and then conveniently translated to English and reposted at EnergyBulletin.net. Using the Google Trends tool to analyze worldwide curiosity, he compared the frequency of search terms, he found that "global warming" beat "peak oil" hands down. He looked at the scientific efforts and points out that
"...at present, a search on the database “sciencedirect” that lists peer reviewed scientific literature gives more than 1800 papers citing the term “global warming” in the title or the abstract and about 5500 with the words “climate change”."
"...on the database “sciencedirect” we find today only 24 papers which carry the term “peak oil” in the title or in the abstract; even a smaller number that mention the term “oil depletion.”"
Peak Oil, it seems, is almost invisible, and yet when you look at the time lines and the potential quick-term consequences, IMHO it is by far the greater danger to our civilization. With enough energy, we could overcome global warming, but without that energy, we are cast adrift with no engine and without a sail. And since so few are watching what is happening to the world, we have no rudder and no captain.
Ugo Bardi provides insight into why there is such a disparity in the awareness of these two dangers. He points out that the observation of anomalous phenomena led to theories about climate changes, and by the 1970s it had become a legitimate subject of study. In time attempts to model the entire weather system with its multiple feedback loops have become the centerpiece of the efforts.
Resource depletion studies began with economists studying the impact of depletion on the economy, but early work was lost in the move of the economists to focus on trends rather than systems, producing models that have ignored the importance of resources on long term effects on the economy. After all, if resources appear to be infinite, current trends provide a perfect picture of the future. Using trends in the first and second derivative of population growth, demographers tell us that the world population will grow to 9.5B by the end of this century. Of course, that assumes the resources to feed and transport them are infinite and therefore not a factor. They are looking at economic trends, not the economic system.
When a simple geologist had the audacity to tell his industry that petroleum production in the US would peak and then decline, his work was ignored by economists. When Forrester did the early work that led to the publication of "The Limits of Growth," both the book and the work were vilified and ridiculed, leading to the situation where the very concept of resource depletion has become politically incorrect.
Civilization is now speeding past the point when enough can be done to mitigate the approaching catastrophe. Instead of being able to ease the world's population down to maybe 5.5B with reasonable planning, it looks more like we are heading for the bottleneck where only 1B will make it through. I did not realize that by the measure of scientific attention, the score was 24 to 1800. Unfortunately, the winning issue is focused on the wrong problem. I applaud those who are concerned about global warming, but at this rate, there won't be a civilization left to care.
We must do more to expose the dangers of uncontrolled resource depletion.
the Prudent RVer