Science rules, okay?

This guest post is from George Preddey, and is presented here without modification. It is the 14th submission George has written over a period of some years. I’m a member of the Wise Response committee with George, and upon realising that he had submitted this without making it available online, I received permission from him to reproduce it here.

20 March 2014 (6 months prior to the General Election)

To: All Members of the New Zealand Parliament  Most Chairs/Mayors of Regional/City/District Councils  Many media, scientific, faith, and environmental organisations and individuals

 [original in digital format from]

Science rules, OK?

George Preddey PhD

[retired futurist/physicist with six grandchildren and no party political affiliations]

Seven perceptive insights

[i] Two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I am not yet completely sure about the universe.” Pre-eminent physicist Professor Albert Einstein, 1947. Refer Endnote [2]

[ii] “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our thinking. Thus, we are drifting toward catastrophe beyond conception … Scientists who released this immense power have an overwhelming responsibility … to harness the atom for the benefit of mankind and not for humanity’s destruction … We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to survive.” Professor Albert Einstein, 1946. [3]

[iii] “The science of climate change is … compelling us to act. And let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that the science is absolutely certain … Think about it this way: all 10 of the hottest years on record have actually happened since 1998 … Scientists now predict that by the end of the century, the sea could rise by a full meter (putting) countries into jeopardy, entire cities at risk … California (is) now experiencing the 13th month of the worst drought in 500 years … I saw with my own eyes what the Philippines experienced in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan.” United States Secretary of State John Kerry, 2014. [4]

[iv] “We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts … Everyone and every country must take responsibility for (human-induced climate change) and act immediately … The science is unequivocal.” United States Secretary of State John Kerry, 2014. [5]

[v] “Western developed nations are particularly exposed to adverse trends … because globalisation has created a lethal divergence between burgeoning consumption and eroding production, with out-of-control debt used to bridge this widening chasm … The economy as we have known it for more than two centuries is beginning to unravel.” Tullett Prebon, 2013. [6]

[vi]“Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.”John Maynard Keynes. [7]

[viii] “The survival of human civilisation beyond this century will depend on the extent to which global political, military, economic, and business leaders act on evidence-based advice from scientists rather than act on ideologically-based advice from economists.” (Anon, 2014.) [8]

Infinite human stupidity

On reflection as a 72 year-old retired futurist/physicist with six grandchildren and no party political affiliations, I can identify with Einstein’s conclusion that two things are infinite (perceptive insight [i] above). In some thirteen (13) previous submissions, I have attempted to alert key decision makers and those who influence them (evidently with minimal effect) to at least three existential threats to human civilisation posed by (infinite?) human stupidity. These include ozone depleting substances (now resolving), nuclear war (an increasing threat), and human-induced climate change (an increasing threat). [Endnote [1] contains a list of these 13 previous submissions (50,285 words)]

Future contingencies

Wise Response is a group of prominent New Zealanders from a wide range of professions and backgrounds who are calling for a cross-party risk assessment of New Zealand’s vulnerability to climate, energy and financial threats to a fossil-fuel-dependent society. The Wise Response campaign was officially launched on 8 March 2013. Wise Response will be presenting a submission to Parliament on 9 April 2014 on behalf of all New Zealanders regardless of political persuasion, urging the Government to undertake a national risk assessment in five areas of economic/financial security, energy and climate security, business continuity, ecological/environmental security, and genuine well-being.

Wise Response’s proposed national risk assessment has historical precedents in analyses undertaken by the New Zealand Commission for the Future (CFF) during the early 1980s. In 1981 in accordance with its work plan agreed with the Government, the CFF published Future Contingencies 1: Natural Disaster [9], the first in a ‘Future Contingencies’ series. It reported on a peer-reviewed science-based study of potential climatic and tectonic disasters and concluded (p71) that: “The natural environment of New Zealand is often perceived in terms of the resources it represents. This beneficent viewpoint should be tempered by warnings of future … disasters … Recognition of the potential for a future disaster is a necessary first step towards its mitigation or avoidance.” An unprecedented drought in the North Island (2013) and earthquakes (2011) and flooding (2014) in Christchurch indicate elements of prescience in Future Contingencies 1: Natural Disaster (1981).

Subsequent reports in the ‘Future Contingencies’ series included: Future Contingencies 2: Societal Disaster (A Parr, published 1982); Future Contingencies 3: Economic Disaster (unpublished, a casualty of the CFF’s disestablishment but also prescient considering subsequent global economic crises); and Future Contingencies 4: Nuclear Disaster [10] published in 1982 (despite the CFF’s disestablishment in that same year as outlined below). I strongly endorse Wise Response’s proposed national risk assessment in 2014 (but with one caveat [11]).

Graphic example [1] of human stupidity: ozone depleting substances (ODS)

ODS are no longer the existential threat to human civilisation this century that they were last century. After completing a PhD in physics at VUW (1967) and working as an upper atmospheric physicist in DSIR (1968-70), I felt compelled in 1974 by a 3pp paper by Molina and Rowlands in the journal Nature [12] to warn the New Zealand public about the threat posed by ODS. Its executive summary [13] still continues to chill (burn?) me today. My warnings via the press [14] and TV [15] evidently had an impact: spray can deodorant and sunscreen purchasers began to exercise choice over aerosol propellants and a major US manufacturer of ODS sued me for $US3m ($NZ5m). The lawsuit lapsed over a legal technicality [16] but was traumatic for this reticent physicist. The Montreal protocol, an international agreement to phase out ODS taking effect from 1989, shows my concerns in 1974 were not entirely unreasonable. However the agreement reflects commercial opportunism rather than rational scientific reasoning prevailing [17]. If the protocol is adhered to – New Zealand is currently under-performing [18] – the ozone layer is predicted to more-or-less recover by 2050. Molina and Rowlands received the Nobel Prize in 1995 for their work on ODS. I can claim no credit but am relieved to have escaped a law suit of ca$NZ15m (in 2014 dollars).

The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. Primitive cyanobacteria evolved 3.6 billion years ago. Complex terrestrial life evolved much later: plants (475 million years ago); insects (400mya); reptiles (300mya); mammals (200mya); and birds (150mya). Anatomically modern humans evolved just 0.2mya. It wasn’t until oxygen released by cyanobacteria formed an ozone layer protecting Earth’s surface from intense solar UV radiation that terrestrial life became possible. To this retired futurist/physicist with six grandchildren, it beggars belief that terrestrial life potentially faced mega-extinction by manufactured for-profit ODS used in human deodorants and sunscreens. How could humans have been so stupid?

Graphic example [2] of human stupidity: nuclear weapons stockpiles

As a retired futurist/physicist, my most engrossing employment opportunity was undoubtedly as a member of the CFF Secretariat, informed by my upper atmospheric physics research at VUW and DSIR and by my ODS experience outlined above. Future Contingencies 4: Nuclear Disaster [10] was the final publication in the ‘Future Contingencies’ series. The response of the Muldoon government, strongly committed to the ANZUS nuclear alliance at the time, was to immediately disestablish the Commission (Achieved) and to overtly suppress the report’s publication (Not Achieved).

As the study group’s convenor, I moved on from traumatic temporary unemployment to Assistant Director (Research and Planning) in the Ministry of Civil Defence. In 1985, aware that the CFF 1982 report did not incorporate major subsequent research findings, I published a book updating it [19] and featuring Einstein’s prescient insight [3] on its cover. The book’s launch in 1985 by Labour’s Civil Defence Minister Peter Tapsell was in marked contrast to National’s hostile response to the 1982 CFF report. A nuclear disarmament issue of Pacific Ecologist [20] in 2013 was timely in marking the 25th anniversary of New Zealand’s nuclear-free legislation and the 50th anniversary of the potentially-catastrophic Cuban missile crisis [22]. Relevant peer-reviewed scientific content of my 1985 book required only minimal amendments 28 years later for inclusion in this 2013 issue.

Three paths to nuclear disaster have been identified [8]: nuclear war between established nuclear states by system malfunctions or political miscalculations [21]; nuclear war by proliferation of weapons among emerging nuclear states [22]; nuclear terrorism by extremist groups [23]. The darkness and global cooling effects from the use of nuclear weapons were graphically first described in 1983 as a ‘nuclear winter’ [24]. Initially thought to persist for a year, more recent peer-reviewed scientific studies show that the effects persist for ten years or more [25], allowing lesser quantities of smoke from firestorms in targeted regions to have a greater impact on both global climate and atmospheric ozone level.

Even a so-called ‘limited’ regional nuclear war wouldhave devastating global consequences by significantly reducing global surface temperatures, reducing rainfall, and increasing UV levels at the Earth’s surface [26]. Scientific studies predict that such use of nuclear weapons would immediately kill 20 million people in a regional war zone (one-half of the fatalities in World War II) and an estimated one billion people through a global famine initiated by climate change in subsequent years [27].

As a retired futurist/physicist, I understand the consequences of the use of nuclear weapons, even in a ‘limited’ nuclear war. I can see no rational argument for having nuclear weapons that can never be used; they have no credible role in New Zealand’s defence. It is imperative that ‘Nuclear Free New Zealand’, now part of the national psyche, not be compromised in any way. What I cannot understand is why, after 67 years of their existence in global nuclear arsenals, humanity’s political and military leaders continue to condone their possession and hence potential use despite utterly compelling reasons not to do so. How could global political (and military) leaders continue to be so stupid?

Graphic example [3] of human stupidity: increasing fossil fuel use

Human-induced global warming was predicted 117 years ago by the Swedish physicist S A Arrhenius [28] who postulated in 1896 that CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels would cause global warming. The Otago Daily Times [29] ran a headline 56 years ago (1957) that ‘Polar ice caps may melt with industrialisation’. In that same year, chemist C D Keeling began measurements of CO2 concentrations at Mauna Loa (Hawaii) that have confirmed an inexorable increase from 270 parts per million (ppm) in pre-‘industrialisation’ times to 315ppm in 1957 (a 17% increase) and to 400+1ppm in 2013 (a 48% increase).

The physics underlying global warming is relatively simple, as Arrhenius postulated in 1896. A higher concentration of ‘greenhouse’ gases (mainly CO2) has minimal effect on incoming (visible wavelength) sunlight but makes the atmosphere more opaque at infrared (IR) wavelengths. This requires IR (heat) re-radiation back into space to emerge from higher, colder levels thereby reducing its intensity. An energy imbalance (absorbed solar energy exceeds IR heat energy re-radiated into space) causes the Earth to warm, determines future inevitable temperature increases even without further changes in human-induced climate forcing, and defines the emission reductions necessary to restore an energy balance i.e. to stabilise the global climate.

Humans are now the dominant cause of changes in the Earth’s atmospheric composition, principally increasing levels of CO2 from burning fossil fuels. This additional CO2 will remain in the atmosphere for millennia. The inertia of the oceans and the ice sheets on Greenland and Antarctica causes the climate to respond slowly to human-induced forcing, although disastrous longer-term responses may become irreversible. The observed mean global surface temperature has increased by 0.8°C over the past century (1880-1920 baseline) and includes natural variability and human-induced climate change. Human forcing by CO2 emissions is now 10,000 times stronger than natural forcing caused by Earth’s orbital periodicities, changes in solar energy flux etc [30].

Emerging global warming impacts are becoming more apparent to human populations as: plummeting end-of-summer Arctic sea ice [31]; accelerating ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica [32]; globally receding mountain glaciers [33]; reduced seasonal freshwater availability from major rivers [34]; expansion of hot, dry, subtropical climate belts [35]; increasing wildfire areas and intensities [36]; declining coral reef-building [37]; changing patterns of wildlife behaviour [38]; and increasing mega-heatwaves [39] in Europe (2003), Moscow area (2010), Texas (2011), Greenland (2012), and Australia (2013) demonstrably linked to global warming.

The Earth’s weather is also becoming more extreme than climate scientists had previously predicted [40]. The global insurance industry is well aware of the cost of this trend: in 2013 there were 41 billion-dollar-plus weather disasters, the worst year on record for the industry except for 2010. [41]

Despite international climate agreements to limit global warming negotiated at Kyoto (taking effect from 2005), Copenhagen (2009) and Durban (2011), climate diplomacy is now shockingly disconnected from scientific reality [42]. In particular the Copenhagen agreement to restrict global warming to +2°C (making Earth hotter than at any time during the past million years) is completely disconnected from the token efforts to date to achieve even that unsafe goal. Unsurprisingly, despite the Kyoto, Copenhagen, and Durban agreements and an ongoing economic recession, carbon emissions in 2013 were the highest on record [43].

Global warming has been aptly described as the greatest market failure in history. A realistic rising carbon price that reflects the true cost of carbon emissions price would be economically efficient, and would reduce demand for fossil fuels. The absence of effective governmental leadership on realistic pricing of carbon reflects the influence of special interests in policy development and a misinformation campaign by large fossil energy interests using similar tactics and indeed some of the same ‘scientists’ as the campaign funded by big tobacco interests last century [44]. That politicians and the general public are unaware of a consensus among 97% of scientists [45] on the realities of human-induced global warming demonstrates the effectiveness of this campaign.

Currently, governments and industries world-wide are rushing headlong into expanding their use of fossil fuels, exploiting both ‘conventional’ resources (e.g. drilling for oil in deep ocean basins, the Arctic, and pristine areas; destructive large-scale opencast coal mining) and ‘unconventional’ resources (lignites, tar sands, tar shales, shale gas by hydrofracking, coal seam gas, and methane hydrates). The National Government was elected in 2008 on a ‘50-by-50’ commitment to reduce New Zealand’s carbon emissions by 50% by 2050 and is regrettably a full participant in this global rush. New Zealand’s emissions have risen inexorably since 2008: New Zealand now ranks sixth-worst among OECD countries for meeting its Kyoto commitments.

National’s post-2008 initiatives have been equally disheartening: repeal of the previous Labour government’s moratorium on new fossil-fuelled electricity generation; an utterly ineffective emissions trading scheme (ETS); motorway expansions; mining on conservation lands; lignite mining; and expanded offshore oil prospecting that breaches the basic human right of peaceful protest.

In as much as global warming is a political issue, albeit sidestepped by most politicians, arguments have tended to be ideological (e.g. the virtue of market forces) or economic (e.g. cost-benefit analyses) rather than ecological/environmental. Economic arguments customarily have discounted large negative externalities (i.e. costs borne by others) when these are not conducive for a favourable cost-benefit comparison.

In a previous submission [46], I have argued that the reputational costs of Solid Energy Ltd’s lignite projects for the ‘100% Pure’ brand and New Zealand’s major exports substantially exceeded any economic benefits for Solid Energy Ltd’s owners. Furthermore the projects’ cost-benefit comparisons entirely discounted the values of large intangible negative externalities such as the costs of human life and the economic wealth of human civilisation [47]. On any honest economic cost-benefit analysis that included all negative externalities, the lignite projects could not be justified. Fortunately for the environment and for future generations, Solid Energy Ltd is now effectively bankrupt.

The concept of a global ‘carbon budget’ emerged about a decade ago when scientists began to calculate how much more oil, coal and gas could still safely be burned while restricting human-induced global warming (to date 0.8°C) to 2°C as agreed at Copenhagen in 2009. Robust climate science predicts further human-induced global warming of an additional 0.8°C even if human-induced carbon emissions ceased immediately. This additional increase is required to restore Earth’s radiative equilibrium.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative [48] is a team of London-based financial analysts that advises investors about the risk that global warming poses for their stock portfolios. The team’s award-winning analysis in 2011 involved combing through proprietary fossil-fuel databases. It showed that: in 2012 only 565Gt of emissions remain in a safe carbon budget for the Earth’s atmosphere up until the year 2050; the total proven fossil-energy reserves owned by private and public fossil-energy companies and countries [49] represent total emissions of 2,795Gt; accordingly 79.8% of the proven reserves of fossil-energy companies and countries must be considered ‘stranded assets’ and left in the ground. This very large number (2,795Gt) is probably an underestimate [50] of the fossil carbon that fossil-energy companies and countries plan to burn in the future for profit.

The Carbon Tracker Initiative’s 2011 analysis has been substantially re-validated in 2013 by the International Energy Agency (IAE) [51] which concluded that, to have a 50% chance of avoiding +2°C of global warming (considered by the IEA to be “probably too dangerous to adapt to”) the fossil-energy sector can only emit 884Gt of CO2 between 2013 and 2050. The IAE further estimated in 2013 that burning proven reserves of coal, oil, and gas would release 2,860Gt, and accordingly 69.1% of proven reserves must be left in the ground.

The key point (PM John Key please note) is that there is three to five times as much fossil carbon on balance sheets as climate scientists believe is safe to burn. Although 2,795Gt (or 2,860Gt according to the IEA estimates) of emissions is still physically under-ground, it is economically above-ground in share prices, borrowings, and national budgets on presumed financial returns. It is the primary asset of fossil-energy companies and countries. “The drive for profits has so far proven unstoppable. Those who run the big oil companies, like the tobacco companies before them, undoubtedly know what it will mean for humanity. And like the cigarette companies, they go right on.” [52]

Given the indisputable Carbon Tracker Initiative’s 2011 maths outlined above, reaffirmed by the IEA in 2013, fossil-energy companies and countries must be seen in a new light – a pariah industry reckless like no others on Earth to the survival of human civilisation. “The numbers make clear that with the (pariah) fossil-energy industry, wrecking the planet is their business model. It’s what they do.” [53]

New Zealand’s political and business leaders are uniquely placed to show desperately-needed, strong, credible international leadership in reducing carbon emissions because this country, unlike most others, already has 70% electricity generation through renewable energy resources (hydro, geothermal, and wind). New Zealand has previously shown strong international leadership over the existential threat of global nuclear war triggered by superpower confrontation. Nuclear-Free New Zealand is now part of this country’s psyche, and must not be compromised.

Furthermore, there is a self-interest (i.e. economic) justification for strong, credible international leadership in reducing carbon emissions. New Zealand’s principal exports currently depend heavily on its (tarnished) ‘100% Pure’ brand. In a world increasingly facing the harsh realities of global warming, strong, credible international leadership by New Zealand would undoubtedly substantially benefit the economy. Dire science-based warnings that 79.8% (or 69.1% according to IEA) of all proven fossil-energy reserves must be left in the ground demand that all proposed new energy initiatives must be curtailed immediately if this country is to demonstrate such leadership.

To this retired futurist/physicist with six grandchildren and no political affiliations, the National Government’s current ‘mine and drill’ economic strategy that supports foreign fossil-energy companies by taxpayer-funded subsidies – including the deep sea Anadarko rig that has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on fruitless searches for oil and gas – beggars belief. The Labour opposition’s position on ‘mine and drill’ appears at best to be ambivalent. However, had new oil or gas reserves been discovered by Anadarko, these would either be unusable ‘stranded assets’ or a further contribution to catastrophic global warming. John Key appears blind to the perceptive insights of John Kerry (see [iii] and [iv] on p1). How could the National Government (and Anadarko) continue to be so stupid?

Graphic example [4] of human stupidity: free market economics

A central tenet of capitalism is ‘capital’ or the ‘means of production’ [54] that includes goods, land, and factories. Under global capitalism, people are free to own capital and to trade that capital for profit, spawning an extensive web of trading known as the ‘market’. To operate effectively, the market must be free and unfettered by regulation of any kind. The economist Adam Smith argued in 1776 that a free market was the best model for the human economy [55]. He has inspired an influential group of politicians, economists, and business leaders who, to this day, advocate free market capitalism as the panacea for all economic ills.

However, even Adam Smith recognised that a truly free market is a myth. Nowadays for example, free trade in child labour or plutonium or heroin would be unacceptable to most people. All markets are not only constructed and regulated but are constantly manipulated. Behind the faith in a (mythical) free market is the ideology that the so-called ‘invisible hand’ will optimally match supply and demand. No politician or economist has yet been able to explain its workings, arguing that the “market is simply too complex for anyone to understand.” [56] Although free market economics has delivered a rising standard of living to much of the world’s population for several centuries, it has also delivered huge environmental costs (including pollution, habitat destruction, species mega-extinctions, and global warming) that over future decades or centuries may become existential threats to human civilisation.

Almost without exception, economists since Adam Smith have believed that the free market is in a state of equilibrium, naturally balancing supply and demand. This belief is contradicted by reality. Since 1776 there have been a series of economic crises including global depressions and market crashes. Current free market economic theory – which failed to predict these crashes – is increasingly seen as inadequate. Indeed Her Majesty the Queen has asked her economics advisers why she had received no warning of the last one. [57]

Free market theories using simple mathematics utterly fail to account for basic free market dynamics. Most notably, violent events like the stock market crash of 1987 happen much more frequently than theories suggest – the pronounced frequency of market upheavals is precisely what is most constant in economics. Over the past 15 years, physicists have modelled free market volatility inspired by the mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot’s work on chaotic systems in the 1960s. A credible economic theory of markets would explain why they share similar patterns with earthquakes i.e. long periods of relative quiescence sporadically broken by bursts of intense upheaval. The best emerging models of free markets resemble models of disequilibrium processes driven by positive feedbacks and instability in the real world’s natural systems [58]. Vernon Smith in his 2002 Nobel Economics Prize acceptance speech urged students to “read narrowly within economics, but widely in science because within economics there is essentially only one model to be adapted to every application.” I recall in an ‘economics of climate change’ course being told tersely by the lecturer that “physicists should stay out of economics just as economists should stay out of physics.” In my view, she was completely wrong on both counts.

As any scientist knows, growth of any parameter within any closed system is [ultimately] unsustainable. Human economic growth in planet Earth’s closed biosphere is [ultimately] unsustainable. Furthermore, scientists have concluded that the Earth’s biosphere cannot sustain the current global human population and economy, let alone a growing one. The predicted consequences of exceeding the biosphere’s Limits to Growth have been known for 40 years [59]: sudden and drastic loss of human life and industrial capacity before mid-century. These dire predictions have been recently re-validated by Australia’s CSIRO [60].

Karl Polanyi [61] is an economist who understands a fundamental flaw in free market economics. The introduction of free market economics in the industrial revolution converted land, labour, and money into abstract commodities. This encouraged the belief that such commodities could be exploited without limits to deliver eternal growth measured as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) i.e. monetary value of the production of all goods and services in an economy. “Because markets treat nature as limitless and humans as commodities, they are always pushing societies and nature to the breaking point … The pursuit of profit has brought the planet to the edge of ecological disaster.” [62]

Free market economics has also brought humanity to the edge of economic disaster according to top-ranking inter-dealer broker Tullett Prebon [63]. According to Dr Tim Morgan, Tullett Prebon’s Global Head of Research, the global economy faces a lethal confluence of critical factors including fallout from the biggest debt bubble in history, a disastrous experiment with globalisation, gross distortion of economic data, and the approach of an ‘energy-returns cliff-edge’. Combined, these factors have started to reverse two centuries of economic expansion.

In 1841, Charles Mackay published ‘Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds’, identifying a common thread of ‘individual and collective idiocy’ in ‘follies’ including alchemy, witch hunts, prophecies, fortune-telling, magnetizers, phrenology, poisoning, duels, imputation of mystic powers to relics, haunted houses, crusades, and financial bubbles. All but one of Mackay’s follies have been consigned to history by intelligence, experience and enlightenment: the exception is that the last three decades have witnessed the creation of the biggest financial bubble in history.

Described by Tullett Prebon as a ‘credit super-cycle’, this bubble confirms that ‘individual and collective idiocy’ described by Mackay continues to wreak havoc today. “Historic obsessions with tulip bulbs and south sea riches are dwarfed by a latter-day ‘money for nothing’ lunacy … the credit super-cycle has mired much of the world in debts from which no escape exists save hyperinflation.” [64] This 30-year borrowing binge creating the biggest bubble in economic history is about to burst. A massive escalation of Western indebtedness is one of many indicators of a state of mind that has elevated immediate consumption over prudence throughout much of the world. Short-term thinking is blinding humans to critical longer-term risks. Tullet Prebon predicts that, as governments wrestle with the fall-out from the 2008 financial crisis, a dire chapter of recklessness is poised to end in money-printing (‘quantitative easing’), hyperinflation and eventual collapse.

Globalisation meanwhile has also proven a “vast folly” for the West by creating a lethal divergence between burgeoning consumption and eroding production with out-of-control debt used to bridge this widening chasm. Outsourcing manufacturing to emerging countries has enabled companies to boost profits but has also “hollowed-out” Western economies. Globalisation has distorted the normal relationships between production, consumption and debt beyond the point of sustainability. Deliberate data distortion has obscured the scale of the crisis: the Tullet Prebon study cites evidence from the International Monetary Fund and other sources showing that many governments use accounting devices to understate their borrowings, exaggerate their economic growth, and mask the scale of their unemployment.

Unwinding of the ‘energy dynamic’ that makes economic growth possible is the most important trend. A declining ability to source cheap fossil energy is undermining the foundations of the free market economy. The economy is a surplus energy equation, not a monetary one, and growth in output (and in global population) since the Industrial Revolution was made possible only by the harnessing of ever-greater quantities of fossil energy. But the critical ratio between energy produced and energy cost of extraction is now deteriorating so rapidly that the economy as it has existed for more than two centuries is beginning to unravel. Although tar sands and shale gas and oil may exist in vast quantities, their non-viable critical ratios “makes it abundantly clear they most emphatically are not the quick-fix that many governments (and their electorates) might like to suppose”. [65]

Tullet Prebon concludes that economies will lurch into hyper-inflation creating huge social stress and an urgent need for political, economic, and cultural adaptation to ‘life after growth’. Limits to Growth rules, OK? [59]

Considering that economic growth on planet Earth’s closed biosphere is unsustainable, that free market economic theory fails to account for basic free market dynamics, and that the continuation of free market economics is predicted to lead to ecological and economic disaster, how could most politicians, their economic advisers, and business leaders continue to be so stupid?


The survival of human civilisation beyond this century will depend on the extent to which global political, military, economic, and business leaders act on evidence-based advice from scientists rather than act on ideologically-based advice from economists. Science rules, OK? [8]


[1] A list of my previous 13 submissions:

Submission 1: (undated) 2009 1672 words Global Economic Crisis: could it ameliorate the current mass extinction event and coming human cull?

Submission 2: 28 September 2009: 4819 words Global Economic Crisis and Copenhagen: missed chances for averting a human catastrophe?

Submission 3: 15 February 2010 5166 words Anthropogenic climate change: should IPCC be believed? (real action is needed now to avert future climate catastrophe)

Submission 4: 31 March 2010 7473 words Three contrasting responses to anthropogenic climate change: Hon Tim Groser (inadequate; Lord Rees et al (reticent); Solid Energy Ltd (expletive deleted)

Submission 5: 31 May 2011 6465 words A Key letter, Brash physics, lignite mining, Fatih Birol, Lord Stern, the Bishop of Stafford, physics v flawed economics, flying PIGS, how NZ might save the planet, and crimes against humanity

Submission 6: (undated) August 2011 4461 words World on the Edge: How to prevent environmental and economic collapse: Lester R Brown, Earth Policy Institute

Submission 7: 15 March 2012 2300 wordsWorld3: Building a brighter hotter future

Submission 8: 16 May 2012 1384 words Game over for the climate

Submission 9: 10 June 2012 3174 words Discredited economic groupthink and a 10km-wide asteroid headed towards Earth

Submission 10: 6 August 2012 3350 words We shall require a substantially new way of thinking if mankind is to survive (a pariah industry)

Submission 11: (undated) 2012 1903 words Submission on the Proposed Southland Regional Policy Statement 2012

Submission 12: 4 September 2012 1190 words Climate Change Response (Emission Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill 52-1 (2012)

Submission 13: 15 April 2013 6958 words Three Existential Threats: briefing note for your information (one mostly resolved, —————two unresolved and increasing) 50,285 words

[2] The remark is attributed to Professor Einstein in conversation with Frederick S. Perls recorded at p33 of Gestalt Therapy Verbatim. Frederick S. Perls, 1969. Real People Press, Lafayette, USA.

[3] Reported in The New York Times of 25 May 1946 under the headline “Atomic education urged by Einstein.” Einstein had issued a personal appeal to prominent Americans seeking funding for a nationwide campaign “to let the people know that a new type of thinking is essential … in the atomic age if mankind is to survive.”

[4] John Kerry (2014). Extracts from a speech by United States Secretary of State John Kerry to Indonesian students, civic leaders, and government officials in Jakarta on 16 Feb, 2014. The entire speech is available at:

[5] John Kerry (2014), op cit.

[6] ‘Perfect Storm – energy, finance and the end of growth’, 21 Jan 2013. A report by inter-dealer broker Tullett Prebon concluding that more than 200 years of economic expansion may be drawing to a close.

[7] John Maynard Keynes quoted in ‘Moving Forward: Programme for a Participatory Economy’ (2000). Michael Albert, p. 128.

[8] See penultimate sentence of this Submission 14: science rules, OK?

[9] Commission for the Future (1981). Future Contingencies 1. Natural Disaster. ISBN-0-477-06222

[10] Commission for the Future (1982). Future Contingencies 4. Nuclear Disaster. ISSBN-0-477-06226-1. 179pp, 508 references.

[11] I have respectfully suggested to the Wise Response initiators that a nuclear disaster be added to the five potential threats to economic/financial security, energy and climate security, business continuity, ecological/environmental security, and genuine well-being identified by Wise Response, in recognition of its overarching consequences.

[12] Molina MJ & Rowland FS (chemists) in Nature 249, p810-12 (28 Jun 1974). ‘Stratospheric sink for chlorofluoromethanes: chlorine atom-catalysed destruction of ozone.’

[13] Abstract of [12]: ‘Chlorofluoromethanes are being added to the environment in steadily increasing amounts. These compounds are chemically inert and may remain in the atmosphere for 40-150 years, and concentrations can be expected to reach 10 to 30 times present levels. Photodissociation of the chlorofluoromethanes in the stratosphere produces significant amounts of chlorine atoms, and leads to the destruction of atmospheric ozone.’

[14] Lead letter published in The Evening Post, the precursor of Wellington’s Dominion Post.

[15] I was interviewed (courteously) by Sharon Crosby on ‘Town and Around’, the precursor to ‘Seven Sharp’, ‘Campbell Live’ etc on Television New Zealand’s then single channel in glorious 50-shades-of-grey.

[16] The word ‘freon’ was listed in Webster’s American Dictionary in 1974, whereas the term ‘Freon’ refers to a propriety product. My Lawyer advised the Plaintiff that, during my TV interview, I was using the term ‘freon’ and appreciated the importance of correct punctuation.

[17] It happened because a major producer sought market dominance in safer ODS alternatives and had a quiet word with the (then) US President – not because rational scientific reasoning prevailed (James Hansen, pers. comm.)

[18] New Zealand’s emission of methyl bromide, a fumigant and known ODS, have doubled over the past 5 years according to records of the UNEP Ozone Secretariat: Year 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 NZ’s emissions (metric tonnes) 211.0 160.4 288.4 269.6 406.4 469.1

[19] Nuclear Disaster: a new way of thinking down under. G F Preddey (1985). Asia Pacific Books/Futurewatch. (ISBN 0908583117).

[20] Pacific Ecologist, issue 22 (summer 2013): ‘Why it’s vital to rid the world of nuclear weapons’. Editor Kay Wier.

[21] Recorded discussions between President Kennedy and his political and military advisers during the Cuban missile crisis show that Kennedy assessed the likelihood of nuclear war as more than 50% at the same time that a ‘doomsday plan’ was being activated.

[22] For example Israel v Iran or Syria, India v Pakistan, North v South Korea. India has plans for a blitzkrieg invasion of Pakistan assuming Pakistan is bluffing in its professed willingness to use tactical nuclear weapons in its defence. It is disconcerting that Ukraine – currently a source of growing tension between Russia and the West – once hosted the world’s third-most powerful nuclear weapons arsenal. See also Submission 13, [1].

[23] Al-Qaeda and other militant groups are desperately seeking fissile material or assembled warheads. To this end, there have been at least nine unsuccessful attacks by extremist groups on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons infrastructure. See also Submission 13, [1].

[24] Turco R, Toon O, Ackermann T, Pollack J, and Sagan C, (1983). ‘Nuclear Winter: Global consequences of multiple nuclear explosions’, Science, Vol. 222, No. 4630, December 1983, pp. 1283-1292.

[25] Robock A, Oman L, Stenchikov G (2007): ‘Nuclear winter revisited with a modern climate model and current nuclear arsenals: Still catastrophic consequences’, Journal of Geophysical Research – Atmospheres, Vol. 112, p4.

[26] Helfand I, (2007). ‘An Assessment of the Extent of Projected Global Famine Resulting From Limited, Regional Nuclear War’, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Physicians for Social Responsibility.

[27] Helfand I, (2007), op cit.

[28] Arrhenius SA (1896). ‘On the influence of carbonic acid (CO2) in the air upon the temperature of the ground’, Philosophical Magazine, (41): 237-76.

[29] The Otago Daily Times, 23 Jan 1957, p5.

[30] Hansen (2008). Open Atmos. Sci. J. (2008), vol. 2, pp. 217-231, available as a free PDF file from

[31] Stroeve JC, Kattsov V, Barrett A, Serreze M, Pavlova T, Holland M, et al. (2012). ‘Trends in Arctic sea ice extent from CMIP5, CMIP3 and observations’. Geophys Res Lett 39: L16502. Rampal P, Weiss J, Dubois C, Campin JM (2011). ‘IPCC climate models do not capture Arctic sea ice drift acceleration: Consequences in terms of projected sea ice thinning and decline’. J Geophys Res 116: C00D07.

[32] Shepherd A, Ivins ER, Geruo A, Barletta VR, Bentley MJ, et al. (2012). ‘A reconciled estimate of ice-sheet mass balance’. Science 338: 1183-1189. Rignot E, Velicogna I, van den Broeke MR, Monaghan A, Lenaerts J ( 2011) ‘Acceleration of the contribution of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to sea level rise’. Geophys Res Lett 38: L05503-L05508.

[33] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007): ‘Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability’. Parry, ML, Canziani O, Palutikof J, van der Linden P, Hanson C, editors. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rabatel A, Francou B, Soruco A, Gomez J, Caceres B, et al. (2013). ‘Current state of glaciers in the tropical Andes: a multi-century perspective on glacier evolution and climate change’. The Cryosphere 7:81-102.

[34] Barnett TP, Pierce DW, Hidalgo HG, Bonfils C, Santer BD, et al. (2008). ‘Human-induced changes in the hydrology of the western United States’. Science 319: 1080-1083. Kaser G, Grosshauser M, Marzeion B (2010). ‘Contribution potential of glaciers to water availability in different climate regimes’. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107: 20223-20227. Vergara W, Deeb AM, Valencia AM, Bradley RS, Francou B, et al. (2007). ‘Economic impacts of rapid glacier retreat in the Andes’. EOS Trans Amer. Geophys Union 88: 261-268.

[35] Held IM, Soden BJ (2006). ‘Robust responses of the hydrological cycle to global warming’. J Clim 19: 5686-5699. Seidel DJ, Fu Q, Randel WJ, Reichler TJ (2008). ‘Widening of the tropical belt in a changing climate’. Nat Geosci 1: 21-24. Davis, SM, Rosenlof KH (2011). ‘A multi-diagnostic intercomparison of tropical width time series using reanalyses and satellite observations’. J Clim doi: 10.1175/JCLI-D-1111-00127.00121.

[36] Westerling AL, Hidalgo HG, Cayan DR, Swetnam TW ( 2006). ‘Warming and earlier spring increase western US forest wildfire activity’. Science 313: 940-943.

[37] Bruno JF, Selig ER (2007). ‘Regional decline of coral cover in the Indo-Pacific: timing, extent, and subregional comparisons’. Plos One 2: e711. Hoegh-Guldberg O, Mumby PJ, Hooten AJ, Steneck RS, Greenfield P, et al. (2007). ‘Coral reefs under rapid climate change and ocean acidification’. Science 318: 1737-1742. Veron JE, Hoegh-Guldberg O, Lenton TM, Lough JM, Obura DO, et al. (2009). ‘The coral reef crisis: The critical importance of < 350 ppm CO2’. Mar Pollut Bull 58: 1428-1436.

[38] Parmesan C, Yohe G (2003). ‘A globally coherent fingerprint of climate change impacts across natural systems’. Nature 421: 37-42. Parmesan C (2006). ‘Ecological and evolutionary responses to recent climate change’. Annu Rev Ecol Evol S 37: 637-669.

[39] Rahmstorf S, Coumou D (2011). ‘Increase of extreme events in a warming world’. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108: 17905-17909. Hansen J, Sato M, Ruedy R (2012). ‘Perception of climate change’. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 109: 14726-14727.

[40] See for example New Scientist, 7 Jul 2012, ‘When freak weather becomes the norm.’

[41] According to insurance company Aon Benfield which tracks global disasters, reported in the DomPost (14 Jan 2014).

[42] See for example New Scientist, 30 Jun 2012, p3 (editorial).

[43] International Energy Agency (IEA) data for 2013.

[44] Oreskes, Naomi and Conway, Erik (2010) in Merchants of Doubt. Bloomsbury, 2010. ISBN 10:1596916109.

[45] Anderegg WRL, Prall JW, Jacob H, Schneider SH (2010). ‘Expert credibility in climate change.’ Proc US Nat Acad Sci US 107 (27): 12107–9.

[46] Submission 7:World3: Building a brighter hotter future (15 Mar 2012).

[47] See for example

[48] See

[49] For example, Venezuela, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the New Zealand state-owned enterprise Solid Energy Ltd.

[50] 2,795Gt doesn’t fully reflect the recent exploitation of unconventional energy sources (lignite, tar sands, shale gas, coal seam gas) and fracking.

[51] SeeNew Scientist, 8 March 2014, pp8-9; ‘Redrawing the Climate-Energy Map’. IEA, 2013; ‘Technology Roadmap: Carbon Capture and Storage’. IEA, 2013.

[52] Engelhardt, Tom, 2014, ‘The End of History?’

[53] Naomi Klein reported in McKibbon (2012). See also Rolling Stone (2 Aug 2012) or 20120719#ixzz21UvLKPiH.

[54] Karl Marx, 1867. ‘Capital: Critique of Political Economy’.

[55] Adam Smith, 1776. ‘An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations’.

[56] Ja Hoon Chang, 2010. ‘23 Things They Don’t Tell You About Capitalism’. Penguin Books, 2010. ISBN 978-1-60819-166-6.

[57] Submission 2: Global Economic Crisis and Copenhagen: missed chances for averting a human catastrophe? (28 Sep 2009).

[58] Mark Buchanan, 2011. ‘Mandelbrot Beats Economics in Fathoming Markets.’ See

[59] Meadows DH, Meadows DL, Randers J, and Behrens WW, 1972. ‘The Limits to Growth’, a report commissioned by the Club of Rome (1972).

[60] Graham Turner et al (2008). CSIRO working paper ISSN 1834-3638, 2008.

[61] Polanyi, K. (1944). The Great Transformation. New York: Farrar & Rinehart.

[62] David Bollier (2009). ‘Why Karl Polanyi still matter’. Commons Magazine, 24 Feb 2009. See

[63] Tullett Prebon (2013). See (21 Jan 2013). See also endnote [6].

[64] Tullett Prebon (2013), op cit.

[65] Tullett Prebon (2013), op cit.

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