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Someone's Knockin' at the Door

In an article I wrote for Transition Voice, I wrote about the possible effect of peak everything on climate change. That, I believe, is only half the cycle. As you may recall, I stated that the overall effect of peak non-renewables production might be positive, i.e., the increasing cost of recovering fossil fuels could well serve to make them scarcer, thereby mitigating the effects of climate change. Let me repeat: this could be an outcome of peak everything. There will likely be other, less welcome, changes as well.
In this article, I’d like to examine the other half of the cycle: the impact of climate change on peak non-renewables production. The world was only recently on the receiving end of a startling warning in this regard. The torrential rains which have destroyed lives and property in the province of Queensland, Australia, have also managed to temporarily close the region’s coal mines (http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2011/01/20/3117184.htm), with an economic impact likely to be felt for the remainder of the year. Thus far, other coal-producing nations have been eager to fill the void. What happens when they, too, suffer the “slings and arrows (http://www.enotes.com/shakespeare-quotes/not-that-question)” of outrageous weather (http://www.earth-policy.org/images/uploads/book_files/wotebook.pdf)? As climate disruption’s fury gathers; as methane adds its short-lived but mightily potent poison to the already toxic stew that now comprises our atmosphere; as 390 ppm becomes 400, and then 410 … how on earth will any kind of business manage to conduct “business as usual (http://www.postcarbon.org/reader)?”
How do offshore drilling rigs go on drilling in the face of ever-more-damaging hurricanes? How is oil transported over the high seas in the midst of constantly-increasing numbers of typhoons? If the coal mines of Queensland can be flooded, be assured the same thing can, and will, happen elsewhere. Indeed, the mining of non-renewable ores, along with rare metals, stands to be slowed or halted all over the world, depending upon the “flavor” of climate disruption experienced in the affected region: record-setting rains and/or snowfall, tornadoes occurring in both usual and unusual places, increasing lightning strikes and their potential effect upon provision of electricity ((http://www.earth-policy.org/images/uploads/book_files/wotebook.pdf), drought and the consequent dearth of food for workers - I suspect you by now understand that this could grow into a very long list. All of these phenomena have already been observed.
It is indeed difficult to wring a happy ending from this version of our future. As surely as climate disruption will interrupt the flow of manmade pollutants, it will also just as surely interrupt everything else. Its impacts will not be experienced equally in all places on the globe; there may even be areas that will consider themselves lucky. Even as the devastation wrought upon our precious planet by human greed and ignorance slowly grinds to a halt, though, the ongoing effects could well make human life unendurable in many other, less fortunate, regions. To depend upon luck to pull us through the expected collapse of environmental and economic systems can only lead to heartbreak.
Time is short, the need for mitigative action immediate. Change the way you live today. Tell your government to do likewise.

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