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News The ESA supports enviro doomsaying

  1. Jun 4, 2012 #1
    Last month the World Wildlife Fund released their Living Planet Report 2012. Now before I shred it, I will point out that not everything in it is bad, in fact there's actually a few recommendations that are worthwhile. Namely better protection for endangered species, and better controls on overfishing & illegal logging. These are good, common sense recommendations for very real and serious problems.

    But where it gets into trouble is when it starts talking about "biocapacity", "ecological footprints", and how we're exceeding all of them and are in "ecological overshoot". Frankly this section reeks of Malthusianism. But believe it or not, it gets worse. This is where they reveal what their real agenda is. In no particular order, here's a few juicy quotes:

    Pay special attention to "moving away from material and energy-intensive commodities". What that basically means is the complete and total deindustrialization of the planet as well as prevention of industrialization in currently non-industrial countries. How can this statement mean that? Because almost all metals inherently require large amounts of energy to mine, smelt, and mill into the various alloys we find in our products. In addition there's still the manufacturing processes to produce those products, and many of them are energy intensive too.

    Now this is where I become completely baffled why the European Space Agency would endorse such proposals. Unless they can find a way to make their rockets and spacecraft out of balsa wood, there would be no future for the agency.

    Now this is what the deindustrialization proposal is really about. Unless our energy consumption falls off a cliff there is no possible way this is going to happen, and even if it did the amount of land required is monstrous.

    When economies grow they always use more energy and more resources, and while efficiency gains will slowdown the rate of increase, it still goes up none the less. In fact a good metric for determining if an economy is growing is by looking at the energy consumption. So what does this "decrease demand by 15% compared to 2005" mean? Well, basically it means if this proposal goes forward there would be a permanent recession, likely lasting decades or more.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 4, 2012 #2
    It’s unclear to me exactly what the ESA is supporting. As for the WWF, it would seem to me that if coexistence is the goal then the best way to achieve this without forcing too much population control would be to see how we can redesign cities without impacting the land scape too much.

    In Japan they made a building which was a city in its self. Imagine a few of these connected with underground trains and walkways over top of a canopy of trees. There was a car factory (perhaps BMW), who actually put a factory downtown in a sky scraper. There are also proposals for vertical farming.

    All of these things are the opposite of de-industrialization and so far beyond our economic means. However, perhaps in the future they will become possible. A city could be slowly transformed into this vision by buying up land and turning it into parkland. It would be a slow process but could happen if that is what people want.
  4. Jun 4, 2012 #3

    Japan's reasons for doing thing, I suspect have more to do with their very heavy population density. While this does allow for more efficient usage of land, it does little to address anything else.

    That underground train thing reminds me quite a lot of the Boston Big Dig project, which aimed to do that with a highway. The result was a $15 billion, 20 year long boondoggle that is considered by some to be a death trap.

    I didn't see any mention of these proposals in the report, so unless I missed it I would think that's why they weren't included. After all it would require a lot of "energy intensive commodities" (concrete and steel mostly) to go through with any of them, which as the report stated stated we shouldn't have.

    Cities already do have parks in them to greater or lesser degrees.
  5. Jun 4, 2012 #4
    The idea of increasing renewable energy production certainly makes sense. My guess is that it will increase, but not by more than, say, 20% during the next half century. There's still lots of oil, coal and natural gas, and it's these resources that most of the world's energy producing infrastructure is about. Also, there's no reason to expect that people and businesses who have the means to produce inordinately large carbon footprints are going to scale back their behavior. So, I would have to conclude that what the WWF 2012 Living Planet Report says humanity should do is pretty much a pipe dream.
  6. Jun 4, 2012 #5


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    More funding to monitor stuff from satellites, I expect. Also remember the EU is strongly politically committed to "being green".
  7. Jun 4, 2012 #6
    Yes and don't forget that Green is the new Red- hence the talk of utopian-style deindustrialization and the move toward a more "commun"-al existence.
  8. Jun 5, 2012 #7


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    Aquitaine reducing energy dependency on fossil fuels is a must. This doesn't mean the end of space agencies and I don't know why you think it would. Firstly if you decrease need for oil in most sectors of your society (for buildings, transport etc) then you free up more for other areas but secondly biofuels or synthesised liquid fuels (powered by renewable energy) could be used and would also incentivise funds towards research and development of these technologies.

    Regarding industrialisation and over-consumption, I don't know why you think that these statements indicate that the WWF and ESA want the planet to return to a pre-industrial state. If anything these things indicate to me that these organisations are paying attention to the fact that we cannot keep growing and doing so has already caused harm to our ecosystem. It's fallacious to think that the two options are continue as we are or revert to pre-industry. Emphasis on sustainable, efficient technology and steady state economic systems are just some other positive options to combat this. Regarding your comments about energy in general: we can't keep growing in per-capital energy use because eventually we'll boil the surface of the planet, renewables do not take up as much resources as you seem to think (rooftop solar requires zero extra land) and reducing energy consumption is a great thing from the perspective of efficiency. In the EU there are many passive-housing and zero-energy building initiatives designed to do more with less energy which is an excellent thing.

    Thinking that objections to continuous growth and green policies are indicative of some sort of luddite or communist conspiracy is stereotypical beyond belief.
  9. Jun 5, 2012 #8
    The problem with these types (they call them "watermelons," green on the outside, red on the inside) is that they cause a lot of people to just have the knee-jerk reaction to ignore them, when the problems they speak of, while maybe not as serious as they make out, are still legitimate problems.

    The problem right now is that there are no real viable alternatives to fossil fuels. It owuld be great if we could get some real breakthroughs in something like solar technology, but until then, it isn't yet a viable technology.

    Are steady state economic systems really realistic? I mean economies grow, populations grow, and so forth. You can't keep an economy in a fixed state.
  10. Jun 5, 2012 #9
    Ryan m b:

    I agree completely.

    The WWF says we should "move away from material and energy intensive commodities", so that would include moving away from aluminum, computer chips, steel, copper, and pretty much everything else a spacecraft is made from. So, without any of those commodities, how can the ESA build the rockets it needs?

    Renewable energy, with the exceptions of hydro and geo is completely unreliable and inherently diffuse, ergo completely unsuitable for any kind of industry. Here's an example from wind power:


    Those are some very wild output swings, and solar has similar limitations.

    That's precisely what the Club of Rome said 40 years ago, and yet here we are. The reality is that stagnant economies = not many jobs created. Are you willing to sacrifice your job for Mother Earth? Are you going to tell an impovrished third worlder that he or she doesnt have the right to a earn a decent living because we can't permit their economy to grow since we're at our self-imposed limits?

    No, it isn't. Again, I must point to the quote "move away from material and energy intensive commodities". Mining, which feeds our industries is energy intensive, so that's gone. Even re-smelting recycled metal is energy intensive so that's out too. Then there's the industrial processes themselves, that is usually energy intensive as well so can't do it. What does that leave us with? Nothing.

    But there's no such thing as sustainable technology. Those solar panels for example have a 25 year designed lifespan, after which the whole unit needs replacing. Meaning more resources being needed to replace them. But wait, there's more. Since solar PV's are dervitives of semiconductors, they are manufactured in the same manner. Which is not only energy intensive, it generates a great deal of toxic waste. Here's an estimate I found on how much it takes to make one batch of computer chips:


    So manufacturing the millions of panels it would take to come anywhere near meeting even a small part of our energy requirements will generate more toxic waste than the entire history of every nuclear reactor in existence, and people complain about that and not this? My little eye spies a double standard.

    The first part of the statement is reductio ad absurdum. No one is saying our growth on this planet will ever get anywhere near that level. Secondly, renewables do take up huge quantities of resources because you have to build huge quantities of wind, solar, and wave farms to get anywhere near the amount of energy we're using today. One wind turbine by itself is anywhere from 300 to 400 feet tall. Solar is inherintly limited to, at best, an energy density of just 1 kw/m2, and thats on a sunny day at the equater. So no matter how efficient the panel itself gets, that's a fixed upper limit on performance. But it gets better, that also assumes no cloud cover (where I'm at it rains 2/3 of the year). With that in mind I doubt rooftop solar generates enough to power even one home, let alone everything.

    I'm glad you brought that up. Portland State University tried something like that, but here's what it really was: A White Elephant. The university was willing to fork out more than $20 million that it doesnt have (after all it keeps raising tuition telling everyone they dont have enough money) and was trying to get the state to pay the rest, tens of millions that it also doesnt have. At a time when state social services are under threat of being slashed, I find it absolutly appalling that they would have the gall to even try and proposition the government for money for a building with no demonstrable economic value.

    And I havent even gotten into how renewables are being funded, largely with either huge feed in tarrifs, massive sums of taxpayer money, government regulations forcing utlities to use renewables regardless of need, or usually a combination of the above.
  11. Jun 6, 2012 #10


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    You are aware that "move away from" is not a synonym for "ditch completely with no replacement"? Because your tone suggests otherwise.
    Renewables can't be the sole answer, we have to have a mix of energy production whilst at the same time an emphasis on efficiency both in the mechanisms of existing processes and replacing the processes we currently use. An example of the former would be making lighter, more fuel efficient cars. An example of the latter would be designing our urban environments to reduce the need for a car.
    I disagree with the notion that steady state economics would necessarily result in worse unemployment than we have now in the western world. Employment in general is something I think that should be looked at as part of any system seeking to address distribution of resources. As for the developing world you have a good point, how do we establish change at a global level whilst ensuring everyone has good access to personal resources? It's not an easy question but that doesn't mean there isn't an answer.
    I refer you to my first and second points.
    If you think you're spying one in me then I'm sorry to disappoint, I also think it is quite telling that you seem to think support for renewables means one is anti-nuclear. Yes you are raising good points, points that need to be addressed and either mitigated or dealt with. I'd advocate designing products for as long a life as possible as well as manufacturing from easily recyclable materials as much as possible and that applies here to. If we can't do it then we're limtied and we have to look at other areas at the same time.

    There is no one size fits all answer to the energy crisis and we may have to live with the reality that for a long time (possibly forever) we wont have energy access like we did in the fossil fuel age.
    It isn't because I wasn't using it as an argument, rather to highlight a point that at some point growth is going to stop and I think we should look for better socioeconomic models of how to do that sooner rather than later.
    AFAIK there are people on this site that can refute your last statement personally. Secondly whilst solar might not provided 100% of a home's energy why should it have to? So long as it can economically (and that's economically in the face of raising fossil fuel prices) reduce energy costs then why not? Again I feel I have to point out that there isn't a one size fits all approach. PV might be bad for where you are, so don't use it or make it less of a factor compared to other places.
    And yet passive-house and ZEB projects have been conducted in various places throughout the world with positive results. Whilst the R&D and construction may be costly the benefit is a massive increase in energy efficiency. We're not going to get there overnight (not least because retrofitting into existing buildings ranges from hard to impossible) but we have to think long term about this. As for your objections to how that university spends its money well that's neither here nor there.
    Yes they are subsidised, I don't find this a bad thing at all. There needs to be incentives for consumers to purchase so that investors can invest and ultimately R&D can continue towards widespread deployment. Energy policy has to look to the long term and the long term looks to have decreasing fossil fuel availability.
  12. Jun 6, 2012 #11
    That and population reduction. Even Prince Phillip let slip "We need to eliminate several billion people on this planet"....but of course not HIS friends and family.

    Such doomsday prognostications are a venue toward global governance and socialism.

    You are mostly too stupid to run your own life and have any degree of control over your governance; only the elitists should have such freedom and power.
  13. Jun 6, 2012 #12


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    I'm impressed that you somehow linked aristocracy and socialism in the same breath :rofl:

    As for the rest of your statement overpopulation is a problem in some parts of the world and obviously continual growth will be damaging but largely the problem seems to be sorting itself out. In the developed world lack of need and female emancipation have brought TFRs right down to barely above 2.0
  14. Jun 6, 2012 #13
    Ok so if steel, aluminum, etc, is out, what do you suggest as alternatives?

    Sadly every major environmental group is touting them as the sole answer. Efficiency comes as the market demands it, but even that will not stop the increase entirely if the economy is growing.

    The reason car fuel economiesdidn't go up for quite a while was because through the 1990's the price of oil went down, hitting an all time low of $8 a barrel in '98. Now that oil prices have gone up so much car efficiences are going up as well. And as a user of mass transit, I must say I much prefer the car. In any case, in the coming decade we will see batteries that are competitive with combustion engines in the passenger car market.

    In the industrial world this has never been the case with the singular exception of the communist bloc. It was a system that, except for the beaureucrats at the top, ensured exactly what what you're talking about: equal distribution of resources and employment for everyone. In contrast compare this to the stagflation of the 70's in the non-communist countries. Energy usage did not increase because the economies were not growing, on the other hand unemployment was high. I suppose that you could mop that up with government make work programs, but these lead to very high deficits and inevitably a sovereign debt crisis unless it backs off.

    The problem is they don't have access to more resources because they didnt develop their economies until recently. If we can't grow anymore, as per your original premise, that leaves our current resource level as the upper limit, and without more resources that means no economic growth. No economic growth + growing populations = Lower living standards.

    Well I wasn't sure, although I wasn't referring to you specifically. If you look at Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and other organizations like this the pattern of pro-renewablism and anti-nuclearism is definitately there. And actually, I used to be one of them until I started doing my own research. If you look at the Yucca Mountain contraversy, it's really part of the broader effort by these groups to delgeitimize nuclear power.

    Energy comes in more than one package, and fortunately fissionables are not only plentiful, they don't use that much fuel compared with the power we get from them. 1 ton of fissioned uranium has the energy equivelence of more than 1 million tons of coal. In fact, it's even greater than that because 90% of it isnt actually fissioned, but rather converted into plutonium which can be extracted and reused via waste reprocessing. And really, we haven't even started to tap this. Energy is bountiful, its only really limited by political choices.

    Sure, at some point it will have to stop, but not for quite a while. And even so, this is predicated on the assumption that all of our economic growth will forever be confined on this one planet. We have 7 other planets, several dwarf planets, dozens of moons, and hundreds of metal rich asteroids. The surveying of 433 Eros in 1999, which estimated there's more gold there than has ever been mined in the history of the world, offers a small glimpse into this wealth. The recent survey's of our own moon for example show it to be rich in titanium, so why turn away from all of this?

    Except that it doesn't reduce energy costs, it actually raises them because solar is much more expensive than anything else. The cost is hidden in the US however by that nice federal tax credit people get for putting them up. In many places though people are stuck with feed in tariffs. There's also other cases of direct government handouts, though these are much higher in Europe than the US. No other form of energy generation is as heavily subsidized as solar, wind, tidal, and wave. While one of these does have some niche applications, the rest are completely worthless. What we have here a case of goverments picking winners and losers based on nothing more than political fiat.

    I'll also point out that even though electricity prices in Germany are already 3 times higher than the US, it's going to go up quite dramatically. Entirely because they are trying to go totally renewable.

    Where I'm at we get 3/4 of our electricity through hydro, which is cheap and reliable. But people keep throwing money at these expensive PV panels anyway, why? Because the environmentalists dont like the dams, want them totally removed and replaced with PV and wind. As such their propaganda machines are in overdrive to promote them, and having state legislatures pass "green requirements" forcing utilities to buy power from pv and wind. This reeks of crony capitalism.

    Except that efficiency increase is hugely uneconomical, and is going to solve a problem that doesn't really exist. In radio interviews the people who proposed this project were talking about their proposed rate structure: Rent would be 50% more, power and water rates would be 0. But that's the equivilent of me paying $400 more a month in rent to save $150 in power and water. Does that make economic sense to you? Without huge sums of taxpayer money, this wont happen.

    If it recieved the same level of subsidies everything else does, I would agree. But that's not the case. And actually these subsidies are going to go away in the coming years, not because the technology is competitive enough (it's not and never will be), but rather because across the western world there will be austerity which forces governments to choose what their priorities are. We can see this to some degree already in some parts of Europe, but it's only a matter of time before it happens elsewhere.

    Wind and solar have been saying this since the '70's.......and now they are more heavily subsidized than ever. Here's how federal involvement should be done: Dismantle utility quotas, R&D grants should be spread equally and capped at a total of a few billion for all power sources, loan gaurentees should be provided to all new large scale power projects, direct subsidies should be spread equally and capped for all power sources, and regulatory approval regarding nuclear should be streamlined to be made more efficient while still retaining their effectiveness to ensure safe reactor operations, the regulatory approval process should begin for small scale modular reactor systems (hyperion as one example, currently the NRC is refusing to even consider such things). This will ensure an even playing field when it comes to adding new electricity supply.

    Markets have a way of doing this with supply and demand, but even so if we government to step in and get off of fossil fuels for electricity generation, here's what I would do: Develop hydro and geothermal to the greatest extent practical, while these are cheap and reliable they are nonetheless geographically limited. So as for the rest, replace existing nuclear reactors, all coal and all natural gas power stations with new generation 3+ (and eventually generation 4) nuclear reactors and deployment of small modular reactors would be encouraged (once they are approved of course). If done over a 40 year time period, this would ensure we all have access to affordable and reliable electricity for the rest of the century.
  15. Jun 6, 2012 #14


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    I didn't say they were out, I don't see where anyone did and no I don't have an answer for every field when I say "things should be maximally energy efficient".
    I didn't say anything about equal distribution of resources or employment or communists. Not sure where you're getting all this from but it strikes me that you have a bad case of assumptions and personally I feel this is making any conversation largely futile. It's a massive turn off (not to mention quite stereotypical) trying to have an interesting discussion only to have someone assume you're some kind of communist because you've voiced an objection to perpetual economic growth or some other aspect of modern capitalism.
    Depends what you mean by quite a while, a few centuries judging by estimates I've seen (if that). Space is anything but easy to get resources from and hoping that in the future technology will change the economics of that dramatically is the type of technological optimism that I really worry about. We should aim to solve problems that we can foresee on the basis of what we know and have and retrofit later knowledge and technology into this plan as and when it comes. We shouldn't assume that the future will solve the problem when we have no indication that it will.
    Sorry but I'm not convinced by this. Firstly because the fact that it is more expensive isn't much of a concern for me, not because it wont affect me (it will) but because I'm resigned to the fact that for the foreseeable future we are stuck with expensive energy bills. Lastly I'd contest your argument that solar is somehow niche with the obvious point that solar power is a growing percentage of national energy infrastructure.
    Yes, our future energy wont be as cheap as the abundant fossil fuels we've enjoyed in the past. So what? No one is advocating this seriously for the economic savings per KWh.
    Firstly there is a problem with dams potentially damaging ecosystems but secondly I'm surprised at how much you are rating hydroelectric over solar. They both have a part to play but neither is a be all and end all.
    With rising costs in energy and hopefully reductions in costs via R&D and mass production yes it makes economic sense.
  16. Jun 7, 2012 #15
    The WWF just did in that report. You said move away from doesn't mean ditch without alternatives, and I was wondering if you had any in mind. The report sure didn't.

    Now you're putting words in my post. I never called you a communist, rather I was pointing out that historically your proposed steady state growth model has never existed in any industrialized economy ever without high unemplyment, with that one exception. I was trying to demonstrate why a steady state growth model is not realistic.

    It would depend on a lot of things, but access to space is a huge game changer because provides so much more in the way of resources.

    I'm not sure to what extent you've been following the space industry, but I think you're hugely underestimating the effects of privitization have. Here is a short video that may prove enlightening.

    Ah, this is the trap of fatalism. You're making an assumption based on a premise that isn't necessarily true. In this case you are assuming future energy prices are going to be high based on the premise that all non fossil fuel sources are really expensive. I will state that this is wrong, but with a caveat: It's possible for it be that way by being politically engineered to be expensive, but in which case it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    The market for solar has been massively inflated through politically motivated "renewable quotas" foisted on utilities and spending large amounts of taxpayer money. There are some applications where solar makes a lot of sense and the market would support it, but putting it into the national energy grid isn't one of them. Cost of electricity by source. While the estimates vary pretty wildly on wind and nuclear, they all say the same thing about solar: that's its significantly more expensive than nearly everything else.

    Actually a number of people who got suckered/guilted into supporting renewables do believe that.

    I specifically stated in the second proposal that energy would be from 3 different sources, nowhere did I say it was a be all and end all. I rated it higher than solar because the main factors are reliability and cost. In my first proposal I dont advocate any of them, but rather an even political field so allow all these sources to compete in a real market purely on their inherent technological and economical merits. In which case it's still not likely solar would play much of a part because utilities care most about reliability and cost, solar fails in both regards. Besides, everything damages ecosystems, that's why some environmental groups http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-04-02/environment-group-sues-u-dot-s-dot-over-mojave-solar-project [Broken]

    But here's a question, let's say prices go up high enough to make such buildings viable, wouldn't that generate a market responce to actually build these things purely with private capital? If that's the case then why try and pillage the public coffer?
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  17. Jun 11, 2012 #16


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  18. Jun 11, 2012 #17


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    C'mon. The point is that somethings are far worse than others.
  19. Jun 12, 2012 #18
    On a smaller scale ... NOT printing a report just so you can shred it, would be something common sense that everyone could follow. :)
  20. Oct 26, 2012 #19


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    Going back a a couple months to add in ..

    And the poster is not the first to draw the connection.
    Aristocracy (self anointed)

    A better question: where have the two not been linked? Where has a strong incidence of socialism existed without a Dear Leader close behind?
  21. Oct 29, 2012 #20


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    Your making the claim about the existence of such connection; the burden of proof is on you.

    Moreover, the argument re Animal Farm seems tenuous at best; what I took from it

    is that a revolution by an unconsciously-power-hungry mob will end up substituting one

    dictator by another.
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