With all the talk of the precautionary principle and Earth Day, climate change, etc, I am posting my FICTIONAL look at what can happen when we forge ahead without adequate thought of consequences. This appeared on my web page (The Accidental Conservationist) in 2011.
2011—the 21st century and a great time to be alive. In 2006, Al Gore produced “An Inconvenient Truth” warning us in no uncertain terms that our prosperity was killing the planet. All those malls, autos, huge homes (well, not ALL the huge homes—Gore had a huge home) were bound to cause massive global warming—climate change, I mean, leaving the Earth as barren as Venus, our twin planet that lost its atmosphere due to runaway global warming. Al Gore showed us what he believed would happen if we did nothing. Let’s take a look at what could happen if we embrace the climate change prescription:
Follow the Yellow Brick Road
America, along with large segments of the industrial world, embarked on a “save the planet” campaign, stated to be necessary due to the effects humans were having on the planet using fossil fuels and increasing CO2 levels. All fossil fuels were labeled evil and environmentalists began breaking into and protesting all the vile methods humans use to deface and damage the planet.
At first, much hope for the future was placed on wind and solar. Billions of dollars were spent on government grants and giveaways to erect the 400 foot turbines all over the country. Reports of “wind turbine syndrome” were derided as sour grapes on the part of those who dared argue against saving the planet. These were the same people who protested Love Canal and chemicals and were enraged when people doubted them. Only those who had always championed the earth were worth listening to—not capitalists out to poison the planet and make millions. So the vibration and noise were ignored by the government and developers. Eventually, it became necessary for the government to mandate the turbines and panels go up due to many malcontents too short sighted to understand the urgent needs of the planet.
The news media feeding a constant stream of stories about how wrong energy consumption was pretty much insured the people elected would vote to remove any CO2 emitting fuel plants. All the money went to the turbines, solar panels and public education programs espousing the “less is best” theme.
In time, there was so much spending on renewables that coal plants were left to crumble in place. Coal comprised 21% of the nation’s energy production which was lost as plants closed. Over time, natural gas plants replaced some of the lost production, but such plants were limited due to carbon emissions. The loss of coal and about a fifth of the electricity previously produced was a blow to the country. Wind and solar made up some of the loss when the sun shown and the wind was blowing. Storage system had been designed for wind and solar, but at the cost of billions for a few small projects, storage was quickly abandoned. As electrical service declined, so did the economy. For a while, this helped stabilize CO2 emissions due to the lack of demand. As people adapted, business picked up and so did CO2 emissions.
Round 2 of a proposed government mandate never actually had to be passed into law. A movie on the Japanese earthquake 2011 nuclear holocaust was sufficient to spark massive nuclear plant closings.
Energy output fell the full 20% that nuclear provided in the U.S. More impact was felt—energy was now rationed. It was impossible, even with multiple movies and TV specials, to convince Americans to voluntarily give up their plasma TV’s, WII games, computers, freezers, waterbeds—whatever it took to cut 20% of their electricity usage.
Closing nuclear power plants had already reduced Germany and Switzerland to third world status, much as Australia was lost to carbon tax and England to carbon and renewables. At this point, wars began to break out as people’s food and housing supplies dried up. Manufacturing continued in China and India, as neither country had phased out coal or natural gas plants. But the dark economies in Europe, North America, and South America began to impact the Chinese and Indian economies. Countries had no money to import merchandise and people struggled just to stay warm and eat. Small farms produced vegetables when possible. Game animals were reduced to less than half their pre-CO2 savings level. Cattle had been outlawed early on—too much methane. So wildlife became the only source of food—deer, elk, moose all harvested at a rapid rate.
Land that remained between turbines and solar panels was farmed, though with oxen and no chemicals. All chemical factories closed with the first round of electricity decreases except those for medicines. Malls closed, too. Electricity remained to light hospitals, schools, etc., plus to manufacture essential medications, plants for processing some foods and so on. Then with the closing of nuclear plants, there was barely enough electricity for food, hospitals and other vital services.
The need for petroleum dropped to 5% of previous usage. The Middle East had sold to China and India, but as the world economies collapsed, so did Middle East oil. Instead of being the Godsend Americans had envisioned, with no money coming in from oil sales, the Middle East heated up. They had no means to produce food in a desert country and began raiding southern Europe. Wars and skirmishes were common. Europe could produce some food, but without chemicals, harvests became smaller and smaller. Meat was from game there as well and as the supply dwindled, mass extinction of species followed.
Early reductions in cattle, pig and sheep production lead to mass cuttings of rainforests as peoples in these nations began raising livestock to fill demands no longer filled by America or Europe. Nearly 80% of the rainforests were cut before the world economy collapsed to the point people could not afford to pay for the livestock. Farmers then turned to subsistence farming and continued to cut rainforests for wood for trading with other nations and subsistence farming.
The world became a dark place with famines and wars widespread. Energy production fell to pre-industrial levels. Without reliable energy, only variable, it because impossible to produce turbines and solar panels. Lights went out all over the planet.
During this time, small groups of people had formed cooperatives and began developing energy resources similar to those that had been outlawed. Methane was easy to produce from garbage. Since the ability monitor violations in the air quality codes had vanished, no one could tell these groups had returned to CO2 producing energy sources. While environmentalists continued to espouse the belief that the current dark ages had saved the planet from a fate like that of Venus, a growing number of individuals started questioning whether the current situation was all that much superior to Venus’s fate. Yes, the human race still existed but over 75% had perished in the wars and famines. Fifty percent of the species of the animals were driven to extinction and 90% of the rainforest was gone. Not the paradise on Earth predicted by the climate change pushers.
Looking back, some did understand how humans arrived at this state. Bowing down to those who predicted an apocalypse resulted in an apocalypse of its own. “We have to something—a crisis is coming” lead to massive loss of life and habitat. “Follow the Yellow brick road” did not lead to a wizard, just a fate that was really almost as bad as the one predicted if we failed to take action.
Worse yet, no one would ever know if doing nothing would actually have caused an apocalypse. But doing “something” because this was serious and needed action did lead to a very bad outcome. People would recover, but they would not soon forget that actions have consequences and we need to understand those before running into the fray.