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Let’s see: today, it’s a story about rising sea levels.  Now, close  your eyes, take a few seconds, and try to imagine what word or words  could possibly go with such a story.

Time’s up, and if “faster,” “far faster,” “fastest,” or “unprecedented”  didn’t come to mind, then the odds are that you’re not actually living  on planet Earth in the year 2011.  Yes, a new study came out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that measures sea-level rise over the last 2,000 years and -- don’t be shocked -- it’s never risen faster than now.

Earlier in the week, there was that report on the state of the oceans  produced by a panel of leading marine scientists.  Now, close your eyes  and try again.  Really, this should be easy.  Just look at the previous  paragraph and choose “unprecedented,”  and this time pair it with “loss of species comparable to the great  mass extinctions of prehistory,” or pick “far faster” (as in “the seas  are degenerating far faster than anyone has predicted”), or for a change  of pace, how about “more quickly” as in “more quickly than had been predicted” as the “world’s oceans move into ‘extinction’ phase.”

Or consider a third story: arctic melting.  This time you’re 100% correct!  It’s “faster”  again (as in “than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  forecasts” of 2007).  But don’t let me bore you.  I won’t even mention  the burning southwest, or Arizona’s Wallow fire, “the largest in state history,” or Texas’s “unprecedented wildfire season” (now “getting worse”), or the residents of Minot, North Dakota, abandoning their city to “unprecedented” floods, part of a deluge in the northern U.S. that is “unprecedented in modern times.”

It’s just superlatives and records all the way, and all thanks to those globally rising “record” temperatures and all those burning fossil fuels emitting “record” levels of greenhouse gases (“worst ever” in 2010) that so many governments, ours at the very top of the list,  are basically ducking.  Now, multiply those fabulous adjectives and  superlative events -- whether melting, dying, rising, or burning -- and  you’re heading toward the world of 2041, the one that TomDispatch energy expert and author of Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet Michael Klare writes about today.  It's a world where if we haven't  kicked our fossil-fuel habit, we won’t have superlatives strong enough  to describe it. Tom

The New Thirty Years’ War
Winners and Losers in the Great Global Energy Struggle to Come
By Michael T. Klare

A 30-year war for energy preeminence?  You wouldn’t wish it even on a  desperate planet.  But that’s where we’re headed and there’s no turning  back.

From 1618 to 1648, Europe was engulfed in a series of intensely brutal conflicts known collectively as the Thirty Years’ War.  It was, in part, a struggle between an imperial system of governance  and the emerging nation-state.  Indeed, many historians believe that the  modern international system of nation-states was crystallized in the  Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, which finally ended the fighting.

Think of us today as embarking on a new Thirty Years’ War.  It may  not result in as much bloodshed as that of the 1600s, though bloodshed  there will be, but it will prove no less momentous for the future of the  planet.  Over the coming decades, we will be embroiled at a global  level in a succeed-or-perish contest among the major forms of energy,  the corporations which supply them, and the countries that run on them.   The question will be: Which will dominate the world’s energy supply in  the second half of the twenty-first century?  The winners will determine  how -- and how badly -- we live, work, and play in those not-so-distant  decades, and will profit enormously as a result.  The losers will be  cast aside and dismembered.

Why 30 years?  Because that’s how long it will take for experimental  energy systems like hydrogen power, cellulosic ethanol, wave power,  algae fuel, and advanced nuclear reactors to make it from the laboratory  to full-scale industrial development.  Some of these systems (as well,  undoubtedly, as others not yet on our radar screens) will survive the  winnowing process.  Some will not.  And there is little way to predict  how it will go at this stage in the game.  At the same time, the use of  existing fuels like oil and coal, which spew carbon dioxide into the  atmosphere, is likely to plummet, thanks both to diminished supplies and  rising concerns over the growing dangers of carbon emissions.


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Comment Preferences

  •  The preface to James Hansen's (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pat bunny

    Storms of My Grandchildren:

    Planet Earth, creation, the world in which civilization developed, the world with climate patterns that we know and stable shorelines, is in imminent peril.

    It is extremely frustrating to read about, and watch, the world as we know change in an increasingly accelerating pace, and our world leaders pay no heed to these events.

  •  A Fate Worse Than War (0+ / 0-)

    I don't question Klare's facts. But, I think his conclusion, that the next 30 years will be a war-like period is oversold. I don't doubt corporations will use their cash to sway politicians, but that doesn't necessarily mean war. As the fight in NY over gay marriage shows, politicians of any party can bend an issue to their interests. Both the Mekong conventions and India's and Pakistan's treaties over water show that countries can compromise when the bullet comes straight for their noses. We shouldn't rule out a similar denouement for other energy sources, but we should be wary about how the corporations profit from the new arrangements.

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