« Friday Gumpagraph | Main | Today's Bush Joke »

September 01, 2006

Human Activities As Environmental Feedback Loops Environment  Peak Oil

A few weeks back, I linked to an article at RealClimate about the impact of drought on the Amazon rainforest. Kent points out an interesting observation made by the first commenter to that RealClimate story:

I wonder...if areas of relative dryness might become attractive to farmers and loggers, since the drier forests would be more easily accessed by heavy equipment for more days during the year. If these rainfall patterns persist long enough for people on the ground to take advantage, it could well direct human activity toward those areas and accelerate their demise via exploitation, just as if the rainfall had actually stopped and the trees had died in place for that reason. The overlap [between] climate and economic models might be more important than either acting alone.

Good point. We have seen a number of examples of feedback loops that tend to make global warming self-reinforcing. The comment above points to another kind of feedback loop, consisting of changes in human activities as the environmental crisis deepens.

A similar sort of example, this time in the Peak Oil arena: as Peak Oil begins to really take hold and it becomes clear to everyone that the price of oil is only going to increase, and quickly, producers may begin to hoard the oil they've still got in the ground. Why sell it today when it could be worth twice as much in a few years? This kind of reaction by producers would exacerbate the production decline, causing prices to rise even faster, making hoarding even more attractive, etc., etc., etc.

Posted by Jonathan at September 1, 2006 01:03 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Comments

"A similar sort of example, this time in the Peak Oil arena: as Peak Oil begins to really take hold and it becomes clear to everyone that the price of oil is only going to increase, and quickly, producers may begin to hoard the oil they've still got in the ground."

This would create problems, but at the same time it may accelerate innovations in, and the use of alternative energy sources. It's never good to find solutions when you're scrambling, but in this case, with so much that's been explored already, forcing the use of alternative fuels before oil runs out might be a good thing.

Producers may hoard oil, but I tend to think they won't hoard 100%. Hoarding only a portion of what they produce would increase the price of oil they put on the market allowing them to hoard while simultaneously maintain some of their revenue. This seems like a win-win for the producers.

Posted by: Jeff at September 1, 2006 01:47 PM

Yes, I'm not suggesting they'll turn off the spigot altogether, just that they may restrict their output somewhat, thereby making the decline in production even more sudden and severe than anticipated. As a result, we may end up having even less time to adapt than we think.

Posted by: Jonathan at September 2, 2006 01:13 AM