Welcome to the age of diminishing returns

Friday, December 14, 2012

Peak oil is dead (and global warming doesn't feel so well, either)

Interest in peak oil seems to have died out nearly completely during the past few years. Something similar seems to be happening for climate change. Of course, the fact that people are not interested in Google-clicking on some concept doesn't mean that the concept is wrong or it is nothing to be worried about. It only means that people are so worried about their everyday troubles that they don't have time and willingness to worry about issues that seem to be not an immediate concern.

I understood that something was wrong when I went to give a look to the stats of the Italian version of this blog; "Effetto Cassandra". That blog had been having a remarkable success; at least for a blog that deals with scientific matters. In a few years, it had climbed up to third place among Italian scientific blogs according to "ebuzzing" - not bad at all! And then, during the past few months, the ratings of Effetto Cassandra had been sliding down, until it was below the 100th position. What was I doing wrong with my posts?

It took me some time to find an explanation - I can't say it is the only one, but it makes sense. It is not my fault if Cassandra's ratings have been going down. ALL blogs dealing with climate change and peak oil seem to be losing ground - that includes even denialist blogs! At least, in this we have something in common.

People just seem to be losing interest in everything related with climate change and depletion. I would never have expected that: just now that evidence is accumulating for rapid changes both about depletion and about climate change. Come on, don't you see the writing on the wall? High prices of all mineral commodities, droughts, wildfires, hurricanes and assorted disasters! How come that people can't connect the dots?

And yet, that is what is happening. You find the explanation in an article by Andy Revkin about the public perception of Hurricane Sandy. Citing George Marshall, it says "Disasters can reinforce social networks (and with them established norms and worldviews)". In other words, when people face immediate difficulties, they tend to emphasize short term solutions and have no time to worry about the ultimate reasons of what's befalling on them.

The article by Revkin makes for some sobering reading because it says, basically, that the worse things will get, the less people will care about fixing the reasons of the troubles. Unfortunately, it seems that this is exactly what's happening now with peak oil and climate change.

So, if people don't care about the real reasons of the troubles we are having, what are they clicking on google? Well, here is an example: "chemtrails" seem to be much more interesting than peak oil.


  1. HAARP scores even better, currentlu about 10 times "peak oil". Nibiru is comparable to HAARP, even the old hoax of vaccine-autism relation holds well.

    Apparently false problems score much better than real ones.

    1. HAARP is a live LP by Muse, that's why the number of clicks is so high.

  2. Hello Ugo, Your observations above about the diminishing interest (at least seemingly so) in peak oil and in climate change (scientific) blogs are quite interesting and also somewhat surprising because a bit counter-intuitive. On second thought however this also might mean that those who read scientific blogs...(and what percentage of the general population might that be? ) have by now either been convinced or at least feel relatively well informed and therefore have recently become less interested in reading more and learning more?

    In addition, whereas earlier certain people (those who are at least generally interested in such topics but who want to learn more specifics) might have had some doubts about what seems to be going on, now that there is MORE direct evidence of climate change all around perhaps they feel that they already have enough information? (at least information of a scientific nature about the phenomena themselves which is different from information regarding what is or is not being done about either problem)

    And although the two types of information -scientific or technical information about the phenomena themselves and policy or programming or initiatives information (e.g. the recent Doha Conference, initiatives by civil society or by business or by others) about what is or is not being done about them- are certainly related, they are not one and the same. So at least for the societal sub-group who cares at all, perhaps that group is now starting to become more interested in the second type of information because it feels (correctly or incorrectly) that it already knows enough about the first type?

    In any case it seems to me that as more and more extremely disruptive and costly climate change events occur (all over the world) newer societal groups of people /persons than those who had already been interested earlier, are likely to emerge and start to become interested in understanding the topic better and eventually perhaps also will become active.

    And certainly as gasoline prices continue to rise -even though that is NOT being caused by the moment of Peak Oil probably already having been passed- or at least not yet) , or if there are other sorts of fuel shortages, more and more people may start to become interested in understanding better precisely what is happening with oil and why?

    Those are the thoughts that came to mind when I read your above post, which, as I said, I thought contained quite interesting information. But regardless, I think it remains very important and valuable to keep putting out valid scientific and technical information and analysis (relentlessly) as well as valid and useful "response-to-climate change programmatic information: As you know neither topic is going away and whether anyone is interested in either one of the topics or not during any particular period of time.

  3. I feel guilty about this because I myself am taking less part in online activity about PO/CC than I was, say, 4 years ago.

    However, that is at least partly because, having collected information online, I am now doing practical things about it, such as getting an allotment! It being winter out there, and not the growing season, here I am back online for the moment :)

    The other thing that's happening with people is that they are looking for the root cause of the PO/CC problems, and that appears to lie with our ecoomic system, which in order to stay stable and pay everybody has to grow faster than the debts we incur. Some of these former PO/CC web-readers may therefore have gone, via something like Chris Martenson's "Crash Course", on to sites which deal with radical economics...perhaps NEF, Bitcoin, CASSE and the like. I don't know the term which unites all these sites, though.

  4. I agree with above posts... I think most people now accept PO, AGW, etc, but also accept that nothing much is going to be done about it.

    Many of our countries have been taken over by self-serving elites, which are in the pockets of powerful industries and this is unlikely to change - especially when adolescents and young adults are so politically inactive (compare to the 1960s, when there was much more action and much less to complain about!).

    We are “Wandering between two worlds, one dead,
    The other powerless to be born”
    [Matthew Arnold]

    Nevertheless, please keep going Ugo - but maybe we need to concentrate more now on what we can do, action plans, survival plans, how to evade the surveillance society, which are the best movements to join etc. etc..??

  5. Ciao Ugo. The last time I googled the words "peak oil" was in 2005, that doesn't mean my interest has waned... today I don't even use Google anymore. It would be much more interesting to see page clicks on the top 10 or 20 websites about the subject. I know that some climate websites are still increasing their readership, especially those that have a clear political leaning.

    1. Luis, I think that Google trends gives a good snapshot of the generic "interest" of the public on a subject. It doesn't tell whether this interest is positive or negative, but note the peaks of interest in correspondence to "Climategate" for climate change and in correspondence with the price spike of 2008 for oil. I think it is significant.

      Going more in detail on this point, I noted in my survey that the decline in interest was more pronounced for the sites which had a relativelu large audience - such as the italian version of Cassandra. More specialized sites which reached smaller audiences didn't show such a strong effect. The "core" audience in peak oil and climate change has been still following the news; it is the general public that is losing interest

      But I am the first to say that my survey has no pretense of being exhaustive. If you have better data, why don't you write a post? I would be happy to publish it.

  6. There are lots of reasons for people to lose interest in things. People have been increasingly shying away from "complex" subjects since the late 60's, if you believe remarkably smoothly changing word use trends. That was also the time when "information overload" and "bottom line" took off as phrases, and when computer programs started taking over human decision making about all manner of things, particularly "the bottom line".

    People also lose interest in long debates is when they've been settled, but that doesn't' result in anyone doing anything anyway... I think that's the case with "peak oil" and "climate change". The evidence is now rather conclusive, that the scientific case just gets stronger on both as denial becomes untenable. Why that didn't lead to any plan to do anything catching on appears to be that not a soul has been openly discussing the one thing that controls our response to either, how our society uses money, to multiply our use of every resource on earth.

    So, I think the questions posed by "peak oil" and "climate change" have been proven to be inadequate. As people accept they're happening the answer has no consequence, as the real questions holding back our response have yet to be engaged.

  7. Exclusive: Billionaires secretly fund attacks on climate science (The Independent

    Perhaps it's not only a matter of indifference..
    Best regards.

    Fausto Ghini

  8. Attack of nature is quite dangerous it is becoming more dangerous and harsh towards us. How it is becoming more dangerous the useful link is here: