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.


Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome, faculty member of the University of Florence, and the author of "Extracted" (Chelsea Green 2014), "The Seneca Effect" (Springer 2017), and Before the Collapse (Springer 2019)