Cassandra has moved. Ugo Bardi publishes now on a new site called "The Seneca Effect."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

My first presentation on the energy transition in Paris: is it a problem or a change?

My first presentation in Paris, yesterday, one of at least four that I am planning to give here (busy times!!). It was at the Ecole National Superieure (ENS) and it was centered on the Energy Transition, as part of a seminar involving several presentations.

Overall, I'd say that all the presentations were good with some very competent speakers. The problem that I have in these debates/seminar is always the same. People tend to think of the transition in terms of a problem. And if it is a problem, it means it has a solution (or maybe not). But if the transition is a change, then it is not a question of solutions, you cannot solve a change, you can only adapt to a change.

So, many pretended "solutions" are ways to oppose change, one that was proposed at the seminar was to exchange all tungsten filament bulbs with LED lights. Fine, it will allow us to save a lot of energy. But the change is deeper and it goes at the heart of everything we do in this society. We need to think systemic, not problem-specific. It is not just question of changing our light bulbs, it is a complete ecosystemic change.

And so we continue. Change continues to occur, too.

(h/t Daniel Moulin, image courtesy Camille Olinet)


  1. Are these presentations public? If so, where could we find them?


  2. Have you considered the term predicament? Many use it to make the same distinction as you did, as in What We face is a predicament, not a problem.

    1. I think predicament is not the concept I have in mind. The way I understand the term, it means "very difficult or nearly impossible problem": But it is still defined as a problem!

  3. Change social organizations, not light bulbs!

    1. The Sheep Logic essay is just the kind that appeals to my twisted sense of humor. A bed of insight topped with a salad for variety, stirred with a light sauce of comedy.

  4. Efficiency gains are red herrings and have nothing to do with 'change' eg LED Globes. We are dozens ? 100's ? of times more efficient then we were 100 or 200 years ago and the problem is worse. You also run into the problem of Jevon's Paradox. A typical new house now has 100s of LED lights, I counted 35 at a fiends and that was from the front entrance to the kitchen, compared to my little cottage of one light per room.

    These aren't "solutions", they just entrench the same behaviours.

  5. I'd just like to register the observation that the level of comment on your site is heads and shoulders above most others that have a somewhat similar focus. Perhaps it just has a higher percentage of adult readership, or could it be because its' based in Europe rather than the USA? Doesn't NATO have paid trolls like we have to guide us along the correct path?

  6. Well, this is about carbon emission, but I guess there is some correlation between carbon emissions and energy consumption. Light bulbs, uh? Very funny. :-)

  7. maybe the ''problem'' needs a different approach, a different definition.

    the infinitesimally few people (maybe a million or two out of 7.5 Bn?) who read blogs of this sort know there is a problem, and that it is going to get worse.

    But even among those who do try to digest this stuff, there is disagreement about the impending levels of disruption, ranging from cataclysmic to mild nuisance.

    That still leaves the majority who insist that BAU can go on forever, with rising wealth and prosperity.
    When presented with proven facts on the subject---the reaction is usually "they will fix things".
    The concept of "Transition" only serves to confirm this.

    To the unthinking masses, (ie the majority) transition to a different lifestyle implies the same disruption factor as changing to different lightbulbs, (as you say above) or running an electric car instead of a petrol one.
    ie--we just shift to a different mode of doing things that allows BAU to go on as before.

    The great minds assembled at the above seminar serve to confirm my opinion, (thanks Ugo) that even they can only come up with the standard hogwash, that ''transition'' means BAU lite---or something like that.
    we change the lightbulbs and all will be well.---great stuff.

    the brutal reality is that we have become used to an existence where the needs of most of us are delivered on request, for minimal effort. So the fantasy of our future is that this will (and must) continue, and---most dangerous of all---- the majority hang on to the certainty that prosperity can be assured by voting for it. If we sink into energy-poverty it can only be the fault of politicians.

    That I think is the problem that should be debated Ugo---not how our existence might be transitioned from one level to another.

    Not that I think debate will accomplish much, because when the unthinking masses realise that the oilparty really is over, the shit will really hit the fan as the fight for survival begins in real terms.

    Remember---all conflict is over resources. Our future wars will be no different.

  8. How to reduce carbon emission? It's very simple

  9. Speaking of presentations, here's a suggestion: The recent Gordon Goodman Memorial Lecture featuring the always spectacular Kevin Anderson followed by two panel discussions. The metaphorical title of his lecture: "Mitigation on Methadone: the trouble with negative emissions." Kevin begins his talk about 20 minutes in. The links:

    Or here --



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)