In 2015, United Nations approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an action plan that claims to help the world´s population and the planet. This plan considers that climate change is the major challenge for humanity, and proposes a “Green Recovery” that aspires to end poverty, ensure health and well-being, to reduce inequality, to improve economic growth, promote peace, reduce class inequality and increase gender equality.
A very important aspect in the case of any declarations of good intentions is to realize if the problem is properly defined, because if a problem is not properly defined then the plan that aspires to solve it is a bluff. When addressing an engineering problem I often say to myself: “If a problem has no solution it´s not a problem. The actual problem is the guy who posed it…”
In this case, the Agenda 2030 claims that climate change is the main challenge that humanity is facing. If we assume that global warming is mainly caused by the industrial emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, then the actual problem is precisely the emission of these gases by the industry. Considering this, the Agenda 2030 is implementing a series of measures to reduce CO2 at a global scale, and for instance the 2030 Climate Target Plan for the UE aims to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by at least 55% by 2030.
Therefore, the Agenda 2030 presents itself as the plan that is politically responsible of drastically reducing CO2 emissions worldwide in order to comply with its goals. However, as I shall show in the following paragraphs, the Agenda 2030 will not really solve anything, simply because the reduction of industrial greenhouse gas and CO2 emissions is no longer a problem since 2019…
The following is very likely the most important graph of our times. It exposes the true “metabolism” of the world´s economy and I´ll try to explain its implications as briefly as possible, and as didactically as possible for those who are not familiar with the subject.
The graph has two very important aspects. The first remarkable one is the considerable contribution of fossil fuel-based sources (83%), and the second aspect to point out is that the amount of global industrial CO2 emission is strongly correlated to the TWh .
Apart from these two aspects it´s also important to keep in mind that global primary energy is what really drives the world´s economy . As we can also observe, there was a maximum of 160.552 TWh in 2019.
As far as I know, the energy industry worldwide is now under huge and unprecedented pressure to get back to the path of growth in order to attract capital and investment, but there are critical technological and physical limitations for accomplishing this. Oil is the most critical source of all, and the energetic capacity of all other sources is directly dependent on it because it´s the most important source for transportation. For instance, in 2020 in a high-tech economy as the U.S. oil still accounted for 90% of its transport.
In the case of oil production, the International Energy Agency has proposed different future scenarios depending on diverse degrees of investment :
However, there is no single evidence in the world industry of how the fundamental “Supply with investment in existing fields” scenario can be engineered in practice, no evidence of any technology capable of accomplishing this, and neither does the IEA provide any feasible and concrete solution. But even if such technological solutions actually existed they were be devoted to increase efficiency in the systemic processes involved, but in all systemic process (where everything is highly connected with everything else) this is counterproductive because in this type of energetic systems all technique that aims to increase local efficiency induces a “rebound effect” that makes diminishing returns appear even earlier. Once the energy peak is passed (as occurs in the maximum of 160.552 TWh in 2019), the energy that is extracted from all sources is progressively required to merely maintain the system because there are no longer surpluses available to develop it, and yet as a consequence the economy enters in a completely different mode, like someone going through a hypocaloric diet, in which the organism´s metabolism is forced to eat from itself, or it´s like when Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne´s “Around the World in 80 days” decides to burn all the wood of the Henrietta steamer when there was no longer any coal available to cross the Atlantic Ocean. The transition from an “anabolic” economy to a “catabolic” economy is at the core of what in the Agenda 2030 is being referred to as the “Great Reset”.
Regardless of all the conflicts in Ukraine, etc. underlying the recent rise in energy prices, food, etc. is this structural problem of diminishing returns in the primary energy industry, but even more important than this structural problem are the radical implications that the unfeasibility of returning to the growth phase has for the future of all and every one of us.
Based in the novel architectural model of economics that I present for the first time in Operative Traditions IV, today´s economic systems can only be sustained through constant techno-industrial development, yet this development isn´t technically feasible without harnessing progressively higher levels of energy from the biosphere. Because the technological system is a dissipative system, techno-industrial development operates based on dynamics of self-organization, or in other words, it´s about an autonomous development that is not driven by any political planning, in a similar way as how the final form of a mountain is not created by humans. This implies that politicians have no tools available to tackle this global industrial problem, a powerlessness which has been well historically demonstrated in the last century when the power of State-nation politicians and capitalists was outsourced to the global technocratic elites, whose function is fundamentally to catalyze techno-industrial development and increase the global centralization of all economic processes.
Yet we´re reaching a phase where such technocratic catalysis of industrial growth is no longer as effective as it used to be. Already, the planet is heading towards a minimum reduction of 50% of CO2 in 2030, not because of any policies like the Agenda 2030, but because of structural, physical and technological limitations in the primary energetic industries.
Once the energy maximum takes place, peoples worldwide shall start perceiving how their life, freedoms, opportunities for self-development and their economies become more struggling by the day, and in this scenario the UN FMI high-echelon guys at the World Economic Forum are going to constantly state that the objectives of CO2 emission reduction are being successfully complied, and that such reduction is “necessary for the planet” and for “fighting climate change”… This is exactly the bluff of the Agenda 2030 because such CO2 emission reduction will take place one way or another due to structural factors of diminishing returns present in the energy primary industry. The Agenda 2030 guys aspire to give themselves the medal of captaining such targets of CO2 global emission reduction, but in truth they have no merit whatsoever because all they really want is to maintain their economic privileges in a radically different economic dynamics, by making the world peoples and nations suffer in an unprecedented way. All their claims are a perfect example of how good intentions shall lead to hell.
The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development essentially aspires to minimize the slope of irreversible energy decline in the graph, and this is what one of the main architects of the plan, the founder of Davos forum Klaus Schwab, calls the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”. I´ve read Schwab´s book (which is precisely called “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”), and reading between the lines of this book it isn´t too difficult to realize that the core purpose of the plan is to keep up the power of the wealthiest classes during the irreversible energy decline. But how can this be technically accomplished in a scenario of global energy decline?... Let me present you a simile:
Let´s say a person is very sick and that everything indicates he is going to die. In such situation, he can decide to have a natural and dignifying death, and yet his medical doctors might decide to extend his life in an artificial state of coma, this is, in a vegetative state that reduces his energy requirements and induces a slow death. Hospitals very often profit from these procedures, especially because such procedures justify the use of technologies and pharmaceuticals that are supplied by corporations that also exchange with the hospitals very profitable chances for developing mutual scientific research. So basically the development of the corporate and techno-industrial structures is prioritized at the cost of leaving the patient in a vegetative state.
Schwab´s so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” is principally the same thing... In terms of handling the global energy decline it´s about “zombifying” the world economy by a rather desperate plan to keep up the power of high-echelon technocracy during the irreversible energy decline, yet this can only occur at the cost of reducing human vitality and freedom at a planetary scale. Such is the real concept of “Sustainable Development” which not only radically affects the economy but also human values. And yet the most perverse aspect of this plan is that, through very expensive marketing campaigns, it aspires to persuade all of us to accept it, as if there were no other alternatives.
Definitely there are much better alternatives than what the Agenda 2030 implicitly presents, but such alternatives demand, first of all, the realization that the Agenda 2030 not only severely attacks the human spirit but also is a naively Promethean attempt to direct cosmic forces that never have been in the hands of humans. All the marketing and publicity of this Agenda 2030, Davos forum, etc. is simply a “Wizard of Oz” tactic, aspiring to make believe people that guys like Klaus Schwab, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, etc. are “in control”, and that they deserve all the merits of keeping the global economy functional, but one thing is to make believe that someone is in control, and another thing is to actually have control in a techno-system that is extremely complex and full of non-linear, chaotic processes where local phenomena have global repercussions. The recent case of how the initiatives of simply two guys, Dr. Jose Luis Sevillano and Ricardo Delgado, from La Quinta Columna, dismantled the worldwide covid-19 agenda is a very insightful case of how power is progressively pouring into the hands of individuals, and receding from institutions.
About a decade ago, I presented the fundamental premises of this task in my book The Solar Warrior: The Eclipse (video here) and as the years pass by they shall become more and more urgent to embody. Basically, the important thing is to realize that the 2019 energy peak of 160.552 TWh signals a tipping point for humanity, in which the modern lifestyles and values that allowed to reach such point shall no longer be applicable after such point for a vast majority of the world´s population. This itself implies for each individual, community and even nation an opportunity for developing a radical change in their culture and political values, the establishment of novel hierarchies where a completely different relation to the land is accomplished amid a biosphere that, because of the inevitable decline of CO2 emissions, shall progressively return to balance and harmony, after three centuries of unbalance and stress.
* Miguel A. Fernandez is an industrial engineer specialized in chain supply logistics, process modeling/simulation, sustainable architecture, conservative/ethnographic projects and energy production consultancy. For many years, Miguel has been devoted to synthesize the cultural heritage of the West with the most advanced scientific-economic challenges presented by techno-industrial societies. He is the author of several essays and novels that address the techno-scientific and economic issues of our times. Also, Miguel aims to establish a fruitful dialogue with the Eastern traditions and worldviews.