Putting the life back in science fiction

2016 Predictions: The roadkill edition
December 27, 2016, 5:35 pm
Filed under: 2016, climate change, Hot Earth Dreams, Speculation, Uncategorized | Tags:

As 2016 waits for the knackers, I figured I’d go back to the predictions I made last January to see how far off I was.  While yes, I understand that I’m not supposed to look backwards, because the past is gaining on us and they’ve got the original papers on what we owe the future, well, I’m still a pessimist, so let’s see what I got wrong.  Or right.  

The January predictions are in italics.  My judgement is below them.

COP21 will take force.

Kinda sorta.  Then Trump got elected.  It’s hard to tell how much of the world is paying more than lip service to dealing with climate change, because you have to drill down below the surface noise in the media, and I’ve been wrapped up in other things. As noted below, China’s made carbon reduction a major part of their next five year plan, but whether they’ll pull it off is another thing entirely.

Entrepreneurs worldwide will realize there are fortunes to be made in shifting the world towards sustainability;

I don’t think I got that one.  Elon Musk still seems to be standing in solitary glory, although one might argue that Google and others’ moves to power their server farms with renewables falls here.  I don’t see entrepreneurs rushing to disrupt the carbon bubble and make fortunes thereby, and that’s really too bad.

Big Oil companies will be indicted and sued over their knowledge of climate change and actively suppressing public action on that knowledge

Indicted? No.  Sued, yes, although the one lawsuit appears to be Conservation Law Foundation v. ExxonMobil. And you can even donate money to the CLF to help them with this suit.   Then again, ExxonMobil’s current CEO got tapped to be the US Secretary of State, and I suspect he’ll get the job.  And that doesn’t even get into the whole Standing Rock conflict, which I didn’t predict at all.

We’ll finally get on with trying to adapt.

Who’s “we” in this case?  California’s trying as a state, although it’s always hard to tell how much is gesturing and posturing to try to satisfy various laws, and how much is real action.  The US national government is in trouble on this (see above), so it looks like adaptation will be more small scale than national here.  Elsewhere, China’s making it a major goal of their latest five year plan.

One tedious 2016 problem is that the mainstream American media will undoubtedly focus the vast majority of their attention on the 2016 campaigns, and for good reason: thanks to the Citizen’s United ruling, there’s a huge amount of potential ad revenue out there for them to suck up.  Perhaps I’m pessimistic, but I can’t see them getting away from the inane “politics as a horse race” for the next 11 months. 

Yeah, sorry, I got that mostly right.

We’ll have to watch the second-line and international media to see what the Obama administration, states like California, and the megacorps do (or don’t do) to implement COP21 or otherwise deal with climate change.  Hopefully, the rest of the world will be less caught up in the Trump/Clinton supermarathon, and rather more interested in deep decarbonization.

Nope.  Yay!  The good news is that California and the Obama administration’s actions after November have actually made it into the mainstream US press, so even though I got that part wrong, I’m happy that the lamestream media (I’m still pissed about how they covered the presidential race) seems to be trying to deal with other bits of reality.

In other news, I suspect the weather will get more chaotic, and a lot of people will suffer. 

Yes.  To quote Wikipedia, “The 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season was the most active and costliest since 2012, and the deadliest since 2005.”  New York City received 27.5 inches of snow on January 22-23, 2016, the most it’s ever recorded as having received.  There was typhoon Meranti, which was bigger than Typhoon Haiyan a few years ago.  In California, the super El Nino failed to deliver the promised rain (ironically, we’re getting more now in the La Nina) .  Unfortunately, that El Nino caused a huge drought in East and southern Africa, and the resulting crop failures are leading to a looming famine.  While this is cherry-picking, yes, there was extreme weather.

Still, extreme climate change would turn most of the Mississippi River basin tropical, more like the current Amazon.  When you look what the current storms are doing to the area, you can kind of see how it might get there, with increased floods in the winter and possibly in the summer (depending on hurricane tracks) and increased heat in the summer.

This seems to be true (see Floodlist), although I hesitate to say it because it could be confirmation bias.  It looks like the rainfall patterns of the future are already taking shape, well before the heat comes.  When I wrote Hot Earth Dreams, I wasn’t sure whether it would heat up, then the weather would change, they would change in lockstep, or the weather would change faster than it heated up.  I may be wrong, but the latter appears to be what’s happening.

Matt made some interesting predictions about renewable electricity, and hopefully he’ll speak up about whether they were met or not.

I should also mention two big ol’ 2016 Black Swans: Brexit and Trump.  You might object that any number of people predicted that these would happen.  Here’s the deal: people predict all sorts of things all the time.  Simply by chance, some of them will be right.  I was watching the bookies on both Brexit and the 2016 US Presidential election, and the bookies got both very wrong, so I’d say that most people got it wrong,  including Trump and the Brexiteers, both of whom seemed to expect to lose.  Right now, we seem to be more explaining what happened (another part of the Black Swan syndrome) and lionizing those who got it right (another typical Black Swan reaction, whether the praise was earned by skill or by luck).

Anything else to add?  What about your own predictions?


3 Comments so far
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All my predictions for CAISO renewable electricity in 2016 were wrong. The true value overshot every curve-fit prediction 🙂

Last year I predicted that the annual average would be somewhere between 4736 MW (symmetrical sigmoidal fit) and 5336 MW (quadratic regression). My top pick was the linear regression value of 5076 MW. The actual value through December 28: 5419 MW.

I need to update my script to also tally up thermal generation and out-of-state imports. The real goal of renewable generation, after all, is to decrease the use of fossils. I should see falling thermal/imports dependency as renewables output increases, though I know that some of the new renewables growth has basically just compensated for falling hydroelectric generation that California is suffering from drought.

Comment by Matt

More good news. Thanks!

Comment by Heteromeles

Since I first started following the collapse blogosphere, I’ve noticed that predictions of collapse have tended to be premature. Predictions on global warming on the other hand, seem to have been overly conservative. There seem to be more positive feedback mechanisms than we have the ability to imagine. Nature is more inventive than the scientists.
Re the collapse scenario, it feels a lot like the coyote off the cliff. We know that he will eventually feel gravity and drop, but apparently, our perception and the machinations of finance and happy news from the media keep the metaphorical coyote suspended.
I guess what I’m saying is that while we can see trends going up or down, we don’t have a good feeling for their angles of incline or decline. So yes, we know that the world is finite and that entropy is a real thing and so, sooner or later we will disperse energy and resources to the point where we can no longer re-use them. They will in effect be gone forever on any time scale that matters to human beings in the present.
Re climate change mitigation, I am pessimistic, not that climate change couldn’t be mitigated in principle, but simply because it hasn’t been in fact and there isn’t a whole lot of evidence that that will change regardless of COP21. China may do something locally, simply because their air is unbreathable, but the US where most of the population seems to believe that global warming is a hoax seems unlikely to do much to reduce green house gas emissions.
All in all, hopes that collapse of industrial society will happen soon enough to arrest further GHG emissions is probably just hope. Seems we are doomed to watch reality unfold and our predictions of the future continue to be wrong.
I also believe that everyone loves predictions of the future and doesn’t really care if they turn out to be true. Otherwise fortune tellers and psychics would have gone out of business long ago.

Comment by Wolfgang Brinck

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