We are still screwed: the coming climate disaster



Well, the larger point was to show that these things aren’t just one and done. As technologies and reservoir engineering advances operators will continue to increase spacing and continue to drill wells. Those shots of the Bakken look alot like Loving County right now.

Each one of those big new wellpads is about 5.5 acres, + around 3.0 for the battery, + whatever additional for the road.

“Fracking” has been around forever, and it’s not just an application for shale plays. These huge multi-section laterals developments (usually 330’ apart) try to essentially frac as much as possible 1-2 square miles at a time.

Some of these leases are near-perpetual. Those original leases that Mobil made in the Means and Fullerton fields almost 100 years ago are still going strong, to the point where they just bought the surface rights decades ago because they already all but owned the land by occupation anyway. It’s not like there’s one well drilled, and then there’s a tiny wellhead hidden away, never to be used again.

Unless it’s a gas field, which have ceased to be developed (mostly, as far as i know). Though i’ve heard of some small operators still hunting and pecking. Most of the small caps like Comstock sold most or all of their gas to get into the shale plays.


I’m interested in the idea that people might be more willing to take action if they don’t think it is their fault:

Denial is part of the traditional mourning process, but we have collectively spent way too long there. It’s time to snap out of it.

Given the sheer enormity of climate change, it’s okay to be depressed, to grieve. But please, don’t stay there too long. Join me in pure, unadulterated, righteous anger.

The dominant narrative around climate change tells us that it’s our fault. We left the lights on too long, didn’t close the refrigerator door, and didn’t recycle our paper. I’m here to tell you that is bullshit. If the light switch was connected to clean energy, who the hell cares if you left it on? The problem is not consumption — it’s the supply. And your scrap paper did not hasten the end of the world.

Don’t give in to that shame. It’s not yours. The oil and gas industry is gaslighting you.

That same IPCC report revealed that a mere 100 companies are responsible for 71 percent of global climate emissions. These people are locking you and everything you love into a tomb. You have every right to be pissed all the way off. And we have to make them hear about it.

I am a bit more skeptical that there isn’t collective guilt here, but I am open to the idea that it’s not politically useful.


I would attach the collective guilt to society as a whole (and individual guilt for voting against environmental issues), rather than the sorts of micro-scale actions mentioned in the article.

It’s a classic tragedy of the commons issue, and I don’t blame anyone for optimizing their lives for the benefit of themselves and their family rather than accepting higher costs and inconveniences for the sake of a tiny and nebulous environmental altruism.


This is the insidious side of the right-wing narrative of “personal responsibility”, as espoused by corporations. Rather than institute emissions reduction measures on the production-level, where it actually matters but would cut into profits, we tell people it’s their fault for not taking personal responsibility and composting or recycling or whatever the fuck. Any thing that makes life harder for individuals and makes them feel guilty about it rather than allowing them to organize to make actual large scale changes, which may impact corporate profits.


Ah, no worries. I was just trying to convey how activity in a resource play differs from an old style conventional play: concentrated activity along a section line vs “a well every 20-40 acres”. Resource plays are less disruptive in terms of surface damage. It is eerie driving through the Bakken: open prairie open prairie eight pump jacks in a cluster open prairie open prairie repeat.

That being said, nobody chooses to live near oil field or any heavy industry. I certainly wouldn’t, and I sympathize with those who do.

To expound on what @Enidigm said, modern activity pattern goes something like this:
1). Company secures leases
2). Company drills wells such that the leases are “secured” by production. This a out of my wheelhouse, but essentially you have X amount of time to drill and produce on a lease before the reverts to the previous owner.
3). Once the leases are leases are secured, infill drilling takes place. The amount of infill is mostly dependent on the formation, and a little on economics. For example, the Bakken averages 80 feet or so. You can’t stagger wells vertically in such a narrow zone. Originally, Bakken wells were drilled roughly 2000ft apart, to keep the wells from “interfering” during fracking. Fracking a well too close to another well producing would cause the fracking zones to overlap, and would flood the producing with fracking fluids. As the reservoir science and economics has improved, that spacing has been reduced, accepting that interference will occur, but knowing that 6 moderately producing wells outpace 2 good ones. The optimum spacing in the best parts of the Bakken ended up being around 600ft.

In thicker zones (1000ft+) like the Permian and Niobrara, the wells are staggered vertically as well as horizontally. This allows for closer horizontal spacing, as fracking is more of horizontal than vertical process. And this is why you can have over 20 wells on a single pad.

How quickly the infilling is done depends on the price of oil. When the OPEC opened the taps a few years ago, the price of oil plummeted. This had the desired short term effect of all but stopping most resource play drilling. A Bakken well at the time was only profitable at $60/barrel. At its low point, the price was under $30/barrel.

The long term effect of this was that industry got a lot more efficient, improved technology, and found cheaper resource plays to drill to the point they can still make money at $40/barrel. The lessons learned from last few years will also keep fracking and drilling companies from swelling their ranks, even as the price of oil slowly climbs.

Thus, the drilling will be relatively slow compared to the heyday of 2010-15.

5). After a pad has been “filled” the activity drops dramatically. Most of the action at this point involves injections of CO2 to stimulate oil production. Horizontal wells have short lifespans.

These pads will be there for a long time, at least as long as the wells remain economically productive, or barring changes in laws concerning leasing and mineral rights.

A long time, but not forever.

Signal Hill, Los Angeles, 1923.

Signal Hill, Present.

I hope the above was useful, “the more you know” and all that.


I agree. Most of the guilt I feel doesn’t come down to personal purchasing decisions but that I haven’t done much to convey what I think is the seriousness of the situation to people in my life. I bemoan our seeming lack of ability to take collective action but I haven’t done much beyond vote and preach to the choir.

I agree the focus seems to be on the wrong area. I’m not sure it’s entirely from industry though. I think a slice of the population really wants to do the personal stuff as a way of signalling identity and virtue, while another slice wants to personally screw the environment as a way of signalling their identity in opposition to the first slice. I put that down to messed up human social psych more than a deliberate policy by industry.


Sure. The culture of “personal responsibility” isnt an invention of corporate greed, obviously, but they’re more than willing to exploit it to their own ends.


100% This.

We should do all we can as people to stop waste, recycle, and consume responsibly, but the massive amount of environmental damage is being done at a level out of our personal control.

We need to hold corporations responsible for their own sustainability initiatives. And we need people in power to regulate that way, it is the only way they will change, because it costs money to be more ecologically friendly, and if everyone is forced to do it, nobody gets a competitive advantage.


At the end of the day it wont matter once Brazil clear cuts the Amazon and destroys us all anyway.


Peter Watts from his blog.

It’s been a couple of weeks now since the IPCC report came out. You know what it says. If the whole damn species pulls together in a concerted effort “without historical precedent”— if we start right now , and never let up on the throttle— we just might be able to swing the needle back from Catastrophe to mere Disaster. If we cut carbon emissions by half over the next decade, eliminate them entirely by 2050; if the species cuts its meat and dairy consumption by 90%; if we invent new unicorn technologies for sucking carbon back out of the atmosphere (or scale up extant prototype tech by a factor of two million in two years) — if we commit to these and other equally Herculean tasks, then we might just barely be able to keep global temperature from rising more than 1.5°C.[1] We’ll only lose 70-90% of the word’s remaining coral reefs (which are already down by about 50%, let’s not forget). Only 350 million more urban dwellers will be exposed to severe drought and “deadly heat” events. Only 130-140 million will be inundated. Global fire frequency will only increase by 38%. Fish stocks in low latitudes will be irreparably hammered, but it might be possible to save the higher-latitude populations. We’ll only lose a third of the permafrost. You get the idea.

We have twelve years to show results.

If we don’t pull all these things off— if, for example, we only succeed in meeting the flaccid 2°C aspirations of the Paris Accords— then we lose all the coral. We lose the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Greenland Ice Shelf (not that it isn’t already circling the bowl, of course). Twice as many people suffer “aggravated water scarcity” than at 1.5°C; 170% more of the population deals with fluvial flooding. The increase in global wildfire frequency passes 60% and keeps going. Marine fisheries crash pole to pole. The number of species that loses at least half their traditional habitat is 2-3 times higher than would have been the case at 1.5°C. It goes on.

There’s no real point in worrying about a measly 2° increase, though, because on our current trajectory we’ll blow past 3° by century’s end (the Trump administration is predicting 4°, which is why they’re so busy dismantling whatever pitiful carbon-emission standards the US had already put into place; what’s the point of reducing profit margins if we’re headed straight for perdition no matter what we do?). We don’t really know what happens then. Methane clathrates released from a melting Arctic could turn the place into Venus, for all I know.


Ugh. I mean…I mean…ugh?!!

I admit I was not familiar with Peter Watts. But that blog was pretty alarming. I found myself wondering this morning after reading it last night, “that must be some crazy hyperbolic blogger and I must have just stumbled into the left-er side blogging of what surely drives the crazy modern right…yeah, that’s it, right?” So I go to read up on Watts.

“Ah ha! He is an author, I mean Hugo, good for him, but an author and not a scien-”. Oh. “Also obtained a Ph.D in…Zoology and Resource Ecology, but clearly his other cited sources are crazy town, right?” I was not familiar with many of those as well, so as anyone should in the modern era, I check them for media bias and factual content ratings. “Hmmm, better than Fox (duh, who isn’t), and MSNBC, and CNN, and…this is not fringe lunacy stuff.” I then peruse the IPCC special report directly myself for awhile. I then check up on Brazil’s election results. As a backdrop, at a Halloween party last week, I also had two Foresters I know pass on the carbon impact of the current norm of mega fires (hint, human fossil fuel use doesn’t really matter with our backwards attitude towards fire “fighting”). These are the same fires that are predicted to sextuple in NA according to the report. “Oh God…oh my #*$&ing God!”

At this point I feel like a smoker having a come to Jesus moment. I’ve been pretty sure we are screwed on the climate front for a long time. But I also realize that while it’s tantalizing, it’s also a way longer range red meat type subject to carry much news cycle. So it’s something I say, but not something I feel. Well, now I feel like I’ve been smoking and just accepted for years that lung cancer will come knocking someday. Someday. After reading that blog and poking around, I feel like the doc just sat me down and told me that someday is now. Or twelve years from now as the case may be.

There is no way. Not one fraction of a percent of a chance that the world changes path to the extreme needed according to that report in the next twelve years. While it was sort of academically interesting before, I am suddenly rather distressed that I am likely going to, for realzies going to, get a front row seat to the end of civilization before I die.

Yeah. It’s safe to freak out indeed.


Yeah, that blog was… I don’t even really know how to describe it. Maybe it’s like finding yourself tied down to the railroad tracks and suddenly you realize you see a light and hear a blaring horn. You always knew this was how it was going to go unless you found a way to free yourself, but it’s still shocking and upsetting to see it bearing down on you.

“Not now! I’m not ready! I just need some more time!”


I’ve been following this for a long time. Now you folks know how I feel all the damn time.


… but her emails.


Japan’s summers in the past 6 years have spoiled the surprise for me :(


For anyone who wants some small piece of good news, Australia’s trajectory looks to be positive. We had a carbon price for a couple of years but then (for some reason?) we voted in Toby Abbott who doesn’t believe in climate change and he promptly axed as much environmental legislation as he could.

Now, the more reasonable party has been leading the polls for a long time, looks set to win the election which will be next year, and very recently they also announced:

Some positive signs for the future, yet in the meantime we’re still a deforestation hotspot.


Great to think that the fires in California are the new normal. And will get worse.


Yeah, I can’t remem which IPCC report made me realize that our fates were already sealed but I do remember that the article linking it also included a chart showing the amount of fossil fuels that have already been identified and cleared for extraction and where it puts us if indeed those fossil fuels are extracted and consumed (on track 6 degrees Celsius which is likely optimistic) and it dawned on me that economic and political reality made the end of the world inevitable.

Over the past few years that certainly has not only been validated, it’s been amplified. My wife’s advice to me at the time was the same as Watt’s wife’s — Enjoy the moment. Death is always an inevitability, you can’t stop living your life or finding joy in the world just because it will all end.

One of the Professors Watt references in that post predicts that society collapses in the next decade. This is distressing to me because I’ve been kind of coming to that sense myself. Things are starting to go to shit and the rate at which they go to shit is only going to accelerate. I can envision multiple scenarios to lead to the collapse of civilization as we know it in the near future.

I’ll stick with my wife’s advice. It’s whistling past the graveyard but isn’t that what life is anyway? All things come to an end but I’m more sad for the things that are not me. I can accept my own inevitable end stoically but it pains me to think of the pain to come for so many. Other people, children, great civilizations, wildlife.


The other thing that kind of bums me out of late when I think about our political situation is this — When people speak of authoritarianism, they generally include an optimistic reminder that the arc of history is long, dictators die, regimes fall and democracy often re-ermerges. But the arc of history is no longer long. What comes next is likely what we have until the end.