Dimming Bulb 3: Collapse has ARRIVED!

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Published on The Doomstead Diner June 4, 2017

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Read also: The Dimming Bulb, The Dimming Bulb 2

Due to my High & Mighty position as a Global Collapse Pundit, I am often asked the question of when precisely will Collapse arrive?  The people who ask me this question all come from 1st World countries.  They are also all reasonably well off with a computer, an internet connection, running water and enough food to eat.  While a few of us are relatively poor retirees, even none of us wants for the basics as of yet.  The Diner doesn't get many readers from the underclass even here in Amerika, much less from the Global Underclass in places like Nigeria, Somalia,Sudan and Yemen.

The fact is, that for more than half the world population, Collapse is in full swing and well underway.  Two key bellweathers of where collapse is now are the areas of Electricity and Food.

http://dieoff.org/synopsis_files/image002.gif In his seminal 1996 paper The Olduvai Theory: Sliding Towards a Post-Industrial Stone Age, Richard Duncan mapped out the trajectory of where we would be as the years passed and fossil fuels became more difficult and expensive to mine up.  Besides powering all our cars and trucks for Happy Motoring and Just-in-Time delivery, the main thing our 1st World lifestyle requires is Electricity, and lots of it on demand, 24/7.  Although electricity can be produced in some "renewable" ways that don't depend on a lot of fossil fuel energy at least directly, most of the global supply of electric power comes from Coal and Natural Gas.  Of the two, NG is slightly cleaner, but either way when you burn them, CO2 goes up in the atmosphere.  This of course is a problem climatically, but you have an even bigger problem socially and politically if you aren't burning them.  Everything in the society as it has been constructed since Edison invented the Light Bulb in 1879 has depended on electricity to function.

Now, if all the toys like lights, refrigerators big screen TVs etc had been kept to just a few small countries and the rest of the world lived a simple subsistence farming lifestyle, the lucky few with the toys probably could have kept the juice flowing a lot longer.  Unfortunately however, once exposed to all the great toys, EVERYBODY wanted them.  The industrialists also salivated over all the profit to be made selling the toys to everyone.  So, everybody everywhere needed a grid, which the industrialists and their associated banksters extended Credit for "backward" Nation-States all over the globe to build their own power plants and string their own wires.  Now everybody in the country could have a lightbulb to see by and a fridge to keep the food cold.  More than that, the electricity also went to power water pumping stations and sewage treatment plants, so you could pack the Big Shities with even more people who use still more electricity.

This went on all over the globe, until today there isn't a major city or even a medium size town anywhere on the globe that isn't wired for electricity, although many places that are now no longer have enough money to keep the juice flowing.

Where is the electricity going off first?  Obviously, in the poorest and most war torn countries across the Middle East and Africa.  These days, from Egypt to Tunisia, if they get 2 hours of electricity a day they are doing good.

The Lights Are Going Out in the Middle East

The world’s most volatile region faces a challenge that doesn’t involve guns, militias, or bloodshed, yet is also destroying societies. Public fury over rampant outages has sparked protests. In January, in one of the largest demonstrations since Hamas took control in Gaza a decade ago, ten thousand Palestinians, angered by the lack of power during a frigid winter, hurled stones and set tires ablaze outside the electricity company. Iraq has the world’s fifth-largest oil reserves, but, during the past two years, repeated anti-government demonstrations have erupted over blackouts that are rarely announced in advance and are of indefinite duration. It’s one issue that unites fractious Sunnis in the west, Shiites in the arid south, and Kurds in the mountainous north. In the midst of Yemen’s complex war, hundreds dared to take to the streets of Aden in February to protest prolonged outages. In Syria, supporters of President Bashar al-Assad in Latakia, the dynasty’s main stronghold, who had remained loyal for six years of civil war, drew the line over electricity. They staged a protest in January over a cutback to only one hour of power a day.

Over the past eight months, I’ve been struck by people talking less about the prospects of peace, the dangers of ISIS, or President Trump’s intentions in the Middle East than their own exhaustion from the trials of daily life. Families recounted groggily getting up in the middle of the night when power abruptly comes on in order to do laundry, carry out business transactions on computers, charge phones, or just bathe and flush toilets, until electricity, just as unpredictably, goes off again. Some families have stopped taking elevators; their terrified children have been stuck too often between floors. Students complained of freezing classrooms in winter, trying to study or write papers without computers, and reading at night by candlelight. The challenges will soon increase with the demands for power—and air-conditioning—surge, as summer temperatures reach a hundred and twenty-five degrees.

The reasons for these outages vary. With the exception of the Gulf states, infrastructure is old or inadequate in many of the twenty-three Arab countries. The region’s disparate wars, past and present, have damaged or destroyed electrical grids. Some governments, even in Iraq, can’t afford the cost of fuelling plants around the clock. Epic corruption has compounded physical challenges. Politicians have delayed or prevented solutions if their cronies don’t get contracts to fuel, maintain, or build power plants.

Now you'll note that at the end of the third paragraph there, the journalist implies that a big part of the problem is "political corruption", but it's really not.  It's simply a lack of money.  These countries at one time were all Oil Exporters, although not on the scale of Saudi Arabia or Kuwait.  As their own supplies of oil have depleted they have become oil importers, except they neither have a sufficient mercantilist model running to bring in enough FOREX to buy oil, and they can't get credit from the international banking cartel to keep buying.  3rd World countries are being cut off from the Credit Lifeline, unlike the core countries at the center of credit creation like Britain, Germany and the FSoA.  All these 1st World countries are in just as bad fiscal deficit as the MENA countries, the only difference is they still can get credit and run the deficits even higher.  This works until it doesn't anymore.

Beyond the credit issue is the War problem.  As the countries run out of money, more people become unemployed, biznesses go bankrupt, tax collection drops off the map and goobermint employees are laid off too.  It's the classic deflationary spiral which printing more money doesn't solve, since the notes become increasingly worthless.  For them to be worth anything in FOREX, somebody has to buy their Goobermint Bonds, and that is precisely what is not happening.  So as the society becomes increasingly impoverished, it descends into internecine warfare between factions trying to hold on to or increase their share of the ever shrinking pie.

The warfare ongoing in these nations has knock on effects for the 1st World Nations still trying to extract energy from some of these places.  To keep the oil flowing outward, they have to run very expensive military operations to at least maintain enough order that oil pipelines aren't sabotaged on a daily basis.  The cost of the operations keeps going up, but the amount of money they can charge the customers for the oil inside their own countries does not keep going up.  Right now they have hit a ceiling around $50/bbl for what they can charge for the oil, and for the most part this is not a profit making price.  So all the corporations involved in Exploration & Production these days are surviving on further extensions of credit from the TBTF banks while at the same time cutting back on their capital expenditures.  This also is a paradigm that can't last.

The other major problem now surfacing is the Food Distribution problem, and again this is hitting the African countries first and hardest.  It's a combination problem of climate change, population overshoot and the warfare which results from those issues.

Currently, the UN lists 4 countries in extreme danger of famine in the coming year, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.  They estimate currently there are 20M people at extreme risk, and I would bet the numbers are a good deal higher than that.


somalia-famine.jpg World faces four famines as Trump administration plans to slash foreign aid budget

'Biggest humanitarian crisis since World War II' about to engulf 20 million people, UN says, as governments only donate 10 per cent of funds needed for essential aid






The world is facing a humanitarian crisis bigger than any in living memory, the UN has said, as four countries teeter on the brink of famine.

Twenty million people are at risk of starvation and facing water shortages in Somalia, Nigeria and Yemen, while parts of South Sudan are already officially suffering from famine.  

While the UN said in February that at least $4.4 billion (£3.5 bn) was needed by the end of March to avert a hunger catastrophe across the four nations, the end of the month is fast approaching, and only 10 per cent of the necessary funds have been received from donor governments so far.

It doesn't look too promising that the UN will be able to raise the $4B they say is necessary to feed all those hungry mouths, and none of the 1st World countries is too predisposed to handing out food aid when they all currently have problems with their own social welfare programs for food distribution.  Here in the FSoA, there are currently around 45M people on SNAP Cards at a current cost around $71B.  The Repugnants in charge of CONgress will no doubt try to cut this number in order to better fund the Pentagon, but they are not likely to send more money to Somalia.

Far as compassion for all the starving people globally goes in the general population, this also appears to be decreasing, although I don't have statistics to back that up. It is just a general sense I get as I read the collapse blogosphere, in the commentariats generally.  The general attitude is, "It's their own fault for being so stupid and not using Birth Control.  If they were never born, they wouldn't have to die of starvation."  Since they are mostly Black Africans currently starving, this is another reason a large swath of the white population here doesn't care much about the problem.

There are all sorts of social and economic reasons why this problem spiralled out of control, having mainly to do with the production of cheap food through Industrial Agriculture and Endless Greed centered on the idea of Endless Growth, which is not possible on a Finite Planet.

More places on Earth were wired up with each passing year, and more people were bred up with each passing year.  The dependency on fossil fuels to keep this supposedly endless cycle of growth going became ever greater each year, all while this resource was being depleted more each year.  Eventually, an inflexion point had to be hit, and we have hit it.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-aWWVsOhX9oA/TrxXROe6CEI/AAAAAAAAAN8/fXiBu_jeZvg/s1600/unicorn.jpgThe thing is, for the relatively comfortable readers of the Doomstead Diner in the 1st World BAU seems to be continuing onward, even if you are a bit poorer than you were last year. 24/7 electricity is still available from the grid with only occassional interruptions.  Gas is still available at the pump, and if you are employed you probably can afford to buy it, although you need to be more careful about how much you drive around unless you are a 1%er.  The Rich are still lining up to buy EVs from Elon Musk, even though having a grid to support all electric transportation is out of the question.  The current grid can't be maintained, and upgrading to handle that much throughput would take much thicker cables all across the network.  People carry on though as though this will all go on forever and Scientists & Engineers will solve all the problems with some magical new device.  IOW, they believe in Skittle Shitting Unicorns.

That's not going to happen though, so you're back to the question of how long will it take your neighborhood in the UK or Germany or the FSoA to look like say Egypt does today?  Well, if you go back in time a decade to Egypt in 2007, things were still looking pretty Peachy over there, especially in Tourist Traps like Cairo.  Terrorism wasn't too huge a problem and Da Goobermint of Hoser Mubarak appeared stable.  A decade later today, Egypt is basically a failed state only doing marginally better than places like Somalia and Sudan.  The only reason they're doing as well as they are is because they are in an important strategic location on the Suez Canal and as such get support from the FSoA military.

So a good WAG here for how long it will take for the Collapse Level in 1st World countries to reach the level Egypt is at today is about a decade.  It could be a little shorter, it could be longer.  By then of course, Egypt will be in even WORSE shape, and who might still be left alive in Somalia is an open question.  Highly unlikely to be very many people though.  Over the next decade, the famines will spread and people will die, in numbers far exceeding the 20M to occur over the next year.  After a while, it's unlikely we will get much newz about this, and people here won't care much about what they do hear.  They will have their own problems.

23 Responses to Dimming Bulb 3: Collapse has ARRIVED!

  • Steve says:

    Excellent blog post.  Would you mind if I posted it on my SRSrocco Report site, with several links and credit to the Domestead Diner.


  • Creedon says:

    Thanks for the great post RE. Its as good as I've seen for explaining where we are.

  • Nice to hear from Steve St. Angelo over at SRS Rocco, another excellent site and kindred soul. Kudos to you RE for creating this nexus of like-minded people. Now… if we can only get the other Steve (Economic Undertow) to get pen in hand, we'll be back to the races.

    What a treat it would be to have Steve ST. A. commenting over at Economic Undertow!

    • RE says:

      Steve from Virginia definitely needs to get back in the saddle.  Too much more time off and his keyboard fingers will atrophy!


  • John Doyle says:

    The "not enough money problem" is not well explained here even though it is a mainstream opinion. Any Monetary Sovereign nation should never go bankrupt in their own currency. But they can go bankrupt in another currency as they have no control over it. The BIG lesson is to never borrow other people's money. To paraphase Thatcher, "sooner or later you will run out of other people's money" but she failed to add that you can never run out of your own money.  Since MENA nations are monetary sovereign, they can pay for stuff and wages and whatever it takes to keep the lights on. They have enough oil for that .and it should be prioritised over exports. With exports these countries can use US $ to import essentials. But they should only get dollars on the spot market and adjust the economy to suit.

  • good one RE—now all you have to do is get yourself co opted into the Don's cabinet and convince them you're not another hoaxer.

    I've been saying for a long time that the Arab nations of the Middle East are a dress rehearsal for the rest of us. Egypts population will double to 160m in the next 30 years at current rates–while 4 nations upriver are busy damming the Nile

    I've put a piece on Medium outlining the downslope for the USA in the next few years

    Maybe ten at most—mid 2020s? :


    I think it dovetails neatly into what you've written here

  • dolph says:

    I hate to contradict all of you doomers who are waiting for this or that, but you do need a dose of realism.

    Our mortality rate is 100%.  Even during the good times.  There was never any scenario in which you were going to live 150, 200, 300 years old and feel like you were 22.  There was never any scenario duing which you were going to be cryogenically frozen and revived in a Star Trek future. 

    Civilization just delays the final reckoning a bit.  Collapse brings it forward.

    • RE says:

      Nobody here is denying the inevitability of Death, or even of Extinction Dolph, so I am not sure WTF you are contradicting.  We’re trying to establish a timeline on the progression of collapse.


  • BillBradshaw says:

    There have always been problems with food.  Thats what created the Berflin airlift after WW2.  However b ecause of greed and averace the conditions are rising to a  disasterous level

  • Etyere Petyere says:

    Wrong ! No collapse for half of the world . That half was never brought up to the supply level to the 1st world they were supplyed only marginally since ever . India who is a developing country still has 300 million + people having absolutely no electricity( half of them also no toilets- think about it ! ) . For them collapse is not completed they just never had any level  to fall from . Things will go on like they are right now and they will cope with that like untul now or ever .  The 1st world will keep its positin of normal supply of power trade conviniences the rest of the wolr will have to keep to do whatever they had until now and since they didnt know better this will be just normality for them no problem . Get back to me when the western industrial world is having power supply problems it will never happen since the infrastucture is in place and fuels are plenty for hundreds of years . Only sudden chatastrophyc climate change can disrupt it . somalia yemen and all those folks on the margins are uninterresant . they wil let them hear about themselves thru refuges  some terror attacks maybe hunger but they dont really count nobody cares their disruptive dealings like terrorism has low impact like london terror just now 7 dead is nothing 

    • JJGrey says:


      Sure third world countries on average have it worse than first world countries. 

      But things in third world countries WERE until at least the 1990s getting better in most places in most ways. Example – the % of Indias population that had access to electricity was increasing. Now it is decreasing. 

      3rd world poor people had a hope of at least a slightly better future for themselves or their children, that was the trend. Now the trend is reversing. 

      Overpopulation is a global issue. It especially effects the 3rd world nations and the poorest of the poor. But people are seldom willing to starve in place if their is food elsewhere-  even if they have to walk over and steal it they will. Thats the root of the current European Middle East refugee problem, the violence in the Middle East and radical ideaolgoies just makes it worse. 

      All the estimates and studies that say we still have X hundreds of years of fuel Y left leave out a few things, 1) fuel Y extraction transport and refining costs (in energy), 2) the version of fuel Ys intrinsic energy vs previous versions of fuel Y, and finally 3) increased demand for fuel Y based on population gowth and demand per capita growth.

      We could have a "thousand years worth" of coal, but if it is hard rock low energy (and dirty) and spread out in a way that makes mining it cost more energy than we get out of it, it wont be mined, and even if it isnt that bad, if demand for that coal increases a hundred fold we will only have ten years worth of it. The reason we have as much oil as we do right now is because of demand destruction – the rate of increased use of oil has been declining since about 2005-2010.

      And that spells very bad things for an economic infrasturcture that depends on increasing economic activity to make the necessary interest payments to keep the economy running. 

      Energy feeds into both Food and Finance, disruptions in those feed into violence and migration. The poor may be satisfied to wait for their chance at a better life, but if they see that chance vanishing you get politicians that offer a chance at change winning the elections, even if their suggested changes dont make sense. And if such politicians aren't even allowed a voice? Revolutuion or Migration or more often both. 


      • Etyere Petyere says:

        nothing was getting better until the 1990s these people constatntly owerpopulated themselves putting more and more squeese on their demand and supply balance yes a few individual might got their lot improved but the average went from bad to worst everywhere in the 3rd world . No you are wrong on this one as i have said it . the west stays the best the third world was shit and stays shit . fossil fuels still plenty for us to live the good life for another 100 years . and nobody cares what happens to those backward folks india middle east all these dark skinned folks africa nobody cares 

        • RE says:

          and nobody cares what happens to those backward folks india middle east all these dark skinned folks africa nobody cares 

          I care, and I am not nobody.  In fact, those of them that survive are better off than most 1st Worlders, they have less to lose.

          And you sir, are an incredible jerk.


  • david ritchie says:

    The best quote i ever heard was from a man in Sarejevo during the war in Yugoslavia." I dont know whats happening,. I was going to the office like everyone else 6 weeks ago". Collapse can come fast.

  • dolph says:

    That's what I'm trying to say, there is no "collapse" if you mean a quick global breakdown in trade taking place over months or a few years.  Simply not going to happen.  There is just a slow freeze, a decline.

    The mistake in all analysis, going back to the beginning of peak oil internet days in 2005, and really increasing since the financial crisis, is to assume that all of this energy waste and junk, etc., is necessary.  It's not!  People are capable of simplifying and living poorly.  They make not like it, but they are capable of it.

    We waste enormous amounts of energy.  We have not even scratched the surface of what kind of adaptation is possible.  This system is going to last decades yet, and even if it noticeably changes by the 2030s, say, varying levels of industrial scrap activity will probably continue for another 50 years.  Beyond that, yes, it's difficult to say.

    Which is not to say these discussions are useless, otherwise I wouldn't be here.  I too find them interesting.

    • JJGrey says:

      Dolph, people in first world countries may be CAPABLE of living like third world peasants, but why should they?

      Religion might get some to do so. Care for the enviroment or their fellow man may get some more, and necessity will get many of those who remain BUT as long as anyone out there ISNT living as 3rd world peasant, 1st worlders are going to try to live above that level. People ALWAYS try to live better than their parents, and will only step down from that goal when necessisty interferes, and people would much rather push back against anyone living better than they are or telling them that they have to live simpler. Resentment will lead to violence. 

      And of course if the 1st world citizens keep living large while 3rd world people starve there is resentment there as well. Can we say mass migration of people bearing a grudge against 1st world government, society, religion, race, etc? What might that also be called? What might that look like and express itself as? Yeah. Look to Europes issues today. 

      And the average European is not living as large as the average American… 

      Oh, boy.


  • JJGrey says:

    " People carry on though as though this will all go on forever and Scientists & Engineers will solve all the problems with some magical new device.  IOW, they believe in Skittle Shitting Unicorns.

    That's not going to happen though, "

    The non-growth paradigm of 'sustainable' green communities, permaculture farming, hyper energy efficency, etc. certainly has its place both during (now) and after the collapse. But a non-growth paradigm is always vulnerable to being displaced or over whelmed by a pro-growth one. Even if the only growth is possible by killing others and taking their stuff (in raids or wars, it makes no difference). And growth by violence also fails over time as an empire gets too large and falls to infighting or infrastrucure issues. Resource exploitation growth is the only form of growth that offers any other alternatives – and there only by combining with 'sustainable' technologies to minimize the needed growth, while finding new, limitless sources of resources (space).

    The technologies that are theoretically possible that could allow the 'magical new device' DO exist – 

    Fusion power to produce the electricity we need from a source that is far more preveland than the Uranium needed for the Fission power reactors we have now. There are lots of technical hurdles to getting fusion power onto prime time, which is why it has been more than 50 years and we dont have it yet. 

    Space based mining, refining, and manufacturing (remote controled and automated) is the other technology that is theorectically obtainable. Currently the manufacturing side would be (relatively) easy largely automated factories already exist and would need only a little redesign for the rigours (and advantages) of space, it is the automating and remote controlling of the mining and refining that are still technically problematic , and certain practical political and legal bottlnecks also prevent space expoiltation.

    Neither of these technologies though, are currently close enough, IMHO to keep our society from suffering massive disruption and die-off. Hopefully we can get enough in place though,  that a foundation of both or either can carry through the disruptions and die off that survivors on the otherside can reboot those technologies and provide for their reduced (but once again increasing) wants and needs.

    Pushing the state of the art and figuring out how to preserve our achievements in those technologies should be the concern of everyone who wants to see a successful society on the otherside of our coming collapse. 

    • RE says:

      Fusion Power is Unicorn Skittle Shit, and so is space based mining.


      • JJGrey says:

        Meh, there are one horned animals of pale color running around. 

        Scientist are working hard at making either (fusion or space mining) practical. They are making some, but mostly incremental, progress.  

        I think that we will collapse before the one horned animal can make more than rainbow colored fumes. 

        But it doesnt mean that the one horned animal can never produce, just that we couldnt stay afloat until it did, and that we might not have bothered to feed it enough. (20 trillion in debt the USA is and less than 1% of that went into space exploitation -not looking beyond solar system but looking at what we can take from the solar system, nor into advanced power production like fusion or other alternative nuclear.)

        We ARE going to collapse at this point. Even if they had practical space mining and fusion before this july 4th 2017, it would be too late to roll it out quickly enough to completely prevent collapse. 

        If our species can get through the collapse and have access to the resources and technologies to make those possible, we can hope our descendants can do what we failed to on our first chance. If we dont preserve those resources and technologies? Our species and life itself are doomed to be stuck on this single ball of rock until final extinction. 

        • RE says:

          Forget getting off the ball of rock.  It’s not gonna happen.  Like Death, Extinction has always been an inevitability.  It’s just a matter of the timeline.


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 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

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To fight climate change, you need to get the world off of fossil fuels. And to do that, you need to [...]

Americans are good on the "thoughts and prayers" thing. Also not so bad about digging in f [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

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  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

"President Trump continues to escalate his trade threats against China. "He's now thr [...]

"Global growth has peaked and is expected to decelerate further. Signs of a slowdown have been [...]

“The OBR’s fiscal sustainability report does what it says on the tin — it looks at the sustainabilit [...]

“Three months after the protests began in Nicaragua, which have unleashed deadly violence, with more [...]

“Hundreds of Argentinians took to the streets of Buenos Aires to protest against a standby agreement [...]

You all talk of MMT as if it is legitimate economic theory that can be put in a text book. It is not [...]

I'm not completely sure why this line of thinking is called 'Modern Monetary Theory' [...]

When I read about MMT, I think, the leftists are getting uppity, aren't they! They insist money [...]

Steve, perhaps you can recommend a good book explaining MMT. I just listened to a 23 minute video wi [...]

On a day that the stock market is pushing back above 24,900 the 2 to 10 is under 26 basis points and [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

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Simplifying the Final Countdown

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Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

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Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

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Singularity of the Dollar

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Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

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Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

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Merry Doomy Christmas

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Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

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The main features of the instrumental global mean surface temperature (GMST) are reasonably well des [...]

It is still a challenge to provide spatially explicit predictions of climate parameters in African r [...]

In Australia, successful seasonal predictions of wet and dry conditions are achieved by utilizing th [...]

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