Perish the Population Thought

October 10, 2013 • Daily Email Recap

Perish the Population Thought
Population size and growth, resources and climate change are obviously linked.

In response to the release of the Fifth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, George Monbiot wrote in The Guardian: ”What the report describes, in its dry, meticulous language, is the collapse of the benign climate in which humans have prospered, and the loss of the conditions upon which many other life-forms depend. Climate change and global warming are inadequate terms for what it reveals. The story it tells is of climate breakdown. This is, or so it seems, a catastrophe we are capable of foreseeing but incapable of imagining. It’s a catastrophe we are singularly ill-equipped to prevent.”

Ill-equipped we certainly are, being so dependent on fossil fuels to maintain our industrialised economy and thus our standard of living.

Yet if we are to keep within the so-called guardrail of 2 degree warming, the world can emit only another 469 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. Because there are other such gases than carbon dioxide, e.g. methane and nitrous oxide, in fact we can emit only another 269 billion tonnes of CO2. Yet the burning of proven, existing, known reserves of fossil fuels, will produce 761 billion tonnes of CO2.

There’s no escaping it; we must keep two-thirds of fossil fuel reserves in the ground. Exploring for more coal, gas and oil is madness and yet it continues with governments spending vast amounts of money on such exploration.

The connection between these resources and climate change is clear: burn more of them and climate change worsens.

Is there also a connection with population? Oil analyst Ian Dunlop would agree with Monbiot. We are headed for climate breakdown unless we take urgent steps to mitigate climate change.

Dunlop, referring to a scenario of temperatures increasing in excess of 4 degrees: ”This is a world of 1 billion people, not 7 billion, in which business as we know it is not possible.” In other words, the carrying capacity of the Earth will plummet if we do not change from our current path.

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