Thursday, October 16, 2014

Was the Club of Rome Correct in Warning of a Global Collapse of Resources and Population?

Is Global Collapse Imminent? An Updated Comparison of The Limits to Growth with Historical Data (22 page pdf, Graham M. Turner, Melbourne Sustainable Society Insti¬tute, Aug. 2014)

Also discussed here: Limits to Growth was right. New research shows we're nearing collapse (Graham Turner and Cathy Alexander , theguardian, Sep.2, 2014)

Today we review a study from Australia that compares the business as usual scenario to 2100 presented by the Club of Rome in its Limits to Growth book to the observed trends in population, resource depletion and pollution for the last 40 years. Results indicate a very close match and leads to a fear that the collapse that was indicated in the BAU scenario around 2030 may still take place, given the reluctance of many of the world’s largest resource consumers and polluters (China, USA, Russia, Brazil, Canada, etc) to replace carbon fuel with alternative fuels. Added to that is the very real concern that the transition to renewable energy, along with decreased population rates recommended by the Club of Rome may not be possible before the impending collapse.

 club rome BAU scenarioclob of rome env BAU

Key Quotes: 

“As Limits to Growth concluded in 1972: If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.”

“The dotted line shows the Limits to Growth “business-as-usual” scenario out to 2100. Up to 2010, the data is strikingly similar to the book’s forecasts…Resources are being used up at a rapid rate, pollution is rising, industrial output and food per capita is rising. The population is rising quickly.”

“As pollution mounts and industrial input into agriculture falls, food production per capita falls. Health and education services are cut back, and that combines to bring about a rise in the death rate from about 2020. Global population begins to fall from about 2030, by about half a billion people per decade. Living conditions fall to levels similar to the early 1900s.”

“Global pollution measured by CO2 concentration is most consistent with the BAU scenario…but this ten year data update indicates that it is rising at a somewhat slower rate than that mod¬elled.”

Peak oil could be the catalyst for global collapse. Some see new fossil fuel sources like shale oil, tar sands and coal seam gas as saviours, but the issue is how fast these resources can be extracted, for how long, and at what cost.”

“Regardless of what role oil constraints and price increases played in the current GFC[Global Financial Crisis in 2008], a final con¬sideration is whether there is scope of a successful transition to alternative transport fuel(s) and renewable energy more generally. …To transition requires introducing a new transport fuel to compensate for possible oil production depletion rates of four per cent (or higher) while also satisfying any additional demand associated with economic growth. It is unclear that these various conditions required for a transition are possible.”

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