In my last C&L post on climate change, I ‘predicted’ (if that’s the right word) that at the current rate of global warming/global dimming by 2030, global temperatures could rise more than two degrees, twice as fast as previous models suggested they would, and trigger the irreversible melting of the Greenland ice sheet – after which nothing could be done to stop the eventual death of the entire planet by the end of the century, which no would be around to see anyway. Pretty grim stuff, really.
First, the bad news. Happy New Year, it’s 2010.
Our politicians, just about all of them from every country, are like children playing on a beach while the tide goes out and fish flop on the sea bed, ignoring the signs of a coming tsunami, too busy squabbling over toys and kicking sand in each other’s eyes. Our current technology is shackled to oil interests, with alternative energy and its technology insufficiently advanced to make much of a difference. According to the figures whizzing by ever so quickly on an excellent website, Worldometer, we’ve consumed nearly 170,000,000 MWh of energy today alone, 156,700,000 of which is from non-renewable sources. We’ve got 15,676 days left until oil runs out completely.
That’s slightly less than 43 years. That’s all – 43 years, and we’ll have sucked those wells dry as a witch’s... bones. My grandmother was born in 1910, she saw the car replace horse-drawn wagons, and by the time she died, she’d witnessed the birth of the internet and a man walking on the moon. A child born this year, 2010, a mere hundred years later, could possibly see that happen in reverse... should we survive that long. By 2030, energy, water and food shortages will be heading toward a ‘perfect storm’, with major upheavals, destabilization and riots worldwide as food prices will rise to become unaffordable to the majority, starvation increases and millions of refugees flee climate ravaged regions.
We are consuming the world’s resources like a plague of locusts, ripping through the earth’s metals, fossil fuels, timber, and by 2030, we’ll have consumed the lot. A study of 1700 species over 35 years, from 1970 to 2005, have declined in numbers 28 percent overall, with a 51 percent decline in tropical species. We’re consuming fresh water at an unsustainable rate, just to produce stuff – the U.S. using 2,483 cubic meters, about the size of an Olympic swimming pool, every year. The amount of land necessary to support one human being is 2.1 hectares. Demand in 2005 amounted to 2.7 hectares per person. The United Arab Emirates, a tiny country of only 32,268 square miles with 6 million people – about one acre per person – needs 23 acres of agricultural land, pasture, forests, fisheries and space for infrastructure, as well as absorb all the waste products and greenhouse gases, for each and every one of those inhabitants. The U.S. is the second-most demanding country per inhabitant, with Kuwait taking bronze. We’re consuming everything we need for long term survival – trees and animals do more than provide us with wood and food, they protect coasts, conserve the soil, replenish the air we breathe, provide us with medicines. Mostly trees, we’ve still got plenty of animals – if you don’t mind domestic sheep and cows replacing more useless wild things. And maybe not so much the trees, either, palm oil production destroying tens of millions of hectares of rain forests along with killing 50 orangutans a year, pushing Sumatran tigers and rhinos and the Asian elephant into functional extinction within ten years.