Can Humans Survive on Earth?

May 11, 2012

A new report released on Monday, May 7, 2012 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands by environmental think tank Club of Rome indicates human life on Earth may not be sustainable if we continue to over consume the planet’s resources and only think in the short-term.  The path we’re on is leading us to an expected 2°C rise in temperature by 2052, where we dangerously approach the point of no return.  The future doesn’t look any brighter either.  By 2080, temperatures will reach a 2.8°C rise, and global climactic changes may be unavoidable.

The report entitled, “2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years” and authored by Jorgen Randers raises some critical questions concerning how many people the planet can truly support, whether or not runaway climate change will prevail, and if quality of life will improve or decline.  Randers used meticulous research and compiled information from over 30 of his peers in the field to develop the report.  His conclusions were that:

  • While humankind has begun the process of adapting to the Earth’s limitations, the response could be too slow to engender meaningful change.
  • Global economies will rise and fall.  The United States will decline while Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and ten leading emerging economies (referred to as ‘BRISE’ in the Report) will advance.
  • China, because of its ability to act, will be a success story.
  • Poverty will still be a big problem at 3 billion in 2052.
  • Global population peaks in 2042, because of falling fertility rates in urban areas.
  • Global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grows much slower than expected, because of slower productivity growth in mature economies.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere will continue to grow and may very well result in self-reinforcing climate change.

Now that you’re sufficiently scared about the bleakness of our planet’s future, it is important to note that the Report says the main cause of these problems is the exceptionally short-term political and economic model to which nations principally subscribe.

“We need a system of governance that takes a more long-term view”, said Professor Randers, speaking in Rotterdam. “It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate friendly solutions, and [we] must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind”.

This means that the two main ways you can make a difference are to get involved politically and make choices that have an economic impact.  There is no other planet in our solar system so uniquely suited to sustaining human life and we need to work towards keeping it that way.