By Chris Nelder
Posting in Education
Global population models project anywhere from 8.3 billion to 10.9 billion people will inhabit the planet by 2050. Resource-based forecasts tell a different story.
The United Nations (UN) projects that the global population will zoom from approximately 7.1 billion people today to 9.6 billion people by 2050. The World Bank and U.S. Census Bureau expect it to reach 9.4 billion. Other models suggest anywhere from 8.3 billion to 10.9 billion souls on the planet by 2050.
These models "assume a no-surprise future and focus on three main drivers of population -- births, deaths and migration. Life expectancy is kept on a consistent upward trend, and unpredictable events like epidemics and wars are ruled out," National Geographic explained in its population update this year.
In other words, the population forecasts that all policymakers around the world use are based on existing trends, not resources or surprise events.
But those who look at population through the lens of resources come to very different conclusions about population growth.
One example is geophysicist Jean Laherrère, whose work I have featured previously in this column. Laherrère compiled from various sources this chart of forecasts showing global oil production per capita:
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Oil production per capita peaked in 1979 at 5.5 barrels of oil per person per year, Laherrère calculates. That rate that can never be matched again, he says, because population continues to grow even as global oil production has hit a plateau, soon to be followed by an inevitable decline. By 2050, Laherrère calculates that the global per-capita oil consumption will have to fall to around half the 2012 level.
What does this mean? It means that those countries where oil consumption is well above the per-person average will experience intense pressure -- presumably in the form of high prices, at first -- to reduce consumption. Unless, of course, they can somehow compel the countries that already use the least oil to consume even less.
And who are those people? Another Laherrère chart shows per-capita oil consumption of some of the world's the top consumers (countries that consume at least 0.5 million barrels of oil per day):
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While the world average petroleum consumption per capita was 4.7 barrels in 2012, Laherrère found a huge variation from country to country: 81 barrels for Singapore, 43 barrels for the United Arab Emirates, 39 for Saudi Arabia, 24 for Canada, 22 for the United States and Belgium, 17 for Australia, 9.7 for France, 8.8 for the United Kingdom, 2.8 for China, 1.2 for Africa, and 1 barrel per person for India.
Compelling the nations that use the least oil to use even less will be difficult. China and India are right near the bottom of the per-capita consumption list, but they're also the most populous nations in the world. As I wrote in 2012, they are able to tolerate much higher prices than the oil-guzzlers because they derive so much more economic value out of a gallon of fuel than their developed-world counterparts.
Fortunately, the competing pressures for oil will be assisted by demographic trends already in place. As fund manager Jeremy Grantham detailed earlier this year, fertility rates have been falling sharply across most the world. In most of the developed world (and China) birth rates are already below the replacement rates. Almost all of the countries with fertility rates still far in excess of the replacement rate are in Africa.
Grantham calls this decline in fertility "our last best hope" to avoid the worst effects of basic resource overshoot, in which the world consumes resources to the breaking point, then suffers catastrophic collapse.
But even under what Grantham calls the U.N.'s "optimistic" scenario, the world’s population peaks around 2050 at slightly more than 8 billion, then declines to around 6 billion by the end of the century.
Even that population scenario may be well in excess of what the remaining oil can support.
John Howe, an engineer, author, farmer, manufacturer of bicycle-powered generators, and (perhaps most famously) inventor of solar-powered tractors, has just self-published a spiral-bound book (his fourth) titled The End of Fossil Energy and Per-Capita Oil. It examines a series of scenarios based on various estimates for the world's remaining oil and population replacement rates.
The simplified chart of Howe's analysis shows that world per-capita oil consumption will fall to zero by the end of the century in all scenarios:
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In Howe's "Most Optimistic Case," global fertility rates start immediately at 1 child per female, and there are 1.8 trillion barrels of oil yet to produce. In this scenario, per-capita world oil consumption falls to zero around 2080.
In his "Less Optimistic Case," birth rates hold firm at 1.5 children per female, and there are 1.3 trillion barrels of oil yet to produce (this is roughly the remaining oil endowment assumed by most peak oil models). In this scenario, per-capita world oil consumption falls to zero around 2075.
In his "Most Probable Case," birth rates are equal to the replacement rate at 2 children per female, there are 1.3 trillion barrels of oil yet to produce, and the energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) ratio falls by 1 percent each year, reflecting the increasing difficulty of producing oil from ever-more-marginal sources. (For more on EROEI, also known as EROI, see "What EROI tells us about ROI.") In this scenario, per-capita world oil consumption falls to zero not long after 2060.
Here we can begin to see the huge gap between the trend-based population forecasts and the oil-based forecasts. As Howe's latter scenario is closest to the default path the world is on, it should be clear that the world cannot support 9.6 billion people by 2050, as the UN and other agencies expect, and have oil consumption per capita fall to zero a decade later. At a per-capita oil consumption of zero, for example, all commercial agriculture -- which runs on diesel -- would cease, along with all trucking and most of what we recognize as modern civilization.
Even if there were an additional half-trillion barrels of oil yet to produce, as some oil optimists believe, oil extraction would fall to zero by 2080. The following summary chart shows what effect this would have on global population. If all reproduction were to cease now -- a fertility rate of zero children per female -- global population would follow the oil curve down, until population reached zero at the end of the century. In 2050, the population would be around 5.5 billion at a fertility rate of zero, or anywhere from around 6.7 billion to 9.8 billion at higher fertility rates.
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For a final perspective, Howe offers the following chart showing the large "food gap" that opens between now and 2060, with the UN's population projection soaring into the future as various oil production curves fall. Again, the H curve assumes around 1.3 trillion barrels of oil remain to be produced; the NO curve makes the same assumption but adjusts for EROI falling at 1 percent per year; and the R curve assumes that fertility is fixed at 1 child per female and that oil demand falls by 1.5 percent per year.
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The R curve would represent a towering policy achievement for humanity, in which we deliberately curbed our reproduction and oil consumption consistently for decades. But even under that scenario, global population would fall to around 4.2 billion people by 2050, and still be on its way to zero by the end of the century.
Models vs. reality
The implications of these models are fairly terrifying, but we should bear in mind that they are models, not firm forecasts. The population models of the UN and others are blind to resources, and the oil-based models are blind to policy. The ultimate shape of global population curves will depend on innumerable factors both expected and unexpected, and billions of individual decisions that people make between now and the end of the century. Our fate is formally unknowable.
So what will the actual global population be at the midpoint and the end of this century?
My educated guess is that population will respond to the oil pulse, and top out at around 7.5 billion people by 2050. Producing enough oil -- not to mention food, water, and all the other critical raw materials required by modern life -- to support 9 billion people or more will simply be too expensive, too difficult, and too risky. I believe the population models on which the world's policymakers depend are wrong.
If oil production does indeed fall to zero (or nearly zero) by the end of the century, then one must ask what the global carrying capacity is in the absence of modern civilization.
One easy answer to that is to look at what the global population was before we started exploiting fossil fuels in earnest two centuries ago: about 1.5 billion people. From that basis, we must make a number of adjustments. For one, the global population is now dispersed over much of the planet; two centuries ago, for example, the population of the United States was about 7.2 million and most of the rich land from coast to coast was very nearly empty. Now we have around 310 million people distributed over every desirable spot in the country. The same dynamic applies to much of the rest of the world. Globally, there were only around 1 billion people on the planet in 1800. So we might adjust the carrying capacity upward to 2 billion or 3 billion based on geographic distribution.
If we were able to replace oil (and ultimately, the rest of the fossil fuels) with renewable power, such that we could substitute at least a modest amount of mechanized work for human and animal labor, then the sustainable population might be even higher. Grantham speculates that if we "retune our agricultural system," improve our behavior, aggressively build renewable capacity, crack the storage problem, and do our very best, then by the end of the century population could hit a "probably sustainable level of 4 billion, particularly if we sensibly encourage its decline."
If we do not do those things, and simply follow the default path of overshoot, then any number of Mad Max scenarios too awful to contemplate would obtain, leaving the world weak, small, and desperately impoverished by the end of the century.
Any way you slice it, the global population is bound to fall, gracefully or catastrophically. Growth along the existing trend lines would lead to far worse outcomes than any alternatives.
How will we respond?
A straight reading of history suggests that the overshoot path is our default. Historical examples of humanity recognizing resource limits and deliberately curbing its appetites and reproduction rates are vanishingly rare.
Yet, what choice do we have, but to do something? And what might that something be?
This is where we come up hard against taboos. Nobody wants to be told whether or not they can reproduce, or what to eat, or how to live. To merely suggest that population might be limited intentionally raises sci-fi specters like Logan's Run and Soylent Green. Researchers who simply calculated the carbon footprint of having children two years ago were called eugenicists and Nazis. Deliberate population control is probably out of the question.
Howe believes that choosing a different lifestyle would take America a long way. He calculates that each household in the United States could get by with a 4,000-Watt (W) solar PV system (which is within the realm of possibility for most single-family homes), assuming "minimal transportation and agriculture." With a solar-powered tractor, he says, a farmer could farm three or more acres and feed 12 to 15 non-farmers, presumably on a primarily vegetarian diet. Globally, he advocates restricting fertility rates to one child per female, and decreasing "energy consumption, specifically oil, by at least one and one-half percent per year for the next sixty years, starting now!"
Global policy action along those lines seems unlikely, to say the least. But it is not out of the question that an informed populace, disabused of its fantasies about endless fossil fuels and endless economic growth, could choose to have fewer (or no) children, adopt lower-energy lifestyles, and try, for once, to act like they're smarter than yeast.
(Photo: James Cridland/Flickr)
Sep 2, 2013
I think you are referring to Jean Laherrere's charts? Both charts are correctly labeled as annual consumption or production per capita. I believe Jean's y-axis labels were cut off - "b" should be "bbl"
Some graphs are either mislabeled or have the wrong captions. Per-Capita use is not measured in billions and 'b' cannot mean 'barrels' because us consumers do not consume 45 barrels per-capita/per-day. The graphs would be useful if they were correct. We cannot pass them around when they are incorrect. I believe the per-capita is not a daily reading but an annual number but; 45 bbl is way to low for the US per-capita annually. Note that barrel is formally [b]BBL[/b] and barrels pre day is [b]BLPD[/b]. Can you please fix or clarify the graphs?
Thinking that humans can control their population without war, or disease, is like thinking you can control life itself. Humans are biologically hardwired to evolve, despite intellectual ideologies, which means we are hardwired to consume and feast until we reach the tipping point, at which point we will fight to the death, starve and die of disease until our population rebalances with natural resources. Oil equals feast, and when it is finally consumed, we will famine. We are no different than any other species on Earth except that we are so much more efficient at consuming. But to call us "stupid as yeast" is just rude; we don't make the rules of life. You can't ask people to give up what they have because that goes against nature. Nature dictates that we increase consumption until there is no more to consume. The intelligent human simply asks the question, "How can I survive the impending doom?" The stupid human asks, "How can we prevent the impending doom?"
Very good. And, another point is that the vast population explosion in the 'medical age' from 1 billion in 1804 to 9 billion soon, has allowed many genetic defects into the reproducing population. This is a sleeping tiger of future disease and cost.
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that air conditioning, increasing availability of cosmetics and the wide adoption of daily bathing made to the dramatic increase in population over the last 100 years? AC made the dwelling comfortable and cosmetics made women more attractive. Cleanliness made both genders more desirable to be around. Thus, people didn't have to wait until winter or the monthly bath to make babies. Crazy? Maybe, but I'm sure it had some effect. I know I'm more likely to want to when I'm clean and comfortable (and she is as well). Of course, Nelder is full of it as usual with all his lovely charts and graphs trying to go against and change human nature.
I fully agree that people focus on the price tag and not on the cost of ownership. And it's not just people, but analysts, governments, banks, etc. They all track statistics like "cost of new housing", "average price of a family home", etc. which focus entirely on the price tag. Install more insulation in a house, with a PV system, Geothermal heating, etc. and the price of the house will be $30-$50K more than a similar house in the same neighborhood. Unfortunately, you are right, 90% of the people will look at it and conclude that it is too expensive and move on. The government needs to get behind this with legislation. In the long run, these investments in our homes will reduce our cost of living, and allow us to tolerate larger price swings in electricity, natural gas, etc. Not to mention reduce our per capita energy usage!
One thing many people in the good old USA can do is to get out of their cars once in awhile. This is kinda hard on the auto industry and the oil producing companies, but better for the rest of us. What to do? You can get around many places more easily than you might think. Walk, ride a bike, eBike, take transit, car share, or EV once a week at least to begin with. EVsRock! http://www.evsroll.com
" deal with that before you nag me about a couple of watts of infrared radiation." I'm not sure you quite understand. You'd have liked a routine by Drew Carey, who said he turned up his thermostat and said "Screw the kids, I'm cold now."
I recall the usual predictions at the turn of the Millennium, and only one futurist predicted a world population of 1 billion. It certainly caught my attention. One person thought it was silly, because birth control wasn't that good or popular, until someone pointed out other ways for populations to decline.
Population crash from oil shortages? This is so 2008. The world has plenty of coal and, thanks to fracking, plenty of natural gas. There will be a shift from oil to coal and gas, unless some better tech comes along. This is what has been happening for some time, actually. It would be interesting to see where oil prices go, but the reality is that the Middle East has fracking potential as well. It would be surprising if oil were to ever become truly expensive.
One way to accomplish this would be to offer every young woman $40,000 if they had surgery to permanently prevent childbirth before they had their first child. And $30,000 if they had the surgery after their first child. It would all be voluntary. Women might have a higher worth (the $40,000) in third world cultures. And the money for this program would be pennies to the dollar compared to the money proposed to cut greenhouse gases, and as a byproduct it would reduce carbon use because there would be less people using energy.
Great article Chris. If you parse back the major "peak everything" challenges - energy, environment, money, you always seem to come back to human population growth as the major underlying cause of these challenges. Another "surprise event" that does not get written about too much is what many scientist have referred to as the ongoing "6th great mass species extinction" event underway. The Human species not only depends on energy for our modern economy, and environmental/natural resources, we depend on other species. Our current economy is killing off unprecedented numbers and replacing their bio-mass with our own. Surely a tipping point will occur and we will no longer be able to survive this. For more information, see: http://www.mysterium.com/extinction.html and http://populationpress.org/. Thanks again for what you are doing, keep up the good work.
That wars were not factored into the calulations, the Bible has told us that there will be wars and rumors of wars for as long as we are allowed to stay here on Earth. I do not forsee God allowing us to stay here for another century, but if He does (I won't be around to find out), then there will be a way to work things out, that I believe. I read through all of these comments and not one has suggested the mining of asteroids, the moon, the other planet's moons for minerals, water, etc. needed to sustain life here. In fact, many are talking of moon based living and even Mars based living, which could easily happen in the next 100 years, I don't know about interstellar travel, a big propulsion breakthrough would have to happen before that can come to pass. He didn't mention that the Mad Max movies were post nuclear war postulations that destroyed most of the infrastructure on Earth. Soylent Green had a new food substance that was the recycling of human bodies. (if you haven't seen the movie, sorry about the spoiler). You might also want to look up the movie "The Omega Man" from 1971 as another movie about the world after a disaster (plague). None of the scenarios in any of these movies has happened, but if you believe in possibilities, I suppose they could, or even in the space epic "2001" where a computer kills to protect its belief of superiority...or the Star Trek or Star Wars series of shows and movies, etc. WE as humans cannot solve the world's problems alone, that is what we need to remember. Just as a 1970's song by the Imperials says "there never will be any peace until God is seated at the the conference table" WE have to trust in Him to solve all of our problems. Chris Nelder is a defeatist in his predictions, that seems to be his nature. We can read his opinions and then go and take care of business, and prove him to be wrong.
Utilizing per capita estimates in the prediction of resource decline really accomplishes nothing more than to mask the real problem of the ever-escalating imbalance of wealth. Resources are continually depleted by those who can continually afford to deplete them. Rich and powerful people do not conserve, they merely get richer and more powerful by forcing poor people to conserve through increased pricing and taxation. And as these rich and powerful get richer, they consume even more and conserve even less. One only has to examine the demographic history of the United States to see this fact. The only way to curb resource depletion is to level the playing field to a point where "per capita" has a universal equivalence.
'I can't stand fluorescent, and the leds are looking like they'll be irritating as well. I have to have the warm, red-heavy light of an incandescent in order to work. In a fluorescent environment all I can think of is getting the heck out.' Exactly what is wrong with humans, selfishness rules with most, and not a thought about anyone else, let alone other species we are extinguishing every year in their thousands. So, ever so important you 'can't stand' fluorescents, and that presumably includes energy saving bulbs which are several technological advances beyond the old style tubes that used to be in most offices, not heard about that? You obviously haven't heard about the red-shift energy-efficient ones specially made for those who imagine a reddish light is more 'natural', despite the fact that sunlight isn't reddish. I seek out the daylight bulbs which, as well as providing bright white daylight-type light, mitigate SAD [Seasonal Affective Disorder] caused by too little of this quality of light in winter [northern countries], and it's the way we manufacture Vitamin D in our bodies [bone health and regrowth]. I use LEDS in the bedroom as they are even more energy efficient and use hardly any power at all. I look on your problem as both selfishness, preciousness [why you and not others?] and possibly an obsessive personality. White light is natural, red-tinged incandescent light is the unnatural technology, just because it's what you're used to doesn't make it 'better'. It's the way the inventors first came up with to use electricity, connect it through a short circuit made of thin wire which will then glow and burn out [lasting a few months against the decades of energy-efficient alternatives, the modern variation]. Still, if you're happy paying more for energy than you need to that's ok. My complete lighting probably costs me less than one of your bulbs LOL, takes all sorts, including the stupids.
Births are geometric...they can double the population if the replacement rate is high enough. But it takes time. Deaths are arithmetic. They subtract one by one. However. It took a very, very long time to build a population of 5 billion. Yet, in a single generation, if we control births, population could half or dwindle to nothing! It's already happening...
As the population density increases, the transmissibility of a new serious infectious disease increases. It has been a long time since a serious plague has decimated the human population. We are overdue. A plague that would kill 90% of us would very quickly fix our "overpopulation" problem. We are already seeing diseases such as SARS and the novel middle eastern corona virus begin to appear. Viruses, bacteria, and fungi mutate quickly, and it would take a long time to find and disseminate a cure or vaccine. There would be so many corpses that they themselves would have a major environmental impact.
There are two basic assumptions here that may not hold true in the future: 1) the world population would continue to grow 2) Fossil fuels will be our major source of energy for many years to come All the above could be a complete waste of breath and time!
As oil gets more expensive and scarce, a wealthy and privileged class will take what they want and the hell with the rest of us. Why sacrifice to save a bunch of useless leaches?
Mr. Nelder seems to have a need to interpret everything in terms of oil. Because of this, he lacks a broader view of history. The human race started out as hunter-gatherers. As hunter-gatherers the earth could have never supported more than a few tens of millions of humans. But agriculture was discovered and suddenly the earth could support many times more. About 350 years ago the world used wood as its primary source of energy. As a result Europe was being denuded of trees. One of America's biggest industries at the time was providing the wood to build England's ships. But around that time coal mining was perfected and as a result the Industrial Revolution took place. This allowed the earth to support even more humans. Since then we've seen other great advances that allowed more humans to live. Steam power, electricity, and yes, even oil all played their part. Nobody knew these advances existed until the day they were discovered. No doubt the Chris Nelders of those times were also coming up with charts proving that "this can't go on". Yes, one day the petroleum will run out. Over his career Mr. Nelder has been too early in his dire predictions, but one day he will no doubt be right. But to assume that the answer will be in solar power and that nothing else can solve our problems is ridiculous. A solar-powered tractor? Does anybody in Mr. Nelder's circle have any tangible idea of the concentrated power a tractor takes? Do they even know what a PTO does? No battery pack today could conceivably power a modern farm tractor. Have a little faith in humanity, Mr. Nelder.
Contrary to popular myth, human beings are not YEAST or BACTERIA and the Earth is not a TEST TUBE. But just for argument sake, lets say we were to create a scale model using bacteria in a test tube. If one bacterium represents a human being, then the test-tube would have to be 10 feet across and 30 feet high...and all 10 billion bacteria would fit into a 5 inch cube. NOTE Calculations based on bacteria being 1 TRILLION times smaller than a human, and the liveable atmosphere extending one mile from the surface of the earth. The earth may be limited, but it is VAST. Our problem is not a lack of RESOURCES, but inadequate technology. For example, for thousands of years all of our energy came from the biosphere--we burned wood, dung, and animal fats. Then we discovered FOSSIL FUELS, which allowed us to tap an energy source several orders of magnitude greater than before. Today we are learning to harness the power of the sun--which provides more energy in one year than is stored in all the fossil fuels in the world. The only limitation we have is our technology. If we rely on the BIOSPHERE for our support, then we will be severely limited in what we can do. For example, if we continue to grow our food in the dirt, we will eventually run out of farmland--but if we grow our food in large VERTICAL FARMS, we could support a population an order of magnitude greater than today using LESS land. Eventually, we could move food production into space and use no land at all. As technology advances we tend stop using limited resources and shift to those that are more abundant. We move from the BIOSPHERE, to the LITHOSPHERE, to the ASTRO-SPHERE. We also strive to use what we have more efficiently--making things smaller, cheaper, and more powerful with every generation. The trend is for technology to first grow BIG, then become SMALL, and then DISAPPEAR altogether. This article does not take into account any of these trends. It does not look at the fact that Solar technology is advancing EXPONENTIALLY--doubling every two years. Nor does it consider advances in other sources of energy. It ignores that energy efficiency is increasing at every level of the supply chain. Plus, it does not account for advances in manufacturing that will make these new technologies cheaper than maintaining the old ones. This article forgets that humans are NOT BACTERIA. We have the ability to understand and bend the laws of nature to our needs. We KNOW which resources are limited and have already identified better alternatives. We KNOW what our challenges are, and are working on solutions. At our current rate of development, we could replace all fossil fuels and cut our geographic footprint in half by 2030--without reducing the population or implementing draconian measures. Don't buy into the Malthusian Myth--educate yourself about the heroic efforts and incredible advances being made toward solving the world's problems: http://roadtoabundance.wordpress.com/ Stop wringing your hands and become part of the solution. Share this knowledge with others so that they can use it. We stand at the edge of a Third Industrial Revolution--get ready, the future is brighter than you think.
What a "maroon"!!! The article above is just another tortured attempt by Mr Nelder to blame oil for the world's problems, and then proposes idealistic and unworkable solutions to the problems. A solution is not warranted, if a problem doesn't exist to begin with. So, Mr Nelder needed to find or define a "problem", and proceeded to find a way to blame the problem on fossil fuels, at least partially. It's typical correlation vs causation analysis, which is almost always full of holes. Mr Nelder could've easily found a solution to the problem with another symptom which the U.S. and other countries are encountering. The U.S. has recently been downsizing its use of gasoline and other fossil fuels. So, what is the cause of that? Many could easily attribute the drop in usage to less driving. Stop there? No! So what caused people to drive less? Well, several reasons. One of them is the unemployment problem, where a huge number of people are out of jobs, and fewer companies hiring. So, the demand for driving and using fossil fuels would naturally have dropped. The rate of working age people working in the U.S. is so low, that, only about 63% of those people are working; that is a rate not seen since about 1952. So, do we blame the people for being unemployed, or do we blame businesses for firing people and not hiring as many as they lay off? The blame for the rotten economy can be traced to a lot of economic policies passed by the government, were high taxes and a massive number of regulations, have stifled economic growth, and in fact, has caused the economy to contract. A smaller economic engine means that, there will be a lowered demand for working people, and fewer working people will automatically drop the demand for driving and fossil fuels. Problem solved! Mr Nelder should take that information and produce some nice chart and graphs showing the correlation/causation effect. But, no!, that's not the mission of Mr Nelder. His mission is to demonize fossil fuels, and to propose alternatives, but, none of those alternative could ever work, but, he's still got to continue to demonize "big oil". So, we have a problem with a lot of people out of work, and add to that, the number of people retiring and growing old. That amounts to a lot of people not needing to drive, and we end up with a lot less demand for oil. So, Mr Nelder: the solution to the problem of human fossil fuel consumption would seem to be to have less people working, and a lot fewer companies hiring. Reduce the size of the economy, and CO2 levels get reduced drastically, and we end up with virtually no climate change problems. The world's population is already getting smaller (as opposed to what the UN and the global doomsayers say), That means a lowered demand for fossil fuels. To that, we add the lowered demand of fossil fuels from high unemployment and downsized economies, and we end up no problems for Mr Nelder to solve. But, again, that's not his agenda. His agenda is to kill oil and replace it with "alternative" clean sources. Again, it doesn't matter that that wont work BTW, aren't those graphs and charts impressive? Who could argue against Mr Nelder when he makes such a great presentation? Who could ever argue with a great used car salesman? Heck, Mr Nelder could create a similar study by blaming all the problems of the world on capitalism or republicans, while using some nice looking charts/graphs, and the clueless and ignorant of the world would automatically buy into his nonsense. Smoke and mirrors. Nothing of real substance. But, it's mostly about an agenda, and there are those who will mislead and lie and cheat and steal and borrow and plunder, as long as the goal is achieved. It's communism in disguise; it's "whatever it takes", but without the official labels we used to attach to communism.
While I am not in support of some of the ways that China implemented it's one child policy, I think a one child policy should be a world wide phenomena. China only allowed those of the 5 listed minority Chinese to have more than one child, and there was a registration system for 2nd children, if you had one you could not work for the government etc etc. It has led to off the grid families. Many of these issues could be overcome if it was that men could only have one child. This would place responsibility onto males, and make women valuable comodities as well. Thus as soon as men have a child they are sterilized, an easy and inexpensive medical procedure. DNA can be used if necessary under circumstances when the male may not wish to come forward and claim his child. This would need to be followed up by community child raising situations, so that children and responsibilites for them are once again more shared by a community with services able to be provided. This could form a stronger community for a smaller populated world.
This is a nice article, well researched and completely useless. My apologies, but it examines such a small dataset that it is completely useless. As one response mentioned, phosphorus is probably a better indicator of the critical resource limitation. On the other hand, I am trying to complete a book that is an analysis related to this something like a human is related to a ant. I have spent well over three decades on it and can tell you that the issue is far far more complicated than this article hints at and my projections are far more sophisticated I also make it clear that if history is any indication, there will be an unpredictable disruption (which I expect to be disease) that make predictions like this ... silly.
Presuming that an "informed populace" will make logical decisions and self-manage is...illogical. We already have too much in the way of population, and most of it in the wrong place(s).Technology, through productivity, continues to offer the possibility of "producing more, with less," but doesn't answer the overwhelming questions of "Is it right, is it fair, is it sustainable?" The world already feeds yearly, seemingly endlessly renewable famines and food deficiencies of up to 3o-40 million (with 900 million "food challenged," most of it created by over-populating, under-producing nations, poorly governed, riddled with corruption, and maintained by sponsor deals with a blind UN, and resource-seeking, neo-expansionist nations like China, and other players (including the U.S.). Couple that with endless political strife, religiously-based, and resource-control driven, sometimes in combination, depending on the players, and it gets worse. I once noted that the recreations of the poor were sex and music. If we wanted to have less population, we had better be willing to supply LOTS of musical instruments. I also did a "best case" estimate of the maximum population the world could attain, estimating the maximum arable areas for food, the full utilization of mineral and energy resources, and the necessary supporting technology and infrastructure to enable the estimates. Ready? 23-24 Billion! But, as empirical evidence suggests, population stresses make those kinds of numbers, while feasible, decidedly unrealistic. What I do believe is that with sustainable end-to-end recovery, recycling, and reclamation programs, with studied, consistent and manageable population management and development programs, a balanced world population of some 9-9.2 Billion can be achieved , albeit most of the growth in un/under-developed areas, not in existing mostly-developed nations. Therein lies great opportunity, not unrecognized by resource exploiters. The United Nations would do well to perform a Resource and Population Audit and Projection scenario, which would, as it's name implies, audit the resources available in every country, starting with the lesser-developed; peoples, land, minerals, energy, to forecast a development scenario that would be sustainable, and prevent each nation's resources from exploitation.
...Paul Ehrlich while advocating ZPG predicted that by the mid 70's we'd be in World War III over the inevitably soon depletion of resources and concurrent food shortages. Same song, different verse.
Maybe I missed it, but possibly the biggest impact of no oil will be on food production. Not the diesel for commercial agriculture mentioned, but for the petroleum based fertilizers that have driven the century long spike in per acre yield of (insert crop name here). They will be no more.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2000-watt_society. The idea is that society moves to using less energy while retaining the same standard of living. The computer I am writing this on has 8 times the processing power of the computer I had only 5 years ago, but uses 1/4 of the electricity. Given where the technology is going, I expect in 5 years to have more computing power, while using 1/4 of the energy. The compact flourescent lights in my office were recently replaced with my earliest experimental LED lighting strips. (Before you could buy LEDs in the store to light your house, I was visiting electronics shops, buying the strips to experiment with so I could determine how to best light halls and rooms when you have LEDs that have only a 45degree beam width. My experiments have been very successful, but it required rethinking the way we wire lights into spaces.) By last count, I have cut my lighting bill in my office by half while making it in many ways a more pleasant work space. I'm building a not-so-big house, the place where I will retire. The changes in building techniques and building code means that a higher efficiency home is now the defacto standard here. Mine will be slightly higher efficiency, but not significantly more expensive. The plan is to use a grid-tie system with photovoltaics, VAWTs, passive-solar, photo-thermal panels, and natural cooling, and almost entirely all 12VDC fixtures, such that, hopefully if it all works as planned, my only lingering costs will be property taxes. And yet, I very much intend the new home to be very much more comfortable than my existing one. Another feature of our new home will be the living roof (part of the colling system as well as the filtration system for the cistern) and a self-sustaining forest-garden. These will provide us cheap food for tiny effort, tiny or no maintenance costs, small up front costs, while also providing us with a nice place to kick-back and relax. So slowly, bit by bit, just by swapping bits of old technology for bits of new or different technology, we can move to a significantly lower energy consumption, not only without sacraficing our standard of living, but actually increasing it. That 2kW/person goal actually looks quite reasonable now. (It looked near impossible when I started a decade ago.) That idea of 4kW/family may look radical to most people now, but within a decade, it'll likely look easily acheivable. The biggest change we need in our society, and it's not as big as most people think, is that we need to get into the habit of thinking far more about the continuing costs of owning something rather than only just the upfront costs. My new home, for an extra 15% of upfront costs, is expected to cut ongoing costs by up to 90%. At that rate of return, it's worth the extra.
Mass transport, coordinated local stores, care put into growing grops, walking to and from stores, telecommuting, and being civilized toward one another will help. Society needs to do rapid change, fast. Some things have to be done fast. After all, when you are driving and see a roadblock down the road, do you respond - to get around the roadblock - fast or slow once analyzing the data?
Research has shown, time and again, that the higher an education a girl gets, the longer she waits to have children as an adult (and ends up with a smaller family). Educating women helps empower them to increase family income and to make their own choices about family planning. And they almost always choose smaller families. Fully educating all the women in the world would have another bonus -- as several people have commented the only way out of this mess will be innovation -- and we can't afford to neglect the brainpower and potential innovation power of 1/2 of the human race.
Another of humanities 'fatal' flaws; hear what you want to and ignore inconvenient facts. The remainder of my post: "My attitude is the world needs to take care of the floating islands of plastic junk in the oceans before my piddly 'contribution' to 'waste' becomes an issue. And there's the global distribution of production model, which wastes fuel and increases the demand for packaging... a vicious cycle for sure... deal with that before you nag me about a couple of watts of infrared radiation. Otherwise I actually have a very low impact on the environment, by the choices I've made vis lifestyle. I produce almost no non-recyclable waste, for one thing. (I don't even have a trash service)" You see that nevertheless I have taken steps which inconvenience me immensely, in order to contribute something positive to others. I do not have air conditioning. Do you? If I may join you in error; My complete lighting probably costs me less than one [day of your air conditioning] LOL, takes all sorts, including the stupids." Well said :)
The wealth of the wealth and privileged class is built on the work of many others. If they don't take care to support those others the foundation of their wealth will crumble out from under them.
The sun provides the earth many times more power in one year than is stored in all known fossil fuel reserves in the world COMBINED--including coal, oil, and natural gas. All fossil fuels are compressed biomass...they come from plants that received their energy from THE SUN. These plants were only 0.1% (one-tenth of one percent) efficient, and yet they stored all the energy we are using today. Our current solar technology is 200 TIMES more efficient than that and getting better every year. True, you can't power a tractor with solar panels, but you CAN run it with HYDROGEN--which can be produced using solar power. Solar energy can also be used to combine carbon dioxide (from the air or sea) with hydrogen (from water) to create fuels--a technology being explored by the US Navy to produce jet fuel for aircraft carriers.
What will happen is going to be surprising. The whites, the Angles, Saxons, Celts and Scandinavians will do far better than you think
and your case might become bulletproof. Or it might be opened up to every argument in the book by others.
We've been in wars over resources since the 70s in one region or another. So he got 'world war' wrong. Are you aware of the current food situation globally? Where once there were vast grqain stores in the 'rich' world there are now none. America, once called the world's breqd basket, has had several years of drought across the plains, the grain growing regions, they can no longer ship grain to starving people. Yours is a similarly simplistic nonsense to the 'scientists forecast a new ice age' that's trotted out by the diminishing cult of climate change denial.
New developments in organic growing have shown yields from organic can be higher than from chemical farming, and are, of course, cheaper as there are no inputs and insecticides to eat into profits. Since there are many more people now, there should be plebty to do the physical work to substitute for the machines that pulverise soil and turn it to dust.
I will use incandescent light to the day I die. I can't stand fluorescent, and the leds are looking like they'll be irritating as well. I have to have the warm, red-heavy light of an incandescent in order to work. In a fluorescent environment all I can think of is getting the heck out. I bought enough bulbs to last 2 lifetimes, stacked on a pallet in the garage. Every wattage you could get. My attitude is the world needs to take care of the floating islands of plastic junk in the oceans before my piddly 'contribution' to 'waste' becomes an issue. And there's the global distribution of production model, which wastes fuel and increases the demand for packaging... a vicious cycle for sure... deal with that before you nag me about a couple of watts of infrared radiation. Otherwise I actually have a very low impact on the environment, by the choices I've made vis lifestyle. I produce almost no non-recyclable waste, for one thing. (I don't even have a trash service)
We'll see if what you say is true, but with wages for the West/developed nations economies stagnating or declining over the last couple of decades thanks to the bringing in of artificial means to drive those down (yet allow CEO profits to inflate higher and higher), don't get too optimistic. They don't owe you a thing. I don't expect to live that long; misdiagnoses and improper actions by doctors ensure I won't make it to retirement age.
Okay, perhaps not the stone-age, but, back to ancient times? That is the kind of world and society which you have just proposed. If that's the kind of lifestyle you think is good for anyone, there are still some areas of the world which haven't entered the modern world, like some villages in South America. Perhaps the medieval lifestyle of some people in the middle-east would suit you fine. Don't let the door hit you on the way out! Get the "f" out of my modern world!
but not all that many. There are already billions who contribute nothing towards the privileged classes.
White skin is a bad idea in an era when the ozone layer is reduced to half its previous thickness. It's no coincidence that white people are getting skin cancer in places like Australia, where the indiginous people, there for tens of thousands of years, are quite black; there's a clue there. White skin used to be ok in northern latitudes, which is why the tribes you mention are white skinned, but not any more, it's more a liability.
You appear to think it's a choice we will make, as if we are intelligent enough to make a choice to save the planetary ecosystem that sustains all of us! We will be eradicated as the unsustainable species we are. The only thing we can do is try to save the other species we are wiping out every year, since they all have a place in the ecosystem, something vacated by the selfish, geedy ape ages ago. You are a perfect example of the unthinking, selfish hominid and your 'modern' world is collapsing about your ears, haven't you noticed?
Humans do have control of their future, but nature has a lot more to say about that future than we do. We can control that which we can handle and introduce to the world, but, we don't have any control when it comes to the big forces of nature, such as hurricanes and tornadoes and volcanoes and tsunamis and earthquakes. We can be wiped out by a large volcano, and we'd have to start over again, if we humans were able to survive a major natural catastrophe. We can be wiped out by a huge meteor, and we will be wiped out if the sun suddenly decided to start acting up and spewed large amounts of material through solar flares. We are as much a part of nature, and any other animals or plant life on the planet. What we consume and what we produce, is not that different from what other animals and plant life do, We do it a lot more intelligently, but our intelligence is puny against nature and its natural forces. Humans have survived much bigger natural disasters than anything we can create. The crap about CO2 and global warming is just that, crap. The globe has had more CO2 in the atmosphere in it's past, and will have other periods of high CO2, and that will be the case no matter what we puny humans do . The planet has had warm periods that would make anything that the global warming shysters can dream up, and we've also had ice ages despite humans not being around. The global warming nonsense is a big hoax, dreamed up by those who needed to create a crisis order to advance the agenda of progressives to take more and more control of people and the economy. The "greedy apes" you refer to, are simple humans beings, and we were "created" to be what we are, and if our nature says that we dig our energy from the ground, then that's what we need to do. Our nature has us being the most intelligent and most resourceful life-form on the planet. We can destroy ourselves with nuclear bombs, and we can kill ourselves with other forms of weapons of mass destruction, but, mother nature can do us in in a matter of seconds, with many different "weapons" at its disposal. If global warming were to occur in the time humans are on the planet, you can be sure that it wasn't because ot the CO2 menace that liberals dreamed up. When it comes to "thinking", it's we conservatives who are doing it all, while you liberals and progressives, are just swallowing the poisoned swill being fed to you by your liberal "leaders". It's worth repeating that, any science which cannot make its case without using "consensus" and insults, is no science at all. The "hockey stick" graph was what global warming "science" hoped would convince the world that, we were damaging the planet. Then when that phony graph was easily debunked, they needed to create new "studies" and research, which, when analyzed, proved to be as phony as the hockey stick graph. The warming trend that the shysters predicted, hasn't occurred at all, and in fact, ther has been no noticeable warming in the last 20 or so years. When a science fails in its predictions, it proves itself to be just junk. Anybody that can't use their heads to see that, is brainless. And that's what you and other like you prove to be: brainless.