Rising carbon dioxide CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere will continue to grow and cause an increase of 2°C in global temperatures by 2052 and could rise as much as 2.8°C by 2080, according to a new report sponsored by the international think tank Club of Rome. Such drastic temperature shifts are faster than other studies have predicted and would be high enough to trigger self-reinforcing climate change much sooner than previously thought. "Humankind might not survive on the planet if it continues on its path of over-consumption and short-termism," the report suggests.
The main cause of global warming and climate change -- and a panoply of future problems facing mankind -- is the dominance of excessively short-term political and economic models, suggests the report's author, Jorgen Randers.
“We already live in a manner that cannot be continued for generations without major change," said Professor Randers, speaking in the Netherlands for the book's launch on Monday. "Humanity has overshot the earth’s resources, and in some cases we will see local collapse before 2052 – we are emitting twice as much greenhouse gas every year as can be absorbed by the world’s forests and oceans.”
"...Where the world could be in 40 years has demonstrated that ‘Business as usual’ is not an option if we want our grand-children to live in a sustainable and equitable planet." -- Ian Johnson, Club of Rome
He continued: “We need a system of governance that takes a more long-term view. It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate friendly solutions, and must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind”.
Published in the run-up to the Rio Summit this June, the report, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years, looks at issues first raised in The Limits to Growth, 40 years ago. This earlier report, authored by Donella Meadows (Randers was a co-author) and sponsored by the Club of Rome, created shock waves by questioning the ideal of permanent growth.
Commenting on the findings of the study, Ian Johnson, Club of Rome Secretary General said: “Professor Randers’ analysis of where the world could be in 40 years has demonstrated that ‘Business as usual’ is not an option if we want our grand-children to live in a sustainable and equitable planet. It took 40 years before the full message of The Limits to Growth was properly understood. We cannot afford any more lost decades.”
Randers outlined four basic solutions to thwart the threat of mankind's pending collapse. They were: 1) Have less children, especially in the wealthier nations; 2) Lessen our ecological footprints, most importantly by ending our enormous consumption of fossil fuels; 3) He says, 'Construct a modern, low-carbon energy system' in the developing world. This system should be 'in the poor world, for the poor world, but built by the rich world'; And 4) Find a solution to 'extreme short-termism' in the form of better governments that can fend off the destruction nature of capitalism's greed and democracy's corruption.
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In the report author Jorgen Randers raises essential questions: How many people will the planet be able to support? Will the belief in endless growth crumble? Will runaway climate change take hold? Where will quality of life improve, and where will it decline? Using painstaking research, and drawing on contributions from more than 30 thinkers in the field, he concludes that:
- While the process of adapting humanity to the planet’s limitations has started, the human response could be too slow.
- The current dominant global economies, particularly the United States, will stagnate. Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and ten leading emerging economies (referred to as ‘BRISE’ in the Report) will progress.
- But there will still be 3 billion poor in 2052.
- China will be a success story, because of its ability to act.
- Global population will peak in 2042, because of falling fertility in urban areas
- Global GDP will grow much slower than expected, because of slower productivity growth in mature economies.
- CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere will continue to grow and cause +2°C in 2052; temperatures will reach +2.8°C in 2080, which may well trigger self-reinforcing climate change.
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Two climate scientists said on Tuesday the report's findings seemed "in the right ballpark" and the organization was respected in particular since a report in the 1970s on limits to growth triggered considerable public attention.
Research last month by the University of Oxford and Princeton University said global warming was likely to be between 1.4 and 3 degrees by 2050, but that 3 degrees was at the upper end of what was likely.
In 2010, countries agreed that deep emissions cuts had to be made to keep an increase in global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century.
Scientists say that crossing the threshold risks an unstable climate in which weather extremes are common but efforts so far to cut greenhouse gas emissions are not seen as sufficient to stop a rise beyond 2 degrees this century.
By 2052, China's per capita consumption will be at least two thirds that of the United States, while the average economic growth of 14 emerging nations including Brazil, India and South Africa, will treble over the next 40 years, Randers said.
"This growth will improve living standards for many, but it will come at a cost for the global climate. While growth will not be as explosive as in China, it will still be heavy enough to keep emissions from these nations growing until the 2040s," he added.
By contrast, the mature economies of the United States and Europe will see declining or stable consumption, which should help prevent the depletion of oil, food and water by 2052.
Last year, the United Nations' Environment Program said the gap between countries' emissions cut pledges and what was needed to remain under 2 degrees had widened and emissions in 2020 would rise to between 6 billion and 11 billion tons over what is needed to limit global warming to safe levels.
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Video: '2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years' Launch in Rotterdam, Netherlands: PART I
Video: '2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years' Launch in Rotterdam, Netherlands: PART II
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