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A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years?

Special to The Green Register by Kyle Crider, Manager – Environmental Operations, Ecotech Institute

“There is only one more thing for me to say: Please help make my forecast wrong. Together we could create a much better world.” ~Jorgen Randers, Closing Words, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years

Begin with the end in mind, advised leadership guru Stephen Covey. So I am opening this article with the closing words of the book I am reading, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years by Jorgen Randers. Who could disagree with this end? “Together we could create a much better world.”

Randers is one of the authors of the original Limits to Growth, itself now 40 years old. The authors of Limits to Growth, under a barrage of criticisms from infinite-growth economists and other cornucopians, specifically argued that Limits was not a prediction, per se. Indeed, it was one of the first computer analyses of economic growth and planetary resource limits, a series of “what if…” scenarios. If we do this, what is likely to happen, in terms of population, pollution, and resource availability?

Interestingly, history has vindicated the Limits to Growth standard run model’s predictive capability, as we are tracking eerily close to its rather sobering end points…

Randers, himself 40 years older and a bit more jaded given that global policy makers have made few planetary course corrections, makes no quibbles about the fact that his latest work is a prediction for the next 40 years. Like the original Limits, its predictions are sobering. They’re not all bad; there is even a bit of good news sprinkled here and there, such as our global economy will only grow to twice its present state by 2052, and not four times, as many economists would have you believe. (Why is this a good thing and not a bad thing? Read the book and find out!)

Surprisingly, there is very little doom and gloom in 2052. The good news is that most of the direst predictions for the planet, from population growth to the worst effects of global weirding, won’t occur by 2052. Indeed, by 2052, Randers predicts that world population will have peaked around eight billion folks and started downward, meaning more resource availability per capita, that is, everyone’s share of the planetary pie gets larger as the number of people eating the pie shrink. The bad news is that the worst effects of climate change are likely to hit in the latter half of the 21st century, possibly ruining many pieces of that pie just when we could be looking forward to bigger slices.

It’s not too late to make course corrections on Spaceship Earth. True, certain difficulties cannot be avoided no matter how drastically we alter our present course—we have proceeded too far along a dangerous trajectory. But we can create a much better world than our present course will lead to. The question is: Will we treat this mission status report any differently than the last one?

“I have lived my whole adult life worrying about the future…. Now, at sixty-six, I see that I have been worrying in vain. Not because the future looks problem free and rosy. My worrying has been in vain because it hasn’t had much impact on global evolution over the long generation since I started worrying.” ~Jorgen Randers

“The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” ~Gaylord Nelson, former governor of Wisconsin, founder of Earth Day

 

Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at kyle.crider@ecotechinstitute.com