Limits Revisited – A review of the limits to growth debate (24 page pdf, Tim Jackson and Robin Webster, Apr., 2016)
Today we review a report card on the 1972 Club of Rome report that looked ahead in 12 scenarios for the century ahead to examine the links between and among population, the economy, consumption of resources and pollution of the land, water and air. The indication that oil production would peak in 2015 if no corrective action were taken is strikingly accurate, given the shift now taking place in renewable energy production. On the other hand the report did not take into account the following ecological processes in regulating the environment: climate change, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, interference with global nitrogen and phosphorous cycles, ozone depletion, global freshwater use, land system change, atmospheric aerosol loading and chemical pollution. Of these, four have deteriorated into an uncertain future: biodiversity loss, damage to phosphorous and nitrogen cycles, climate change and land use.
Although there are hopeful signs that economic growth may be decoupling from the environment with respect to reduced carbon emissions though technological innovations, the social burden continues to get worse with more than 3 billion people trying to live on less than $2 per day, as underlined by the encyclical by Pope Francis. An uncontrolled collapse is still possible, not from consuming all remaining natural resources but because of the degraded quality of those resources. As the report concludes: “an early policy response matters”.
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