Friday, 8 June 2012

Why we need to stop talking about climate change

Today's scariest headline screams "The World as We Know It Is About to End, Say Some Really Frightened Scientists". Alarmist, perhaps - but it hasn't drawn the fire of the climate change deniers to anything like the extent we are used to. That may be because the study that prompted it was compiled by biologists, not climate scientists. Thanks to its focus on fossil fuels, the issue of climate change has become highly contentious, with the ranks of the oil industry and others mobilised - and well funded - to defend their livelihoods. And because it relies on projections that have no precedent, the theory of anthropomorphic global warming is vulnerable.

More robust, however, is the theory of carrying capacity. There are numerous, well-documented examples of both animal and human populations that have collapsed because they outstripped the carrying capacity of a bounded environment. We only have one planet, and no immediate prospect of colonising another. Therefore it follows with chilling logic that if our population - and its rate of consumption of finite resources - continues to increase there will come a point where there are no longer sufficient resources to sustain it.

Even for those who buy in to the science, climate change is a difficult concept to engage with. But every household already has to embrace the concept of living within its particular limits and every business has to balance the books. Economic sustainability is a good proxy for environmental sustainability and thanks to the economic crisis we're all too familiar with what happens when we live beyond our means financially. Transpose that understanding and we may just have a chance of  securing the future of humanity.

2 comments:

Jack Savage said...

Presently it is estimated that the world population will peak at 9 billion and then start to shrink. All we need to do is use our resources carefully and everything will be OK.
You can stop worrying.

Tracey Rawling Church said...

Jack, I'd be interested to see the data - I'm always keen to share good news!