Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an international security journalist and academic.
Early warning of civilisational collapse by early to mid 21st century startlingly prescient – but opportunity for transition open
According to a new peer-reviewed scientific report, industrial civilisation is likely to deplete its low-cost mineral resources within the next century, with debilitating impacts for the global economy and key infrastructures within the coming decade.
The study, the 33rd report to the Club of Rome, is authored by Prof Ugo Bardi of the University of Florence’s Earth Sciences Department, and includes contributions from a wide range of senior scientists across relevant disciplines.
The Club of Rome is a Swiss-based global think tank consisting of current and former heads of state, UN bureaucrats, government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists and business leaders.
Its first report in 1972, The Limits to Growth, was conducted by a scientific team at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT), and warned that limited availability of natural resources relative to rising costs would undermine continued economic growth by around the second decade of the 21st century.
Although widely ridiculed, recent scientific reviews confirm that the original report’s projections in its ‘base scenario’ remain robust. In 2008, Australia’s federal government scientific research agency CSIRO concluded that The Limits to Growth forecast of potential “global ecological and economic collapse coming up in the middle of the 21st Century” due to convergence of “peak oil, climate change, and food and water security”, is “on-track.” Actual current trends in these areas “resonate strongly with the overshoot and collapse displayed in the book’s ‘business-as-usual scenario.'”
In 2009, American Scientist published similar findings by other scientists. That review, by leading systems ecologists Prof Charles Hall of State University of New York and Prof John W Day of Louisiana State University, concluded that while the limits-to-growth model’s “predictions of extreme pollution and population decline have not come true”, the model results are:
“… almost exactly on course some 35 years later in 2008 (with a few appropriate assumptions)… it is important to recognise that its predictions have not been invalidated and in fact seem quite on target. We are not aware of any model made by economists that is as accurate over such a long time span.”
The new Club of Rome report says that:
“The phase of mining by humans is a spectacular but very brief episode in the geological history of the planet… The limits to mineral extraction are not limits of quantity; they are limits of energy. Extracting minerals takes energy, and the more dispersed the minerals are, the more energy is needed… Only conventional ores can be profitably mined with the amounts of energy we can produce today.”
The combination of mineral depletion, associated radioactive and heavy metal pollution, and the accumulation of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel exploitation is leaving our descendants the “heavy legacy” of a virtually terraformed world:
“The Earth will never be the same; it is being transformed into a new and different planet.”
Drawing on the work of leading climate scientists including James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the report warns that a continuation of ‘business as usual’ exploitation of the world’s fossil fuels could potentially trigger runaway global warming that, in several centuries or thousands of years, permanently destroy the planet’s capacity to host life. Despite this verdict, the report argues that neither a “collapse” of the current structure of civilisation, nor the “extinction” of the human species are unavoidable.
For the rest of this article, click here: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jun/04/scientists-limits-to-growth-vindicated-investment-transition-circular-economy