Population and Development: More on Malthus

I agree that there are many ways of staving off the dark fairy tale of an impending Malthusian crisis, of which labour intensification is a key one usefully highlighted by Boserup. But that scarcely refutes the basic Malthusian problems I discussed in my last post of resource pressures creating generalised stress which may be ‘referred’ elsewhere – onto other people, or onto other organisms.

Economic growth, population growth and climate change

Recent work cited in our report shows that the remaining global fossil fuel resources (mainly coal) would produce an enormous 9-13 trillion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. If all of it were burnt without capturing the carbon it would be enough to raise the average global temperature some 18 degree C, may be more. This 9-13 trillion tonnes is large compared with the 0.5 trillion tonnes already produced since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Nearly half of this 0.5 trillion tonnes remains in the atmosphere causing serious problems resulting from a warming of only 0.6 degree C. A recent report by independent consultants shows that there are planned mega fossil fuel projects which would add nearly 2 trillion tonnes of carbon by 2020 . Discharging all of this to the atmosphere would set the world on a path to warming 5 -6 degree C, already the stuff of nightmares. Discharging the additional 7-10 trillion tonnes would be an act of insanity.