Earth has a fever. The people of 350.org claim it is carbon dioxide and want to influence politicians at the climate change conference to quickly reduce carbon dioxide emissions beyond the Kyoto protocol targets.
So far so good, but how does Remembrance Day fit into this?
In my opinion the current focus is on symptoms, not on the root cause. Human activity drives carbon dioxide emissions. Two factors drive human activity: our lifestyle and our demographics. Sure, we can and should make our lifestyles more efficient and reduce the pro-capita carbon footprint. But the real fever affecting Earth is not carbon dioxide. It’s the demographic explosion of the human species, from two billions in the 1950ies to seven billions today.
The human being is part of nature. Like every species its demographics evolves within two limits: the resources available to feed on; and the predators feeding on it. Advances in medical sciences have left the human being with no other predator but himself. And when the times comes, when resources are scarce, he becomes a gruesomely efficient predator.
WWI and WWII were about lack of food. And now we have excess of carbon dioxide that will adversely affect the resources we feed on. Ironically, the same chemist that developed chemical warfare in WWI also developed the nitrogen fixation process that is so important to both explosive and fertilizers production. Fertilizers did away with the limiting factor of the time. We see the consequences of removing that limit today.
Maybe science will expand the available resources once again, with carbon dioxide capture and storage. But we’d be dealing with the symptoms once again. The root cause is not carbon dioxide, it’s our demographics. And the long-term solution is birth control. A few years from now, China’s one-child policy may seem liberal and reasonable. Or maybe the predator will have taken care of himself.
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