A paper by Dr George Preddey, Physicist, futurist, tertiary teacher, disaster manager, education policy analyst, international consultant (retired), environmental activist and marathoner
Global Economic Crisis and Copenhagen – missed chances for averting a human catastrophe?
’If at first an idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.’
’We shall require a substantially new way of thinking if mankind is to survive.’
Toitu te marae a Tangaroa, toitu te marae a Tane, toitu te Iwi.
Governments pursue economic growth as a fundamental objective of their economic policies. Reserve Bank governor Dr Alan Bollard has expressed optimism that ’the worst is over’: economic growth is about to resume following the worst economic crash in 80 years [DomPost’s Business Day of 29 August 2009].
His opinion is questionable on two accounts:
– neither he nor any other central banker predicted the Global Economic Crisis [GEC] – indeed HM the Queen asked her economics advisers why she had received no warning of it;
– reputable scientists advise that the worst isn’t over, indeed it has hardly begun.
As any scientist would know — I am a physicist although retired – economic growth in a finite biosphere is [ultimately] unsustainable. Furthermore, scientists have concluded that the biosphere cannot sustain the current global human economy, let alone a growing one.
The predicted consequences of exceeding the limits to growth have been known for 40 years: sudden and drastic decreases in industrial capacity and human populations before mid-century. These dire predictions have been validated by Australia’s CSIRO as recently as 2008. Dr Bollard’s optimism, if justified, would mark an acceleration to the precipice.
The Earth’s biosphere is currently experiencing a Mass Extinction Event [MEE] that is unprecedented since the asteroid impact that ended the dinosaur era 65 million years ago. Humans today are living in an economic paradigm described as ’The Age of Stupid’ and are driving the current MEE, knowingly, by their unfettered economic and population growth.
The survival of human civilisation beyond mid-century requires a new [green] economic paradigm informed by evidence-based science in which economic growth and population growth are adequately fettered. Indeed the response to the GEC may offer a last chance for the survival of human civilisation beyond mid-century and could also ameliorate the current mass extinction event.
[This Executive Summary has been published in a peer-refereed journal: DomPost Letters, 9 September 2009].
A long-term view of the human predicament: Mass Extinction Events
The most apparent lesson from history is that humans rarely learn from history. According to The Financial Times [3 August 2009], the greatest weakness in economics today is economic history. Accordingly this submission takes a very long-term historical perspective.
The Earth is 4.567 billion years old. The earliest life, single-celled anaerobes, appeared 3.5 billion years ago. These organisms evolved an ability to release oxygen through photosynthesis, but the resulting oxygen-rich atmosphere that we still breathe today was toxic for them. Most succumbed during this first Mass Extinction Event [MEE].
The first MEE enabled single-celled oxygen-breathing aerobes to emerge and dominate the Earth’s biosphere for the next 2.3 billion years. About 530 million years ago a Snowball Earth event caused another MEE, enabling complex multi-cellular plants and animals to become dominant. Since that event 520 million years ago, the Earth’s biosphere has been characterised by enormous biodiversity.
There have been at least six subsequent MEEs. The fifth penultimate MEE was caused by an asteroid impact 65 million years near current Mexico. It ended the dinosaur era but also allowed mammals to emerge. Anatomically modern humans emerged in current Ethiopia about 0.16 million years ago – just 0.0035 percent of the age of the Earth.
The current MEE is attributed to humans who, despite their brief tenure, are behaving as if they own the planet. More than half of all current living species are heading for extinction this century, testimony to human greed and inventiveness in environmental destruction. The scientific discovery that more than 99 percent of species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct is cause for reflection. Most humans are completely oblivious to the MEE they are causing.
Anthropogenic climate change
The consensus of scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] is that anthropogenic global warming of between 2°C and 6°C will happen this century. Science warns that a warmer earth isn’t just [in former Vice President Al Gore’s words] ’an inconvenient truth’: most of Africa, China, southern Europe, western United States, and Australia are predicted to become uninhabitable — too hot or dry to sustain human populations. A dire headline ’Earth 2099: population crashes, mass migration, vast new deserts, cities abandoned’ on the cover of New Scientist [28 February 2009] provides an apt description.
These dire consequences are forecast if the Earth warms by IPCC’s mid-range prediction [4°C increase] possibly as soon as 2050. The recent conference of 2,500 climate scientists in Copenhagen delivered a strong message to politicians: ’act now or face climate catastrophe’ [The Guardian Weekly, 20 March 2009]. Uncharacteristic activism by climate scientists is understandable since their recent observations indicate global warming is happening even faster than IPCC’s worst-case scenarios.
President Obama does not require convincing: ’The science is beyond dispute and the facts are clear. Delay is no longer an option. Denial is no longer an acceptable response’ [New Scientist, 20/27 December 2008. p30]. [Despite his fine rhetoric, Obama’s proposed emissions target reduction is not an acceptable response either, but is an improvement on his predecessor’s].
Political leaders who remain climate change sceptics — i.e. consider they know better than President Obama or even IPCC — might benefit from reading Poles Apart: beyond the shouting who’s right about climate change by Gareth Morgan & John McCrystal [Random House, 2009].
The greatest threat to life on Earth
Since the asteroidal MEE 65 million years ago, the greatest threat to life on Earth has been, and remains, the unfettered growth of the global human population and economy. A defining characteristic of recession and depression is weak or zero economic growth or even so-called negative growth. Science warns that, to be serious about saving Earth, humans must substantially reshape the global economy.
Addressing human population growth is outside the scope of this submission, beyond noting that politicians generally avoid the issue and if humans don’t resolve it, the Earth will resolve it for them. Inter alia, I recall a 1970s New Scientist editorial that drew a comparison between the human misery caused by a Papal ban on contraception with that caused by Hitler – but I am a physicist, not an historian, and couldn’t offer informed comment [see also para 39 on legal risk.]
Politicians and mainstream economists see no limits to economic growth despite very strong warnings from scientists that it threatens life on Earth [New Scientist, 18 October 2008. pp40-54. The advice on appropriate action proffered by New Scientist is: ’Buy less stuff. Go outside and connect with the environment. Get involved in politics. Vote for green economics.’
Economic growth is driving: air pollution [particulate, acid rain]; oceanic and fresh water pollution [dead zones, increasing acidity]; resource depletion [oil, topsoil, fisheries, artesian water, minerals]; shrinking forests and expanding deserts; coral reef bleaching; ozone depletion; rising sea levels; and, unsurprisingly, the current MEE. Climate change is implicated in many of these calamities.
Scientists are expressing particular concerns about:
– runaway global warming driven by positive feedback loops between melting permafrost, methane hydrates, and methane releases potentially capable of increasing mean global temperature by 10°C [New Scientist, 28 March 2009. p32];
– polar icecap instability and associated sea level rises of several to tens of metres; and
– increasing oceanic acidity and associated adverse impacts on: coral reefs [bleaching, loss of biodiversity]; shellfish; and krill, the base of the food chain on which cetaceans [whales, dolphins] depend. An acidic ocean largely devoid of life is a sobering possibility.
Easter Island offers an insight. During the late 18th century, its human inhabitants cut down all its forests and drove many plants and animals to extinction. A complex society spiraled into cannibalism and near-extinction. New Zealand scientists are currently investigating whether the cull happened because the island’s population overshot the capacity of its degraded volcanic soils to sustain them.
There is growing evidence that personal carbon virtue and collective environmentalism are futile as long as the global economy is reliant on economic growth to mitigate recession or depression. The necessary change will require a new green economic paradigm.
Limits to Growth [LTG]
In 1972, futurists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology studying computer simulations of a future Earth published the infamous Limits to Growth report [LTG]. Their simulations took into account five global concerns: accelerating industrialisation, rapid population growth, widespread malnutrition, resource depletion, and a deteriorating environment.
In summary, LTG’s qualitative conclusions from its business-as-usual simulation are that:
– the limits to growth will be reached sometime mid-century if present economic growth continues;
– the probable consequences will be sudden, uncontrollable collapses in population and industrial capacity;
– limiting economic growth to achieve sustainability will be very difficult but not impossible;
– limiting economic growth will require long-term goals and commitment;
– without goals and commitment, business-as-usual economic activities will drive growth to the limits of the Earth’s biosphere and a catastrophic collapse sometime mid-century; and
– with goals and commitment, human civilisation could begin a transition to a sustainable future.
Unsurprisingly, LTG was strongly attacked by politicians and misrepresented by mainstream economists for whom economic growth is axiomatic. That a collapse didn’t happen around 2000 was used to denigrate LTG, even although collapse at this time was not one of its predictions. In a 1992 update of LTG, the authors concluded that humans had already overshot the limits of the Earth’s biosphere.
LTG’s conclusions are pure heresy for politicians and mainstream economists for whom growth is as essential as the oxygen-rich atmosphere they breathe as aerobes. They claim economic growth is the only way to lift the poor out of poverty, feed a growing population, and fund increasingly expensive lifestyles.
Such claims are disingenuous. Growing the global economy in response to a financial crisis caused by excessive greed and consumption in the over-developed world arguably is irrational. Converting food into vehicle fuels while there is famine in the under-developed world is unconscionable. The often-repeated trickle-down argument that economic growth eradicates global poverty is self-serving and fallacious.
Whereas the under-developed world has unmet needs, the over-developed world has over-met wants. This disparity is growing. Through consumerism, the over-developed world confuses needs with wants. Children educated by Dr Seuss [The Lorax] understand this. Powerful marketing sectors in the over-developed world economies exist purely to create such confusion and to increase consumption. TV commercials arguably threaten our children’s future.
The New Zealand Minister of Finance, Hon Bill English, promised on 23 January 2009 that ’in these tough economic times … the [National] government will implement a credible medium to long term economic plan that will raise New Zealander’s incomes and achieve sustainable economic growth.’ The Minister is promising more consumption.
A conclusion that may reasonably be drawn from LTG is that sustainable economic growth as promoted by politicians and mainstream economists is an oxymoron, albeit expressed in the language of science. A physicist familiar with closed systems would consider this conclusion to be self-evident [as I do] as would a biologist familiar with bacterial growth in finite petri dishes.
Evidently there is a serious disjunction between the current economic paradigm and a new [green] economic paradigm informed by evidence-based science.
Limits to Growth revisited: a coming human cull?
A standard practice in scientific research is to collect data from observations and develop mathematical simulations that best fit these data. The simulations can then be used to study trends and to predict future outcomes. LTG followed this practice using the best data that was available to researchers in 1972.
A simulation’s validity can be tested by comparing its predicted outcomes with the actual outcomes revealed by more recent observations. In 2008 the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation [CSIRO] carried out this test on LTG’s predictions.
CSIRO’s analysis showed that the predictions of LTG’s business-as-usual simulation in 1972 accurately track the actual outcomes observed in 2008. In summary, LTG’s predictions were validated by CSIRO [hardly a radical organisation] 36 years later, and accordingly have considerably enhanced credibility.
In summary, LTG’s quantitative conclusions from its business-as-usual simulation are for:
– a catastrophic decline in global population beyond 2027 to one-half of the current population;
– a substantial increase in crude death rates beyond 2018; and
– a substantial decrease in available food per capita beyond 2013.
Entirely consistent with these dire predictions is the growing concern that the increasing food shortages predicted for 2013 could collapse human civilisation. Some poorer countries are already descending into chaos as food prices increase in 2009 – attributed to growing middle classes in China and India, the diversion of food into biofuels, and the impact of peak oil on transport and fertiliser costs. The crises in these failing states are being exacerbated by disease, terrorism, water shortages, soil degradation, illicit drug trafficking, eco-refugees, and anthropogenic climate change [respected futurist Lester Brown in Scientific American, May 2009].
Although quantitative time-scales indicated in para 35 should be treated with caution, a coming human cull is an apt description of the predicted outcome of a business-as-usual future.
It could be even worse
Some reputable scientists are more pessimistic than LTG. The Astronomer Royal Lord Martin Rees predicted in 2004 that ’this century will be mankind’s last’, a chilling assessment from a member of the science establishment.
James Lovelock, the architect of Gaia, has predicted a 90% cull of humans around mid-century. [The Gaia hypothesis posits that life on Earth moderates physical and chemical processes through complex interactions allowing the biosphere to exist]. Lovelock’s previous work on man-made CFCs contributed significantly to a global ban on these ozone-destroying chemicals, thereby saving humans – and many other species – from potentially lethal sunburn. [Digression on legal risk: I publicly expressed concern about CFC use in 1974 and was promptly sued for $3m by a multinational CFC manufacturer. The lawsuit was subsequently withdrawn on a technicality.]
The ozone layer will take centuries to recover from human depletion, whereas carbon dioxide released by humans will persist in the atmosphere for tens of thousands of years. Anthropogenic global warming has very long-term implications on a human, if not geological, time scale. Rapid and substantial reductions in carbon emissions are critical for the survival of human civilisation.
Such dire predictions should not be regarded as scare mongering: they are evidence-based conclusions drawn by reputable scientists. In my experience, many reputable scientists are deeply pessimistic about the next few decades [a view incidentally I share], but are reluctant to voice their concerns. Perhaps they are afraid of being labeled doom-mongers or that their employers [or politicians or industry] do not want to hear them? One highly respected New Zealand atmospheric scientist has spoken out recently and lost his job [see also para 39 on legal risk].
A paradigm shift to a steady-state economy
A steady-state economy is required in place of a steadily-growing economy [albeit currently emerging from contraction] to avert catastrophic collapse. A steady-state economy may seem a radical concept but its alternative [the current economy that is structurally required to grow beyond Earth’s ability to sustain it] is completely irrational. Nevertheless that has not discouraged [rational?] politicians and mainstream economists from perceiving economic growth as the principal objective of economic policy required to sustain a business-as-usual economy.
One of LTG’s predictions in 1972 [para 24: that deliberately limiting economic growth to achieve sustainability will be very difficult but not impossible] arguably may require reconsideration in 2009. The current GEC has resulted in a quasi steady-state [zero growth] economy, albeit as a consequence of financial mismanagement and greed and in a highly unsatisfactory form. It is not yet, in the words of George W Bush, ’mission accomplished’.
Nevertheless the GEC may have provided, inadvertently, an opportunity to begin the required transition. By analogy, it is easier to escape from a vehicle while it is stationary than while it is accelerating towards the precipice.
The detailed features of a steady-state economy are outside the scope of this submission, beyond noting it would be carbon-neutral [or better], have sustainable inputs from renewable resources or recycling, and have outputs [goods, services, and wastes] that didn’t further degrade the Earth’s biosphere.
Growth in those activities that do not consume non-renewable inputs nor produce outputs that further degrade the biosphere would be compatible with a steady-state economy. They include the creation of knowledge and intellectual property [‘zero-mass’ exports], cultural and artistic enhancement, social and humanitarian activities and services, sport, and recreation. They are customarily not captured by current measures of economic performance such as GDP growth.
Human lifestyles in over-developed countries are embedded in a socio-economic system addicted to over-employment. Many jobs represent excessive human activities that, sustained by fossil fuels, produce unnecessary products to meet excessive wants
As a thought experiment, a globally-mandated 20-hour working week would halve carbon emissions rapidly [New Scientist, 14 March 2009. p24], save the Earth from irreversible global warming, help to distinguish wants from needs, and address unemployment – not a bad start. Paradoxically, the mandate would be easier to implement in under-developed countries where there is endemic under-employment than in over-developed countries where there is endemic over-employment reflected by a chronic work-life imbalance.
Furthermore, switching from a work-dominated and materially-encumbered lifestyle to a more sustainable lifestyle in which people work, produce, and consume less would result in increased human happiness [New Scientist, 18 October 2008. p54]. A leisure society has real benefits.
A more measured response than a globally-mandated 20-hour working week would be to make the current quasi steady-state economy more equitable for its participants. Proposals from the recent New Zealand jobs summit would facilitate this more measured response, including a nine-day fortnight albeit intended to provide temporary respite until sustainable [sic] economic growth resumes. The difference between a nine-day fortnight and a globally-mandated 20-hour working week, although substantial, is only one of degree and the principle has been established.
Mainstream economics has few answers to the current GEC
In the aftermath of the greatest economic calamity in 80 years, the reputation of economics itself has taken a beating. The greatest weakness in economics today is economic history [Financial Times, 3 August 2009].
Two central components of the so-called dismal science [macroeconomics, financial economics] are now being severely re-examined. The three main critiques offered are that macro and financial mainstream economists helped cause the crisis, failed to predict it [as HM the Queen has noted], and have no idea or cannot agree on how to fix it [Editorial in The Economist, 18 July 2009, p9].
Macro economics is now perceived as having been at best completely useless over the past 30 years and at worst positively harmful according to Paul Krugman of Princeton University and the New York Times [ibid, p58]. Financial economics today is blighted by moral hazard including bank deposit guarantees. These may have saved the banking sector from total collapse but may also encourage further imprudent lending that initiated the collapse in the first instance [ibid, p62].
It appears mainstream economics has few answers to the current GEC other than business-as-usual wrong solutions. Central banks hitherto have stimulated their economies and growth by reducing their Official Cash Rates [OCRs] used to regulate money supply. Since borrowers cannot be paid to borrow, OCRs cannot have negative values, yet several major economies currently in strife have set their OCRs only fractionally above zero. The customary levers are not working.
More drastic responses to the GEC include stimulus packages — injections of trillions of dollars of credit [public money] into collapsed financial systems. These injections have not yet [or barely] resuscitated economic growth, have loaded massive debt onto future generations, and have rewarded the greedy and profligate. [Inter alia, New Zealand exporters complain that the NZD is rising against the USD: perhaps the USD is plummeting because of an excessive US stimulus package?]
Looking back from 2055 to the Age of Stupid
The Age of Stupid is a 2008 film about climate change. Its central character, an Archivist living alone in the devastated world of 2055, looks at film footage of 2008 and laments why climate change wasn’t stopped. Despite warnings from concerned scientists, the actions of current political leaders suggest many are uninformed or are in denial about the limits to growth and its many dire consequences including climate change.
Some illustrations of questionable actions include:
* the new National Government in its first 100 days in office repealing the outgoing Labour government’s 10-year moratorium on new base-load fossil-fuelled power stations; and
* Wellington City Council in April 2009 quietly abandoning its plan to become carbon-neutral by 2012 offering short-term savings for ratepayers at who knows what real cost.
Both actions may make sense in an orthodox economic paradigm but are not sensible responses to the threat of climate change. They are also predictable behaviours: most humans including those in government and business are functioning in an orthodox economic paradigm and plan for a business-as-usual future believing that the future will be a simple extrapolation of the recent past.
Most humans including those in government are oblivious to the dire warnings from science: for example, despite having lived on Earth for just 0.0035 percent of its history, humans are driving the current MEE and are accelerating towards a catastrophic collapse. Both of these calamities are attributed by scientists to unfettered population and economic growth.
It is unconscionable that politicians, despite these dire warnings, demonstrate their ongoing obsession with economic growth by actively removing perceived constraints on it: for example, recent amendments to the Resource Management Act 1991 agreed by both major political parties.
It is the role of scientists – and economists [failed] – to predict future catastrophic events [GEC] and the role of politicians to devise ways of averting them taking into account expert advice. The scientists’ role is virtually impossible within New Zealand’s current public sector science system while funded science outputs — unknowable by definition – are decided by bureaucrats.
There is a missing component in policy development — long-term futures research formerly carried out by the ill-fated New Zealand Commission For the Future [CFF] during the 5-year period 1978—1982. Disclosure: I was a secretariat member of CFF during 1980—82.
CFF encountered the classic government-imbedded think tank dilemma. If it told the government only what the government wanted to hear, it would be considered redundant and accordingly disestablished. If it told the government what the government didn’t want to hear, it would be considered politically embarrassing and accordingly also disestablished — the fate of CFF in 1982.
A possible resolution through contestable expert policy advice
The Prime Minister has recently established an informal think tank [hereafter designated the A-team] headed by Dr Don Brash to advise the Government on how to re-establish strong growth in the New Zealand economy through innovation and other means to close a perceived gap in living standards compared with Australia’s.
The tenor of this present submission is that such a strategy, without strong caveats, would be exactly what New Zealand should not be trying to do – i.e. accelerate towards the catastrophic collapse predicted by scientists.
An appropriate resolution would be for the Prime Minister to establish a second informal think tank [hereafter designated the B-team] — perhaps chaired by his chief science adviser Dr Peter Gluckman – to provide expert contestable advice. Its very wide brief would include predicting, or at least imagining, what New Zealand might be facing in 2050.
Its evidence-based research would encompass: the consequences of exceeding the limits to growth as CSIRO undertook in 2008 [paras 33—34], climate change, peak oil, oceanic acidification etc; and what New Zealand should be doing now to improve its survival prospects beyond 2050. The Age of Stupid looking back from 2055 would provide relevant motivation for conjecture.
An advantage of such an approach over [say] re-establishing a government-embedded CFF is that the Government would not be obligated to take any notice of either think tank. It would, however, be able to cherry-pick their respective recommendations that justified long-term, potentially unpopular policies intended to enhance New Zealand’s survival prospects beyond 2050.
It would be unsurprising if the A-team adopted the current economic paradigm and the B-team adopted a new green economic paradigm informed by evidence-based science.
Accordingly the A-team could reasonably be expected to developed cogent arguments for:
– additional base-load fossil-fuelled power stations to meet growth in electricity demand;
* expanding new motorway construction;
* weakening the emissions trading scheme to minimise negative effects on economic growth; and
* an expansion of mining into the conservation estate, etc.
The B-team could also reasonably be expected developed cogent arguments for:
* reinstating a moratorium on the construction of new base-load fossil-fuelled power stations;
* introducing a moratorium on new motorway construction;
* strengthened carbon emission reduction targets [e.g. SignOn’s 350ppm, 40% by 2020]; and
* imposition of a full-cost carbon tax on all non-sustainable extractive industries, etc.
The Government would be strategically placed to decide on the respective merits of contestable advice presented by both teams, whereas currently it hears almost exclusively A-team advice.
[Digression on atmospheric CO2: levels have increased from 280ppm [parts per million] pre-industrial revolution to 387ppm today. A level of 350ppm proposed by SignOn is widely accepted as a maximum ’safe’ elevated level. 450ppm has been suggested as a compromise between what is ’safe’ and what is ’achievable’. However the West Antarctic icecap has previously disintegrated – causing a sea level rise of 5m – at CO2 levels of 450ppm: accordingly 450ppm cannot be considered ’safe’. China anticipates its industrialisation will increase global CO2 levels to 600ppm and mean temperature by 4°C. See para 12 for the predicted consequences of a 4°C rise for China. Evidently the dire warnings of scientists are not heeded by Chinese political leaders and economists.]
Sir Nicholas Stern in his report to the UK Government on the economics of climate change argues that the precautionary principle must be applied for potentially high impact events such as climate change. The costs of an inadequate response if scientific concerns prove to be valid will massively outweigh the costs of over-responding if scientific concerns prove to be overstated. On a pure economic risk analysis, over-responding to the risk of climate change is prudent.
The CO2 level of 350ppm proposed by SignOn satisfies the precautionary principle. [Digression on Greenpeace’s campaign: its object is surely to save human civilisation, not to ’save the climate’. Nothing that humans can do will affect the climate or biodiversity over longer-term [geological] time scales. The Earth and its biodiversity are resilient: human civilisation is not.]
Four (John) Key questions: a new Age of Fetterism?
This submission posits that the survival of human civilisation beyond mid-century requires a new green economic paradigm informed by evidence-based science in which economic growth and population growth are adequately fettered. The current Age of Stupid characterised by unfettered growth and free-market capitalism somehow has to transition into a new Age of Fetterism.
HRH the Prince of Wales has long called on people and politicians to rethink their attitudes to the planet, economic growth, and consumption. This submission’s content is consistent with HRH’s advocacy. Responding privately to an earlier draft of it, HRH made the prescient observation that humans ’must now always put the environment before the economy and not the other way round as we have always done’. As arguably the Earth’s best known Fetterist, HRH urges that B-team arguments must always prevail [paras 70—71], something that rarely happens today.
The requirements for averting a human catastrophe by mid-century if that is still possible are:
* political recognition that unfettered consumerism is unsustainable in a finite biosphere;
– political recognition that unfettered growth will lead to a catastrophic collapse mid-century;
* political commitment to policies [guided by the precautionary principle] and policy implementations [actions] that provide adequate fettering of economic growth required to avert the disastrous consequences of unfettered growth including runaway global warning [para 20] and a catastrophic collapse [para 35]; and
* rapid and substantial global reductions in carbon emissions to ’safe’ levels: i.e. 350ppm, 40% by 2050 [para 73].
Adequate fettering of economic growth to avert a human catastrophe is the responsibility of politicians. Scientists are responsible for advising politicians on what needs to be done but it is politicians who must decide how it is to be done. It is politicians who are accountable for their decisions or lack of decisions: i.e. ’act now or face climate catastrophe’ [paras 12—13].
The International Conference in Copenhagen [December 2009] to set carbon emission reduction targets replacing the Kyoto agreement could be the most significant conference in human history.
Q1: Do the Copenhagen targets and ongoing responses to the GEC offer last chances for averting a human catastrophe?
Q2: Have humans missed that last chance if Dr Bollard’s optimism [para 1] proves justified and/or the Copenhagen conference fails to reach an agreement?
Q3: Could targets set at Copenhagen and ongoing responses to the GEC allow adequate fettering of economic growth to avert the disastrous consequences of unfettered growth; and
Q4: If not, are most humans destined to be part of the current Mass Extinction Event?