Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Limits to Growth Author Jorgen Randers on Global Collapse: Fact or Fiction?

I’d like to share with you an idea that occurred to me today regarding the climate crisis:

Humanity conquered the Earth before we knew what to do with it. We’re the chief executive of a world we don’t really understand, taking on a responsibility we didn’t earn, and we refuse to see a need for change before it’s too late.

Humanity is George W. Bush.

The question now becomes: are we on the verge of global collapse—the point at which rising temperatures would create a self-feeding, self-perpetuating loop that would cause catastrophic upheavals regardless of any actions we take?

Jorgen Randers, co-author of the groundbreaking environmental wake-up call Limits to Growth, recently published an article in the magazine ScienceDirect which looks at the data and attempts to answer that question scientifically.

Abstract

This paper seeks to answer the following question: Is it possible that the slow societal response to the emerging climate crisis may result in ‘‘global collapse’’—that is, a situation were global society first exceeds the sustainable rate of greenhouse gas emissions, and then experiences a sudden, unwanted, and unstoppable decline in the average welfare of hundreds of millions of its citizens?

Certainly, global collapse can be avoided if society decides to act in time, and even at a reasonable cost. Still, global collapse is a possibility in the 21st century, because of the numerous good reasons to postpone societal response, because of the inertia in the climate system, and because there exist self-reinforcing mechanisms that may lead to runaway temperature increase once certain thresholds are surpassed.

The paper argues, finally, that climate-induced global collapse, even if it did indeed occur, would not necessarily be described by future historians as such. The collapse could well be reported as a case of bad global management.

Global collapse could remain fiction, even if it proved to be fact.

© 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

The paper in its entirety can be found in the December 2008 issue of the journal Futures. Go to ScienceDirect to purchase the full text of the paper.


Ask the Experts: Submit Your Permaculture Questions Now

Attention all growers, food-lovers, and green-living enthusiasts, we are once again celebrating Permaculture Month by putting our pioneering permaculture authors to work for you.Chelsea Green is proud to publish and distribute some of the most recognized, and award-winning, names in permaculture, and we’re making several of them available to our readers to answer any and all […] Read More

Recipe: Pascal Baudar’s Basic Wild Kimchi

Experiment with what you have, anything from the mustard family will work extremely well. Read More

Author Elizabeth Marshall Thomas: Dreaming of Lions

Reading through your life story, it’s clear that you were amazingly open to new experiences, approaching them like an observer who arrived with few previously held ideas. Do you think that it takes that kind of openness to see and understand animals and people in new ways, as you’ve done throughout your career? I do, […] Read More

Author Petra Kuenkel: The Art of Leading Collectively

More than ever before, there is a focus on new, collective forms of leadership—and an urgency to get collective change processes underway, all over the world. What’s behind the recent push to move collective leadership to the fore? Whether we find ourselves in societal or organizational change, it requires collective energy and drive to bring […] Read More

10 Books to Curl Up With This Winter

William Wordsworth was right when he said, “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.” Nevertheless, the cold, dark days of winter can still get the best of even Nature’s most tenderhearted admirer. What’s one to do? We here at Chelsea Green have concocted the perfect cabin fever remedy with our suggested winter reading […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com