Here is something to think about.
Climate Change: The Wrong Target?
The traditional Greenhouse Theory for the changing climate proposes the earth and its climate are warming at alarming rates, caused by human activity and excessive fossil fuel emissions. The carbon dioxide resulting from the emissions are forming an enlarging envelope in the atmosphere around the earth. This envelope acts like a greenhouse, trapping heat, which is the cause of the 20th century spike of the global temperatures. Their solutions target reducing fossil fuel emissions and developing alternate energy sources through government regulations and global treaties.
This citizen agrees with the basic Greenhouse Theory, but proposes their solution targets the wrong cause of the increased fossil fuel emissions. The root cause of the increased emissions is the impact of exponential growth of the human population. More humans require more energy products. The observed increased emissions are simply the result of the additional energy products required to service the growing population. Until zero-emission energy sources are economically available, the correct target is to reduce the rate of global population growth, and until that occurs, the emissions will continue to increase.
We all agree that emissions may be reduced through further improvements and efficiencies in alternate energy sources, with the goal being zero emissions. However, the majority of these alternate sources are not economically competitive without subsidies. Alternate energy sources will not be able to produce enough power to service the predicted population growth. Experts predict that fossil fuels will continue to dominate the future energy mix, although their share will decrease to 74% of the total. Therefore, fossil fuel emissions will continue to grow.
If the world had not had an almost four-fold increase in the world’s population in the 20th century, by adding 4.45 billion humans, this would not be an issue today.
Global Population Growth
Most anthropologists agree the human form evolved about 3 million years ago. A precarious life with poor shelter and food supply resulted in a low population growth rate. As living conditions improved, human population grew. Some authorities have estimated the total world population at A.D. 1 was about 300 million,
Living conditions slowly improved, until the Industrial Revolution in the 17th & 18th centuries when dramatic improvements resulted in increased population survival rates. The world population increased to about 760 million in 1750.
Global population increased at markedly higher rates beginning in the 19th century. In 1800, the global human population was 0.9 billion. In the next 127 years, that doubled to 2 billion in 1927. That doubled again in the next 47 years to 4 billion population in 1974. In only 43 years, that has almost doubled again to 7.5 billion today in 2017. During the course of the 20th century, the world’s human population mushroomed from 1.65 billion to 6.1 billion. This remarkable 270% increase corresponds exactly to the period when the global temperatures spiked. It begs the question if the two are not related.
With present population growth rates, 83 million more humans are added to the globe each year. The United Nations Department of Economic & Social Affairs has forecast the current world population of 7.5 billion to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, then to 9.7 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. This alarming increase defines the primary issue. The increase of population and its resulting consumption are parts of the problem–neither can be ignored and both are exacerbating the human impact on Earth.
It logically follows that when the global population increases, more energy is required to provide power for additional manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation. If the rate of population growth is not controlled, the growing greenhouse effect will only continue to worsen.
The Human Effect
Much has been previously published about the ever-increasing growth of human population and its impact on the future world. Most of these predict dire social changes resulting in widespread famine, insuffient fresh water, and shortages of natural resources, which will be the cause of civil strife and wars. Little has been written about the effects of population growth on climate change, which this essay discusses.
Humans require, and consume, energy products throughout their lifetime to survive. More humans will require more energy consumption. Additionally, as human standards of living improve, more energy per capita will be consumed.
Inserting more humans into a shrinking greenhouse will cause it to get warmer. Consider the amount of radiant heat and carbon dioxide one human body emits in a lifetime. Also, consider the amount of heat and emissions resulting from all the power needed to support one human in their lifetime. Then consider the impact of additional billions of increased population to understand the amount of increased heat and emissions resulting from uncontrolled global population growth.
Energy Use Predictions
Experts have predicted that highly developed countries will see a slight decline in future fossil fuel usage due to efficiencies and alternate energy sources, but developing countries will offset that decline as they increase energy demands and advance to becoming developed countries.
These changes will result in total energy demand increasing at a reduced rate of 0.7% annually. Demand for electricity will outpace the demand for all other energy sources by two to one. Fossil fuels will continue to dominate the energy mix, but their share will decrease to 74% of the total. The simple fact remains, that more humans will require more energy — and more fossil fuel emissions.
However, efficiencies in alternate energy sources are improving. Solar and wind will represent 80% of the added supply, but will only source 34% of the total electric generation. New solar technology (even without subsidies) is now competitive with natural gas fuel. Other emission-free energy sources may help such as nuclear or hydroelectric generation, but all the new sources will not overtake or replace the use of fossil fuels.
The simple fact remains, that more humans will require more energy consumption — and more fossil fuel emissions — although efficiencies in alternate energy sources are improving. An example is electric generation, where new solar technology (even without subsidies) is now competitive with natural gas fuel. Other low-emission energy sources such as wind may help, but will not overtake or replace the use of fossil fuels.
Efficiencies in energy conservation and the improvement of alternate renewable and emission-free energy sources will help limit the growing fossil fuel emissions — however, the energy demand of the predicted population growth will exceed the efficiencies in in energy consumption and the development of alternate energy sources. Energy from fossil fuels are predicted by experts to continue playing a major role for the next 30-40 years
The primary issue is how to control future global population growth, which is a very sensitive and complicated social issue and far beyond the scope of this essay.
With the forecasts that fossil fuels will continue to be required for power generation, reducing the future global population growth rate is the correct primary target, and the most difficult to attain. It will require global cooperation and the participation of each nation to educate their citizens about family planning and to encourage families to have fewer children.
The future global population growth rates are also major concerns among social planers, who consider the effects will negatively affect the global economy and political instability.
Global cooperation is also required to achieve improvements in power generation and energy consumption. No new solutions to the energy issue are presented — only a repeat of previous suggestions. There must be more consideration of emission-free energy sources, such as solar, wind, nuclear, hydroelectric, geothermal, and tidal.
Some of these sources may prove not to be economic without subsidies. A specific example is the distillation of ethanol from agricultural products (primarily corn). It’s considered a poor choice because the product is sourced from an otherwise valuable food product. The increased demand has driven up the price of corn and the primary beneficiaries are only the Midwestern
farmers. The finished product is a low-energy fuel that dilutes the octane of gasoline. Ethanol is difficult to transport and it is not cost-competitive without subsidies. It is used only because of government mandates. This citizen believes it is a poor political solution to the problem.
Another example is wind-generated electricity. The recent growth in wind generation has not been driven by consumer demand, but by billions of dollars of government subsidies, without which, it would not be viable.
Climate changes are documented for eons of geologic history of the earth without the effects of human activity. Experts argue the causes of current changes in the climate could result from naturally occurring changes, unaffected by human activity.
Some conclude the climatic changes could result from changes in solar radiation reaching the earth. The variation of solar radiation could result from changes in sunspot activity, or changes of the earth’s elliptical orbit around the sun, or wobbling of earth’s rotational axis, or changes in the intensity of earth’s magnetic shield, or natural volcanic eruptions polluting the atmosphere.
Recently, NASA has reported information from a satellite that records carbon dioxide (CO2) levels around the earth. It recorded a sharp spike in atmospheric CO2 during 2015-2016. It was the largest annual increase in 2000 years, and NASA concluded the increase had nothing to do with human activity — but it was caused by the side effects of the naturally occurring El Nino oceanic event. They concluded that El Nino causes changes in the trade winds, which result in climatic changes around the globe. These climate changes resulted in extreme droughts in either tropical rain forests, causing many trees to die, or being severely stressed. Trees normally absorb CO2 from the atmosphere, and use the carbon to grow new wood, and release the unused oxygen into the atmosphere. Because so many trees either damaged or died, the amount of CO2 absorbed decreased and that was the cause of the spike in atmospheric CO2.
These are all documented natural conditions, which have occurred in the past and present, and are capable of causing dramatic climate change today and in the future.
Experts readily admit there may be no human solution to these mega issues, other than learning how to live with the changing climate. They argue the need to understand the real cause of any climate change before trying to correct the wrong target.