Here is Jorgan Randers on what to do about the environmental crisis we are in. The pdf is adapted from his 2012 lecture in the 10th Annual Distinguished Lecture Series in Sustainable Development, hosted by the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership and the Centre for Sustainable Development in the Department of Engineering. It's based on his most recent book, 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years (2012). All figures in this article are extracts from the book, and the data is also available at www.2052.info
have fewer children, and that’s particularly important when you’re rich. I’ll repeat this: my daughter, who is 29 and Norwegian, is the most dangerous animal on the surface of the Earth. She consumes between 10–30 times as many resources and generates 10–30 times as much pollution as an Indian child. So, it’s much more important to have one less rich kid than it is to have 10–30 fewer Indians. I’m serious. Population control in the rich world should be the prime focus.
reduce your CO2 footprint. Don’t drive big cars, don’t drive them so far, don’t fly so long, and insulate your home. Actual per capita disposable income in the US is already at its peak… partly because the US economy is the world’s most mature, partly because of huge debt, and partly because of the inability of the US government to make forceful decisions on any issue involving the redistribution of income and wealth. You might ask, why can’t we get cheap things from those other places that are still poor in 2052? We could, if we managed to engineer economic development in those countries; but I don’t think we will.15
support strong government. As mentioned above, most of the solutions to today’s global problems exist, and the only reason they’re not implemented is that we don’t have strong government. Or to be exact, we don’t have support for strong government. Thus civilised, solution-oriented citizens ought to be in favour of collective action. I think we will see 40 years down the line that it was the Chinese who did, in the end, solve the climate problem for us – through collective action. They will produce the electric cars and the technologies we will need, and they will implement them in China through centralised decisions. Meanwhile, we will be fiddling around with half-baked quota systems that provide insufficient incentives – which might modify development somewhat, but doesn’t solve the problem.
And then, fourth and finally,
if we want to help the world’s poor, we (the rich) should build and pay for a complete clean energy infrastructure in the poor world. This would ensure that they don’t have to build a cheaper, carbon-intensive energy system for the energy they sorely need: electricity, fuel and heat. If we did nothing else, that would solve a substantial part of the future climate and poverty problem.
He concluded: "That, my friends, is what I see. I don’t like it... but still, feel free to shoot the messenger."
All good seminar fodder.
I met and talked with Randers a few times when he was at WWF International, and I was, with John Fien, involved in that epic evaluation of WWF's global education programme. I recall good conversations, but cannot remember if he was as gloomy as this back then. maybe not as the skies have gotten darker over those intervening 15 years.