The Meaning of Sustainability

Global Climate Change

With regard to the second major threat, global climate change, we can note that12:

if any fraction of the observed global climate change can be attributed to the actions of humans, this is positive proof that the human population, living as we do, has already exceeded the carrying capacity of the earth.

This condition is unsustainable. This observation provides a direct identification of overpopulation as the main cause of global climate change. Strangely few, if any, of the experts on global climate change have spoken out to call public attention to the obvious and clear cause and effect connection between overpopulation and global climate change.

The Cause and Effect Connection between Overpopulation and Global Climate Change

To the first approximation, the magnitude of the effect of humans in producing global climate change is proportional to the product of the size of the global population P and the average per capita annual consumption of resources, A (tons per (person-year)). The product of P times A is the total annual consumption of resources (tons per year). Already this product appears to have exceeded the carrying capacity of the Earth and the world is briefly in overshoot.

if we are serious about reducing the causes of global climate change, we must reduce both P and a simultaneously and rapidly throughout the world.

This defines the task before us. Reduction of P brings us in conflict with the business community that sees more people as more customers. Reduction of P brings us in conflict with various religious groups that oppose any reduction of births and that regard unrestricted reproduction as a basic human right. The reduction in A must be done equitably, recognizing that today (2012) the average annual per capita consumption of resources A, varies by one or two orders of magnitude between our well-to-do western societies and the world’s poorest societies.

Albert Bartlett

Albert A. Bartlett (1923-2013) was Professor Emeritus in Nuclear Physics at University of Colorado at Boulder.Dr. Bartlett received a BA degree from Colgate University and MA and PhD degrees in Nuclear Physics from Harvard University in 1948 and 1951, respectively. He was a faculty member at the University of Colorado since 1950. He was President of the American Association of Physics Teachers in 1978. In 1981 he received the Association's Robert A. Millikan Award for his outstanding scholarly contributions to physics education.
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