In the previous post I showed some global maps with the countries’ size scaled according to their population, GDP and GHG emissions. GHG emissions scale very strongly with GDP, and as Tom Fuller noted
That is the dilemma. It is not the number of people, it is their developmental status and desire to live a modern life.
As a follow-up, look at these maps, where countries are scaled according to their GDP, with a sneek preview to what the future may have in stock:
These projections show world GDP growing over the course of the century, with the most pronounced growth in developing nations. The 2100 map resembles the area weighted “normal” map much more than the 1990 map does, signifying a more equitable distribution of global GDP. I regard that as more fair than the current distribution. (After all, why would some people have more right to the world’s riches than others?)
But if you take into account the strong relation between GDP and CO2 emissions (and other environmental impacts), the scale of the challenge becomes clear:
- Either the emissions per GDP have to dramatically decrease by using less energy (reduced energy intensity of GDP) or by using sustainable energy (reduced carbon intensity of energy).
- Or GDP can not grow in the way projected in these figures (at least not without creating huge problems with natural resources, climate and -as a consequence- geopolitics).
- Or we let it run its course and let future generations deal with the consequences of our (in-)actions (as described just above).
To me these options are ordered in decreasing order of preference. Paraphrasing John Holdren in a different context: We’ll probably do all three; the question is what the mix is going to be.
The last option also underscores that “the problem is that it’s not our problem”.
Those who caused the problem are not the same as those who will carry the burden.
Figures from Naki Nakicenovic via a thought provoking presentation by Ken Caldeira.