30 minute lecture on ‘2052 – A global forecast for the next 40 yers’

30 minute lecture on ‘2052 – A global forecast for the next 40 yers’

by Jorgen Randers

Professor, Norwegian Business School BI

40 years ago we wrote The Limits to Growth

  • 12 scenarios for the world to 2100
  • 6 negative (“crises”) and 6 positive (various degrees of “sustainable development”)
  • Unable to tell which was most likely due to missing data
  • Main message: The planet is small – EF can’t grow for ever on a small planet
  • Danger of overshoot – current systems of governance (capitalism and democracy) will react too late and allow growth beyond the carrying capacity of the planet
  • Both hotly contested at the time

Today we know much more

  • Growth has indeed continued since 1972
  • And we have overshot
  • Global governance has indeed allowed overshot
  • We emit twice as much CO2 as is being absorbed by the world’s forests and oceans
  • Despite the fact that it is technically possible to reduce emissions at a low cost
  • A shift of 1 -2 % of the labour force and capital from dirty to clean sectors would suffice

What will happen over the next forty years?

  • My answer is described in 2052 book – a report to Club of Rome
  • My educated guess, based on all the data that have come available since 1972
  • My motivation was two fold:
    • Curiosity about how the rest of my life will be
    • A wish to kick the world into action
  • All details available at www.2052.info

World forecast calculated as sum of 5 regions

  • Technological innovation will continue at historical rates
  • There will be little change in fundamental values and preferences
  • But new problems will emerge (depletion, pollution, climate change, inequity, social strife) – and will be met with increasing investment (repair costs)

Here is the core of the 2052 Forecast

  • Population – will peak in 2040 because of falling fertility
  • World GDP will level off – because of rich world inability to maintain productivity growth in mature economies, and because no take-off in many poor countries
  • Investment share of GDP – will increase as global society tries to solve new problems after they occur
  • Energy use – equals GDP times declining energy use per unit of GDP; will peak in 2040
  • CO2 emissions – will peak in 2030 and be back to current level in 2050
  • Temperature – will pass the danger threshold of +2 °C already in 2050

Huge regional differences

  • Slow growth in after-tax disposable income in the rich world, and decline (!) in the US
  • Because maturation of economy, big debt, inequitable distribution and slow decision making
  • Rapid growth in China – because of strong decision making
  • Mixed results in the rest of the world

Summary of my forecast

  • We will see a smaller world (fewer people and smaller GDP) than most analysts think
  • Means slow growth over the next forty years
  • The smaller ecological footprint means there will be enough resources
  • Still consumption pressure will hurt biocapacity
  • Continuing rise in climate events and other calamities
  • The natural world will disappear – at least outside parks
  • Much more poverty than most expect – both in poor and rich world

A sad future!

  • Global growth will slow – but not fast enough to avoid a climate crisis in the middle of this century
  • Resembles scenario 2 from The Limits to Growth: “Pollution crisis”
  • Feels bitter – because it would have been so simple to solve the climate problem
    • A shift of 1 – 2 % of the labour force from dirty to clean sector would suffice

All because of inadequate global governance

  • We need to shift investment flows from what is most profitable to what society needs
  • Capitalism won’t do this – it is made to allocate money to what is profitable, not to what society needs
  • And democratic parliaments won’t pass regulations that could change this reality – because voters are against solutions that require higher taxes, more expensive gasoline or electricity in the short term
  • The root cause is short-termism in capitalism and democracy

What needs to be done? – Globally

  1. Slow growth further: Have fewer children, particularly in the rich world
  2. Reduce the footprint: Eliminate fossil fuels, first in the rich world
  3. Help the poor: Build a climate-friendly energy system in the poor world
  4. Temper short-termism: Establish supra national institutions
  5. Establish new goals: Increase societal wellbeing in a world without growth.

A final word of inspiration

  • I don’t like what I see
  • But my forecast is a cliff hanger – a small extra effort would to a lot of good
  • Gives motivation for extra effort
  • I hope the extra action will come forth and make my forecast wrong

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