Global collapse of human civilisation seems likely, write Paul Ehrlich and his partner Anne Ehrlich in the prestigious science journal, Proceedings of the Royal Society.Poor communities are hit hardest by extreme weather events.
This collapse will take the form of a “gradual breakdown because famines, epidemics and resource shortages cause a disintegration of central control within nations, in concert with disruptions of trade and conflicts over increasingly scarce necessities”, they write.
Paul Ehrlich is a Professor of Biology and President of the Center for Conservation Biology at Stanford University, and Adjunct Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney. His research interests are in the ecology and evolution of natural populations of butterflies, reef fishes, birds and human beings.
Anne Ehrlich is a Senior Research Scientist in Biology at Stanford and focuses her research on policy issues related to the environment.
Already two billion people are hungry today. Food production is humanity’s biggest industry and is already being affected by climate and other environmental problems. “No civilisation can avoid collapse if it fails to feed its population,” the authors say.
Escalating climate disruption, ocean acidification, oceanic dead zones, depletion of groundwater and extinctions of plants and animals are the main drivers of the coming collapse, they write in their peer-reviewed article “Can a collapse of global civilisation be avoided?” published recently.
Dozens of earth systems experts were consulted in writing the 10-page paper that contains over 160 references.
“We talked to many of the world’s leading experts to reflect what is really happening,” said Ehrlich, who is an eminent environmentalist.
Our reality is that current overconsumption of natural resources and the resulting damage to life-sustaining services nature provides means we need another half of a planet to keeping going. And that’s if all seven billion remain at their current living standards, the Ehrlichs write.
If everyone lived like a U.S. citizen, another four or five planets would be needed. Global population is projected to increase by 2.5 billion by 2050. It doesn’t take an expert to conclude that collapse of civilisation will be unavoidable without major changes.
We’re facing a future where billions will likely die, and yet little is being done to avoid certain disaster, he said.
“Policy makers and the public aren’t terrified about this because they don’t have the information or the knowledge about how our planet functions,” he said.
For a full text of the article, go to: http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/280/1754/20122845.full