Analysis of the previous Living Planet Report anticipated an “energy transition” corresponding to a peak in consumption, and coinciding in time with Peak Oil. This energy transition seems to have been replaced by an increase in consumption, accompanied by a huge population explosion. What I was calling a “life transition” also occurs at about that time, where populations of other species drop to zero.
In performing the curve fits that project this scenario, I was tempted to throw out the function for population because of the hugely optimistic projections. Unfortunately, the other candidates didn’t have anywhere near the accuracy in predicting past population. Even a composite of the worst and best of the other candidates (using a PERT estimate) didn’t match the data as well. I decided to keep this best performer and see what it had to contribute to the timing of transitions for exponential growth and decline of consumption.
The results, described on my Web site, show that we would need the most incredible technologies to sustain any annual change in consumption (ecological footprint) higher than about minus seven percent (that’s a decline of seven percent annually). At minus seven percent, the population would stabilize while consumption dropped to zero (thus achieving sustainability). The Gross World Product would decrease its growth instead of increasing its growth, but the difference could be channeled into more sustainable activities while – hopefully – removing the chance of the population growing fast.