Monday, January 28, 2008

Acquisition and Crash Avoidance

My population-consumption model implies that if we were to stop increasing our per capita consumption, we could reduce the rate of new resource acquisition that is required to delay the world’s population from crashing until a speed limit is reached.

For ecological resources, the minimum annual rate of resource acquisition (with renewable resources keeping pace) is 1.6 percent. For energy, the rate is 2.5 percent (with renewable resource growth not required); and for Gross World Product (GWP), the rate is 1.4 percent (again, with no renewable resource increase). The per capita contribution this year, as a fraction of per capita consumption, would be 1.34, 2.54, and 34.7, respectively (I estimate that last year they were 0.04, 0.76, and 0).

This analysis offers little hope that we can keep our population from crashing in the near future by just adding resources. What is likely the world’s most intensive resource exploration, for energy, is yielding only 30 percent of the minimum additional resources we need. The record for ecological resources is much more dismal, but mainly because we have taken those resources for granted.

It turns out that we can reduce needed additional resources even more if we have no population growth in addition to keeping per capita consumption constant. The annual additions should be at least 0.52 percent of ecological resources, 1.01 percent of energy, and 0.03 percent of GWP, translating into per capita contributions (in 2008) of 0.43, 1.01, and 0.73 of per capita consumption. We will then only be limited by how fast we could access the resources.

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