Development, population, climate change: some painful conclusions

Tim Dyson, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

This paper makes six points. First, economic development has been, and in the foreseeable future will be, mainly based on the burning of fossil fuels; there is little alternative. Second, due to momentum in population, economic and, above all, climate processes, it is inevitable that there will be major increases in atmospheric CO2 and, as a consequence, global temperatures during the present century. Third, future global warming could well be very rapid indeed; positive feedback must be considered as likely as negative feedback. Fourth, major climate change is probably unavoidable now; and there is a significant chance that it could be abrupt. Fifth, responses like avoidance, denial, and blame are natural and predictable human reactions; scientific research on the subject is hindered by the problem of segmentation. Finally, the demographic and other social consequences for a world of nine or so billion are likely to be truly immense.

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Presented in Session 6: Environment, climate and population