Surely the measure of civilised society is one in which we can live out lives safely, happily and be looked after when we are elderly or vulnerable.
The way things are going now, when I am 75 (roughly 50 yeas away) the world is going to be much warmer, the oil availability much lower and more expensive, the population 9 billion plus, water less plentiful and hopefully a carbon tax preventing or reducing our emissions growth.
I won’t have the dignity of a pleasant retirement to appreciate and reflect on life with good health care or the natural beauty of the world as it is now. We are making it impossible to foresee a life where I can live in the way our current grandparents live.
On this basic measure being one of self-preservation in our more vulnerable years- I think we need to make some hard choices in reducing our emissions and still allowing for a dignified future.
One approach I might suggest would be in basic terms to:
- Globally agree on a “safe” level of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere to avoid the 2 Degree plus global average temperature increase (with a policy to alter the target only when stability is reached or make it even tighter if we’re progressing too slowly).
- Take stock of the number of people on the planet now or in the projected pipeline and divide the number of people by the amount of CO2 “globally allowed” so that a sum can be applied to how much CO2 each person is allocated.
- Use this figure of CO2 to work out if there is enough “give” in the system to allow an individual under the cap to have a “dignified” quality life- an ambiguous calculus but something we make a judgment call on.
- We then pull it all together to determine how many people the planet can have which keep us below the worst case CO2 concentration that can have that dignified life.
- Result: Once we calculate this we have all the evidence we need to make a decision. If we come out with a poor and unacceptable quality of life then we can quickly work out in the maths how many people we can sustain in order to have the best chance of avoiding the warming to preserve the dignified life. We then define the population “goals” to keep us honest and under the planets tolerances whilst still allowing each person with at least some CO2 emissions.
Logically it is pretty simple, keep us below the threshold where formula mouths to feed/water/transport becomes untenable. We might not like what we hear when we do this process… we will certainly have passed the threshold but our decisions and actions will be applauded if we get it right.
Lets face it, if we get it wrong- the planet will find a way of bumping us off.