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Predicting the Future: How Good is the “Earth4All” Model?

Predicting the Future: How Good is the “Earth4All” Model?

Jørgen Randers - Wikipedia

Jorgen Randers, one of the original authors of the first report to the Club of Rome, “The Limits to Growth,” of 1972. Now, he is one of the main authors of the new report to the Club, “Earth for All

This post is not meant to be an in-depth assessment of the Earth4All model but a general discussion on how to use forecasting models. I argue that no matter how sophisticated a model can be, it will always have shortcomings and that a flexible approach is normally the best. The Earth4All model is an integrated assessment model (IAM) linked to earlier efforts such as the “Limits to Growth” series of models, but it is a different approach, being more “goal-oriented” in the sense that it defines the policies needed to approach social, economic, and environmental goals. Facing an uncertain future, Earth4All provides a roadmap that we may or may not be able to follow, but it is part of our efforts to manage a better future for humankind.

You surely remember the story of Oedipus, who was foretold by the Pythoness of the Delphic Oracle that he would kill his father and marry his mother. Horrified, Oedipus ran away from the people he believed to be his parents and ended up unknowingly killing his real father and marrying his real mother. This story prefigures a problem that we are still facing nowadays: is the future predictable? And, if it is, does that mean it cannot be changed? When the story of Oedipus was written in the version we know today by Sophocles in the 5th century BC, oracles may have been enjoying the same kind of trust that in our times we reserve to “science.” Hence, the oracle’s words were presented as an absolute and unchangeable destiny.

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Limits and Beyond: The Yawning Gap

Limits and Beyond: The Yawning Gap

Chapter 1: The Story of an Idea

Limits and Beyond

The book Limits and Beyond, edited by Ugo Bardi and Jorgen Randers, provides a 50th anniversary review of the seminal report Limits to Growth (LtG). The following is from the back cover of the book.

50 years ago the Club of Rome commissioned a report: Limits to Growth. They told us that, on our current path, we are heading for collapse in the first half of the 21st century. This book, published in the year 2022, reviews what has happened in the intervening time period. It asks three basic questions:

  • Were their models right?
  • Why was there such a backlash?
  • What did the world do about it?

The book consists of 19 chapters, each written by a different author, two of whom — Dennis Meadows and Jorgen Randers — were part of the team that wrote the report.

In this post, we review the first chapter, written by Ugo Bardi. He says of the chapter,

The present section . . . tells the story of how the idea of civilization growth and collapse fared in history and how it was interpreted by the LtG study.


Ugo Bardi
Ugo Bardi

Historical Overview

This first chapter provides an excellent overview of the work of various scientists and authors that has led to our current understanding of physical limits and constraints. It shows how societies rise and fall, and how our current level of stable prosperity is so unusual. Starting with the 18th century authors Edward Gibbon and Thomas Malthus, Bardi describes the work of many analysts, including William Stanley Jevons, Rachel Carson, Aurelio Peccei, Jay Wright Forrester, M. King Hubbert and Joseph Tainter.

He describes how the LtG report was received, and discusses possible reasons for the largely negative response at the time of publication. However, the report’s insights seem to be increasingly relevant to today’s world..

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Limits and Beyond

05 May 2022 – On the 50th anniversary of The Limits to Growth a new report to the Club of Rome – Limits and Beyond: 50 years on from The Limits to Growthwhat did we learn and what’s next? once again takes stock and asks questions fundamental for the survival of humanity on a finite planet.

The new report focuses on what we have learned since 1972 and what comes next. It addresses questions like: If we knew that continued growth in population, industrialisation, resource use and pollution would cause us to overshoot the carrying capacity of the Earth, why haven’t we done anything? What have we learned in the last 50 years? And how do we learn at last what we already know? Is it too late to avoid overshooting the planetary limits? And – what do we do now?

Bringing together two of the original authors of The Limits to Growth with an array of other world-renowned thinkers, scientists, analysts and economists from across the globe, the book highlights new and diverse ways of thinking about an old but increasingly pressing problem.

Ugo Bardi, member of the Club of Rome and co-editor of the book says, “If we want to avoid, or perhaps more realistically, mitigate the twin crises of climate change and resource depletion, then we need to move decisively to new ways of doing things and wean ourselves from our addiction to fossil fuels. Today we have renewable energy technologies which didn’t exist when The Limits to Growth report was published. But no technology, alone, will help us if we keep believing that economic growth is always and forever a good thing.”

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Humans May Have Passed the ‘Point of No Return’ in Climate Crisis, Says Study—But That Doesn’t Mean All Hope Is Lost

Humans May Have Passed the ‘Point of No Return’ in Climate Crisis, Says Study—But That Doesn’t Mean All Hope Is Lost

In order to roll back catastrophic carbon emissions, humans must “start developing the technologies for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere,” says one of the study’s lead authors.

Melting permafrost in Canada's Northwest Territories, a sign of accelerating global heating. (Photo: Charles Tarnocai/Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Melting permafrost in Canada’s Northwest Territories sends carbon-rich sediment into the Mackenzie Delta. (Photo: Charles Tarnocai/Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada)

Humanity may have passed the “point of no return” in the climate crisis—even if everyone on the planet stopped emitting all greenhouse gases at this very moment, according to a study published Thursday.

The study, published in the peer-reviewed British publication Scientific Journals, alarmingly asserts that “the world is already past a point of no return for global warming” and that the only way to halt the catastrophic damage caused by greenhouse emissions is to extract “enormous amounts of carbon dioxide… from the atmosphere.”

“[The crisis] simply will not stop from cutting manmade greenhouse emissions.”
—Jørgen Randers, study co-author

The crisis “simply will not stop from cutting manmade greenhouse gases,” Jørgen Randers, one of the study’s two lead authors, told Future Human. Humanity, stressed Randers, “should accelerate its effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions… and start developing the technologies for large-scale removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.”

What exactly does a “point of no return” mean for Earth and its inhabitants? The researchers describe “a threshold which, once surpassed, fundamentally changes the dynamics of the climate system,” including “by triggering irreversible processes like melting of the permafrost, drying of the rainforests, or acidification of surface waters.”

The researchers used a computer model called ESCIMO to simulate outcomes from various levels of CO2 reductions until the year 2500. They concluded that even an immediate reduction to zero greenhouse emissions would still result in a 3°C rise in global temperatures by 2500.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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