Monday, February 9, 2009

Author of 'Limits to Growth' honored for once-ridiculed warnings

Solve Climate: If world leaders had listened to Dennis Meadows when The Limits to Growth was published in 1972, humanity might not be in the climate fix it's in today. Instead, the MIT professor’s warnings about resource depletion and environmental damage were initially ridiculed. Thirty-seven years later, Meadows is being awarded the prestigious Japan Prize by the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan for his efforts to open society's eyes to the threats to sustainability.

….The global growth models that Meadows and his colleagues used to write The Limits to Growth were never intended to be forecasts. They didn’t include all of the powerful self-reinforcing loops that can intensify damage, such as interrelationships between trust and lending in the stability of the financial system, and how the warming atmosphere increases Arctic sea ice melt which increases the temperature, which increases sea ice melt further. Still, they provided a picture of what could happen.

…Jorgen Randers, Meadows’ co-author on all three editions of The Limits to Growth and a professor of Climate Strategy at the Norwegian School of Management, has also watched human society losing its grasp on sustainability. As he puts it: “We have postponed too long pushing the brake in a world system with a very long braking distance. The precipice is getting uncomfortably close.”

We are a decade or two too late at this point to have a problem-free future, Randers said, however he believes that immediate action can pull us back from the edge. If the promises that President Obama has made to fight climate change are put into action, then the period of noticeable climate damage in the middle of this century will be shorter, he said. Still, he said, human society’s sustainability outlook would be much, much better if policymakers had listened back in 1972.....

A path in the woods, shot by Laveol, Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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