Jørgen Randers' "2052"
Jørgen Randers' presentation of his book "2052 on 7 May 2012 in RotterdamTranscript of the first 25 minutes of the book presentation at the SS "Rotterdam" on 7 May 2012 during the WWF 2012 annual conference. Audio Video
[Ian Johnson (0:00)]
Good morning everyone. Is the microphone switched up? Good morning everyone. Welcome to the SS Rotterdam. You'll be pleased to know that I had a word with the captain this morning and I was reassured that the paintings you are seeing here are not icebergs, in fact. And that while humanity may have to change course, the ship will not. The ship will stay here. So we're in good shape.
We have a wonderful panel.
Of course Jørgen, who is the author of this wonderful book I must say, a very special book.
Yolanda Kakabadge, an old dear old friend, who is president of the World Wildlife Fund.
Sheila Anne Murray, a newer friend, who is on our executive committee at the Club of Rome.
And Eberhard von Koerber, who is the chairman, eh.. the president of the Club of Rome, the co-president with Ashok Khosla.
Let me say, Jørgen, that this is a remarkable book. It is an 80 year journey - that's roughly the lifespan of a citizen of the rich world. An 80 year journey. And what I found compelling about it - and partly because it fits with my own sort of thinking about where the Club of Rome must go and must move. And that it combines the analytical, the intellectual, the systemic issues in a very very forward looking analytical way. But balances that by the heart, by the positivist look at our issues of values. beliefs.
It's a personal journey as well as a professional journey. And I think that is in some sense a metaphore for where the Club of Rome needs to take the debate as we move forward. How do we marry our values, our beliefs, our understandings, our inner feelings about where our planet is going. Do we believe in the future, do we believe in our children. But how do we combine that with the analytics, the use of tools that can help us determine a way forward.
So I think the mix of values meeting valuations, the head meeting the heart, the normative marrying with the positive, is actually an outstanding example in this book. And I must say I found it a compelling read, both as a personal journey by you, Jørgen, but also as a professional piece of work on the forecasting side as well.
So I think that that sets the stage I hope for an important discussion and debate and I am going to invite Jørgen to give us a presentation and then my colleagues will say a few words afterwards. So Jørgen, you have the floor.
[Jørgen Randers (2:30)] [commentary yet to be finished and polished (16.5.2012)
Well, thank you, Ian, for your kind words. And I hope they are true.
I'm now going to do something which cannot be done, which is to try to give a presentation of a 400 page book in 12 minutes. Particularly as this book has an endles number of facets. It's a quite an interesting read, just like Ian said. Even I say this, having spent the last half year toiling with this horrible thing, you know, for most of my time, I believe. So I'll try to be quick. And try to get you the essence in 12 minutes.
First of all, the reason why I wrote this book was basically personal. I wanted to satisfy my curiosity about what kind of life conditions I'm going to have during the remaining 20 to 25 years of my life [JR was born in 1945.]
So this was. I've been worrying about the future most of my life. Now I wanted to have a description of what the rest of my life is actually going to look like so I can stop worrying and knowing. So that's completed. I know now what the next forty years is going to be like. And this gives great peace of heart.
The second thing is that I have worked a lifetime pushing sustainability. And I'm now so old that I'm seeing that I did not succeed. You know, we have been working for forty years trying to make the world a sustainable place and it's not particularly much more sustainable now than it was forty years ago.(1)
So the big question about it was the question will the world overshoot and collapse. You know this was the warning that my friends and I made in 1972 in the "Limits to Growth" book, where we basically said that because of the decision delays in international governance systems, you know, the world will be allowed to expand beyond its sustainable capacity and then sooner or later it will be forced back down into sustainable territory.(2)
And this will be an unpleasant development - overshoot and collapse - caused by slow decision making in international systems.(3)
We are now forty years down the line and it is perfectly obvious that the world has already overshot. You know, at the time in 1972, I would quickly say that human society is not going to be so stupid as to let the world move into non-sustainable territory. Well, solidly, we now are in unsustainable territory. (4)
The simplest example is of course climate gas emissions that currently are twice the amount of what is being absorbed in the world's oceans and forests.(5)
And, as warned in 1972, this is an aspect of slow decision making, even twenty years after the Rio meeting. You know, greenhouse gas emissions are growing faster than they did at the time of the meeting.
So the question is; we are unsustainable territory. Is it possible to ease back, you know, to get back into sustainable conditions, to a soft landing? Or will the world collapse? And what that collapse means is, basically means huge migration flows and destruction of society as we know it.(6)
We have been trying to achieve managed decline over the last forty years. You know, people have been speaking about sustainable development, but it doesn't work. The human footprint is still going up in spite of all the talking.(7)
So, the purpose of the 2052 book is basically to try to look at the next forty years - what will happen. You know, not what should happen or what could happen, but what will happen. And how am I going about, trying to make such a forecast? No-one else has tried to do this before.(8) It's basically looking at the last forty years of data and then understanding how decision making is being made in the world and then seeing you know how this will add on the shoulders of history into a future development.
And so I'm basically assuming the current systems of governance, you know, the democratic decision making that takes place in some parts of the world, the market decisions that are being made elsewhere through a much more centralised decision making which takes place in certain places with overlay of international organisations. And I assume more or less a continued normal response to future problems.
The world in the analysis is spaced in five regions. That is the US as one. The OECD less the rest, so the old industrial countries as a second category. China, that's another category. BRISE, the 14 largest emerging economies as the fourth one. I cannot use BRI because the C in BRICS is already occupied in China. So that's why it's called BRISE. And then the rest of the world are the 140 other nations, essentially the poor part of the world. And I make a forecast for each of those regions and then the world forecast is the sum of those five.
The main message of "2052" is that humanity won't make it. You know, we are not going to make a soft landing. We will basically run into an overshoot and collapse type of future. Although it happens much later than most people think.(9)
And I'm now going to show. Listen to me. Don't worry about the graphs. You know the graphs are there in order to impress you. You know to show that huge amount of quantitative work behind my very simple statements. Listen to what I'm saying and that. So I'll go very quickly through the essentials of the forecast. I start with the global population in my book and follow the red curves. If you want to look at one curve, follow the red one.
So the global population will peak around eight billion people.(10)
This is much earlier and at a much lower level than most people think.
The reason for this is the very rapid decline in fertility, in the desired family size in the urban situation, both in the poor and the rich world.
The world GDP is going to - the economic activity of the surface is going to continue to grow. But it will grow much slower than most people think. The reason for this is that first of all a number of the world's economies are very mature, meaning that most of the activities in the service and care sector, where productivity increase is very difficult. And so the rich countries are not going to grow very fast. And secondly there is the problem that we will not experience economic take-off in most of the poor world. You know the emerging countries will probably do it but not the others.
So there will be GDP growth but not that fast as most people think. And actually the GDP of the world will peak around 2060, 2070. Then it will go down because the population is going down and because productivity is declining.(11)
Interestingly over the next forty years human society is going to face a number of emerging problems: depletion, pollution, biodiversity decline, climate change, rising inequity, distributional differences. And the way society is going to handle those issues is to throw money at them. You know when the resources get scarce they will gradually start to do something for a substitute. When pollution levels get too high one will spend money trying to get them down. When biodi etc. etc. (12)
So the investment share of the GDP, that fraction of annual production which is not used for consumption, but is used to avoid or to improve world in the long run, will increase. And that means that the amount of consumption, the GDP which is available for consumption will not grow as fast in the future as it would have done if we did not have to meet all those challenges of humanity.
And disposable income, which is the per capita version of this, will stagnate, you know and in some parts of the world, for instance in the rich world, will actually decline over the next forty years. It is now easy, once you have the backbone, to calculate what is the energy use of all this economy, because we know that energy efficiency is going to gradually increase all along(13) so you just multiply with the GDP and you see that energy use interestingly will peak already in 2040.
And if you multiply this curve with the carbon emissions per unit of energy, which is also something that will decline as we introduce more and more renewables over time(14), you see that global CO2 emissions will peak in 2030 and in 2050 they will be back down to current levels.(14)
This is of course a far cry from the current ambition of reducing CO2 emissions by 50 to 80 percent by 2050, which is what people say we need to do in order to keep temperatures under present two degrees centigrade. So this means that we are actually in a situation where we are going to let CO2 emissions, annual emission be so high that when we get to 2050, you know, we are quickly moving towards global warming.
I have asked my friends in the United States to calculate for me you know what is the temperature effect on my CO2 future and in the next slide you will see that the global average temperature will pass plus two degrees centigrade in 2050 and will actually peak at plus three degrees centigrade in 2080, which is touch and go, it's just where you could fear that global, that self-reinforcing climate change takes hold.
So, in other words, 2052 says that the world is on its path towards climate collapse in the second half of the 21st century. It doesn't happen before 2050 but it happens afterwards. In other words - some translate this now to - is that current systems of governance [are] actually incapable of handling the climate challenge. That's another way of saying effectively the same thing.(15)
And thirdly for those who are interested in how does this compare with Limits to Growth 1972 I'm saying that it's the pollution crisis from 1972 which is the most likely one. It is not the resource crisis. It's not the food crisis It's not the water crisis. It's not those. It seems that it's the pollution emissions problem which is actually going to be the likely scenario.(16)
Why is this happening? The root cause of all of this is human short-termism. It is the fact that both capitalism and democracies are amazingly short-term in their decision making. You know humans do not want to sacrifice much today in order to get the benefits 30 years down the line. And capitalist systems do allocate money based on a discount rate which is so high that anything that happens beyond five years is close to invisible. And those are the two major systems of governance in place. You know, the world will continue to react in that myopic fashion to the challenges and some result is what I described.(17)
Can short-termism be handled? That is, yes, in principle but inpractice it is very difficult because it probably needs strong governance and I know that you basically delegate difficult decision-making to supernational or centralist bodies like the central bank of the world and the intense dislike of stronger government is of course something that we are just going to take, preclude a sain solution to the problems.(18)
Let me very quickly give you a better flavour for what the next forty years is going to look like. And I use graphs showing the disposable income per person in the five regions, to illustrate this.
So the first thing I am saying is that humanity will try to grow its economy as fast as possible over the next forty years. The problem is that they won't manage, you know, because of the what I have said, because of inequity, productivi, slower growth rates in productivity.
The unexpected benefit of the much smaller popula, the smaller population and the much smaller GDP is ofcourse that the human footprint becomes much smaller over the next forty years than most people expect.(19) Which in turn pushes the crisis to the second part of the century. So there are huge advantages with the fact that the GDP is actually not going to grow as fast as everyone is trying to make it grow.
The rich world will experience stagnation in the forecast. The income of an American Auto worker in Detroit in 2052 is even lower than it is today, you know, because the Unites States of America has a huge problems with its foreign debt and a society which is totally incapable of handling the frictions between the classes in society and consequently will not manage to get its act together. There is no resource constraint, there is nothing else. It is just an decision inability in that system. And it will basically end as I said.(20)
One other reason why the human footprint will grow slowly and postpone the crisis until the second part of the century is the fact that three billion people will remain poor. You know, most forecasts assume that the poor people of the world, the bottom of the pyramid, will actually in some way or the other, you know, move toward western standards or Chinese standards or Indian standards, you know, over the - not Indian - western standards over the next 40 years. My answer is it won't.(21)
You know, we will have perhaps plus two percent a year, three percent a year growth in those economies, which from the small base doesn't lead to a lot. It doubles incomes but it's still very low. So. And the footprint is low.(22)
Other resources in my book are not a problem. Water, food and fossil fuels will be there in sufficient amounts. What does sufficient mean? It means that there is enough to deliver to those that can pay. So, to illustrate with the food situation, the capitalist world is capable of producing more than enough food for those that can buy food and will not produce food for those that cannot pay. So the poor will not only be poor, they will be hungry because they cannot buy the food that the rest of the world could easily produce. (23)
Finally I should say that the 2052 forecast covers a multitude of additional aspects. This is propaganda from the publisher. You know, we should make you aware of the fact that it is worth reading the book because it talks about the split of the EU in the 2020ies. It talks about how urban life will be in the 2040ies. It talks about the future by military and biodiversity, of the CSR [Corporate Social Responsibility] and the fifth cultural step and the future role of health programming robots(24), which is really the interesting end to all of this.
What should be done? Four recommendations. And they are very obvious but they are starting to take on some stronger importance, I think, now.
First of all we're back to the thing that having fewer children is one of the, you know, try to further reduce the growth of the population. And of course it's especially in the rich world, where it is important to get the number of children down. You know, my daughter has a footprint which is at least ten times as big as an Indian daugther. And so she is much more dangerous than an Indian.(25)
Secondly, reduce the ecological footprint and particularly the footprint from people like I or rich societies like Holland. Because it's the footprint of those nations that need to be lower because everone is aiming to be in that situation. And that means basically one thing: stop using fossil fuels. (*)You know, it's as simple as that.(26)
Thirdly, construct a modern, low carbon energy system in the poor world, for the poor world, paid for by the rich world. Now this is the simplest fashion of development aid that we can do. Just start building the wid mills and the solar plants and the gas with CCS [Carbon Capture and Storage], etc. etc. plants. That is actually going to produce relatively low carbon energy for the third world.
And finally, this is code, strengthen the global ability to act fast in order to accelerate the effort to improve the living conditions for our grandchildren. (27)
In other words we need to find a solution to the extreme short-termism in capitalism and in democracy in order to get in place a system which handles the long-term challenge. (28)
Needless to say, you know, these things are hard to implement and they are even harder if the distributional issues are allowed to deteriorate even further. (29)
So we need full employment and we do need limited income disparicies in order to be able to do these things. And both of these things may well lack in the future.
Finally, what could the Club of Rome do? And the Club of Rome is of course one of those rare entities that is operating at a supra-national level and it should continue its traditional asking unpopular questions and promoting unpopular solutions. These are among the few gentlemen that can actually say that there are limits to market, eh to liberal market democracies. (30)
In the case of 2052 it's basically four values to fight in, that needs to be pushed. First of all education and empowerment of women. This is one of the ways to get the population growth rate down. Then one needs deep respect, a religious respect for the use of fossil fuels. You know, one should not be using fossil fuels. That's a moral type of message.
Thirdly, we do need governance systems fit for the challenges of the next forty years and those are not the challenges of the past. The challenges of the future is in the long-term, it's to counter short-termism.
And finally, the value of full-employment and limited income disparity, basically saying that a redistribution of the proceeds of society is important and necessary in order to get everything else in place.
And that's it. These are hard but worthy causes and I am sad to be the messenger. I don't like what I see. Please don't shoot the messenger.
[Comments to be finished (16.5.2012)]
ecoglobe commentary: [top] [links]
Jørgen Randers makes some very pertinent remarks about fossil fuels. But most of his analysis is far too optimistic and most of his solutions remain within the Hope, Optimism and Technology mindframe.
1) Frankly, this is the first time in twenty years that we encountered Jørgen Randers apart from his autorship of the 1972 LtG. How can one work for sustainability if one is embedded in Business As Usual, i.e. using the same model that created and is still creating the problems in the first place, the growth ideology?
2) We have overshot the earth's carrying capacity manifold, starting already many years ago. The core message of the 1972 LtG was that we have to stop growth, as soon as possible. Saying this clearly means admitting that the "international governance systems" (the BPE Compact) are miserably failing because they are still pushing for growth, and population growth is still a taboo.
3) Overshoot and collapse are more than just an "unpleasant development." They mean famine, misery, starvation, riots, resource wars, depletion and destruction of the remains of intact nature, and massive dieoff of humanity.
4) We entered into unsustainable territory, arguably with the onset of agriculture, millennia ago, but in any case at the start of modernity, in 1712 with the invention of the steam engine. (Compare: The urgency of "de-growth".)
5) Byond nature's normal gas circulation balances, no man-made climate gas emissions are being absorbed by forests. The increased absorbtion of man-made greenhouse gases by the oceans causes a dangerous problem of acidification, potentially threatening the rupture of the world's food chain.
6) We should not think these migration flows will "only" be in and from the poor South. The (rich) North will suffer the same fate: people leaving the big cities in search for food and water. Collapse means hunger, strife, riots, wars, starvation and die-off. Not just "migration".
7) "Sustainable development" cannot work because it's an oxymoron. Development in practice always means growth, i.e. more resource depletion. Nobody in power tried "to achieve a managed decline." The Compact of Business, Politics and the discipline of Economics are firm believers in growth.
8) Sustainability scientists have worked out scenarios related to the depletion and destruction of nature. Many ecological scientists see a far more darker immediate future than Jørgen Randers, notably concerning population, energy, food, water, and climate change. Compare ecoglobe scenarios and world energy outlook.
9) Arguably most people do not think about collapse in the 21st century. However, most probably the downturn will start after the end of the present peak oil period, by 2020 at the latest, and then lead to a collapse (cf.(11)).
10) In other presentations the red curve indicates a peak of 9 billion by 2040! Randers uses the low variant of the common population growth projections.
Most population specialists use the medium vaiant with a maximum around 9 to 9.5 bn by 2050. Randers may be right about eight billion, but for different reasons, namely lacking resources. We think that the Post Peak Oil era may well lead to famines and die-off, so that the maximum world population could be attained around 2020-2030. Compare: scenario grpahs with sky-rocketing death rates & steep population decline; projections made by environmental scientists. and Post Peak Oil scenarios).
11) GDP will start shrinking at the onset of the Post Peak Oil Downslope, by 2020 at the latest, because modern society (including so-called "renewables") almost entirely depend on oil, for which there is no replacement, neither qualitatively nor quantitatively. Randers' GDP peak is 50 years later than environmental scientists expect. Some argue that the 2008 financial crisis is also the onset of world GDP peak.
12) Note the illusionary belief that (future) technology could repair and improve!
13) The so-called "energy intensity", i.e. energy use per GDP unit is, a flawed construct, since GDP includes both material production and non-material capital flows. Actual production of goods and services and energy use show the same incease rates.
14) Which are still way too high. Man-made emissions should be close to zero to avoid further increase of the CO2 content of the atmosphere. Unclear is whether Randers means CO2 equivalents, which include greenhouse gases other than CO2, such as methane and water vapour. Emissions may top. A run-away (self-reinforcing) temperature rise will mean the end of humanity.
15) Climate scientists actually see far higher temperature rises, assuming similar energy availabilities. Compare e.g. Carlo Carraro, President, University of Venice, Vice Chair, IPCC WG III, Chairman, Scientific Advisory Board, FEEM".
16) A stunning mystery how Randers manages to make factual 2012 resource scarcities such as water, food, minerals, disappear till after 2052.
17) Caring for the future is not a "sacrifice" but normal behaviour of parents towards their offspring. The root cause is the growth ideology and the belief in the fake axioms of the discipline of economics, that money could replace physical resources and higher demand would lead to innovation that would create new resources, eventhough they are physically depleted.
18) Not "people" but the People in Power dislike strong governance because it reduces their options for wealth accumulation. The PiP also control the major share of the media. So arguably only a replacement of the PiP by normal thinking citizens could lead to a real change of course, away from growth and towards contraction, relocalisation and demechanisation.
19) For Randers the footprint is the total human pressure on the planet. The so-called "ecological footprint" represents the renewable part only, i.e. animals, fish, plants, plus a theoretical part representing fossil fuel use. The "advantage" of slower GDP growth is a slower minerals depletion rate. But it will increase the destruction rates of nature, the depletion of fish stocks, arable lands, forests, and potable water, fossil water and aquifers. Because, contrary to Randers' belief, there will be resource sarcities of all kinds, principally food, water, energy, and shelter (i.e. effects of climate change).
20) Of course there are resource constraints. And their will be no auto workers, nowhere on the planet, by 2052, after the collapse for lack of resources! Reducing social frictions by more income equality does hardly influence total resource use.
21) Wrong. Many people have been saying for many years that the earth cannot support a world population all at western standards.)
22) Doubling incomes produces doubling resource use. Growth table.
23) No resource constraints? Really? Will there really be enough food, and fuels, and water, for the rich, on the downslope after peak oil? Or will there be endless inflation, and return to barter, because no money can buy stuff that is no longer available. Will the poor leave the rich in their mansions?
25) Why daughters? It takes mean as well! Why not Randers' own lifestyle? Each person born in a poor country increases the misery locally, in the slums of the poor world. All countries are already hugely overpopulated, i.e. people use far more resources than the earth can regenerate. On the downslope after the end of peak oil all regions will be gradually forced to live on local resources, since globalisation will be rolled back for lack of fuels for transportation. .
26) This is shallow simplification, since it's not simple at all. First, there is no replacement for fossil fuels. Second, stopping the use of fossil fuels means abolishing modernity and requires enormous restructuring, economic contraction with phasing out of most modern gadgets, including motorized transportation, demechanization and relocalisation.
27) The children who would be living two generations from today, in 2062, would live in a totally depleted and ruined world. It is possible that humanity, including the already living grandkids of the present people in power, will die-off on the post peak oil downslope.
28) We need to handle present problems. The core problem is the growth ideology of the people in power, the BPE Compact. They need to be replaced by people who can think scientifically and act on facts, not believe in fiction.
29) This is a statement against capitalism, against so-called "free trade" and the "free market", and against globalisation, which all lead to more inequality.
30) The Club of Rome is an elitist society with kings and queens in their 100 persons honorarymembership. The present CoR is firmly embedded in the growth belief system. They are still confounded with the 1972 CoR and are seldomly in the media. They may have some influence. But for the better? The CoR's unqualified praise for Randers' "2052" outlook does not bode well.
Jørgen Randers' presentation of his book "2052" on 7 May 2012 in Rotterdam: the SS "Rotterdam" on 7 May 2012 during the WWF 2012 annual conference:
•audio [12 MB] •video [new window] •transcript [top]
Graphs from the 2052 spreadsheet data from www.2052.info, similar to the ones shown during the presentation: