Run for the hills: Yet another study informs us of the imminent end of life as we know it

posted at 10:01 am on May 17, 2012 by Erika Johnsen

The end is nigh! Or so our esteemed environmental prophets are telling us… yet again.

Humans will need two Earths to support our lifestyles by 2030 because we are draining the world’s resources so quickly, a new report has warned.

Produced by the World Wildlife Fund, the Zoological Society of London, the Global Footprint Network and the European Space Agency, the 2012 Living Planet Report measures humans’ ecological footprint on the planet.

At the moment, the picture is bleak, according to Jim Leape, Director General of WWF International, with resources being drained 50 per cent faster than they can be replenished.

He said: “We’re all familiar with the stories of what we’re doing to Planet Earth, the ways in which we’re changing the climate, depleting the world’s fisheries, destroying the world’s forests. …

“The report tells us that we’re already using the earth’s resources 50 per cent faster than it can be replenished, and that, if we don’t change our ways, by 2030 we will need two planets to support us.”

Over the decades, doomsayers have predicted that the growing pace of human activity simply isn’t sustainable. Catastrophes ranging from war, famine, and even human extinction are just a few years ’round the corner, they insist, mainly stemming from a crisis in global energy supplies. They imagine that the finite supply of oil on earth and our increasing production means that we’re sucking the planet dry with alarming rapidity.

The greens are especially freaked out these days, as economic growth in the population-dense countries of China and India means more of their citizens are becoming wealthy enough to afford cars and electricity and other modern conveniences (quelle horreur!), adding to worldwide oil demand. Yet, we’ve sailed right past these supposed apocalyptic moments every time, with little fanfare.

The date of the predicted peak has moved over the years. It was once supposed to arrive by Thanksgiving 2005. Then the “unbridgeable supply demand gap” was expected “after 2007.” Then it was to arrive in 2011. Now “there is a significant risk of a peak before 2020.” …

The first was in the 1880s, when production was concentrated in Pennsylvania and it was said that no oil would be found west of the Mississippi. Then oil was found in Texas and Oklahoma. Similar fears emerged after the two world wars. And in the 1970s, it was said that the world was going to fall off the “oil mountain.” But since 1978, world oil output has increased by 30%.

Just in the years 2007 to 2009, for every barrel of oil produced in the world, 1.6 barrels of new reserves were added. And other developments—from more efficient cars and advances in batteries, to shale gas and wind power—have provided reasons for greater confidence in our energy resiliency. Yet the fear of peak oil maintains its powerful grip.

President Obama is partial to this sort of scaremongering rhetoric, too. A couple months back, when he was trotting out the energy-theme from his campaign-distractions wheelhouse, he was fond of iterating sentences along the line of: “After all, oil is a finite resource.  We consume more than 20 percent of the world’s oil, but have less than 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.” …What the what? Anyone who knows anything about energy knows that this statement assumes proven reserves — but new discoveries and further technological/economic innovations are making more oil available for extraction all the time. Oil resources might be finite, but our proven reserves sure aren’t. For instance, just last week, the GAO announced that the Green River Formation in a few of our Western states is sitting atop oil supplies greater than the rest of the world’s current proven reserves, combined. So much for that “2 percent” nonsense.

And, by the way, what might be this new study suggest as the solution to this ostensible emergency?

Mr Leape stresses that the starting point for reducing our impact on the planet is to end our love affair with fossil fuels – “the energy technology of the 20th century” – and switch to renewable energy.

Mm hmm. Of course, I’m sure that his proposal is a completely dispassionate, not-at- all political exhortation, riiight?

Here’s the real deal: The earth has never been a better place in which to live. Yes, I said it. Worldwide, people live longer, consume more calories, earn more money, bury fewer children, and enjoy more modern conveniences than ever before — even though the world population has more than doubled in less than half a century. And thanks to ever-improving efficiency, innovation, and new technologies, life can continue to get better, and our demand for oil may even flatten out eventually. What’s with all the gloom and doom? If catastrophe really is on it’s way, it’ll be because nobody seems to be able to lock it up and get their fiscal house in order, not because we need a second planet earth.

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