Category Archives: Population Pressure

Sustainable Development Goals

I’m not sure how many people know of SDGs, but for many years I’ve held that sustainable and development were opposites. Invariably development meant damaging or destroying a habitat and impacting any species that lived there. The root cause was usually money; which we cannot eat!

So what changed? In September (2015) 193 countries signed up to the United Nations Agenda 2030. This consists of 17 Goals (and numerous associated objectives). It’s an all-or-nothing approach. You cannot pick and choose ~ signing up means everything. You’ll see on the photo that these SDGs cover many of the problems that the Biodiversity Alliance is concerned about. Of utmost importance is Goal 14, as it’s the first time that life in the oceans has been considered. You’ll see too that climate action is included as Goal 13. The carbon intensive economies, especially USA & Australia, wanted this left out (see next paragraphs).

Looking at the long drawn-out process of doing anything about global climate change shows the challenges that we face. The greedy, and most polluting, nations do not want to change their behaviour, because they lose competitive advantage … but care nothing about impacts. These international treaties have two components: the one that everybody signs with such loud fanfares; and another implementing agreement. For climate change after the Rio Summit the Kyoto Protocol was the thing that mattered, yet it went nowhere; in fact George Bush jnr withdrew USA from the Protocol altogether.

In December 2015 the UN Climate Change treaty was signed in Paris; 197 countries agreed that climate change is actually a problem!!! What made Paris remarkable was that the delegates had a set of goals that their countries would offer to achieve. Cook Islands for instance pledged to cut greehouse gas emissions 81% by 2030. Some others were less helpful and said we’ll think about doing something by 2050! In April 2016 the Paris Agreement was ratified by 14 Pacific Island nations; Cook Islands didn’t. For the treaty to come into force it must be ratified by a number of countries, and the threshold should also exceed 55% of polluting emissions. In other words we need the big polluters ~USA & China~ onboard. [Although China recently overtook USA as the biggest overall polluter, we should not forget that China has 1.5 billion people and USA only 320 million. USA emits twice as much CO2 per capita than China does, and is also responsible for the bulk of historical carbon-based pollution].

Since April 2015 every month has set a new global temperature record. Climate change is real, serious and has already happened. Some media will say that the 12-month El Nino we’ve just experienced (12th May 2015 to around 20th May 2016) was the cause, but actually this only contributed about 20% ~ the bulk was the increased background temperatures. The only place left on the planet with atmospheric CO2 concentrations less that 400 ppm (parts per million) is the Arctic Region: northern hemisphere exceeded it in 2014; Antarctica & Mauna Loa in Hawai’i have just crossed the threshold. The Arctic will breach 400 ppm in about two years time; that’s the new normal.

The situation has become so serious that Ban Ki Moon (UN Secretary General) will call a special meeting in September 2016 asking that all Signatories to the Paris Accord attend and ratify it then and there: bringing it into force this year. We have no more time left. We MUST change!

So coming full circle to the SDGs. You’ll remember that these are to be completed by 2030. Imagine that! Poverty, hunger, inequality, climate change, sustainable resource use, universal secondary education etc all eradicated in 14 years! Curiously, the Country Leaders have to make an annual report at the UN explaining their progress or lack of it. The Country Leaders not their minions. I wonder if they’ll do it?

Overloaded truck - Main Khursheed

Overpopulation versus Conspiracy

Overloaded truck - Main Khursheed, http://chromesquirrels.com/

Calculations about global human consumption

Here I took GDP per capita figures to infer per capita consumption and ecological footprint. One could argue that comparing living standards on the basis of GDP might not be the best measure as it does not capture differences among countries in their cost of living, therefore GDP per capita on Purchasing Power Parity would be a more appropriate measure for comparing countries.

Although this is true, my primary objective is to use these figures to infer consumption and footprint levels impacting the Earth rather than making a precise comparison of living standards among different countries.

The definition of ‘GDP per capita’ by the World Bank:
“GDP per capita is gross domestic product divided by midyear population. GDP is the sum of gross value added by all resident producers in the economy plus any product taxes and minus any subsidies not included in the value of the products. It is calculated without making deductions for depreciation of fabricated assets or for depletion and degradation of natural resources.”

Data sets used:

http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD – GDP per capita
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.PP.CD – GDP per capita PPP (Purchasing Power Parity)
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD – Total GDP on market value
http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.POP.TOTL – Population

Data preparation and processing:

Countries listed in the data sets having no GDP per capita figure have been removed. Aggregated items like ‘Arab World’, ‘Low Income’, ‘South Asia’, etc. have also been removed. The remaining set of 183 countries has been sorted in ascending order based on ‘GDP per capita – 2014’.

The world average GDP per capita for 2014 according to the World Bank’s own calculation, also included in the initial data set, was 10,721 USD with a total of 7,261 billion people.

Calculations:

In the cleaned list of data sorted by countries’ ‘GDP per capita’, the closest value to the world average is Gabon‘s at 10,772 USD (preceded by Turkey at 10,515 USD, followed by Malaysia at 11,307 USD).

Calculating the sum of the countries’ total GDP in 2014 as an indicator of their consumption (proportionate to footprint) results in the following figures:
– Countries with above world average GDP per capita: 54,651 billion USD with a population of 1,596 billion people
– Countries with below world average GDP per capita: 21,783 billion USD with a total population of 5,487 billion people.

Here a clear sign of inequality can be seen, given that roughly 22% of the world population claims 2.5 times more GDP than the remaining 78% of the world population.

Let’s now calculate the total GDP if everybody with a current ‘below world average GDP per capita’ had exactly as much as Gabon, so that an invisible hand suddenly raised living standards in these countries:
– 5,487 billion people * 10,772 USD (GDP per capita in Gabon) = 59,106 billion USD
So the footprint of these countries would grow 3 times the size of their 2014 footprint.

If the countries with current ‘above average GDP per capita’ levels lived on the level of Gabon:
– 1,596 billion people * 10,772 USD (GDP per capita in Gabon) = 17,192 billion USD

The difference between the wealthier countries’ current footprint and their hypothetically lower ‘Gabon’s average’ footprint is 37,459 billion USD.

If we were to distribute this 37,459 billion USD among everybody so that each person had the same GDP per capita at the end, the result obviously would be the world average – very close to Gabon’s GDP per capita.

Would it be good enough?

It appears it wouldn’t, because at the same time we can observe that – as we speak – people from countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, etc. are not migrating to Gabon. They stop over in Turkey and in Greece only as long as absolutely necessary. They then move on to Germany, the UK, or France, where the average GDP per capita – in contrast with Gabon’s 10,772 USD – is 4 to 5 times higher (France: 42,733 USD, UK: 46,332 USD, Germany: 47,822 USD)

It is necessary to underline the importance of the AVERAGE GDP per capita figures used. So we are not talking about people like a bank CEO. We are talking about GDP per capita of an average person who most probably works 8-9 hours a day, 5 days a week, commutes 1-3 hours to their working place and lives in an average-sized apartment.

Conclusion:
If we distributed all the GDP of the wealthier top 22% among everybody, including those below the average GDP per capita level 78%, then
– we would have 7,261 people living on the average Gabon citizen’s level
– we would still consume 1.5 of planet Earth’s capacity, hence the Earth would be overpopulated by 50% even in this case
– we would effectively lose the required capital for large scale investments financing research, building eco-friendly power plants, etc.

If we expect the whole population of this planet to live on the level of Germany, then we could/should have a GDP amounting to 347,221 billion USD, which is 4.5 times higher than the current global GDP, using 4.5 * 1.5 = 6.75 of planet Earth’s capacity.

To put it plainly, and in a somewhat oversimplified context: If two people own some chickens, and one day they decide to eat all the eggs they can find plus one chicken as well (consuming more than their carrying capacity), and they continue this exercise every time they collect eggs, sooner or later there will be no chickens and no eggs, regardless of how they share the eggs and the meat of the chicken between each other.

This post is written as a reply to a comment stating: “Human overpopulation being an excuse to hidden conspiracies against more vulnerable groups.”

This statement is worth another post which I will share later. Here I only would like to highlight the following:

According to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2014 the global human footprint exceeded the Earth’s carrying capacity by 50%. (I think it is a very conservative approach, again another post later.)

Based on that and on the figures presented above, we can clearly see that sharing global GDP equally among the human population could bring everybody an average Gabon citizen’s living standard, which appears to be much lower than the living standard sought by ‘more vulnerable groups’, i.e. those who live below the world average.

Raising living standards above the world average requires additional resources, namely ecosystem resources. Our planet has to be enlarged, stretched. But it doesn’t work. Living standards currently can be increased mostly by making more damage to the planet, while populations are constantly and exponentially rising especially in vulnerable countries.

So it is quite clear that the current trajectory of global ‘development’ is completely unsustainable.

Of course it cannot be excluded that one day technologies and people’s ethical norms will be developed enough to secure reasonable living standards for many billions of people. Following current global trends, however, by the time this advanced level of technology and ethical norms arrive, all untouched regions will be destroyed and the majority of currently living species will be extinct, at least in the wild.

World Bank combined Per Capita GDP  and Population data extract 2016.03.14

World Bank combined Per Capita GDP and Population data extract 2016.03.14 (from the author)

Participants in the social media selfie campaign entitled This Is My #EarthStatement. © The Earth Statement

Planetary Transformation

Participants in the social media selfie campaign entitled This Is My #EarthStatement. © The Earth Statement

This is an interesting article, and we’d seen some of the ‘tipping points’ earlier this year. It clicks nicely with our recent discussion about The BA and the next step of our  journey. Certainly it has some good ideas. There are links in the story to other sites of interest. Mike 🙂 Transformation

NBSAP Forum - CBD, UNDP, UNEP

NBSAP Forum

: NBSAP Forum - CBD, UNDP, UNEP

Krishnan,

Thanks for this. Let me directly come to the point.

After having seen
– the encyclical from Pope Francis about Climate Change and protecting our environment,
– the speech from the Dalai Lama at Glastonbury also about Climate Change and lately
– the speech from Prince Charles about the pressing necessity of rewiring the global economy to halt the destruction of our planet

probably best moment could not be expected to direct the attention of NBSAP Forum members to the fact that their main objective: “Supporting countries in their critical work in reversing the global loss of biodiversity by 2020.” will be nothing more than an empty slogan unless all the stakeholders combine all their capacity to address the single most important cause for biodiversity loss: Anthropogenic pressure on this planet.

To tackle this issue I can see the following “sub-tasks”
– Work out the framework for a new global economic model replacing the current growth and profit centric exercise;
– Educate nations all around the globe about the finite nature of our planetary resources, and as part of this also educate them about their responsibility in the exploding population;
– Propose a mechanism to be implemented worldwide for Carbon Labeling every products and services.

Infrastructure for teaching, education are given in much more places than such kind of information is distributed in any way, so education can be started right now.

We, The Biodiversity Alliance can act as a facilitator to contact and communicating with stakeholders to deliver the above message.

I hope to see your thoughts on this. 🙂
Janos

Refugees: a global disaster

If this doesn’t make you wake up, then probably nothing will. Largely as a result of war, driven primarily by the USA and its various coalition allies, millions of innocent people around the world have been displaced and forced to flee their homes and homelands. Humans have a survival instinct and will do pretty much anything to continue life. As such, rules and supposed national borders mean very little.

Around 4 million people fleeing the war in Syria have already registered with UNHCR (United Nations high commissioner for refugees). This shows clearly that aggressor nations are happy to spend money causing mayhem, that they then use to gain business opportunities for their military-industrial complexes; but they are entirely neglecting the impact of their activities.  They then expect other people to pay for and accommodate the refugees. Add in to this environmental destruction and biodiversity loss, and gross greenhouse gas emissions then we can only conclude that these aggressor nations lack any morality. Actions speak louder than words.

The Amnesty International report can be downloaded from the first paragraph of the link below.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/15/worst-refugee-crisis-since-second-world-war-report-middle-east-africa-syria

At last! A hint of truth about hot air!

This short article touches on why we cannot achieve much in our world. The two most vocal powers are determined to do as little as possible. But why? Simple! It interferes with their abillity to make a profit. At the heart of the matter it has only ever been about money: but it is clear that capitalism ~ and the deliberate destruction of our planet to fuel that paradigm ~ has failed. The climate meeting in Paris this December is likely to achieve very little indeed 🙁

http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/uk-and-us-main-barriers-to-addressing-climate-change-survey-finds-10303279.html

Poyang lake, China - CCTV

China’s wetlands

: Poyang lake, China - CCTV

A useful article on China’s wetlands. I liked the fact that they report the impacts of human activities, such as Three Gorges dam, whereas western media tries to pretend we have no impact. Another article says that China has 10% of world’s wetlands.

http://english.cntv.cn/2015/05/19/VIDE1432040282288536.shtml

Barcroft Media, Haytham Pictures

Life-long learning opportunities for all

: Barcroft Media, Haytham Pictures

Good paper by Julia Gillard, also links off it to some others. How different this is from those terribly weak Millennium Development Goals. We now need something as strong for Biodiversity 🙂 Mike

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/18/julia-gillard-the-uns-new-education-goal-is-ambitious-and-audacious-it-has-to-be

Ortolan bunting - Roger Tidman, Corbis

Europe’s birds

: Ortolan bunting - Roger Tidman, Corbis

Early warning here. I imagine the report itself, once released, will be illuminating. There are several other links off the Guardian article below.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/may/14/a-third-of-europes-birds-under-threat-says-most-comprehensive-study-yet