In 1970 the Club of Rome commissioned a study of the effect and limits of continued world-wide economic growth. The findings were published in 1972 as a report entitled "The Limits to Growth" (LTG)1. The highlight of the report was the use of "System Dynamics" to build a global computer model incorporating the most important components that determine and ultimately limit world economic growth.
The standard run of the world model produced a set of variables plotted from 1900 to 2100. World model standard run
Taking into account the forecasts of the World Model, the year 2000 sits at the peak of world resources availability. It shows that from 2000 the rate of discovery of new resources falls below the rate of their consumption, notably in the case of petroleum, which is of course non-renewable.
The forecast breakdown in the world’s economy is caused by a combination of rising population and increasing consumption of resources by a favoured minority. As resources become scarcer, the amount of capital required to retrieve new leaner discoveries becomes uneconomically high. Such resources as remain will be sought competitively and no doubt fought over. In the case of energy, more energy may well be required to create new sources than the energy thus obtained.
The key factor is the fall-off in the effectiveness of capital. The ability to correct situations will be lost. Improvements in public services and the urban environment will be non-attainable.
Since there is no hope of planning for the survival of an over-populated world, the palliatives put forward by the World Dynamics modellers (See "Beyond the limits" 2) for universal salvation will not succeed - the necessary political co-operation between competing economies is unlikely to happen. For instance, the United States of America under President George W Bush made it clear that its foreign, economic and environmental policies will be based entirely on self-interest. Barack Obama is pointing the US to more conciliatory policies, but may not prevail.
From 2050, the world population, having risen to around 9 to 10 billion from the current 6 billion, cannot be sustained and by 2100 has dropped back to 6 billion. The losses are caused by starvation and disease in the third world. The population of the developed nations will remain roughly the same throughout the 21st century at 1.2 billion: that of the developing nations will be halved from around 8 to 9 billion in 2050 to between 4 and 5 billion by 2100.
In 2004 "Limits to Growth - The 30-Year Update" 2 was published to restate the 1972 argument and to offer data and analysis in contradiction of prevailing political concepts of continuing economic growth. It also provided an opportunity to review the original projections and compare them with the equivalent in 2004. The current world population was accurately predicted to rise from 3.9 billion in 1972 to 6 billion in 2000, as was the rise in grain production from 1.8 billion tonnes in 1972 to 3 billion tonnes in 2000.
But nothing has been done in the interim to change the impetus towards global collapse. To attempt to steer the world away from economic disaster was perhaps too ambitious - a more likely accomplishment is that of persuading a UK government to plan the survival of its people through the 21st Century, which is the task of The Busby Report.
Britain is currently not self-sufficient and unless prepared will not avoid the consequences of global collapse. The first step for the United Kingdom is to recognise that there is a coming problem and that a national plan for survival is needed. The second step is to draw one up. In 2002, when this website was opened, it was assumed that we had only 10 years to put the plan in place. By 2013 a moderate number of wind generators are in place and incentives to install solar PV instituted, but no comprehensive plan for survival is muted.
We need to make use of currently available resources to install the capital plant needed to be ready for living without the said resources. If we wait until the rest of the world catches on, the resources we need in the interim will be approaching exhaustion and will be too expensive.
We also have a huge task in preparing the British people for a change in life-style before a more unpleasant change is forced on them by circumstances and to be able to re-direct capital and resources in a direction not currently taken, especially as it may contrast with that taken by the rest of Europe or of the world.
To a certain extent the exercise of free-market economics will re-allocate financial resources as circumstances force the pace. For instance, crude oil prices are expected to rise markedly in the first quarter of the century, anticipating the onset of exhaustion. Motor fuel consumers are likely to protest and insist on tax reductions. Had they been more aware of forthcoming shortages and exhaustion of reserves, they would have been more likely to accept a fuel tax escalator. But for reasons of defending economic growth policies, the politicians do not wish to put this forward. The need for high fuel taxation is justified as a means for gathering funds for health and pensions rather than that of reducing demand and giving incentive to the development of alternative fuels.
In 2000 the United States CIA issued a report “Global Trends 2015” stating that in spite of a 60% increase in demand for petroleum products, energy resources will be sufficient to meet demand. In 2001 3 the emphasis was that expansion in Asia, led by China and India, would lead to dramatic increases in energy consumption, but that meeting the increase will pose no major challenge. This unrealistic forecast is probably politically inspired, since a doom-laden prognosis would have encouraged crude oil price rises by both OPEC and non-OPEC oil producers. Fears of exhaustion would stimulate an escalation in petroleum prices with consequent economic difficulties for the USA.
The UK Ministry of Defence 4 has issued a report "Global Strategic Trends - out to 2040" suggesting that
" Oil will remain the dominant fuel, given its importance in the transportation sector and the availability of infrastructure that supports its distribution. However, by 2020, production growth of easily accessible oil and gas is unlikely to match demand growth and therefore coal usage is likely to show the greatest proportional increase by over a third in absolute terms." and
"Energy supply will struggle to meet growing demand leading to upward pressure on prices. When supply and demand for energy are closely matched, rapid increases in demand to which supply can not react quickly can lead to large variations in price; therefore markets are likely to be volatile."
The UK Cabinet Office published "The Energy Review 9 " in April 2002 which expressed concern for the security of oil supplies, but considered supplies of gas would be secured by market "liberalisation" of continental supplies, mainly from countries of the Former Soviet Union.
If we wait for market mechanisms to respond to shortages of oil and gas and to stimulate investment in alternative technologies, it will mean that we will come to the point of exhaustion in parallel with the rest of the world and the United Kingdom will be just as crippled as all the others. In wartime, resources are directed as needed and it is not difficult to obtain the necessary public consensus by good leadership. By providing information as to the reasons, it will be possible to argue for the imposition of taxes aimed at a strategic move from dwindling resources. This is not an argument for a command economy in the failed communist mode. National goals can be achieved by fiscal means, so that businesses can react to disincentives in the use of non-renewable fuels and to incentives for the use of alternatives.
As we face a future of global collapse in 20 to 40 years time, surely if the situation is properly explained and a sensible and considered plan for survival through the 21st Century is promoted, the nation will rise to the task. The introduction of the Internet has fortuitously come at the right time to allow information and exchange of ideas to take place. The timetable has started.