Chatham House has an article on Demographics which set me thinking. How important is the ageing population for its effect on the environment (e.g. global warming)? Old people consume but don't produce. However governments see full employment as a key goal. When an old person dies that reduces consumption. But the matching fall in production doesn't happen. Either automatic processes or government action restores production (making everyone else richer).
Of course this will be irrelevant in many possible future circumstances where production is limited by energy not labour shortages. In that case population at any age is irrelevant to pollution.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Viticulture! I can't believe the way people who want the world to stop burning fossil fuel think it is some sort of minor matter, so that it is worth mentioning all sorts of trivia like the impact on tourism here or increased disease there. If we stopped burning fossil and nuclear fuel tomorrow (as the lunatic fringe wants) then the carrying capacity of the world would be much less than a billion people. At least they'd all be living close to nature: too close for comfort.
IF we find something cheaper than coal for energy (our only chance to stop burning coal) then just the cost of changing infrastructure will be huge and mostly hit the poor. How much are people prepared to pay to save the world? A major Australian mining union has said "not one job". America has no interest in growing food instead of transport fuel despite the visible impact of rising food prices on world stability. Just the minor rise in energy costs, from initial (ill-advised) renewable subsidies and requirements, has annoyed the Australian electorate enough that the latest polls suggest the government will be wiped out in the next election, if they make it that far.
The world needs cheap energy. It can only come from Nuclear. Nuclear design is a nightmare since elements keep changing and having different chemical and physical characteristics. And clearly we need to prove safety, since "just trust us" isn't going to work. The way to prove safety is to make lots of identical small reactors so that we can test them in extreme conditions [on a remote island]. And this needs to be done in a very open way. "OK, here's our simulation of what will happen when we do this. Now let's actually do it, and everyone can watch live on the Internet".
sorry about the rant.
[response to Azimuth project discussion entry]