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trueHUE® Water cooler stories
Even if our world is lucky enough to save itself from self-annihilation in the coming decades by avoiding a nuclear war, Diamond believes an end point may still come from a more obvious threat: climate change.
The starting point of this issue comes down to the increase of the world’s population – reaching 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. As it rapidly increases, so will the average person’s consumption and waste production. The most important waste being carbon dioxide (CO2), which is constantly being produced by the respiration of animals and being released into the atmosphere. But due to the pace of the Industrial Revolution, and the human population explosion that followed, natural CO2 release has been dwarfed by CO2 production.
Diamond points to several geo-engineering approaches to tackling climate change – such as the injection of particles into the atmosphere or extracting CO2 from the atmosphere to cool the earth’s surface.
Diamond points to the fact that Denmark, for instance, already gets much of its electricity from windmills in the North Sea, and that Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavik, gets its heating from geothermal energy.
Diamond then points to a multitude of nations that, for many decades, have generated most of their electricity requirements from nuclear reactors without a single accident. The list includes France, South Korea, Taiwan, and Finland.
Almost immediately, this sets up the premise for two further important questions: is every global citizen’s dream of achieving a First World lifestyle possible? And if so, what kind of impact will that have on our planet’s environment?
The world’s current population stands at 7.5 billion. But only a billion live in the First World, which consists of North America, Europe, and Japan. The ratio of per capita consumption rates between the First and Third World is presently at about 32:1.
the United States currently consumes 210 times more than Kenya does, and Italy, which has a population of 60 million, currently consumes twice as much as the entire African continent, which has a population numbering over 1 billion.
Indeed, Diamond argues that as Third World countries catch up to First World living standards, the coming decades are going to present an unavoidable problem: consumption rates across the globe, on average, will increase to 11 times the rate they presently operate at. That number is the equivalent of 80 billion people consuming with the eyes, ears, tastes, and smells of aspiring bourgeois comfort.
“There are some people who will say this century is going to be the Chinese century or the Asian century, I think no,” says Diamond with assured self-confidence. “This century is going to remain the American century and the western European century.”