This paper looks at the controversial issue of climatic change. In particular, it develops the question of if and why earth's climate is changing? The roles of man, naturally occurring trends, and earth's cycles are considered, and an outlook for what can be expected in the near and distant future is given.
The uneasiness of modern man arises from a rupture between himself and nature that leaves him homeless within the universe...' William Barrett
Over the past years most individuals have become acutely aware that the intensity of human and economic development enjoyed over the 20th century cannot be sustained. Material consumption and ever increasing populations are already stressing the earth's ecosystems. How much more the earth can take remains a very heated issue. Here a look at the facts sheds some very dark light. In 1950, there were 2.5 billion people, while today there are 5.8 billion. There may well be 10 billion people on earth before the middle of the next century. Even more significant, on an ecological level, is the rise in per capita energy and material consumption which, in the last 40 years, has soared faster than the human population. "An irresistible economy seems to be on a collision course with an immovable ecosphere." Based on these facts alone, there is grave reason for concern. Taken further, it is even more frightening to note that, while man has affected the environment throughout his stay on earth, the impact has been most intense in the relatively short industrial era. Since the industrial revolution, and over the past century in particular, man's ecological footprint on the earth has quickly grown from that of a child to one of a giant. True, this period is heralded as an economic success story, which it certainly has been. However, many argue that it seems increasingly likely that the path to man's success will soon slope downward to his demise. The climate is changing, and so must we. This paper will look at the coin of climate change, where on the one side the human impact on the earth will be shown, and on the other, the impact of earth on man. Such a study is inevitably somewhat polemical, as it is still open to debate what the precise effects of man have and will be on climate change, and also what climate change will mean to man. It will also be quite general in analysis, as a paper of this scope can allow no more. What will be made clear, nevertheless, is that the relationship between man and earth is clearly changing. More specifically, man is outgrowing the earth. If the relationship is to continueindeed prosperthen a new balance needs to be found. The issue of climate change holds one important key to this balance.
Man and the Environment
Thomas Malthus is well remembered for his position as a doomsayer. When looking at the rates of population growth in Victorian England, he saw unchecked growth as leading to a rapid decline in the living standards of man. He blamed this decline on three main factors: the overproduction of offspring; the inability of natural resources to sustain rising human population; and the irresponsibility of the lower classes to prevent their overpopulation. Very generally, Malthus suggested that this trend could be controlled only if the family size of the lower classes was regulated so that poor families would not produce more children than they could support. He predicted that the demand for food would inevitably become far greater than the available supply of it. This prediction was rooted in the thought that population, when unchecked, increased geometrically; i.e., 2,4,8,16,32... while food products, or as he called it subsistence', only grew at an arithmetic rate; i.e, 1,2,3,4,5,...... He provided only a basic economic reason for this however, and generally attributed famine, poverty and other catastrophic occurrences to divine intervention (he was a very...