Climate change is the greatest example of market failure we have ever seen. - NICHOLAS STERN, FORMER WORLD BANK CHIEF ECONOMIST
Today, our world is headed towards a crisis where a booming population is faced with imminent threats of global warming, including rising seas, extreme weather conditions, and environmental disasters, as Hurricane Sandy recently evidenced. Once lush lands are drained dry of life from water scarcity and droughts. If there is water, much of it can be filled with chemicals and sickly toxins (e.g., mercury, lead, and cadmium) from billowing industries and factories. In China, 78 percent of the water from its rivers is not fit for human consumption, and in India, 70 percent of the water is polluted. These externalities brought by globalization are wrecking havoc in our natural habitat. This paper shows what we are doing, can do and will to thwart or repair the damage. It analyzes current and historical trends to show that this world is on a path towards a more sustainable 2050, but it also recognizes that more needs to be done to ensure eco-longevity. These patterns reveal that we will fight climate change, but how quickly we do it is another question, and this paper offers recommendations. As writer Matt Ridley argues in The Rational Optimist, the world can “pull out of the current crisis because of the way that markets in goods, services and ideas allow human beings to exchange and specialize honestly for the betterment of all.” Thus, we will get out of the crisis, but we also cannot cure it by simply relying on Ridley’s assumption that “market” forces will save us. Instead, we must analyze the trends, be creative and take action in beating this sustainability crisis at an accelerated rate. This essay is organized into eight parts. First, it describes the planet’s landscape in 2050 if we continue with business as usual and do not tackle climate change. The second part discusses how the world is not headed to a “business as usual” outcome as described in the first section. Instead, as demonstrated by an economic theory, the Kuznets curve, environmental degradation will be tackled to a degree – especially as many countries become wealthier and take action. The next sections analyze successful trends towards sustainability in five main areas: the international community; government; business (technology); civil society; and individuals. These five elements will respectively make up the paper’s sections three to seven, and will have subsections to describe further tactics and examples that can be or have been implemented to fuel sustainability. It explains how there is a viral trend of sustainability by exploring these five elements, but more must be done to ensure an expedited green movement. This will be followed by a conclusion, part eight, that will analyze the trends of adopting renewable energy to provide a rough calculation of what the world’s net renewable electricity generation will look like in 2050. This number is starkly different from that of the International Energy Agency’s (IEA), and it becomes further disparate if suggestions made in this paper are adopted to create variable and appreciable changes in the planet’s consumption of renewables. Finally, this paper will explain how the five category recommendations discussed in this paper are interrelated and that their complimentary relationships are ultimately key to not only the adoption of clean energy, but to combating climate change. Part 1: The World in 2050 and What to Expect if We Continue with Business as Usual The landscape of the world will look very different in 2050 than how it looks today. Currently, we have a population of about 7 billion people, by 2050, the United Nations (UN) estimates that it will grow by about 25 percent to around 9.3 billion. A UN report predicts that 6.3 billion of these people will be living in cities. However, over time, this study estimates that the population will grow at...
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