The Business-As-Usual Approach
This is another name for “doing nothing” – continuous economic growth, delaying any tangible action by using stalling tactics to debate and argue, etc…Many analysts predict that due to government and markets inability to divert from short term thinking, that is, the adherence to the discount rate, pollution will be allowed to continue and peak oil will continue to be denied until it is too late. The consequences of this inaction could possibly look like this:
- Climate change will not be ameliorated by international agreement. This is due to the cooperation problems identified in the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” game, national and corporate self-interest, a lack of urgency due to the hyperbolic discount function mentioned above, and the complete lack of any realistic substitute for fossil fuels.
- The general replacement of declining oil supplies by biofuels will not succeed due to the low ERoEI of such fuels.
- The global impact of Peak Oil will be made worse as producing nations retain more of their declining oil output to satisfy domestic demand. This will drain the international oil market of most supplies by 2040 or so.
- Over the next 25 years the decline in oil exports will trigger repeated rises in world oil prices. Those prices will in turn trigger waves of economic instability, with the prices falling during recessions/depressions and surging again during attempted recoveries.
- The amount of capital available for new equipment manufacturing and infrastructure maintenance and development will decline in a stair-step fashion during the repeated recessions, as the global debt bubble implodes.
- Nuclear power will not be developed any further because of public resistance due to the perceived risk. Some exceptions may occur in autocratic, centrally planned economies (esp. Russia and China).
- While much renewable power will be installed in some places, in global terms renewable power will not save the day. This will be because of the lack of capital, the huge disparity between current renewable generating capacity and power needs, the inability to upgrade or even maintain national electrical grids, and the difficulty in addressing some transportation problems with electricity.
- Most new electrical generation capacity will be fuelled by natural gas and coal.
- There will be spreading electrical grid breakdowns as poorly-maintained infrastructure fails.
- The human food supply will fail to keep pace with population growth, probably starting within the next two to five years. Despite international aid, famines will begin to spread out of sub-Saharan Africa into the rest of that continent and Asia. Pockets of starvation will begin to appear in developed nations over the next decade or two.
- International tensions will rise over access rights to water, oil and gas. Regional and civil wars will become more common.
- Populations will panic, and demand strong protective measures from their governments. This will result in an increase in repressive, bellicose authoritarian regimes. Asymmetric warfare will increase.
- The use of transportation to move food from consuming to producing regions will become increasingly difficult, unreliable and expensive. This will cause a re-localization of food production, but some regions will not have enough land, water or skills – or a suitable climate – to permit the replacement of imported food supplies.
- Sanitation infrastructure will suffer for the same reason as electrical grids – the progressive lack of capital for maintenance and refurbishment. Sanitation failures will trigger disease outbreaks.
- Fertility rates and birth rates are likely to plummet world-wide over the next 30 years, due to the same influences seen in Russia from 1987 to 1993 during the break-up of the Soviet Union. These changes will largely be driven by personal choice rather than centralized planning and legislation.
- Mortality rates will begin to climb somewhat later, due to food supply problems and the regional spread of communicable “breakdown” diseases like cholera, typhoid and dysentery. The spread of diseases will be aided by the breakdown of local and regional sanitation and health care systems.
- Population growth will slow faster than the UN currently projects. World population may reach a peak of between 7 and 8 billion between 2030 and 2040, and then begin to decline. The speed of the decline is unknowable. The world population will begin to stabilize as it drops below two billion.
- The world’s political landscape will undergo massive changes. In some cases there will be fragmentation as regional populations secede or are increasingly isolated by traditional geographic barriers (mountains, rivers, lakes, oceans and deserts). In other cases there will be amalgamations as wars of conquest are fought over resource access rights.