The uncomfortable fact

The uncomfortable fact, which is ignored or denied by both ends of the environmental debate, is that an energy-intensive lifestyle of the kind enjoyed in the rich parts of the world cannot be extended to a human population of nine or 10 billion, the level forecast in UN studies for the middle of this century. In terms of resources, human numbers are already unsustainable. Global warming is the flipside of worldwide industrialisation, a side-effect of the dash for growth, and the reserves of oil and natural gas on which industry depends are peaking at just the point when demand for them is rising fast.

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Green activists, free-market economists and religious fundamentalists may not seem to have much in common, but they are all agreed there can be no such thing as overpopulation, or at any rate, nothing that can’t be solved by better distribution, faster growth or a change in human values.

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