News / Science & Technology

Soaring Population, Climate Change Stress Resources

Cooling towers of a power plant and chemical factory in China. Among the 1,200 proposed coal-fired power plants 76 percent will be built in China and India, already among the top emitters of climate changing greenhouse gases.
Cooling towers of a power plant and chemical factory in China. Among the 1,200 proposed coal-fired power plants 76 percent will be built in China and India, already among the top emitters of climate changing greenhouse gases.
Rosanne Skirble
Population growth threatens to strain Earth’s water and food resources. By 2050, nine billion people will be living on the planet, up from seven billion today. 

The problem facing the world community is how to meet those needs while reining in the global greenhouse gases warming the earth.

Advances and losses

Progress has been made. Since world leaders met in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the first Earth Summit on Sustainable Development 20 years ago, global poverty has fallen by half, per capita income has doubled and life expectancy has increased by four years.

Yet those advances have come at a very high cost to the global environment, says Andrew Steer, president of the World Resources Institute.

Soaring Population Stresses World's Resources
Soaring Population Stresses World's Resourcesi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“We’ve had 3.3 million deaths every year over the last 20 years from pollution. We’ve been losing forests, 13 million hectares every year. That’s the size of England every single year. We’ve had a 50 percent increase in carbon dioxide and we’re now heading towards a world in which average temperatures will be four degrees Celsius above what they were historically.”

Currently 1.3 billion people lack electricity, even as a burgeoning middle class - expected to grow from 2 billion to 5 billion people by 2050 - is demanding more electric power.

Steers says 1,200 coal-fired power plants have been proposed globally in 59 countries, largely in China and India, two of the world’s biggest sources of carbon emissions. He notes renewable energy investment fell in 2012 for the first time in eight years.

But Steers is encouraged by government policies which could help reverse that trend.

“Over 100 countries now have renewable energy targets. And so what we’re looking out for this year is whether some of those new policies have bite and whether we are going to cross a threshold so that renewable energy is recognized as a truly economically viable solution.”

Renewal bubble

Ken Green, who directs the Center for Energy and Natural Resources Studies at the Fraser Institute, a free-market public policy research group based in Canada, says the market share for renewables is slim and doesn’t see them making headway any time soon.​
Natural gas, one of the most abundant energy sources in the world, is favored by many nations as a transition fuel to a greener economy, as shown in this drilling rig in Uchsay, Uzbekistan. (Anatoliy Rakhimbayev)Natural gas, one of the most abundant energy sources in the world, is favored by many nations as a transition fuel to a greener economy, as shown in this drilling rig in Uchsay, Uzbekistan. (Anatoliy Rakhimbayev)
x
Natural gas, one of the most abundant energy sources in the world, is favored by many nations as a transition fuel to a greener economy, as shown in this drilling rig in Uchsay, Uzbekistan. (Anatoliy Rakhimbayev)
Natural gas, one of the most abundant energy sources in the world, is favored by many nations as a transition fuel to a greener economy, as shown in this drilling rig in Uchsay, Uzbekistan. (Anatoliy Rakhimbayev)

Instead he expects what he calls the renewal bubble to burst.

“The growth in green investments that have been inflated by governments spending themselves into huge debts and deficits, and from the look of things in Europe and in the U.S., all that debt-fueled spending is going to have to come to an end sooner rather than later, based on their economies," Green says. "So I'd expect green investments to decline as more private investors realize that it’s a highly uncertain place to put your money.”

Sustainable energy by 2030

In 2012, the United Nations launched an initiative to provide universal access to energy, double energy efficiency and double the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030.

The World Bank is a partner in the effort. Rachel Kyte, the bank's vice president for Sustainable Development, says to meet those goals and reduce the risks of runaway climate change, nations must consider a greener energy mix that includes renewable sources and natural gas.
In a remote village in Fiji, children get a chance to learn about renewable energy as part of their curriculum and try out a new solar powered lamp donated to the school. (Energy for All)In a remote village in Fiji, children get a chance to learn about renewable energy as part of their curriculum and try out a new solar powered lamp donated to the school. (Energy for All)
x
In a remote village in Fiji, children get a chance to learn about renewable energy as part of their curriculum and try out a new solar powered lamp donated to the school. (Energy for All)
In a remote village in Fiji, children get a chance to learn about renewable energy as part of their curriculum and try out a new solar powered lamp donated to the school. (Energy for All)

“There have been a series of very big natural gas finds offshore of the developing world. That becomes a huge opportunity to substitute for coal and to move to a greener energy mix in the short-to-medium term," Kyte says. "We’ve seen what gas has done for the U.S. emissions profile and for the U.S. economy and gas is changing the geopolitics of energy as a result.”

Infrastructure gap

The World Bank calculates there is a one-trillion-dollar gap in financing for infrastructure in the developing world. In spite of global economic uncertainty, Kyte says, ways must be found to cut investment risk.  

She suggests, for example, tapping the $500 billion industrial nations spend for fossil fuel subsidies.

"You can take that $500 billion and repurpose it to make the kinds of investments in the green infrastructure that you need for the future and the competitive jobs that people need to have in the future."
Scientists predict more extreme weather events like Typhoon Bopha which struck the Philippines in 2012, devastating homes. (OCHA)Scientists predict more extreme weather events like Typhoon Bopha which struck the Philippines in 2012, devastating homes. (OCHA)
x
Scientists predict more extreme weather events like Typhoon Bopha which struck the Philippines in 2012, devastating homes. (OCHA)
Scientists predict more extreme weather events like Typhoon Bopha which struck the Philippines in 2012, devastating homes. (OCHA)

Putting climate on political agenda

Scientists are predicting more extreme weather like the droughts, storms and wildfires that spread across the globe in 2012 as the planet heats up with man-made carbon emissions from factories, cars and buildings.

Kyte says more frequent and severe weather may be the impetus for more climate-savvy environmental policies.

“This is going to be a repeated pattern through 2013 and 2014, the intensity of these weather events. And nobody is immune. Nobody is immune. And so this will continue I think to push the [climate] agenda to the top of political priorities.”

Kyte says what needs to be done is mostly known. What is missing is the political will to act.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: John
January 25, 2013 6:56 PM
If you add up the CO2 separated from gas before it's piped to the consumer and the methane that escapes during production, the global warming effect can be greater than that of coal. This doesn't count the radon, which can provide as much radiation per kwhr as coal, and certainly more than is emitted by nukes. As gas, burned very inefficiently, is necessary to back up windmills and solar panels, renewables will not stop the production of greenhouse gases.

by: Kitagawa Keikoh from: JPN
January 18, 2013 7:02 PM
Is it OK we consider only CO2 emmision as the cause of the globa climate change?
Does burning natural gas cause bad influence against the earth?
All human activity is the cause of the climate change. We must reduce global population dramatically.

by: Metatropian from: Washington, DC
January 18, 2013 3:38 PM
7 billion. There are 7 billion people alive on earth.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More