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Climate Change and Renewable Energy: Saving Our Planet for Future Generations


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The Demographic Transition

The Population Growth Cycle

With global warming rapidly taking place, can we feed the world’s growing population? (Photo credit: mattlemmon)

By John J. Hidore

While the population is growing in most countries, it is in these less developed countries that the greatest growth on the planet is taking place.With the effects of global warming, feeding the earth’s population will be a future challenge!

November 22, 2013–In the year 2013 the global population is growing at about a quarter million each day. This is a recent trend as through most of human history the population grew very slowly. Humans began as hunters and gatherers and evolved through farmers and herders to the consumer culture of the 21st century. Through this process, life style population growth rates changed following a widely accepted model known as the demographic transition. The model of this shift shows a change from high birth and death rates to low birth and death rates. The model of the demographic transition is based upon events in Europe and involves several stages.

Hunters and Gatherers
In the first stage, humans were hunters and gatherers–until fairly recently on the earth’s timeline. Their food supply was subject to the whims of weather and other elements. Birth rates and death rates were high and varied widely. The annual rate of growth was close to zero. However, as new tools were created that increased the food supply, the population grew slowly, but at an increasing rate. About 10,000 years ago humans changed from being hunters and gatherers to farmers and herders. Once the agricultural revolution got underway, the rate of technological development began to increase steadily. Agriculture gave people control over their food supply, as did the domestication of animals. The increasing technology greatly increased the food supply and consequently the growth rate. Around 1650 the human population reached the 500 million mark.

The Industrial Revolution And Population Growth
The second stage of the demographic transition began with the onset of the industrial revolution. The Industrial Revolution began in what is now Britain, in the period from 1783 to 1812. The industrial revolution resulted in significantly lengthening the average life span, increasing the rate of population growth. The impact of the industrial revolution on the global population was phenomenal! It had taken hundreds of thousands of years for the population to reach 500 million. It took less than 200 years to add the next 500 million.

During this second stage, death rates fell rapidly due to better food and advances in medicine and public health. In much of Western Europe, the death rate dropped sharply, but the birth rate stayed high. This greatly increased the rate of growth from approximately 0.1 percent per year in 1750 to about 1.4 percent by the third quarter of the 1800’s. The growth rate in these countries exploded and the rate of population growth increased rapidly, greatly increasing the earth’s total population. The growth rate in European countries and their colonies was far greater than in the rest of the world at this time.

Increasing Life Span
The third stage of growth occurred when the birth rate dropped, while the death rate continued to decline, but slower than before. By the last quarter of the 1800’s, the birth rate in Europe began to decline, thus slowing the growth rate. The exact reasons for the drop in the birth rate is not known. In this third stage, the birth and death rates were low, with the birth rate only slightly higher than the death rate. Once again, the difference between the birth and death rate was small, both at much lower levels than in the first stage. The drop in death rates resulted in the average human life-span increasing from about 30 to more than 70 years. Each country went through the demographic transition at a different time and rate. By 1930 the industrialized countries of Europe had passed through the transition and reached the final stage of low growth rates. Those countries which have joined the industrial nations since 1930 have also gone through the demographic transition. Since 1900, growth rates in the industrialized countries have averaged between 0.25 and l.0 percent. The stages merge from one to the next,  but do not take place everywhere at the same time.
Population Growth Rate of Undeveloped Countries
Most of the nearly 200 nations existing today have not reached the third phase. Many less developed countries have not changed to an industry based economy. These countries are largely still agricultural. They have remained in the second stage, which is one of high birth rates and declining death rates. Where basic health improvement measures have been put in place, the death rate has dropped substantially. The large gap means a high growth rate. The global average growth rate in 2011 was some 1.2%. The CIA Fact book estimates the growth rate in Zimbabwe at 4.38% and that of Libya at 4.85%. This is in comparison to the United Kingdom at 0.55% and the United States at 0.9% While the population is growing in most countries, it is in these less developed countries that the greatest growth on the planet is taking place.

The highest growth rates are occurring in nations that are already in danger of becoming failed states. In many of these nations the ruling elite have little desire to support family planning, making the economic and social problems worse. Birth rates could drop substantially and rapidly, stabilizing the global population at 0%, but this seems highly unlikely in the near future. With the effects of global warming, feeding the earth’s population will be a future challenge!

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Global warming and climate change

Global mean surface temperature difference fro...

Global mean surface temperature difference from the average for 1880–2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By John Hidore
October 5, 2013—A Greek philosopher named Heraclitus (c. 500 BC) is reported to have stated “there is nothing permanent except change.” Nothing could be more certain than continuing change in the global environment. It has been changing since the formation of the planet some billions of years ago. What is significant about change today is the rate at which the planet is changing. Now hardly a day goes by without world news focusing on some event on the planet marked by changes in our environment. These events include global warming, acid rain, ozone depletion, deforestation, and the elimination of species. Any change in our environment has an impact on the human species and changes effect more people each day than ever before in history. The reason is simple. The global population is growing at a tremendously rapid rate. Next to the exploding number of humans on the planet, global warming and climate change is in all likelihood the most pressing problem facing every living species on the planet.

In 1896 Svanti Arrenius revealed that the likely effect of adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere would warm global temperatures. Carbon dioxide has now reached the highest level in the past million years and growth has exceeded the forecasts made just 13 years ago. As a consequence global temperatures are climbing faster than at any time in history. The decade of 2003-2012 was the warmest ever recorded in the United States and June 2012 through August 2012 global temperatures were the warmest ever recorded.

The volume of climatic data documenting the warming of the planet has exploded. Automated weather stations are now present in many isolated areas of the land masses. Data from the atmosphere over the ocean has also grown dramatically. Not only is more data available from shipping, but floating buoys record and transmit data to collection centers. The number of satellites that monitor atmospheric data have grown rapidly and the variety of data has expanded. New environmental oriented satellites are sending online data and many are in planning.

A big change in recent decades has been the increasing international concern that Earth’s climate is warming and the impact of that warming. Climate change and global warming are common items in the news media. Global conferences such as the Kyoto Conference, and the work of Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change present a consensus that the problem of climate change is a very serious one. Closely paralleling the prevailing viewpoint of most world scientists was the recent action taken by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. This group of scientists developed the Doomsday Clock in 1947 based on the threat of nuclear war. Midnight on the clock is the projected time of global catastrophe. In January of 2007 the clock was moved forward from seven minutes until midnight, to five minutes before the hour. The acceleration towards midnight was made when global warming was added to the nuclear threat.

Almost as soon as the world became aware of the problem of global warming, energy and automobile companies began a major effort to discredit the scientific data. The effort continues today. For years the propaganda was aimed at denying that carbon dioxide was in fact increasing. When in the last few years the evidence became overwhelming, the propaganda changed to refuting the evidence that the increase in carbon dioxide was a function of the burning of fossil fuels. They have taken the position that the changes are natural changes with nothing to do with human activity. Today this campaign is still proceeding with millions of dollars being spent to prevent any action being taken to reduce carbon emissions. Only when enough people demand that energy polices and consumption change will anything be done to stop global warming.


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Divest From Fossil Fuels

Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels (Photo credit: London Commodity Markets)

By Lin Smith May 5, 2013—In the past 6 months organizers have begun campaigns on universities and in cities across the U. S. to divest in fossil fuels. Over 300 campuses and 100 cities are now looking at divesting and this movement has spread to Australia, Nederlands, and Britain. University students have stated, “It’s wrong for public institutions to teach and support environmental awareness but yet profit from damaging the environment.” The goal of the Divestment Campaign 350 is to “Challenge individuals and institutions to sell their stock in oil, gas, and coal producing companies because their current business model is leading to global catastrophe.” It’s the opposite of investment. It’s the movement currently taking place across the United States to divest their endowment funds from fossil fuels and place them in investments that support a healthy planet. What is a university endowment fund? Each university has money that is invested for the long term in different ways, much in oil and gas. It is money received from donors with the stipulation that the principal stay invested but the other moneys can be used as a never-ending source of support for purposes of the university. In 2007, over 60 universities had endowment investments of $1 billion or more. It is used to support faculty, programs, and student scholarships. This is the money that students across the United States are demonstrating for, to encourage the universities to sell their stock in fossil fuels to promote environmental change and place their investments in planet-healthy funds. An example of demonstrating to divest took place in the 1980s, anti-apartheid protesters wanted to end the oppression in South Africa. The movement first consisted of demonstrations only, but people in the movement discovered greater impact could be made on South Africa by pressuring their universities to divest stocks of companies doing business with South Africa. They were able to gain attention to the problems facing this country. By the end of the 1980s, 155 colleges had at least partially divested, with 90 cities, 22 countries, and 26 states taking some form of economic stance against the South African government. After drawing public attention to South Africa with these divestments, the U.S. government passed economic sanctions against the South African government. In the next 5 years 200 companies cut ties, ending South Africa’s business-as-usual, enabling blacks the right to vote. Nelson Mandela, after being jailed for 27 years as an anti-aparthied revolutionary, was elected the first black South African president! So can public pressure to divest work? South Africa is a good example of what a grass roots movement can accomplish! Finally, unless individuals and institutions specifically direct their investment managers not to invest in fossil fuels, they will most likely hold stocks in them, either directly or indirectly, as these stocks make up at least 15% of the U.S. market, i.e., mining, coal and oil burning utilities, oil drilling, ect. There are investment companies that support clean energy- one such company is Portfolio 21. Its president, John Streur has said it well, “Investing in fossil fuels today seems like investing in the whaling industry in the mid 1800s–old technology, still dominant but clearly not the future. Our ability to power the global economy beyond the current age of fossil fuels will be the most important and difficult transformation ever made by our industrial society!”  

Smog over China and Korea

Smog over China and Korea (Photo credit: eutrophication&hypoxia)