Planet Earth Weekly

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

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Global Health Problems Indicate the Need to Limit Population

Climate Change

Temperatures are steadily rising on our planet.

“There are some common symptoms of overpopulation. Widespread human health problems are one of them.”

By Dr. John J. Hidore

July 16, 2017—-At the time of this writing the global population is estimated to be about 7.4 billion. It is growing at the rate of a billion every 12 years. Earth is a finite object traveling through space with a size which is essentially fixed. An important question is whether the earth can continue to provide the resources to support a continually growing population. Limits to growth implies that there is an upper limit to the size of population a region can support.There may not be an absolute limit to growth in any region but it can still be overpopulated. The resources humans need are those things which provide food, clothing and shelter. Overpopulation occurs when the available resources cannot sustain the number of people without damage to those very resources the people depend on.

Overpopulation and violence

Overpopulation can cause world disaster.

Symptoms of Overpopulation

There are some common symptoms of overpopulation. Widespread human health problems are one of them. Among the health problems are undernutrition, dehydration, and declining resistance to disease. At present, in the early 21st Century, global food production is the highest it has ever been. However, the availability of food varies greatly from place to place. Estimates of the number of people on Earth facing food shortages today vary between 800,000 and two billion. Even if the number is that of the lowest estimate it is a significant portion of the total population.

Food shortages can result from a variety of factors. Civil wars can interrupt agriculture and interfere with the distribution of food. There are many places on Earth where this is now taking place. Syria is perhaps the best know case, but the same situation exits in many other places around the globe.

world hunger

Overpopulation depletes resources

Undernutrition is a Worldwide Health Problem

Scientific data shows that the most important factor associated with physical illness (as distinct from mental illness) is undernutrition. Globally, undernutrition is probably the greatest health problem in the world today. At this time it is estimated that more than one billion people suffer some form of undernutrition great enough to be a health problem. This is more than the population of North America and South America combined. It is clear that food production and distribution is not keeping up with demand regionally, if not globally.

Undernutrition does not mean starvation. It means those suffering undernutrition are in some way being physically affected by not getting either enough food or enough healthy food. There are a variety of types of undernutrition based on what is missing in the diet. Dietary deficiencies responsible for undernourishment include iron, iodine, vitamin A, and zinc. The extreme health problem is of course starvation.

Are there enough resources for overpopulation?

With climate change will there be enough resources for all?

Geographic Distribution of Undernutrition

The main regions where undernutrition occurs are those regions where subsistence agriculture is the predominate livelihood. This encompasses large areas of Africa and Asia. In Africa a third or more of children under the age of five years undergo growth stunting due to malnutrition. Death by starvation is most prevalent among children. Some specific areas of extensive undernutrition are in Yemen, which is in the midst of a civil war. Estimates indicate at least seven million people are undernourished. In Somalia nearly three million are in danger of severe undernourishment. In Nigeria, as a result of terrorist activity, millions of people are on the verge of starvation. South Sudan has been suffering from a long battle to obtain its freedom from the rest of Sudan and currently from tribal warfare. An estimated million children are severely malnourished with a significant portion facing starvation.

While undernourishment is largely associated with the developing countries it is found to some extent even in the most highly developed countries. The World Bank reported that in 2011 in the United States about five percent of the population was undernourished. The report also concluded that the rate in the United States had remained about the same since 1992.

Undernutrition in Children

Data for the period 2010-2016 indicates a global rate of undernutrition in children of about 23%. In parts of Africa and South Asia the rate is over 30%. Children suffer more from undernutrition than adults because of the high demand for energy and protein associated with physical growth. Some form of undernutrition affects perhaps as many as a fourth of all children. Undernourishment of a fetus and children up to the age of two can lead to a lifetime of physical and/or mental development. A large majority of these children live in developing countries.

The physical symptoms of severe undernourishment, or malnutrition, include reduce body weight or height, swollen stomach or legs, and limited energy. The most common form of malnutrition in children is kwashiorkor. It results from lack of protein and manifests itself in distended stomachs. Malnutrition is the primary cause of nearly a third of early childhood deaths.

Options to Overpopulation

There is no simple answer to the tragic developments now taking place on Planet Earth. One part of the answer is to slow, stop, or reverse population growth. Limiting population growth is an alternative to the dominant economic and political policy based on economic growth that dominates the world today. It is a viable option that would be healthy for both the human population and the planet. This part of the solution requires providing family planning to those that want it and do not now have access to it. It could be implemented almost immediately and make a difference in population growth fairly quickly. Certainly this would make an impact much faster than some other options. This would also be beneficial to women’s health. The problem is that Wall Street and many organized religions thrive on population growth and oppose any change in this direction!

Overpopulations and Solutions

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Global Changes of Note in the Early 21st Century

Climate Change

The earth’s overall temperatures are increasing every year.

Greenhouse gases let solar radiation through the atmosphere, but trap outgoing earth radiation

By Dr. John J. Hidore

October 18,2014—Planet Earth is now in a period of rapid change. The first years of the 21st century serve to indicate how fast it is changing. A fundamental driving force in many of these recent changes is the growth of the human population. From the time of its origin until now the population has been growing faster and faster. It took modern humans some 200,000 years to reach a total of one billion individuals. We have added another billion in less than 15 years since the start of the century.

A major element in change is now global warming and its associated changes. The warming is largely due to the accumulation of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases let solar radiation through the atmosphere, but trap outgoing earth radiation. Heat thus accumulates in the earth system.

Carbon Dioxide and Methane

The major greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide and methane. Both of these gases have been accumulating for the last several centuries. Since the start of the industrial revolution, the burning of organic fuels has released more than 500 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The concentration in the atmosphere is now the highest it has been in the past 800,000 years. The gases are at their highest levels in historic times and have now passed 400 parts per million.

Four countries contribute most of the carbon dioxide. They are China, India, The United States, and Russia. In the past year, each of these countries increased their emissions of carbon dioxide. The United States, which had been stabilizing emissions, increased its contributions. At a recent conference on climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, China, India, and Russia did not attend. Globally an estimated 39.8 billion English tons (36.1 billion metric tons) of carbon dioxide were contributed to the atmosphere in the last year. That is 2.3 % more than the previous year. Almost all carbon dioxide comes from burning fossil fuels. .

Methane levels are also at record levels. It forms in the natural world largely from the decomposition of organic matter. It has begun to accumulate during the past two centuries. Since 1750, the level of methane in our atmosphere has more than doubled, from about 700 to 1800 parts per billion (ppb) in 2013. The current level is the highest in at least the last 650,000 years. About half of the increase has occurred since 1960. Methane comes from a variety of sources including agriculture, mining, and manufacturing, and fracking

Increasing Greenhouse Gases

Global temperatures have increased accompanying the increase in greenhouse gasses. In the months of May and June of this year (2014) the highest average global atmospheric temperatures, since records began, were recorded. In 2012, worldwide land-surface temperatures for the months of June through August were the hottest ever. Australia recorded its warmest year of record in 2013. Not all of the planet experienced unusually warm conditions at this time, but overall, earth’s temperature has increased.

Walruses need Sea ice

Walruses Cling to Melting Sea Ice.

Parts of the arctic region are now the warmest they has been in 44,000 years. The warming is taking place around the North Pole including the Arctic Ocean and the surrounding land masses. Most of the ice shelves in the Canadian Arctic broke away from land during the past 14 years. Every summer, for the last ten years, the area of sea ice has been below the average of the previous 20 years. Sea ice in the Arctic sea reached is lowest level ever on September 16, 2012.

2012: Records Broken in the U.S.

2003-2012 The warmest decade ever recorded in the United States.
2011-2012 The winter (Dec, Jan, Feb) was the fourth warmest since records began in the 1890s. It was about four degrees Fahrenheit above the average and the warmest since the year 2000. Twenty seven states had one of the 10 warmest of record.
2011-2012 Warmest records in U.S. History.
2012 Warmest year ever recorded in the United States. The year averaged 3.2F above the average of the 20th century.
2012 March sets record high temperatures. More than 7700 U.S daily-high temperature records were set.
2012 In March more than 90 cities set record highs for the month.
2012 The six warmest 12 month periods so far in the U.S. ran through 2012.
2012 Global land surface temperatures in the months from June to August were the warmest ever.
2012 September tied for the warmest ever in the United States,
2011-2012 The 12 months from August 2011 to July 2012 were the warmest ever in the United States.
2012 In July of this year all 50 states in the Unites States set record highs. During the summer of 2012, ninety degree temperatures forced the Tennessee Valley Authority to shut down three nuclear power reactors.
2012 Drought affected as much as 65% of the lower 48 states.

In 2012 eleven extreme weather and climate events each cost the U.S. at least one billion dollars!

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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 Population Growth

World population

The Impact of Population Growth

By John J. Hidore

Estimates of Early Population Growth

October 19, 2013—Global population is growing faster than at any time in history. We are now adding about 227,000 people per day to the planet. This adds 85,000,000 people to the planet each year. That annual increase is the same as adding the population of the United States to the planet every four years. What is astonishing in the growth data is how fast the rate of growth has been increasing. It took hundreds of thousands of years for the first billion to be reached in about 1800. The time it has taken for adding each billion has dropped rapidly. The last billion was added in just 12 years from 1999 to 2011. At the beginning of 2013 global population growth stood at a little over seven billion. The key element in driving population growth is changing technology which has increased the global food supply.

Some estimates of early human population size:
125,000                1 million years ago
1-5 million            11,000 B.C
50 million                3,000 B.C
0.5 billion                1,500 A.D.

Adding the billions:
1 billion    1800    200,000 to a million years
2 billion     1930   130 years
3 billion     1960     30 years
4 billion     1974     14 years
5 billion     1987     13 years
6 billion     1999      12 years
7 Billion     2011      12 years
The human population reached its highest annual growth rate of about 2 percent per year, in the early 1970’s. The growth rate in 2012 was around 1.2 %. While the rate has dropped the absolute number of humans added to the planet each year continues to be greater than in the past.

Population Growth in Asia

Today the fastest-growing countries are the developing countries. Many of the nations with the highest growth rates are in Africa and southwest Asia. China has the largest population of any country. However, India, which has a smaller population than China but has a higher growth rate, is adding 1/3 more people each year than is China. The UN projects India to surpass China as the most populous country in the world about 2028. At that time both countries will have a population of about 1.45 billion. China’s population will begin to stabilize in 2028 and India will continue to grow for some time. Most of the growth will be in developing countries, with more than half in Africa. The population in Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to double from the 2010 population of 0.86 to 1.96 billion in 2050.

Impact Of Population Growth

The key element in the future relationship between the human species and the global environment is the continued rapid growth of the human population. In 1968, Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich published the book The Population Bomb. At the time he wrote the book the human population was 3.5 billion. It has more than doubled since.
All data indications are that the population will continue to grow. How much it will grow can only be estimated and the estimates from different organizations vary. This year, 2013, the United Nations has forecasted a global population growth of 8.1 billion by 2025 and 9.6 billion for 2050.
The next billion people added to the earth will want and expect food, clothing, shelter, and some means of employment. How are these needs to be met? There are already a billion people with some degree of malnutrition. Most of the population supports themselves from agriculture. All good, and even marginal, land is already occupied, and much productive land is being removed from agriculture due to erosion and general depletion. How are these agriculturalists going to find employment? These are critical issues!
The momentum for an increasing population seems to be difficult to change. Global business thrives on population growth. It seems the options are limited. Either the human species understands what is taking place and mandates a change, or these trends will continue until some unpredictable catastrophe eliminates a substantial portion of the people now living!

Recent reports:
United Nations. 2013. World Population Prospects