Five by fifty - there's a catchy way to remember it. Five billion by 2050 will be beset by hunger and a lack of clean water if we stay on the current path. That'll be about half the world's population in 2050, if wars and plagues don't clean them out long before that.
The good news - most of the loss and suffering will be focused on Africa and Asia. The bad news - we live in a global civilization that tenaciously clings to a global economy that enshrines perpetual exponential growth and so we can expect to feel the knock-on effects.
Climate activists have been telling us for a while now that global warming isn’t just about the polar bears, so it’s hardly breaking news that humans are going to suffer because nature is suffering. But what is new about this model is the degree of geographic specificity. It pinpoints the places where projected environmental losses overlap with human populations who depend on those resources and maps them with a nifty interactive viewer.
This model identifies not just the general ways climate change harms the environment and how people will feel those changes, but also where these changes will likely occur, and how significant they’ll be. It’s an unprecedented degree of detail for a global biodiversity model.
The model looks at three specific natural systems that humans benefit from: pollination (which enables crops to grow), freshwater systems (which provide drinking water), and coastal ecosystems (which provide a buffer from storm surges and prevent erosion). Using fine-scale satellite imagery, the team of scientists mapped predicted losses to these natural systems onto human population maps. The resulting map allows you to see how many people could be impacted by environmental changes, and where.
“We were specifically trying to look at how nature is changing in delivering [a] benefit, and then where it overlaps with people’s needs,” said Rebecca Chaplin-Kramer, the lead scientist at the Natural Capital Project, a Stanford University-based research group that produced the study.
To understand why the Natural Capital Project’s model is groundbreaking, you need to understand a little bit about past attempts to gauge how the environmental effects of climate change will impact people. It’s a pretty hard thing to do — natural processes are interconnected systems, and many of the ways that humans benefit from these natural processes (what scientists call “ecosystem services” or “nature’s contributions to humanity”) aren’t obvious.
“The real challenge, with nature’s contributions to people, is that it benefits us in so many ways that it’s sort of mind-boggling,” Chaplin-Kramer said. “It’s just so abstract that it tends to be disregarded.”You see, natural capital is what keeps people alive. It's what keeps pretty much everything alive. And what keeps you alive, you might agree, has value. That's not hard to grasp, is it?
But natural capital has almost no value to the guy you will elect as our next prime minister today. We've been treating nature, natural capital, as a giant freebie especially when it comes to those massively profitable fossil energy giants. We're afraid if we dare ask them to pay for what they freely take and what they freely foul, they'll bugger off. They've got us by the cojones and they know it. That's why, kids, the IMF claims Canadian governments are subsidizing the energy giants to the tune of $60 billion every year but our governments lie to us and tell us it's a mere $2 billion.
The thing about democracy is that every voice is to be heard and our rulers are to govern with the informed consent of the public. That shit all goes out the window when they mask the truth and their real intentions by feeding us fabrications, distortions and distractions.
Today you get to vote and, like it or not, you may be putting your thumb on the scale. We've all got our thumb on that scale now. Act like it.