Back in 1972, a MIT study predicted the risks of civilization collapse.
“Their system dynamics model published by the Club of Rome identified impending ‘limits to growth’ (LtG) that meant industrial civilization was on track to collapse sometime within the 21st century, due to overexploitation of planetary resources.”
Not many scientists accepted their findings, but this research has been newly examined in November 2020 with an important update –
“it concludes that the current business-as-usual trajectory of global civilization is heading toward the terminal decline of economic growth within the coming decade—and at worst, could trigger societal collapse by around 2040“.
I have never read the original study (no need), although I have heard of it. My own research indicated that civilization would certainly collapse this century with zero doubt. Deadly climate change and environmental collapse would trigger cascading domino effects of multiple failing earth systems. Excessive consumption, endless growth and unchecked greed would wreak absolute havoc upon the Earth, resulting in resource collapse, energy collapse and societal collapse as escalating competition, violence and war consumed the globe. Needless to say, populations will rapidly plummet.
Most of the material on this blog points this out in different ways. But very few people take any of this seriously. Nor did they take this seriously in 1972, and now in 2020, the Limits To Growth model is being reexamined:
The study represents the first time a top analyst working within a mainstream global corporate entity has taken the ‘limits to growth’ model seriously. Its author, Gaya Herrington, is Sustainability and Dynamic System Analysis Lead at KPMG in the United States. However, she decided to undertake the research as a personal project to understand how well the MIT model stood the test of time.
Titled ‘Update to limits to growth: Comparing theWorld3 model with empirical data’, the study attempts to assess how MIT’s ‘World3’ model stacks up against new empirical data. Previous studies that attempted to do this found that the model’s worst-case scenarios accurately reflected real-world developments. However, the last study of this nature was completed in 2014.
Herrington’s new analysis examines data across 10 key variables, namely population, fertility rates, mortality rates, industrial output, food production, services, non-renewable resources, persistent pollution, human welfare, and ecological footprint. She found that the latest data most closely aligns with two particular scenarios, ‘BAU2’ (business-as-usual) and ‘CT’ (comprehensive technology).
“BAU2 and CT scenarios show a halt in growth within a decade or so from now,” the study concludes. “Both scenarios thus indicate that continuing business as usual, that is, pursuing continuous growth, is not possible. Even when paired with unprecedented technological development and adoption, business as usual as modelled by LtG would inevitably lead to declines in industrial capital, agricultural output, and welfare levels within this century.”
Oddly, accelerating climate change isn’t mentioned, perhaps this wasn’t even in the original study. But it is very definitely precipitating nearly everything else. Earth’s habitat is in serious decline, and will effect population, fertility, mortality, industrial output, food production, services, non-renewable resources, persistent pollution, human welfare and ecological footprint, along with the escalating species extinction of most of the world’s fauna as temperatures exceed habitability, extreme weather events wreck havoc and the Earth enters (and stays) in a new “normal” that is prohibitive for human survival.
That is the conclusion I reached long ago, but not back in 1972, I was still a child. Allegedly –
“the MIT World3 models, collapse “does not mean that humanity will cease to exist,” but rather that “economic and industrial growth will stop, and then decline, which will hurt food production and standards of living… In terms of timing, the BAU2 scenario shows a steep decline to set in around 2040.”
I beg to differ on this one. Not including climate change was a huge oversight. When temperatures exceed survival rate, there is hardly any chance at all humanity will continue to exist.
And this is where this new study goes completely off the rails with ridiculous hopium:
A window of opportunity
While focusing on the pursuit of continued economic growth for its own sake will be futile, the study finds that technological progress and increased investments in public services could not just avoid the risk of collapse, but lead to a new stable and prosperous civilization operating safely within planetary boundaries. But we really have only the next decade to change course.
“Avoid the risk of collapse“? A new “stable and prosperous civilization“? From what? The ashes we’ve left behind? The waste dumps and heaps of a crumbling civilization? From flooded cities and towns lining the low-lying coastlines? From desperate billions of humanity seeking to find sustenance and shelter in an over-crowded, desperately depleted world? From exhausted and critically depleted resources that will never be replenished? From habitat that is either too flooded, too hot or too crowded to survive on?
Optimistically claiming that the whole world can be “fixed” in the “next decade” (ten years) is complete hogwash. At least 60 years have now passed to address these critical issues and these issues have been utterly ignored. Not a single area mentioned has been addressed adequately, none has bee resolved, all have only gotten worse. Nothing has been fixed.
That is some high-grade hopium being smoked right there, and it is utter bullshit. I’m rather tired of the endless lies these “studies” continue to promote. I’m still slowly updating the Failing Earth Systems post with more information, but I’ve not found any evidence that supports we’re going to solve these problems, but I am finding plenty of evidence that they’re definitely lying to us non-stop and have been for years.
The LTG (latest) study allowed themselves an “out” (uh, …. we could be wrong about all of this ….):
“At this point therefore, the data most aligns with the CT and BAU2 scenarios which indicate a slowdown and eventual halt in growth within the next decade or so, but World3 leaves open whether the subsequent decline will constitute a collapse,” the study concludes. Although the ‘stabilized world’ scenario “tracks least closely, a deliberate trajectory change brought about by society turning toward another goal than growth is still possible. The LtG work implies that this window of opportunity is closing fast.”
Optimistic bullshit with no basis in reality (look around – do YOU see the world embarking on an emergency turn-around?). I certainly don’t, most nations (if not all) are still just talking about what could be done (baby steps) and the vast majority (if not all) are still rapaciously plundering what resources are still left. Moreover, the world’s population is blithely ignoring their impending fate while demanding more, more and more.
How many millions were too lazy to wear a mask during a global pandemic? How many governments refused to enforce basic health measures? How much legislation and effort was put into “protecting our freedoms” to refuse public health measures? These are examples of why the world is not even remotely serious about doing the right thing at the right time – or in time at all. There are countless examples of industry and government only pretending to “care” (provided they can continue their destructive ways). It is a complete lie that humanity is going to achieve a critical course correction in time, in fact – it is already too late for that as cascading events already unfolding are already well outside of “our control”.
“… perhaps the most important implication of her research is that it’s not too late to create a truly sustainable civilization that works for all.
Interesting that the Limits To Growth model was re-examined, but don’t fall for the hopium, technofix empty promises and endless lies. This “implication” is not based upon facts or reality, it is misplaced optimism rooted in sheer fantasy. Various parts of the world are already hugely suffering under the effects of environmental and resource collapse and the world just goes right on ignoring them. Wealthy nations are still on exactly the same course as they have always been on – exploit everything, everywhere, reap massive profits and pollute without care. These nations are already in collapse where these mega-nationals operate, but we’re so used to it, we barely even notice.
But now it will be our turn as the modern nations of the world reach the finite limits of resource availability, and the physical reality of deadly climate change. Wildfires rage, crops wither and die, and global shipping fails to keep up. How much longer do we have? Nobody “knows”, but it’s definitely this century when it all falls apart. Humans have literally broken too much of the world to claim they can now just suddenly “fix it” in a decade. That’s just ridiculous.
We can’t replace the missing ice. We can’t “fix” the jet stream. We can’t replace the oil. We can’t remove the carbon dioxide. We can’t de-acidify the oceans. We can’t cool the oceans. We can’t even clean up our plastic pollution, or restore the dying coral reefs. We can’t do any of these things and so many more. Anyone who tells you that we’re going to “fix” these things is literally out of their mind and refuses to accept reality. There is no place on the planet that is being “fixed”. Nature can (and will) eventually fix itself – provided we leave it alone. But it will take quite a long time, and meanwhile catastrophic trigger events that will tip the planet towards massive overheating has already occurred. Ignoring that issue, an extinction-level event is just unforgivable in any “study”.