I was re-reading a collection of short stories by Isaac Asimov. Asimov was born in 1920, and each story is prefaced with an explanation of how he came to write it. At the end of the story the note continues with an end piece. Although Asimov was famous as a writer of science fiction – I, Robot was made into a film but it was not his best work – he was also a scientist of renown.
At the end of a story “2430 A.D.” Asimov points out that the earth’s population when he wrote the story in 1970 was 3.68 billion and he expected that population to double at the rate then applying, which was every 35 years. He had not foreseen the one child policy of China, and probably did not expect humanity to be so careless of the lives of what Dickens called “the surplus population” or of the tendency of people in developed nations to have children later and later in life or of the widespread acceptance of same sex liaisons without children .
The population has not yet quite doubled in the forty one years since 1970, and is now said to be 7 billion. We are probably on course, as humans, for the population of the world to reach 14 billion by 2060. If you are twenty years old in 2011 you will approaching late middle age in 2060, reasonably fit, perhaps equivalent to the forty five year old of today and there will be twice as many people living with you on the planet as there are today.
If you have ever flown across North America or Europe at night on a clear night and looked out of the window you will have see the lights of humanity shining. There are more lights on the earth than there are stars in the sky. many of them join together in a blob of light. Imagine double the amount of those lights, twice as many cars driving on the light roads and twice as many of homes lit, heated or air conditioned, using twice the amount of water, served by double the amount of factories. In your plane you see so many other planes flying in the sky.
With such circumstances, can you imagine that the earth with have sufficient fossil fuel resources to sustain the needs of the population? We will have not used up most of the oil, uranium, coal and natural gas. We will be using clean renewable energy for our prime energy sources and will be adapting to its vagaries and thankful for them. The planet will be a warmer place then, but if we have sustained a population growth to 14 billions, we will have successfully coped with and slowed down global warming.