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It's later than you think


{Nature_and_Environment.114.50}: Glen Marks {wotan} Tue, 14 Jul 2020 00:04:24 CDT (1 line)



{Nature_and_Environment.114.51}: Glen Marks {wotan} Sun, 26 Jul 2020 02:45:59 CDT (2 lines)



{Nature_and_Environment.114.52}: Jay Hoffman {resist} Sun, 09 Aug 2020 12:05:05 CDT (88 lines)

Physicists: 90% Chance of Human Society Collapsing Within Decades

(Irrespective of global warming and other on-going more immediate
threats the scientists focused only on deforestation)
by Jordan Davidson

Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural
resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society
as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study
complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to
irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades.

The research by the two physicists, one from Chile and the other from
the UK, was published last week in Nature Scientific Reports. The
researchers used advance statistical modeling to look at how a growing
human population can cope with the loss of resources, mainly due to
deforestation. After crunching the numbers, the scientists came up
with a fairly bleak assessment of society's chance of surviving the
climate crisis.

"Based on the current resource consumption rates and best estimate of
technological rate growth our study shows that we have very low
probability, less than 10 percent in most optimistic estimate, to
survive without facing a catastrophic collapse," the authors write in
the study abstract.

From all the issues that the climate crisis raises like rising sea
levels, increases in extreme weather, drought, flooding, and crop
failures, scientists zeroed in on deforestation since it is more
measurable right now. They argue that forest density, or its current
scarcity, is considered the cataclysmic canary in the coal mine,
according to the report, as The New York Post reported.

"Many factors due to human activity are considered as possibly
responsible for the observed changes: among these water and air
contamination (mostly greenhouse effect) and deforestation are the
most cited. While the extent of human contribution to the greenhouse
effect and temperature changes is still a matter of discussion, the
deforestation is an undeniable fact," the authors write.

The authors note that the current rate of deforestation would mean
that all forests would disappear within 100-200 years.

"Clearly it is unrealistic to imagine that the human society would
start to be affected by the deforestation only when the last tree
would be cut down," the authors write, as the Daily Mail reported.

The trajectory of such rapid resource use to supply a rapidly growing
human population would result in the loss of planetary life-support
systems necessary for human survival, including carbon storage, oxygen
production, soil conservation and water cycle regulation, according to
the Daily Mail.

In the absence of these critical services, "it is highly unlikely to
imagine the survival of many species, including ours, on Earth without
[forests]" the study points out. "The progressive degradation of the
environment due to deforestation would heavily affect human society
and consequently the human collapse would start much earlier," they
write, as VICE reported.

The numbers the researchers look at highlight the extent of human
greed. Prior to human civilizations, the earth was covered by 60
million square kilometers of forest. As deforestation has ramped up,
the new paper points out that there are now less than 40 million
square kilometers of forest remaining.

"Calculations show that, maintaining the actual rate of population
growth and resource consumption, in particular forest consumption, we
have a few decades left before an irreversible collapse of our
civilization," the paper concludes.

The model developed by the physicists depicts human population growth
reaching a maximum level that is undermined by the shrinking of
forests, which will not have enough resources left to sustain people.
After this point, "a rapid disastrous collapse in population occurs
before eventually reaching a low population steady state or total
extinction … We call this point in time the 'no-return point' because
if the deforestation rate is not changed before this time the human
population will not be able to sustain itself and a disastrous
collapse or even extinction will occur," the authors write.

Of course, as with every theoretical paper, there are limitations. The
paper assumes that some measurements (such as population growth and
deforestation rate) will remain constant, which is certainly not
guaranteed. Forest is also taken as a proxy for all resources, which
could be seen as too simplistic, as IFLScience noted.


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