Ron examines the problems of global warming, atmoshperic pollution and the future for millions of the worlds populace
It is generous of Bill Gates to provide £750M to supply vaccines for African children. Heaven knows the people of Africa are desperately in need of help and it is appalling how reluctant the world is to help. The result of Bill's generosity will be, hopefully, that many more children will survive their childhood and become adults. Similarly any efforts to eliminate starvation and malnutrition will have the same welcome result. We cannot deny the right of the living to a life but, if we are able to eradicate those factors that are resulting in so many children in the underdeveloped world dying prematurely, there will be a population explosion.
This thought triggered a memory of a time in the 1950s when I saw an article which gave the figures for the world population, the actual total then was near enough 3,000,000,000 and I was appalled to see how that total had increased since 1900 when it was 1,800,000,000. The article was illustrated with figures drawn to a size to represent the population of a number of nations at that time; there was a big Chinaman alongside a smaller Uncle Sam and, of course, a much smaller John Bull. It was pointed out that the world population had almost doubled in just 50 years. The article went on to indicate that the writer thought the population would double again by the end of the century and illustrated this with a huge Chinaman, four times the size of Uncle Sam, with a little John Bull much the same size as before. I wondered if the prediction would come true and just how big the world population would be. Well I know now the prediction was fairly accurate, although it was an underestimate, since the world population is put at 6,500,000,000. What will it be in another 50 years? Will it double again?
Currently there is considerable concern over the possible effects of atmospheric pollution, especially CO2 and methane. China's economy is growing at an outstanding rate and India is not so very far behind. India's population is growing so fast that it is predicted that it will overtake China. As their economies grow, along with others in Asia, the people will want their cars, washing machines, refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning, central heating etc. It is expected that within a few decades China's economy will be second only to the USA, it is also predicted that by then they will have more cars than the USA. No doubt India, along with all the other nations with developing economies, will also see a big growth in the demand for cars and might also rival the USA.
There can be little doubt that the Earth's atmosphere will be unable to safely absorb the resulting pollution, neither is it likely that the Earth can provide the necessary natural resources. In this context we need to remember that our little island contains less than one percent of the world's population, currently we generate about 2% of the world's production of CO2, but this proportion is likely to fall as the developing nations produce more and we produce less. It is important that we realise that any unilateral action we take in this country to influence global warming that may be due to greenhouse gases will have negligible effect. A few more wind turbines in Norfolk (or a few hundred) will make no noticeable difference to the world. I get angry when I hear, as I did on a TV programme recently, suggestions that our government should introduce fuel rationing, or CO2 rationing in order to save the world, what nonsense. OK if you can persuade the rest of the world to do the same, starting with the USA, but to propose unilateral action of that sort is ridiculous.
Those nations in the world currently enjoying a high standard of living will be most reluctant to give up their cars and freezers but they cannot expect to deny these luxuries to the people in these developing economies. It is difficult to foresee the future and to see how the aspirations of the developing nations will be met or to see what technological developments are yet to come, but, unless population growth can be brought under control by humane and peaceful means, as is being attempted in China, then one has to fear that it will be limited eventually by appalling wars and famine along with much associated human suffering.