Professor Jørgen Randers speaks at ICLEI World Congress

150409_342px-Jørgen_RandersThe Opening Plenary of the ICLEI World Congress 2015 began with an address from Jorgen Randers, co-author of the seminal 1972 book The Limits to Growth.

In his speech, entitled “2052 – A Global Forecast for the next 40 years”, Randers outlined three trends. First, he suggested that the global population would peak at eight billion in 2040 and would be in decline by 2052. Secondly, the global economy would continue to grow, but more slowly – particularly in the West, where labor and capital had shifted to service and cultural sectors. Thirdly, humanity would face a growing set of challenges, including resource scarcity, pollution and climate change.

Randers also predicted that the use of coal, oil and gas will be in decline by 2052 as the renewable energy sector moved to the fore. Temperature would increase by two degrees Celsius by 2050 and three degrees Celsius by 2080, with extremely damaging consequences.

In the second part of his address, Randers explained that a better world was possible if just 2% of labor and capital could be shifted from dirty to clean sectors of the economy. “This does not cost us very much,” he pointed out. “However, it is more costly than doing nothing, so we do nothing.” He showed how our propensity for choosing short-term benefits at individual and societal levels makes it difficult for us to address climate change.

Randers highlighted three necessary actions: reducing emissions, slowing population growth, and eliminating unnecessary suffering. These efforts should be made in the rich world in the first place.

Randers concluded by explaining that structural change was resisted by both the fuel industry and the average citizen, who is unwilling to pay more for long-term benefits. However, Randers said, this resistance could be overcome with intelligent policies that gave voters advantages in the short term while solving longer-term climate problems – as the Tesla electric car had done. Randers also suggested that a green stimulus package would be welcomed by both voters and the financial sector.