Population and Nitrogen fertiliser

Greenhouse gas emissions and their unintended consequences got a good airing in the media in 2018, especially around the UNFCCC COP24 event in December. The unintended consequences of population and economic growth are less dealt with by the mainstream media despite their being the underlying causes of human-induced atmospheric modification and global heating. This short article published on the Stanford University MAHB website today is a timely reminder that there are other unintended consequences of universally approved human activity to re-examine. When teaching in Australia in 1969 my students joined Paul Ehrlich, whose prediction is featured in this article, on a TV discussion programme. In his 90s he is still trying to convince the world of the combined dangers of the exponential growth of population, affluence and technology. So is the author of the article “Will Paul Ehrlich’s prediction finally come true?” that concludes:

the best we can hope for is a world population peak of 10 billion around 2070, which would make it necessary to increase the consumption of nitrogen fertilizer to at least 160 million tonnes per year. This is not sustainable, but there is no solution in sight.”

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