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Attachment C:
An Age of Limits

Age of Limits Elements

Although climate change is a topic that deservedly receiving much attention, it is not the only predicament we face — there are many others, some of which are shown in the sketch. Together they make up an ‘Age of Limits’. (Many other items could be added to this list, including political rivalries, the geology of the oil fields, ocean acidity and top soil depletion. But these are is enough to be going on with.)
 

  • Resources
    Many natural resources such as crude oil, fresh water and minerals are being used up. When they are gone, they are gone. Moreover, as they are depleted, the costs  of finding new sources and of extraction rise.

  • Climate
    The climate is changing at an accelerating pace. Temperatures are increasing, sea levels are rising and polar ice is disappearing.

  • Environment
    We continue to add pollution to the seas, the air and the land. Our waste products are everywhere.

  • Biosphere
    Our actions are leading to drastic losses in the natural world. Iconic species such as polar bears receive the most publicity, but the decline in the number of insects, and even plankton in the sea, is actually much more important.

  • Economics
    Money represents a claim on a natural resource or a manufactured product. As resources decline, so money will lose its value.

  • Population
    The earth’s population has gone from around two thirds of a billion in biblical times to about 7.5 billion now, and that number keeps rising. Even if we address the other issues just listed, the pressure that our species is putting on the planet is becoming unmanageable.

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  • The elements shown in the sketch all interact with one another in complex and difficult-to-identify ways (sometimes referred to as the Law of Unintended Consequences). For example, in order to slow down the rate of climate change (‘Climate’) we may reduce fossil fuel usage (‘Resources’). To do so we may build more nuclear power plants and so increase the difficulty of finding somewhere safe to store the nuclear waste so created (‘Environment’). Moreover, the cost of building many nuclear power plants in a short period of time will be very high (‘Economics’). , and the building of those plants requires enormous amounts of fossil fuel, so more CO2 and other greenhouse gases are emitted, so we are back to ‘Climate’.