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The Infinite Resource  - Growing Prosperity While Reducing Impact on the Earth
 

The Infinite Resource - Growing Prosperity While Reducing Impact on the Earth

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What are the limits of growth on the Earth? Can we increase our prosperity while saving out planet? Ramez Naam argues that knowledge is our ultimate resource, innovation our ultimate creator of ...

What are the limits of growth on the Earth? Can we increase our prosperity while saving out planet? Ramez Naam argues that knowledge is our ultimate resource, innovation our ultimate creator of prosperity. With examples across agriculture, energy, water, and more, Naam argues that we have tremendous headroom to grow prosperity, IF we make the right choices in aligning that growth with the best interests of our world as a whole.

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  • There is a lot in the presentation that I agree with. Economic externalities are indeed a key problem that our political and economic system is unable to address. Full-cost pricing would improve quality of life and make the economic system more efficient but there is no evidence for the claim that material growth can continue with the right technology. Our agricultural system is indeed based on fossil fuels and we have no clue currently how to transition to a more sustainable one, and that is even without taking the effects of Global Warming into account. A particular quibble I have is with slide 62:
    THE LIMITS TO GROWTH (1972)
    MASSIVE ECONOMIC AND POPULATION COLLAPSE PREDICTED FOR 1992

    No, they did not predict any such thing. They reported that under certain plausible assumptions, the current trajectory of material growth would break down around the mid 21st century due to resource constraints and pollution. That conclusion has never been refuted and is actually consistent with the current data (see Hall and Day 2009, www.esf.edu/efb/hall/2009-05Hall0327.pdf).

    Please have a look at presentations on growth, population, and energy at www.slideshare.net/amenning.
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  • Amazing Work , Amusing and informative. Great work! you’re right to everything!
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  • For more on these topics, follow me on twitter: @Ramez , or subscribe to my blog: http://www.unbridledspeculation.com
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  • Great presentation !!!!!
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  • Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities
  • Plankton are near the bottom of the food chain.Corals are responsible for 50% of ocean biodiversity.
  • Reefs are responsible for about half of ocean biodiversity.
  • Plenty of fish in the sea.
  • Fish catch has stopped rising.
  • Average American uses 1600 cubic meters of water per year.A cube 40’ on a side.
  • Aral Sea spans Uzbekistan and Kazakstan: 1989-2003
  • Aral Sea, 2009. Source: National Geographic
  • Olagalla Aquifer
  • Endangered species. As a computer scientist I see this as a loss of information with no backup.
  • Extinction rate – log scale.
  • Consider that today’s Trade-To-Defense Spending Ratio is about 5 in the US, and more than 10 worldwide. There is far more to be gained by cooperating with others than by trying to take things from them.
  • World-wide grain yield, in tons per hectare, from 1960 through 2010. Graph drawn from data obtained from http://www.earth-policy.org/datacenter/pdf/book_wote_crops.pdf and ultimately from U.S. Department of Agriculture, Production, Supply and Distribution , electronic database, at www.fas.usda.gov/psdonline, updated 12 August 2010.
  • Labor Price of Light in work hours per 1,000 Lumen Hours
  • http://solarenergyfactsblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/solar-energy-to-power-world.jpgLooks accurate at about 20%.
  • Cyanobacteria (blue green algae) for fuels. 3.5 B years old. Genetic modification to produce variants that produce ethanol, oil, or even hydrogen gas.Source:http://www.ecofriendlymag.com/sustainable-transporation-and-alternative-fuel/the-big-boys-of-industry-move-into-next-generation-algae-fuels/
  • Proposed Algae Biofuel facility in Arizona. Doesn’t compete with food crops. Can use very brackish water not suitable for irrigation. Sucks CO2 out of the atmosphere.
  • DARPA: Beginning production of biofuel from algae in 2013. Projected price of under $5 / gallon. Part of the goal is to be able to grow fuel in forward areas.
  • Fresh water is an energy problem. We use a tiny tiny fraction of all water on the planet. Saltwater + energy, can be fresh water.Desalination = 0.77 kwh per cubic meter.Americans use 1600 cubic meters per capita per year.For 9 B people, would be 11 Trillion Kw Hours3 KilaMega9 Giga12 Tera15 Peta= 1.1 * 10^16 watt hoursSun delivers 350,000,000 * 10^12 = 3.5 * 10^20Current Energy Usage = 150,000 Twhours / year = 1.5 x 10^17
  • What about food?
  • So what about food? Can we further increase food production? C3 Crops: Wheat, rice, potatoes, barley.C4 Crops:  maize, sugar cane, millet, and sorghumCurrent photosynthetic efficiency of C3 and C4 plants. Source: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-042809-112206
  • Theoretical max efficiency is 13%. Per James Bolton and David Hall. Must stress that we don’t know how to biologically design a system that reaches this efficiency. But that is what a perfect biotech could achieve with photosynthesis.Current photosynthetic efficiency of C3 and C4 plants. Source: 10.1146/annurev-arplant-042809-112206THE MAXIMUM EFFICIENCY OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS, JAMES R. BOLTON’? and DAVID O. HALL, Photochemistry und Photobiology Vol. 53, No. 4. pp. 545-548, 1991
  • GM Salmon from a company called Aquabounty, have genes inserted from a “pout fish”, grow about 50% faster than normal Salmon, fewer calories consumed vs. calories delivered. Could be our first genetically modified food animal.
  • Reefs are responsible for about half of ocean biodiversity.
  • Aral Sea, 2009. Source: National Geographic

The Infinite Resource  - Growing Prosperity While Reducing Impact on the Earth The Infinite Resource - Growing Prosperity While Reducing Impact on the Earth Presentation Transcript

  • The Infinite ResourceGrowing Prosperity on a Finite Planet
    Ramez Naam@ramez
  • It was the best of times,
    It was the worst of times
  • It was the age of wisdom,
    It was the age of foolishness,
    It was the spring of hope,
    It was the winter of despair,
    We had everythingbefore us,
    We had nothingbefore us.
  • Unprecedented Prosperity
    Unprecedented Opportunity
    Unprecedented Risk
  • Possible to Prosper Like Never Before
    With LESS Negative Impact
    Possible != Assured
    Important Changes Needed
  • Best of times
  • Population
  • LONGER LIVES
  • LESS POVERTY
  • MORE FOOD PER PERSON
  • FEWER MALNOURISHED
  • More Access to Electricity
  • RISING EDUCATION
  • DROPPING ILLITERACY
  • HIGHER LITERACY
  • HIGHER HUMAN DEVELOPMENT INDEX
  • MORE DEMOCRACY
  • GREATER EQUALITY
  • GREATER EQUALITY
  • Worst of times
  • Welcome to the Anthropocene
  • ACIDIFICATION HITS THE BOTTOM OF THE FOOD CHAIN
  • HIGH ACIDIFICATION WOULD WIPE OUT CORALS
  • Fish Stocks Crashed or Overexploited
  • Depleted Fisheries
  • Fish Tons Per Unit Effort
  • Species Loss
  • Peak Oil: Projections
  • PROSPERITY BUILT ON OVERCONSUMPTION
  • SOME SAY: GROWTH MUST STOP
  • Halting growth has a cost
  • RAISING GLOBAL HEALTH REQUIRES GROWING ENERGY AND ECONOMIES
  • TODAY
    GLOBAL TRADE $ ARE 10x GLOBAL MILITARY $
    US TRADE $ ARE 5x US MILITARY $
    CHINA, US, EU, INDIA, CAN ALL GROW SIMULTANEOUSLY
  • IN A ZERO SUM WORLD
    ONE NATION’S GAIN IS ANOTHER’S LOSS
    WAR BECOMES MORE PROFITABLE THAN TRADE
    NATIONS WILL FIGHT OVER SCRAPS
     NOT WHAT WE WANT
  • FORTUNATELY…
  • Not new predictions
  • THE POPULATION BOMB
    “The war to feed humanity is over… Billions will die”
    MASSIVE FAMINES PREDICTED FOR 1970s
  • THE LIMITS TO GROWTH (1972)
    MASSIVE ECONOMIC AND POPULATION COLLAPSE PREDICTED FOR 1992
  • THOMAS MALTHUS
    PREDICTED MASSIVE FAMINE AND DIE-OFF FOR THE 1800s
  • ALL THESE PREDICTIONS WERE WRONG
  • MISSING INGREDIENT
  • INNOVATION
  • GROWTH IN USEFUL KNOWLEDGE
  • KNOWLEDGE: ULTIMATE RESOURCE
    INFINITELY RE-USABLE
    GROWS RATHER THAN BEING DEPLETED
    NON-RIVAL
    REDUCES NEED FOR OR MULTIPLIES VALUE OF:
    Energy, Materials, Land, Labor, Time
    All Physical Resource
  • OUTPUT = INPUTS x KNOWLEDGE MULTIPLIER
  • EXAMPLE : FOOD PRODUCTION
    FIRST & MOST IMPORTANT ENERGY TECHNOLOGY
    HISTORY HAS SHOWN:
    More Food Per Unit Land (via Innovation)
    Reduced Ecological Footprint Per Person
  • Worldwide Grain Yields Per Hectare
  • EATING OIL?
  • NO: TREND IS 12,000 YEARS OLD
  • SINCE LONG BEFORE FERTILIZER
  • Earliest Scratch Farming
    1 ,000,000 m^2 / person
    Hunter Gatherer Societies~10,000,000 m^2 / person
    Irrigated Farming: 26,000 m^2
    Roman Empire: 13,000 m^2
    Late Middle Ages: 8,500 m^2
    US Farming in 1900: 6,000 m^2
    US Farming in 1960: 2,800 m^2
    US Farming in 2000: 1,200 m^2
  • LAND REQUIRED TO FEED A HUMAN HAS SHRUNK BY 10,000x
  • LABOR PRICE OF LIGHTWORK HOURS PER 1,000 LUMEN HOURS
  • LIGHT / UNIT ENERGY: UP 500x IN 150 YEARS
  • WE USE LESS OIL PER PERSON THAN 1970
  • LESS WATER PER CAPITA THAN 1970
  • WE EMIT LESS CO2 / CAPITA THAN 1980
  • POPULATION WILL PLATEU & DECLINE
  • CO2 PER $ OF GDP IS SHRINKINGCHINA IS CATCHING UP USING WESTERN TECHNOLOGY
  • KNOWLEDGE CAN AND DOES REPLACE PHYSICAL RESOURCES
  • What are the limits?
  • 14 SECONDS OF INSOLATION
  • = 1 DAY OF HUMANITY’S ENERGY USE
  • 88 MINUTES OF INSOLATION
  • = 1 YEAR OF HUMANITY’S ENERGY USE
  • 0.3% of Earth’s Land Area Could Power Humanity in 2030 at 14% efficiency.
    1/100th the Area Used for Agriculture Today
  • SOLAR MOORE’S LAW: -7% $$/WATT EACH YEAR
  • Algae Based Biofuels
  • DARPA: $5 / GALLON BIO-KEROSINE IN 2013
  • Fresh Water
  • FARM PRODUCTIVITY : LARGE VARIANCE
  • US YIELDS REPRESENT 2X UPSIDEUS-STYLE FARMING COULD DOUBLE TOTAL WORLD FOOD
  • MOVE RICE & OTHER C3 CROPS  C4 PHOTOSYNTHESIS ~30% YIELD INCREASES
  • 13%
  • PHOTOSYNTHETIC LIMIT OF FOOD IS VAST
    1200 m^2 / person on earth with best farming today
    31 m^2 / person at 13% efficiency(with an American diet)
    6 m^2 / person at 13% efficiency(with a vegetarian diet)
  • RETURNING LAND TO NATURE
    Increased Yields = Less Land Per Person
    Population Will Peak at < 10 Billion
    Opportunity: Return Millions of km^2 to Forest
  • Fish Farming vs. Fish Hunting
  • INCREDIBLE GROWTH IS POSSIBLE
    Natural Resources are Huge:
    Energy
    Water
    Food Limits
    Materials
    Innovation Can Tap Into Them with Less and Less Impact on the World
  • POSSIBLE != CERTAIN
  • CHALLENGE: A BUG IN OUR SOFTWARE
  • MARKET ECONOMICS
    The “Software” That Runs Our Society
    Incredibly Successful
    Has Outcompeted All Other Systems
    Aligns Individual Incentives with Overall Desires
    Rewards Innovation
    A Darwinian Ecosystem For New Ideas
    But One Key Bug…
  • EXTERNALITIES
  • EXTERNALITY
    THINGS WE CARE ABOUT
    THINGS THE MARKET CAN MANAGE(THINGS WITH PRICES, OWNERS, BUYERS, SELLERS)
  • EXTERNALITY
    THINGS WE CARE ABOUT
    THINGS THE MARKET CAN MANAGE(A WIDER VARIETY THAN TODAY)
    THINGS THE MARKET CAN MANAGE(THINGS WITH PRICES, OWNERS, BUYERS, SELLERS)
  • $$$
  • A CARBON TAX
    Creates Incentives for:
    Conservation & Efficiency
    Alternative Energy Use and R&D
    Sequestration of Carbon from Atmosphere
  • WHAT WOULD IT COST?
    ENOUGH TO HIT A TIPPING POINT
    Cheaper to Pull Carbon From the Air than the Ground
    Cheaper to Build Solar than Coal Immediately
    Cheap Enough We Could Remedy Externalities
  • WHAT WOULD IT COST?
    $50 - $100 / Ton of CO2e
    =
    $.50 - $1.00 / gallon of gasoline
    $.05 - $.10 / kilowatt hour of coal electricity
    Phased in Over 10 Years
  • WE’VE FIXED GLOBAL COMMONS BEFORE
  • WE’VE FIXED GLOBAL COMMONS BEFORE
  • REQUIRES COOPERATION & DISCIPLINE
  • WE CAN DO IT AGAIN
  • WE MUST FIX OUR SYSTEM
  • WE MUST END EXTERNALITIES
  • IF WE FAIL TO ACT
  • MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES
  • GROWTH CAN CONTINUE
  • BEYOND OUR WILDEST DREAMS
  • OUR GREATEST RESOURCE
  • Ramez Naam@ramez
  • For More Like This, Click Below:Follow @Ramez on TwitterVisit unbridledspeculation.comContact mez@morethanhuman.org