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Subject:  Re: A Disaster Of Biblical Proportions Date:  12/3/2012  11:51 AM
Author:  LorenCobb Number:  414157 of 507816

Grantham: The world is using up its natural resources at an alarming rate, and this has caused a permanent shift in their value. We all need to adjust our behavior to this new environment. It would help if we did it quickly.

Humph. I have read articles like this in every decade of my life. They almost never come true. Here are some comments, one for each graph:

Graph #1: This graph is copied directly from a graph that I contributed to Wikipedia some years ago, with minor additions. Current demographic wisdom suggests that the world's population will follow a trajectory in between the blue and green lines, reaching a maximum around 2050-60 or so. After that it heads downwards. Scary articles about an impending "population implosion" are already appearing. Grantham didn't get the memo.

Graphs #2 and #3: Grantham's "Great Paradigm Shift" looks like just another fluctuation to me. The variance of the fluctuations is obviously increasing as a function of the size of the world's economy. I see nothing alarming here.

Graph #4: This graph would look a lot more reassuring if (a) it were extended out to, say, 2100, and (b) it included nuclear, solar, wind, and biomass. This is just cherry-picking.

Graph #5: This graph has been debunked so many times it isn't even funny anymore. Observe: it describes *only* conventional oil. Add in other kinds of energy, and it looks just fine.

Graph #6 and #7: <yawn>

Graph #8: Okay, I see crop yields growing at rates that track very closely with population growth. Not only is that not dangerous, it is what one would expect from a stable system.

Graph #9: <yawn>

Graph #10: What skyrocketing? All I see are normal fluctuations.

Given the tumultuous century that we just lived through, and the breakneck pace of modernization in the former "Third World", these graphs all look reassuringly stable to me. One could easily argue that they should show far more instability. I see a world economy that is reacting appropriately -- even admirably -- to advances in industrialization, mechanization, electronics, and public health.

I suspect that Grantham's fundamental mistake is to confuse "reserves" with "recoverable resources". That's a sophomoric mistake, and it is precisely the same one that earned Paul Ehrlich so much well-deserved ridicule. This is all a tempest in a teapot.

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