Operating at a Deficit

Excerpt from the 2005 book, The Weather Makers: How Man is Changing the Climate and What It Means for Life on Earth, by Tim Flannery:

“The twentieth century opened on a world that was home to little more than a billion people and closed on a world of 6 billion, and every one of those 6 billion is using on average four times as much energy as their forefathers did 100 years before. This helps account for the fact that the burning of fossil fuels has increased sixteenfold over that period…

“In 1961 there was still room to maneuver. In that seemingly distant age there were just 3 billion people and they were all using only half of the total resources that our global ecosystem could sustainably provide. A short twenty-five years later, in 1986, we had reached a watershed, for that year our population topped 5 billion, and such was our collective thirst for resources that we were using all of Earth’s sustainable production.

“In effect, 1986 marks the year that humans reached Earth’s carrying capacity, and ever since we have been running the equivalent of a deficit budget, which is sustained only by plundering our capital base. The plundering takes the form of overexploiting fisheries, overgrazing pasture until it becomes desert, destroying forests, and polluting our oceans and atmosphere, which in turn leads to the large number of environmental issues we face. In the end, though, the environmental budget is the only one that really counts.

“By 2001 humanity’s deficit had ballooned to 20%, and our population to over 6 billion. By 2050, when the population is expected to level out around 9 billion, the burden of human existence will be such that we will be using–if they can still be found–nearly two planets’ worth of resources. But for all the difficulty we’ll experience in finding those resources, it’s our waste–particularly the greenhouse gases–that is the limiting factor.”

Surface Methane



1 thought on “Operating at a Deficit

  1. Population & Climate Change & Sustainability: The Anthropocene Extinction

    Is climate change the new hysteria as maybe was The Population Bomb, such as suggested or implied by a recent New York Times article? Maybe, but it seems the world population explosion (7 billion now, projected 10-11 billion by 2100) has had devastating effects on animals with increased ranching and sport killing (aka hunting), poaching. It has had devastating effects on climate with the increased greenhouse gases. Due to the population explosion there is increased demand for resources, increased demand for fossil fuels, increased demand for animal farming (aka ranching), shrinking wildlife habitat and pressure on wildlife habitat by ranching and extraction industries and development, disruption of balanced wildlife ecology by hunting and ranching and extraction industries and development. So, predictions of disasters due to populations explosion (The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich 1968) may be valid with the time scale skewed more to the present, delayed due to science aided increased food production exceeding or keeping pace with population, but not averted. We are killing off the world’s wildlife, exploiting the wilderness to a shrinking scale, polluting water, air and land. How sustainable is it? At what costs to wilderness and wildlife and the planet? Are there alternatives to the ways we humans sustain ourselves? Maybe there are even healthier alternatives for ourselves, the animal kingdom, the planet? Maybe there alternatives to wildlife management to hunting and trapping? We need to start other animals as sentient with rights, hunting and rapping as barbaric traditions. We need to see ranching as unsustainable Amy’s well as barbaric. We need to slow down on our own reproduction. We all could have more meatless days in our week and month and year. Encourage the food industries to develop palatable and even delicious meat alternatives.




    Is Climate Change Hysteria the New ‘Population Bomb’? Breitbart News‎ – recent article in the New York Times revisits the generalized pa

    U.S. and World Population Clock – Census.gov
    http://www.census.gov/popclock/ United States Census Bureau

    Total Population of the World by Decade, 1950–2050
    http://www.infoplease.com › World › World Statistics › Population Statistics


    The Population Bomb – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Population_Bomb Wikipedia The Population Bomb is a best-selling book written by Stanford University Professor Paul R. Ehrlich and his wife, Anne Ehrlich(who was uncredited), in 1968.

    World population – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    World population to hit 11bn in 2100 – with 70% chance of …
    http://www.theguardian.com › … › Sustainable development The Guardian
    Sep 18, 2014 – The world’s population is now odds-on to swell ever-higher for the rest of the century, posing grave challenges for food supplies, health care

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