Pictures Tell a Telling Tale: Charts & Maps Tell the Story of Our Global Climate Future: A Five Minute Must Read

We use pictures to illustrate why Less is More is such an important book for all of us to read and absorb. We examine a series of charts that plot national resource extraction, wealth accumulation, and impact of climate catastrophe. Words are barely needed. We also offer some stunningly positive polling numbers.

Two quotes to offer a bit of hope on the political horizon before we dive in to some charts and maps depicting our economic, environmental and social future if we do not address our insatiable thirst for growth. Read on!

From Caren White: “Politically Speaking

An NBC News Poll from April found that Trump’s favorability ratings among all voters was 32%. It’s only 14% among independent voters. Even Republicans’ own internal polling shows abysmal results. In April, Trump’s unfavorable ratings are 15 points higher than his favorable ratings. Twice as many voters had very unfavorable views of him than voters who had very favorable views of him. Adding insult to injury, in those same districts where the polling was conducted which I assume were areas that were thought to be favorable to Trump and Trumpism, both Biden and Harris were more popular than Trump.”

Caren White: “Politically Speaking

In reaction to the Maricopa County election audit being conducted by Trump pawns, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer on Saturday called on Republicans to stop supporting Trump’s baseless claims of widespread fraud and slammed the former president for falsely accusing Maricopa County of deleting an elections database.

“This is unhinged,” Richer tweeted. “We can’t indulge these insane lies any longer. As a party. As a state. As a country.”

Fingers crossed that this GOP schism completely undermines their goals of retaking the House and Senate in 2022. Indeed, some pollsters are projecting that the need to toe the Trump line and support extreme candidates in GOP primaries will lead to an election disaster for the GOP in 2022. Be it so.

From Santa Feans for Justice in PalestineA Call to Action

Stop U.S. Tax Dollars from funding $3.8 billion dollars of weapons per year to Israel. Do you want your tax dollars to support an illegal military occupation that is in violation of United Nations resolutions and international law?

Join Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine at the main post office on Federal Place in Santa Fe on Monday, May 17, 2021 4:30-5:30pm – Tax Day – Protest the use of our tax dollars that support this illegal occupation and medical apartheid in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

To read our post from Friday that offered two pieces, one focusing on Avangrid and the other on Palestine, click here. Hope to see you at 4:30 today

Why Less is Not Just More,
It is Our Only Option to Avoid Extinction,
In a Series of Simple Charts
& Maps

Resource Depletion

Let’s start here. Economic growth depends upon the use of natural or material resources. Even if we switch to 100% renewables, those renewables require minerals and materials that then must be transported thousands and thousands of miles. Below is a chart of worldwide material consumption from 1900-2017. The horizontal line represents what scientists feel is a sustainable use of materials. In 2017, the world is already consuming double the amount of materials that is sustainable. At the current pace, we will double our use of materials again by 2150. Unless we completely reverse course, in just 19 years, we will be consuming 4 times the amount of materials that is sustainable. UN studies indicate that 80% of biodiversity loss is due to material depletion.

There are many counter arguments to the claim that only by limiting or reversing growth, can we avoid environmental collapse. These include hopes that our climate future can be rescued by:

  • Technology innovation, or
  • A transition to a less energy-reliant “service economy,” or
  • A Green New Deal and a swift transition to renewables and zero emissions, or
  • Even the development of fusion technology, or
  • All of these together can mitigate the looming impacts from a climate catastrophe .

In Chapter 3 of his book, Less is More, Jason Hickel points to the fallacies in each of these hopes. We will devote the radio show on Saturday to a discussion of each of these possibilities and Hickel’s counterarguments.

For example, in relation to the transition to 100% renewables, he offers scientific models for the level of extraction of minerals necessary to support the development of electric cars, energy storage, and wind and solar generation sufficient to meet 100% of our current energy demands. He then extrapolates from that to project the massive amount of materials needed to meet the needs of a growing economy. It exceeds the mineral resources that we have. He points to another problem with the modeling.

“It’s important to keep in mind that most of the key materials for the energy transition are located in the global South. Parts of Latin America, Africa, and Asia are likely to become the targets of a new scramble for resources, and some countries may become victims of a new form of colonization. It happened in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth century with the hunt for gold and silver. In the nineteenth century it was land for cotton and sugar plantations in the Caribbean. In the twentieth century, it was the demand for diamonds in South Africa, cobalt from the Democratic Republic of Congo and oil from the Middle East. It’s not difficult to imagine that the scramble for renewables might become similarly violent.”

Less is More, p. 142, by Jason Hickel

To be clear, he believes some combination of all of the above is essential to addressing climate change, but by the time he is done, the conclusion is inescapable. As long as we insist on pursuing continued economic growth, there is nothing we can do to forestall disaster. What’s more, as the cautionary quote above describes and as the charts below depict, if we attempt our grand transition within the context of a capitalist economic system and a colonialist political framework, that transition will be anything but a just one, as the economic, political, and environmental costs will be borne by the Global South.

Global Wealth & Poverty

Gross Domestic Product reflects what is produced with the resources, but not who has benefited. Here we examine where wealth is concentrated across the world. Note how wealth is almost exclusively concentrated in US, Canada, Europe and Australia, while the Global South is mostly mired in poverty. The map below tells the story of who benefits from the growth in GDP even more tellingly.

CO2 Emissions by Wealth

This chart illustrates how essentially half of all CO2 emissions are caused by over consumption from the top 10% of income earners worldwide, and almost 80% are caused by consumption of the top 30% of income earners. In short, 70% of the world’s population is responsible for only 30% of the CO2 emissions.

CO2 Emissions by Nation & Wealth

The chart below provides another view of the same consumption patterns, with a focus on a selection of 18 high-wealth and low-wealth countries. The gold bars for each nation represent CO2 emissions caused by that nation’s top 10% in terms of wealth accumulation, the dark red being the middle 40%; the tan being the bottom 50% and the silver bar being emissions for that country across wealth levels. The chart reveals that not only are the high-wealth countries responsible for the vast majority of CO2 emissions, but that within every country, it is the top 10% who generate the vast majority of emissions.

Who Incurs the Damage from Climate Disasters?

We offer without comment three charts projecting who is bearing and who will bear the future human, environmental, and economic costs of what is coming unless we curb our thirst for growth and profit.

Economic Impact

Deadly Heatwaves

Survivability at Different Levels of Temperature Increase

The conclusion is inescapable. It is the Global North who has caused the climate crisis; it is the Global South who is bearing the costs of Global North’s privilege and how, without significantly addressing energy and material consumption, it will be the Global South who will bear the far greater brunt of the environmental, health, and economic impacts.

I am in interested in reactions. It is pointless to be riddled with guilt, but perhaps it is motivating to see that by being responsible for so much of what could transpire, we are also empowered by understanding that it is up to the US to lead the transition to a sustainable world. And that is us. While the political challenge is formidable, the implications of inaction are simply too catastrophic. Your thoughts?

In solidarity, hope and gratitude,

Paul & Roxanne

Categories: Climate Justice

Tags: , ,

8 replies

  1. On both accounts, new numbers old story.

    Just that, when it comes to Global Warming, the numbers show that the predictions made during the 70’s and 80’s were pretty accurate. The numbers also show the cumulative effects of human action, or inaction, in the so called First World nations.

    As history shows us, politicians, including our dear Joe, will not solve the problem but probably make it worse for future generations.
    Why? Because we do not live in a democracy following human moral values and ethical principles in which we the people sit at the planning and decision making tables.
    We have been an imperial republic. A tool of the oligarchs to conquer ‘markets’. A republic where money is more important than life and community.

    As for your piece on Palestine/Israel old/new conflict.
    It is both complex and simple. The short and simple answer is modern ‘discrimination’ together with the old discrimination emanating from religious conflicts in the middle east dating back about 1300 years.

    The US, and the European Union, have supported Israel because it fulfills two functions for the west.
    It is one of the many American military bases across the globe that is not manned by American troops.
    And it is a Western ‘outpost’ in the Muslim/Middle East world.

    But, we all know that if the Middle East did not have oil Israel would probably not exist as it does now.

    I want to remind those of you focused on the American/Israeli/Palestinian triad to think about the US relationship with Latin America since the early 1800’s (See the Monroe Doctrine and the short historical piece ‘War is a Racket’).

    Over 2 centuries of history mostly neglected by ‘progressives’.

  2. I love that you’re digging into this big/small picture.
    Some things you’ve written before about moving to systems (economic, social) of commons really apply here.

  3. As far as I know, choose any follow-on effect of climate change and it falls disproportionately on those who did the least to cause it and can least afford to mitigate it. For example, sea level rise will completely erase some island nations and places like Bangladesh will be horribly impacted. Here’s First Dog on the Moon’s piece about the topic…

  4. I have never read an article, summary, or report on climate change that includes one of the major causes, which is overpopulation. Clearly war, famine, and pandemics are temporary fixes to this problem. So that leaves us with voluntary birth control. And what do Republican governments do? They squelch such programs. The Catholic Church punishes people (like Pres. Biden) with possible excommunication should they support birth control. And then there are the economists who have advocated only growth, growth, growth for decades. You can see that the topic makes me angry.

    • population control certainly needs to be part of the equation. But even if we had zero population growth, we’d need to address the growth issue. Thanks, Paula

  5. Your analysis is certainly frightening. Population growth with a rethinking about the need for young people to run the economy is one necessity going forward. Second, a focus on a stable national economy and not GDP growth is also necessary. Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics offers an approach that protects the natural world and brings all of humanity to a level of economic well being is one possibility for survival into the future and is a must read.
    If we fail, Mother Earth will be fine from a geologic perspective. In a million years there will be no humans and a totally reorganized ecosystem.


  1. Restorative Justice for Obelisk Defendents and More on Avangrid, Less is More, and Rethink Our Democracy – Retake Our Democracy
  2. Why Have We Chosen a Path that Could Lead to Extinction? When did we vote for that? – Retake Our Democracy

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: