Why science isn't the main issue in the climate change debate

Tuesday, 29 November 2016 - 12:30pm to 1:30pm

In this seminar, Dr Michael W. Douglas will discuss aspects of the current climate change debate, focusing on key questions that are virtually never discussed. These questions relate to global population and its most desirable value for long-term sustainability of human civilization. He notes that the maximum carrying capacity of the Earth is quite different from the optimal planetary population, with the former depending strongly on the technological state of the planet.

A society seeking to reach the Earth’s maximum carrying capacity depends mostly on the advancement of technology to maximize the production of food, energy and other requirements. An optimal planetary population, however, depends strongly on human values that may not be closely related to scientific research, and the optimal population is almost certainly at odds with the notion that “bigger is better”. This reflects the somewhat well-known but under-appreciated concept of “tragedy of the commons” of which the current CO2 increase is one symptom.

Some of the controversial aspects of arriving at an optimal planetary population will be discussed, including determining the value of such an “optimal” population, how to “manage” and distribute it across the globe, the role of education in maintaining it, and how technology changes affect long-term sustainability. Sadly, none of these topics enters the current climate change discussion – for reasons that may or may not be apparent to many of us.

Event Location: 
Japanese Room, Level 4
Melbourne School of Design University of Melbourne
Parkville, VIC 3010
University of Oklahoma, USA

Dr Michael W. Douglas is a visiting scholar from the Cooperative Institute for Mesoscale Meteorological Research at the University of Oklahoma, USA. He is an expert in Atmospheric Science & Meteorology, with 21 years experience as a research scientist with the National Severe Storms Laboratory (USA), with a focus on tropical weather and climate.