Revised 30 August 2021
Climate change is but one of many symptoms of excessive consumption of fossil fuels, the combustion of which has an impact on the atmosphere when oceans, land, and flora can no longer absorb and store additional human-induced greenhouse gases.
Excessive consumption of fossil fuels is due to population growth and growth in per-capita consumption. The Section: Population Growth explains why the world population will continue to grow at a declining rate of growth over the next number of decades on any pathway to Zero Population Growth unless dire consequences of climate change, inadequate access to energy be it fossil fuels or renewable energy, political strife, and over-reaching the carrying capacity of local environments curb and limit further population growth. While the world population continues to grow, the only way that humankind can reduce its consumption of fossil fuels is to reduce its per-capita consumption.
Mitigating the impact of climate change is not the only reason for reducing consumption of fossil fuels. We also need to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and infrastructure because all forms of fossil fuels will inevitably peak when the rate of extraction can no longer increase and inevitably declines due to increasing energy costs of extraction. We are totally dependent on the use of energy for our survival and a transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy should have started when only 10% of accessible fossil fuel reserves had been depleted. That time has now gone by and peaking of all forms of fossil fuels is imminent, some less so than others. There are strong indications that conventional oil has already peaked. Over the next number of decades, the rate of extraction of conventional oil will decline. Production of renewable energy infrastructure requires energy and renewable energy cannot bootstrap itself. We need to continue using fossil fuels to enable a transition to renewable energy at the same time as we need to reduce our rate of burning fossil fuels in order to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Business-as-usual growth in the economy simply cannot continue if we are to mitigate the impact of human-induced climate change and also transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Unnecessary and frivolous consumption must now give way to the need to divert fossil fuels away from consumption to investment in renewable energy and infrastructure. Although shadow pricing of carbon might result in a controlled and more easily assimilated transition to zero-carbon budgets, rationing of fossil fuels on a per-capita basis would result in a more definite, effective, and equitable transition. The standard of living in under developed nations is substantially lower than that in developed nations. There is an ethical issue here. If growth in material consumption were to cease in all nations, then some under developed nations would be locked into a lower standard of living.