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Time is running out to save the planet | READER COMMENTARY

Smoke from a wildfire called the Saddle Ridge Fire hangs above power lines as the sun rises in Newhall, California on Oct. 11, 2019. Weather disasters fueled by climate change now roll across the U.S. year-round, battering the nation's aging electric grid. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)

The latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is unnerving to say the least (“UN: Earth ‘on track’ to being unlivable,” April 5).

The overview contained in The Baltimore Sun’s article focused exclusively on the need to cut greenhouse gases, which are driving global warming to unsustainable levels and facing humanity with a fearsome future.

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Solutions mentioned were largely technological: rapid shifts away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, about which we’ve been hearing for years.

What the article did not include was recognition that population growth and excessive consumption are driving the demand for basic goods and services as well as high-end luxury items ever higher, making it that much more difficult to rein in fossil fuel use. In other words, whatever technological efficiencies produced to mitigate the problem of global warming will likely be undone if demand on the earth’s finite resources continues to increase.

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Clearly, any solutions to these daunting problems must include a reduction in demand, and there are only two ways to do this. First, population growth must be reduced, and this is primarily a problem of the so-called “developing world” where virtually all the increase in human numbers now occurs. Second, unnecessary consumption must be reduced, and this is primarily a problem of the so-called “developed world,” which is the main source of greenhouse gases and where consumption is driven ever higher by our capitalistic way of life.

In neither case do we see the requisite understanding of these facts, much less the political will to confront them.

And as the UN report noted, time is running out.

Howard Bluth, Baltimore

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