Monday, September 11, 2017

Testing the MEDEAS world model during the Summer School of the Club of Rome in Florence

The Summer School of the Club of Rome in Florence. Above: one of discussion groups engaged in proposing parameters to be run with the MEDEAS world model. In the back, standing, Ilaria Perissi (researcher at the University of Florence) and Jordi Sole (Coordinator of the MEDEAS project). 

A Comment by Gianni Comoretto

42 years ago, when I was 16, I read “The Limits of growth” and it changed my life. I was already worried about things like pollution and overpopulation, but I did not suspect the entity of these problems. I was fascinated by these models, by the possibility to at least have hints of the future we were approaching. I learned programming and I was even able to put the simplest models in a programmable hand-held calculator (a Texas SR52), and some years later on an AppleII. I began to tackle more seriously the problems of an exponential growth in a finite world, sustainable development, renewable energies, energy efficiency…

Therefore when I heard that the Club of Rome was organizing a summer academy in my city, I subscribed enthusiastically. Even after 42 years of activism and study, I have plenty of things to learn. And I met about a hundred of wonderful persons down all over the world. Some I know from a long time, some were for me just names on the front pages of books and papers I read. Most of them much younger than me. Saturday we were presented a new, much improved model of the world resources, society and economy, developed as part of a European framework program. It is much more detailed than the original one, but the basic results are quite similar, and equally gloomy than those of 45 years ago: in the “business as usual” scenario the global economy will still be able to grow for a few years, slowing down until, in 15-20 years, it will begin to collapse very quickly, leaving little behind. 

But this is a school, and the best way to learn is trying. So we divided into 3 groups, and each one had to decide which measures were necessary to guarantee at least a minimum of energy and services for everybody. We settle to 30-40 gigajoule per person per year (about 1 kW of average power use). Of the three groups mine was the only one to be able to guarantee this level at least up the end of the century, basically by adopting: an immediate “controlled recession” of 1% per year a decrease in the global population at a rate of 0.5% per year, that we considered feasible just preventing unwanted pregnancy and increasing women education an increase of 22.5% per year of the installed renewable energy capabilities measures to control the financial market, to reduce inequalities massive reforestation 

Other groups were less aggressive, both in the PIL decrease and in the necessity of installing renewable energies. As a result, their economy stayed significantly higher than ours for a couple of decades, but collapsed only a bit later than in the “business as usual” model. Our controlled recession strategy gave us more time to implement renewables, that in the end saved the day to our slightly reduced population. This lesson taught us lots of things. First, even among people dedicated to these problems, it is not easy to understand what is really necessary. Renewables are not a luxury, and we have not much time to implement them. Last but not least, we will never win the next elections with our program.

Below, Sara Falsini, researcher at the University of Florence (white shirt, standing), engaged with another group of testers of the MEDEAS model.


  1. Best reforestation consist in reduction of areas dedicated to agricolture; on the other hand, are any coercitive plans scheduled in order to protect residual Amazzonian and African forests from billions of hungry families? Furhermore is any reduction of agricultural production due to green house effect considered in these "Medean" models? Artificial reforestation produces very weak woods, very sensible to climate changes and nowhere efficient as virgin forest. Best reforestation is reduction of agricoluture .(And then massive and sudden reduction of population).Did anybody questioned about beeing those model too much politically correct and not sufficiently "aggressive"? ( Or realistic )

  2. Replies
    1. Scott Adams is not dumber than the average when it comes to climate science, though it might be argued that he is). At least, his post illustrate how difficult is for the public to understand climate science. At this point, I think it is really hopeless, no matter how hard we try, there is no way to pass the message.

      But on one thing Adams is right: this story of the hurricanes as flags of climate change may easily backfire. And the scientists who pressed on it will look like complete fools.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014). His most recent book is "The Seneca Effect" to be published by Springer in mid 2017