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Next Great Depression? MIT study predicting ‘global economic collapse’ by 2030 still on track

Eric Pfeiffer
The Sideshow

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(AP/Andy Wong)

A renowned Australian research scientist says a study from researchers at MIT claiming the world could suffer from a "global economic collapse" and "precipitous population decline" if people continue to consume the world's resources at the current pace is still on track, nearly 40 years after it was first produced.

The Smithsonian Magazine writes that Australian physicist Graham Turner says "the world is on track for disaster" and that current research from Turner coincides with a famous, and in some quarters, infamous, academic report from 1972 entitled, "The Limits to Growth." Turner's research is not affiliated with MIT or The Club for Rome.

Produced for a group called The Club of Rome, the study's researchers created a computing model to forecast different scenarios based on the current models of population growth and global resource consumption. The study also took into account different levels of agricultural productivity, birth control and environmental protection efforts. Twelve million copies of the report were produced and distributed in 37 different languages.

Most of the computer scenarios found population and economic growth continuing at a steady rate until about 2030. But without "drastic measures for environmental protection," the scenarios predict the likelihood of a population and economic crash.

However, the study said "unlimited economic growth" is still possible if world governments enact policies and invest in green technologies that help limit the expansion of our ecological footprint.

The Smithsonian notes that several experts strongly objected to "The Limit of Growth's" findings, including the late Yale economist Henry Wallich, who for 12 years served as a governor of the Federal Research Board and was its chief international economics expert. At the time, Wallich said attempting to regulate economic growth would be equal to "consigning billions to permanent poverty."

Turner says that perhaps the most startling find from the study is that the results of the computer scenarios were nearly identical to those predicted in similar computer scenarios used as the basis for "The Limits to Growth."

"There is a very clear warning bell being rung here," Turner said. "We are not on a sustainable trajectory."

Correction: This post has been edited to reflect that MIT has not updated its research from the original 1972 study.

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