Andy says, as we say here, it's all one big problem with millions of interlocking solutions needed to solve it:
Q. Obviously climate change is the biggest story on your plate right now, but looking ahead what do you see?
A. My coverage has evolved. Climate change is not the story of our time. Climate change is a subset of the story of our time, which is that we are coming of age on a finite planet and only just now recognizing that it is finite. So how we mesh infinite aspirations of a species that’s been on this explosive trajectory — not just of population growth but of consumptive appetite — how can we make a transition to a sort of stabilized and still prosperous relationship with the Earth and each other is the story of our time.
And it’s a story about conflict. It’s a story about the fact that there are a billion teenagers on planet earth right now. A hundred thirty years ago there were only a billion people altogether — grandparents, kids. Now there are a billion teenagers and they could just as easily become child soldiers and drug dealers as innovators and the owners of small companies in favelas in Brazil. And little tweaks in their prospects, a little bit of education, a little bit of opportunity, a micro loan or something, something that gets girls into schools, those things — that’s the story of our time. And climate change is like a symptom of the story of our time, meaning our energy choices right now come with a lot of emissions of greenhouse gases and if we don’t have a lot of new [choices] we’re going to have a lot of warming.
This is why carbon blindness and other forms of single-issue obsession are bad ideas, and why learning to see this as one long historical moment of peak population is useful. It's also why real worthwhile sustainability thinking looks completely different, and makes much more comprehensive demands on our society, than past approaches.
Overpopulation is the elephant in the room. If we don't address population growth (in a humane way, obviously), then we're basically only fighting symptoms.
I'm editing an anthology of optimistic, near future SF and thinking quite often about this. World Changing is a thought-provoking site serious SF writers (and readers) should check out.
Keep up the good work!