Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bunnies have a reputation

The issue has been put before the house: Resolved acting like bunnies effects climate change. Well, to be honest, it is the negative. Yin, played by Joe Romm makes the case that consumption is much more important

For all these reasons, this blog is not going to focus on population. I have more than enough to write about on the policies and strategies that must be enacted if we are to have a chance at preserving a livable climate — even assuming I knew of and believed in viable population-related strategies, which I don’t.
While Yang, with Roger Pielke Jr. in the starring role holds forth that it is a distraction
The idea that family planning should be justified in terms of reducing emissions is, in my view, utter nonsense. Family planning policies are important in their own right, and to justify them in terms of climate change cheapens both the climate change agenda and the family planning agenda. Fortunately, this perspective is widely shared:
To give you an idea of how contentious this is, take a look at all of the links that Yin and Yang each have to people who agree and disagree with their position. In short, this is an issue that an innocent large bird might have an intelligent discussion on while the bunnies are doing, well bunny like things.

Eli starts from the observation that the four horsemen of the apocalypse, famine, disease, death, and denial have cut back on their working hours within the past century. Improved water supply, vaccination, and other public health measures as well as science based medicine have made death and disease much paler riders. Agricultural science has so weakened Famine that he has to limp along with the help of Great War, which himself has been limited after achieving great carnage in the first half of the last century, his visions of the true apocalypse being stymied with the collapse of the USSR. So badly has he been disappointed, that Great War has retired and spends his time raising tomatoes and his nephews, Asymmetric and Civil Warfare. Denial, Denial is doing well after killing millions in the tobacco wars [1] local successes against Rachel Carson and integrated pest control for malaria while pushing ineffective broadcast spraying of DDT, HIV/AIDS retroviral drug therapy [2] and vaccination [3]. In a major battle, when his son, polio was on his last legs, Denial got religious leaders in polio's last safe harbors in Africa and Asia to denounce vaccination [4]. Today, together with Delay, Denial has adapted a long term strategy for imposing climate change.

Partial, and let us hope not temporary, victories over Famine, Disease and Death coupled to a limitation on War have lead to exploding populations. With the exception of the developed countries, where population less immigration has remained roughly constant, it has exploded elsewhere. As was seen in France at the end of the nineteenth century, well being, social security, not having to worry about old age or illness, leads people to limit their families.

While wealth in the developed world has soared, major progress has been made in many lesser developed countries, especially South and Central America, China, India, Southeast Asia, and more.

The Rabett School of Climate Studies has investigated the matter and concludes, that like aerosols, there are two climate forcings associated with this progress, the direct, immediate one and the indirect, delayed forcing.

The direct effect is major land use changes as cities grow, forests disappear, water resources are stressed and more. It is somewhat unobservant of Roger Pielke Jr. to say that there are no direct effects of population on climate change, but Ethon, in Roger's defense, notes that RPJ was quite careful to say
but efforts to reduce emissions through population control are wrongheaded.
and one can suppose that he does not think that land use is related to emissions or that land use is an entirely different matter. Dad might disagree.

The second indirect effect is that as wealth increases in developing countries, so do emissions. Population growth exploded first in the developing world, as social structures provided food, water, sanitation, vaccination and medicines extending life expectancy. As this immense talent pool began to industrialize and the countries grew in wealth from zero, emissions started to increase on per capita as well as absolute levels. The emissions bomb is lagging population growth by forty to fifty years, but it is clearly seen at the leading edge in Hong Kong, Singapore, Brazil, Thailand, Eastern China, etc. and now India. More are sure to follow.

Both the indirect and the direct population forcings are significant, and require attention. Nor should one think that population in the developed world is a non-issue, as any population growth in the US, Europe and Japan have much larger climate change multipliers. But, as Eli said, Denial is having an excellent decade.
[1] Br Med Bull. 1996 Jan;52(1):12-21. In developed countries as a whole, tobacco was responsible for 24% of all male deaths and 7% of all female deaths, rising to over 40% in men in some former socialist economies and 17% in women in the USA. The average loss of life for all cigarette smokers was about 8 years and for those whose deaths were attributable to tobacco about 16 years.

[2] From the Wikipedia: Public health researchers in South Africa and at Harvard University have independently investigated the impact of AIDS denialism. Their estimates attribute 330,000 to 340,000 AIDS deaths, 171,000 HIV infections and 35,000 infant HIV infections to the South African government's former embrace of AIDS denialism.[11][12]

[3] Ben Goldacre's Bad Science and Orac's Respectful Insolance are places to start learning about the harm vaccination denial is bringing.

[4] From the Center for Disease Control: Two decades later in 2008, a total of 1,625 children contracted acute flaccid paralysis caused by poliovirus infection (1). This finding represented a 150% increase over the number of cases in 2007 (1) and resulted in the reemergence of polio as one of the world’s deadliest infections. As of 2009, polio remains endemic to 4 countries (India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan); in 2008, cases were also detected in 14 other countries.
Religious opposition by Muslim fundamentalists is a major factor in the failure of immunization programs against polio in Nigeria (2), Pakistan (3) and Afghanistan (4). This religious conflict in the tribal areas of Pakistan is one of the biggest hindrances to effective polio vaccination.

Cartoon an adaptation from one by Mike Luckovich



Douglas Watts said...

Blaming population for air pollution is like blaming a poor Lakota Indian kid for forcing the guy on Long Island to buy a $1 million, 18 room McMansion and driving a $50,000 Hummer.

skanky said...

GM had an interesting article on this:

EliRabett said...

The point is that there are two effects on climate forcing (notice the use of climate rather than emissions). Population has a direct effect on land use, which changes albedo, as well as indirectly affecting emissions. That is independent of wealth.

The second is that as the poor get richer (and they are) their emissions go up. By neglecting any one side of the equation you can get any result you want.

Dano said...

We are back to:

I = P x A x T



Word verif agrees: 'queryo'

Climate Tuva or Bust said...


please, would you slap some sense into the discussion over at DE? I know it is onerous and odious work, but some fresh air is required for the rest of us.

Tenney Naumer
Vitória da Conquista, Bahia, Brazil

EliRabett said...


carrot eater said...

Eh. Fertility rates come down with wealth and development; per capita emissions go up. What to make of it? I agree with a Pielke, for once. The issues are related, but I don't think there's anything to be gained by linking them, policy-wise.

ccpo said...

Douglas Watts is a nincompoop. If this is the same Watts at WUWT, no surpise, eh? If not the same, my apologies, but you're still a nincompoop.

Every sustainable society I've ever read of used active population control. To pretend this is immoral shows only that you have no morality, for you judge others by your standard rather than the internal logic of their own values.

Further, if you don't understand that some resources are absolutely finite, and that at some point they *must* logically deplete, then you are not very bright. You can test this by locking yourself in your house, not going out, not having anything delivered, but keeping your bills paid, and seeing how it goes. (Hint: food will run out, water will not. Get it?)

Increasing population speeds up this process.

To take this further, i.e. pretend quite foolishly resources cannot be depleted, even if they are, they still replenish at given rates depending on the mix of variables. Animal populations, for example, show a very wide range of populations because population eventually outstrips resource replenshment, animals starve/go thirsty/what have you, and population drops. The reduced resource replenishes and population rises again. And so on and so on. (I have one child and plan to keep it that way. OH MY GOD! HOW HORRIBLE!!!)

Population matters. If you don't control that, you WILL have massive die off at some point. Period.

Better to encourage one child or better to watch millions/billions die in chaos?

EliRabett said...

CR, you forgot about land use.

carrot eater said...

I'm unsure that land use changes (in a climate-relevant way) necessarily have to scale with global population. Deforestation in Brazil or Indonesia can be addressed without making any additional effort to reduce fertility. Methane emissions associated with land use changes or agriculture might be a tad trickier.

carrot eater said...

Oh, you're worried about surface albedo changes? Is that really something worth getting bent out of shape for? Looks like a minor forcing to me. Doesn't seem to me to be a strong enough reason or linkage to start conflating population policy with climate change.

Fertility is coming down as it is. Access to family planning should be increased for its own right. The first and second order benefits of that are good enough; no particular need to add a tenuous fourth order one.

EliRabett said...

You should speak to Roger Sr. There is no doubt that land use has changed albedo over the last 200 years, starting with the European migration to the Americas and Australia, the settlement of Siberia which is on going, changes to tropical rain forests and more. This also appears to be a one way valve in many cases (although Eastern NA has been reforested to a degree). It is significant, maybe not as much as the ghg increase, but significant.

Anonymous said...

ccpo: speaking as a regular lurker, I think you have misinterpreted the good Douglass (not Anthony) Watts just a tiny little bit. But I would forgive you because you used the word "nincompoop".

Scuttling back to my hole now.

The Reverend Thigh Bone.

Dano said...


There is only so much time in the day, and I just can't visit that site any more. Sorry. Too aggravating on the blood pressure.



Dano said...

Land use is strongly scalar for many components, including albedo. But IMHO there is no doubt that LU has been a driver, and I've agreed with RP Sr over that and only a couple other issues for some time now. Most of his implicit denialism/delayer, no.



EliRabett said...

Eli agrees too. The insight here, if there is one, is that population growth has both an immediate and a delayed forcing, which at Rabett Run we call the bunny factor.

the_heat_is_on said...

Another perspective from The Economist:

Unknown said...

The Economist thing is one of those that has the undertone of making some happy.

The underling issue is what EO Wilson said when asked what was the carrying capacity of the Earth:

"If we consume like Japan and the US, 200 million."

Thus the I = P x A x T.



carrot eater said...

But must those land use changes scale with population? And in any case, what would coupling the issues do to efforts to promote family planning? Not much of anything, I'd say.

As it is, women already want to have fewer children than they actually do (see the Economist article). They need access to contraception. Let's provide them with that, not lectures about land use changes.

ccpo said...

Dear Reverend,

Sorry, but his words spoke for himself. If there is an error it is his for writing "blaming" as if population were an animate thing.

This false logic that more people doesn't equal more emissions is bunk. Yes, it might be theoretically possible for every human born henceforth to be disposed to consume carbon at a negative rate, it just isn't very intelligent to assume it to be so.


Dano said...

I had no idea that women were lectured about their land-use footprint. Boy, them furriners sure is strange.



Douglas Watts said...

Douglas Watts is a nincompoop.

Yes, at times. And I accept the admonition. My point is only that if we are looking solely at carbon footprint, a wealthy couple in the U.S. with no children spews a lot more C02 in the atmosphere than a large Tuareg family in the Sahel.

I accept fully Eli's concerns about rapidly increased population on deforestation, etc. with the caveat that a lot of deforestation is due to land clearing for things we in the West like to consume, like gold or paper or lumber etc.

Douglas Watts said...

This false logic that more people doesn't equal more emissions is bunk.

Not really. If childless adults in the U.S. exponentially increase their CO2 output due to consumerism and lifestyle choices that emit vast amounts of CO2 (jetting hither and yon, driving multiple vehicles that get 8 mpg), you can have increased CO2 even with negative population growth in that specific country or region. Is CO2 output decreasing or increasing in countries with flat or negative population growth? I believe it is increasing. This shows that even flat or negative population growth in a region can still result in great increases in CO2 output in that region.

What is clear to me is that AGW is going to reduce and constrain population carrying capacity, e.g. if the Himalayan glaciers melt, or the monsoons become sporadic, or critical marine nursery areas (salt marshes) collapse due to rapid sea level rise. In this context, rapid population growth will run smack head-on into a wall of falling carrying capacity due to AGW and massive suffering will result. In this respect, I agree fully with Eli.

ccpo said...

Douglas, you are ignoring the obvious here. One, the examples you cite aren't of a magnitude to be of much use. The pop changes are too small. That's obviously not what I am getting at. Second, Jevon's comes into play. We have seen it since 1979 and will see it again. And it doesn't matter if emissions and population lower in the OECD, or NA, or Europe if they go up globally.

Yes, it may be true that we may sui-genocide ourselves into lower emissions, but isn't that what the conversation is trying to avoid?

Any solutions now, and any future paradigm that is shifted to, that doesn't deal with population is doomed to ultimate failure. Theremay be exceptions in shorter term plans that are really just bridge solutions, but over longer time spans, humans have got to find a way to deal with this or we will never get close to a steady state economy and will continue to boom and bust like the rest of Nature. And, yes, I recognize that that may just be the way of things.


Hank Roberts said...

I know this is the wrong topic, but


Commentary on the paper:
Falsification Of
The Atmospheric CO2 Greenhouse Effects
Within The Frame Of Physics

Dipl.-physicist Jochen Ebel
23. November 2009

arXiv:0911.3735v1 [] 19 Nov 2009