Thursday, April 29, 2021

Vox doesn't understand population growth and climate

Parachuting back to highlight a really bad article in Vox saying it's okay to have kids (no discussion of how many is okay, so I guess a quiverfull is fine) regardless of climate change. 

Bad arguments include saying that the only climate emissions that matter are the ones that happen in the next decade (and still not noticing that having kids would affect that figure). My favorite though is a cute story from the Bible that said Israelite women in Egypt wanted children when the men didn't, and one of the kids ended up being Moses. Literally magical thinking at work, "as an expression of hope".

There is the tired-yet-legit argument over personal action versus government policy, but you're really choosing the worst facts for your side if you think personal action of having (an apparently unlimited number of) kids is okay for climate. This isn't about skipping straws.

More hangovers from the horrible racism that afflicted past efforts to care about population growth.

So I'll stick with my recommendation instead - vast long-term decrease of human population on Earth, and virtually unlimited numbers off-planet.


Tom said...

Population is the largest driver of human environmental impacts.

Population is a losing argument.


Barton Paul Levenson said...

Who wants their skin to glow? I suppose it might be useful for finding your way in the dark...

Ken Fabian said...

Whilst having much less people would make emissions less problematic so does reducing emissions. Controlling population looks a lot more problematic than reducing emissions. Reducing population within time frames that solve our looming environmental problems crosses into crimes-against-humanity territory. We will come against limits but it won't be climate activism that takes us there - climate action not requiring it and climate activism being inherently humane.

"... unlimited numbers off-planet." is just wishful thinking. Without an enduring healthy, wealthy Earth economy no-one will ever get to live off-planet. And self reliance off Earth requires a healthy, wealthy space economy of large scale to support the essential advanced technologies; I think it will only arise as an emergent outcome of an enduring history of economic viability as outposts of the Greater Earth economy.

A bit of healthy skepticism of claims space colonies are an option, let alone inevitable seems appropriate.

It is not the job of any government to use taxpayer funds to do bunkers or space colonies for such purposes - government built bunkers being for preserving the capability to protect their nations, not to abandon them.


If the world is not peopled, the Anthropocene is toast.

OTOH , bequeathing critical climate theory to artificial intellgence might raise its tone

CapitalistImperialistPig said...

I lean toward mandatory sterilization of everyone until they demonstrate some fitness to raise children: a job and a partner or other reliable backup, some psych testing.

ccpo said...

According to the folks at, iirc, Drawdown, each extra child is by far the worst thing one can do for climate. Now, this clearly assumes present modern humans, but resources are resources are resources. Over a lifetime, we consume a heck of a lot. However, we are stuck with 9 to 10 billion no matter what we do excepting a catastrophe the likes of which hasn't been seen since Chicxulub. That is, population is *the* issue in the long term, but is not *an* issue over the next 30 to 40 years because there is precious little we can do about it. We are stuck with those numbers over a time frame that covers the very likely window for mitigation determined by Earth herself.

This week's news on the cryosphere - 2060, yay! /sarc - should be the final nail in the incremental change coffin, but it won't be. What it does mean is we can't "bend the curve" on population in any time frame that matters to mitigation. We must accept that all the changes we need must be well before the peak in population. Therefore, we need policies that get us to the short-term regenerative threshold and long-term much lower population to give the planet the chance to heal and for people to live in simple abundance - as well as leaving resources to both future generations and the few hi-tech things we need to keep long term: Limited long-distance travel, medical care, communications, (much lower!) energy production and R&D - including learning to mine the solar system as well as get wastes off-world (a 4th generation hence goal).

If we can get regenerative within the next 30 years, then we can all live well even at 9 or 10 billion. In fact, about ten years ago I ran the numbers on regenerative food production and found we could support 12 billion living regeneratively. Clearly, that means simplification. So, no, population is not the short-term cure in any way, shape or form, but it is vital to long-term abundance and health of the planet.

Snape said...

The problems associated with global warming are being way overhyped. It went from an under appreciated threat to the other extreme.

Population is the bigger issue by far, and people are afraid to even bring it up.

Snape said...

A society where every woman has just one child. but for example at the young age of 17, would result in the same population (actually a little bigger) than if every woman had 2 children at the age of 34.

Barton Paul Levenson said...

S: The problems associated with global warming are being way overhyped.

BPL: Prove it. Show your work.

Snape said...

A big picture example -

In the year 1700 Bangladesh had a population of 17 million. By 2011, the population had swelled to 150 million:

A big problem for a country that is 80% floodplain and has a long history of severe flooding:


Sure, a changing climate is making the situation worse and grabs the headlines, but compared to the massive changes in demographics?

190 million projected by 2050:

Snape said...

Another example - media coverage of the ‘Texas Freeze’ from earlier this year.

[As the Los Angeles Times put it:

“While rising global temperatures are the best-known consequence of burning fossil fuels, there’s also a growing body of scientific evidence linking this kind of cold spell across the middle of the country to rapidly warming conditions in the Arctic.”
Reuters reported that a White House statement also hinted at the connection, saying that – the newswire said – the severe winter storm “was the type of extreme weather event that climate change is triggering”.

White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall told reporters in a phone briefing:

“The extreme weather events that we’re experiencing this week across the central, southern and now the eastern US do yet again demonstrate to us that climate change is real and it’s happening now, and we’re not adequately prepared for it.”
Dr Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research, told the Guardian that events in the US this week “can’t be hand-waved away as if it’s entirely natural”, adding that “this is happening not in spite of climate change, it’s in part due to climate change”.]


In reality, the trend is towards fewer, not more, extreme cold events.


CONUS, all seasons:

Too often the notion of ‘more extreme events’ has became a mantra, lacking nuance or fact checking.

From an interview with Gavin,

Q: People tend to say climate change causes more extreme weather.

A: They do say that but it’s not correct. An outbreak of tornadoes is obviously very extreme but it’s totally different physics and understanding than a cold air outbreak like this.

A hurricane is also an extreme event. A hail storm is an extreme event. It doesn’t make any sense to say that all extremes are going to change because of global warming or they’re all going to go in one direction. You have to look at the extremes themselves.

Some kinds of extremes you do find that there’s a contribution from climate change, so intense rainfall events, like you had with Harvey. Tornado outbreaks, the jury is still out. Ice storms, jury is still out.

ccpo said...

And? Doesn't address any point I made.

ccpo said...

Demonstrably false. So obvious, it's not worth anyone's time. Feel free to read up on recent papers on 14-year doubling of heat per m2, Antarctica stability, Greenland stability.

Snape said...

Please read about the Atlantic Forest, Brazil,

“Animals: The Atlantic Forest harbors around 2,200 species of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians—5% of the vertebrates on Earth. This includes nearly 200 bird species found nowhere else, and 60% of all of Brazil’s threatened animal species call this forest home.

Brazil as a whole is the world’s leader in primate diversity, with 77 species and subspecies identified to date. Of these, 26 are found in the Atlantic forest, of which 21 are found nowhere else in the world.

Some of the Atlantic Forest’s most charismatic species include the golden lion tamarin, wooly spider monkey, red-tailed parrot, and maned three-toed sloth.

Plants: The Atlantic Forest of Brazil is also home to around 20,000 species of plants, representing 8% of the Earth’s plants. In fact, in the 1990s researchers from the New York Botanical Garden counted 458 tree species in 2.5 acres—more than double the number of tree species in the entire U.S. eastern seaboard. New species of flora and fauna continue to be discovered.

The forest structure of the Atlantic Forest contains multiple canopies that support an extremely rich vegetation mix. This includes an astonishing diversity of ferns, mosses and epiphytes (“air plants” or plants that attach to other plants), including lianas, orchids and bromeliads.”

And this is what humans have done - nothing to do with AGW,

“Five hundred years ago, the Atlantic Forest of Brazil covered approximately 330 million acres (about twice the size of Texas), but today more than 85% of this forest has been cleared and what remains is highly fragmented”

The destruction of the Atlantic Forest is continuing as we speak, and is a tiny example of what is going on all around the planet.

Meanwhile. we fret about the problems a 3 mm/year sea level rise will pose 80 years from now.

Snape said...

Snape said...

You wrote, “each extra child is by far the worst thing one can do for climate.”

My point is that having a child at a very young age, but no extra, can be just as bad for the planet as having two children later in life.

Or you could look at it the other way around. Again, If a woman has a child at the age of 34, and an additional child two years later, it’s no worse for the planet than if she had had just one child at the age of 17.

Snape said...

Habitat loss:
“We often think of environmental damage as a modern problem, but humans have been transforming the planet for millennia.
Human expansion led to the Quaternary Extinction – the extinction of more than 178 species of the world’s largest mammals – more than 10,000 years ago.
Human transformation of global land use accelerated rapidly with the advent of agriculture around 12,000 years ago.
Humans very quickly became the dominant land user, reaching 5% of land use around the year 900; 10% by 1700; 25% by 1880; up to half of all land today.”