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.