Climate Change Threat is Continuation of Malthusian Population Claims

by Dr. Tim Ball on May 3, 2011

in Data,History,Legal,Philosophy,Theory

A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away. Government control is the name of the game. ~Barry Goldwater

The United States is rapidly coming under almost total government control as the Obama administration uses exaggerated claims of the failure of capitalism and the Bush administration as the excuse. Banks, automobile companies, energy companies (directly or indirectly through cap and trade), health care, and employment through increased government jobs (or government-funded jobs) are monopolizing the workforce as the control expands. How far will this go?

A long way, if Obama’s background and views of administrative appointees are a measure. Now they’re planning to control the weather. John Holdren, the science adviser, has already advocated controlling climate through geo-engineering in administrative discussions. Population control is not on the agenda yet, but population control to stop climate change supposedly provides legitimacy. Holdren was advocating population control long before climate change was an issue, but now he has the perfect vehicle for his uninformed, dangerous ideas.

What is the reality of overpopulation? Is the claim the ultimate application of Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)? It is certainly at the heart of the anti-humanity view of extreme environmentalists. Get rid of all the people and it would be a good place to live. A few claim it’s the primary cause of global warming and climate change, but this only underscores lack of knowledge of the issues. It is also seen as the ultimate form of political control as history illustrates.

Global warming due to overpopulation accepts the assumption that human addition of CO2 to the atmosphere is the cause and more people will produce more CO2. Not only is this claim wrong, but also CO2 in total is not the cause. How many times does it have to be said? Temperature increases before CO2 increases. For some it becomes a form of precautionary principle that even if humans are not causing warming, shouldn’t we reduce population anyway?

The world is not overpopulated. The US Census Bureau provides a running estimate of population and it was on July 30, 2009. Note: this is an estimate, because no accurate census exists for any country. This includes the US, which spends more money and effort than any other nation.

Most of the world is essentially unoccupied and population is concentrated mostly in coastal flood plains and deltas. Consider that Canada is the second largest country in the world with approximately 33.6 million residents (2009). Compare this with California with a 2008 population of an estimated 36.8 million people. This is why calculations putting the entire world population on certain islands or in specific regions are presented. You can do the math with Texas at 7,438,152,268,800 square feet divided by 6,774,436,692 for 1098 square feet per person. Fitting all the people in an area is different from their being able to live there. Population geographers distinguish between ecumene (the inhabited area) and non-ecumene (the uninhabited areas). The problem is that this definition is defined by what is habitable, which changes all the time. Similarly, the area of the earth that is habitable has changed because of technology, communications, and food production capacity. Three great turning points in human history identified by anthropologists are all related to weather and climate control. Use of fire and clothing allowed survival in colder regions, while irrigation offset droughts and allowed settlement in arid regions.

Regardless of the situation, the issue was always the carrying capacity of the land. Others, such as Confucius, had talked about ideal populations, but it was Malthus’ notion of too many humans for too little food that galvanized the modern debate. It is a false issue used for political power by a left-wing ideology. Even Paul Ehrlich, who made overpopulation a ticking time bomb with his 1968 book The Population Bomb, says humans actually occupy no more than 3 percent of the earth’s land surface. So his overpopulation concern is invalid from a carrying capacity perspective; it was the activities of a portion of the population that offended his political views. In an April 6, 1990 Associated Press quote he said,

Actually, the problem in the world is there is much (sic) too many rich people.

Compare his comment, quoted in Dixy Lee Ray’s book Trashing the Planet, that

We’ve already had too much economic growth in the United States. Economic growth in rich countries like ours is the disease, not the cure.

…with Maurice Strong’s comment,

Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized nations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?

The difference is that Strong acted on his belief by establishing the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and within that, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Paul Ehrlich’s ideas and credibility are totally discredited by the failure of almost all his dire predictions. For example, in his book he wrote,

The battle to feed humanity is over. In the 1970s, the world will undergo famines. Hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. Population control is the only answer.

By 1994, his predictions were completely wrong. Yet this did not stop the United Nations, with the enthusiastic support of Al Gore, from holding a population conference in Cairo, Egypt.

What better place to hold the conference with the teeming, hungry millions outside the conference hall? They ignored the fact that the Netherlands, with among the highest population density, also had among the highest standard of living. There was another connection with Maurice Strong because the conference grew out of the 1992 Rio conference he had organized. As the UN information at Cairo notes,

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21, adopted by the international community at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, call for patterns of development that reflect the new understanding of these and other intersectoral linkages.

This is bureaucratese justification for tying population to other perceived evils like global warming and to achieve sustainable development; the perfect political phrase that means everything to everyone and nothing to anyone. They did it with this statement:

Explicitly integrating population into economic and development strategies will both speed up the pace of sustainable development and poverty alleviation and contribute to the achievement of population objectives and an improved quality of life of the population.

Gore put it more succinctly in his statement on the Cairo population conference when he wrote,

No single solution will be sufficient by itself to produce the patterns of change so badly needed.

So how does all this connect to the Obama White House? Paul Ehrlich published articles with John Holdren with ideas and claims that are now totally discredited. Ehrlich claimed overpopulation would exhaust resources and create “a new age of scarcity”. This was a continuation of the theme of Limits to Growth developed by the Club of Rome. Economist Julian Simon turned Ehrlich’s claims on their ear. He publicly challenged Ehrlich’s doomsday claim of resource exhaustion by inviting him to name five metals that with a bet of $1000 would be cheaper at any time in the future. Holdren helped Ehrlich select the metals and they set a date of ten years in the future. Simon won.

The predictions were wrong but more important another pattern had emerged. It is known as the Demographic Transition Model.

Demographic Transition Model

Demographic Transition Model
Source

It shows, and all the statistics confirm, that populations decline as nations industrialize and the economy grows. Ironically, the problem in most developed countries is too rapid a decline in population and insufficient young people to support the massively expensive social programs for the elderly.

The world is not overpopulated. Thomas Malthus began the idea suggesting the population would outgrow the food supply. The Club of Rome adopted and adapted the idea to all resources, but the predictions were no better. Economist Julian Simon challenged Paul Ehrlich to name a number of minerals and bet him they would be cheaper and more available in any time period he chose. Ehrlich asked Holdren to name the minerals and the time period. Now this man with his record of inaccurate predictions is in charge of scientific predictions on climate in the Obama White House.