Population and the Climate Change Lever

By Bill Dowling

It has become increasingly clear to me that the never ending global quest for more economic growth relies on both population and consumption growth as well as ever more energy to make it possible, and therefore has caused all the environmental damage and particularly climate change. It is now chiefly driven by debt and the profit motive, or quite simply, making and spending more money!

  • How do we stop this continuous and crazy human behavior cycle?
  • “Growth is the disease for which it pretends to be the cure.”
  • Are we really tackling the best or the right or the most fruitful and rewarding part of the “population problem”?
  • Trying to reduce population growth voluntarily is proving very difficult and any success is going to be very slow acting at best anyway.
  • Trying to reduce people’s consumption voluntarily is proving to be even harder, so …………… ditto!
  • Neither seem to be working anything like fast enough.

BUT – Severely restricting the fossil fuel energy supply would be the most effective and quickest overall solution – albeit somewhat economically and practically painful for a while!

However, this is simply because we have only gotten to where we are today on both population and consumption levels on the back of fossil fuels!

See last cartoon, and also the one here https://i.pinimg.com/originals/02/f9/68/02f96827e6f8a3c62345ef0af48f799e.jpg. and many more like it!

We are still almost completely reliant on fossil fuels to fuel more economic growth, as well as feed, clothe and shelter ourselves. Other energy sources only comprise circa 20% of the total. We cannot possibly support all the people we currently have at anything like the high consumption level we have now soon enough and for long enough without them. So, if we give them up like we really need to do, this will force consumption down drastically and also force population growth down – otherwise more people will simply die because we won’t be able to feed them properly. ( If it gets that bad – that will be just tough – millions, if not billions, are going to die due to climate change anyway, if we don’t do a lot more about that starting right now!)

So, the key to adopting this strategy as “the complete and final solution” (if not the only solution there really is!) is this –  IF the whole world population can at last finally become so convinced of the extremely serious threat of climate change such that they all agree to cut back on their fossil fuel use drastically and rapidly, global ecomomic decline will follow and all the necessary adjustments to our ways of life all over the world will quite simply have to be made and so they will follow. We will walk and cycle more and drive and fly less because we will have to, etc.

I have come to believe that if we don’t deal very seriously with this climate change issue right now, there is no long term future and no prospect of a long term sustainable human population  – so all our worrying about birth rates and overpopulation threatening a long term future is a bit of an anachronism on our part, to say the least.

If we get through and past this immediate climate change threat, we will at least have done our best to have a chance of having a long term sustainable population at the same time.

For any prospect of sustainable future, we humans have to have a habitable planet.

One that is too hot to live on with much of the land under sea water due to runaway climate change isnt any use.

“And so, while the end-of-the-world scenario will be rife with unimaginable horrors, we believe the pre-end period will be filled with unprecedented opportunities for profit.”

Therefore, the only logical and by far the most important reason to get birth rates down drastically right now is to (a) minimise the number of humans on the planet that are causing climate change, and (b) minimise the number of humans that will soon have to suffer and die from what is going to be quite extreme, and unavoidable, climate change effects.

Why don’t we in Population Matters and other NGOs use the fear of climate change as the very powerful lever it is?

Why not tell people this plain and simple frightening truth, and thus scare them into (a) giving up fossil fuels completely a lot sooner, and (b) having no more than one child or preferably none?

2 Replies to “Population and the Climate Change Lever”

  1. Bill Dowling nails it when he identifies both population and consumption growth as the root cause of environmental damage, particularly climate change.
    Despite the good new stories on alternative or green energy sources, it is shocking to consider the dominant role of fossil fuels and that “Other energy sources only comprise circa 20% of the total.” Sadly, billions may very well die due to climate change and other environmental disasters.
    If we cannot manage our population growth, the laws of nature can and will.
    Great cartoons, Bill!
    Bruce Mason

  2. That’s right, Bill, that we must continue to make it clear that global-warming, consumption of the planet’s limited resources and carbon emissions are a direct result of population growth worldwide.

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