January 21, 2009
The Malthusian argument against climate action

Here's a problem with the global warming campaign I can't get out of my head.
Let's assume the dark outlook is right. Let's assume we act on it. Let's assume we stop the growth in energy expenditure per capita - maybe even cut it in half.
That's all fine - but the world's population is growing, so we're going to end up at the energy usage levels we dread; it's
just not going to be reached at 7 billion people but at 10 or 14 billion people.

So we're going to run into global warming-type problems in the end anyway. Will it really matter to the coastal populations of the world whether their homes are flooded because of 10 billion other people and not 7?

I doubt that very much.

Unless of course we can stop population growth. What is the only* known cure against insane population growth: Wealth. The richest countries consistently have the lovest population growth. Who uses the most energy? The richest. Of course there's the related problem that we can't invest in making the poor rich and childless if we're investing all our money in climate change.

This is kind of a Malthusian counterpoint to the Pascal climate wager people are throwing around. Using Pascal's Wager** - as in that pretty stupid video - strikes me as a criticism of the climate movement, not a recommendation. Especially in the light of the complete absence of demographic concerns in the debate.

* (OK, there's two: Untreated disease (e.g. AIDS) is the other)

** Imagine the horrible consequences if you don't believe in God and he does exist. It's safer to believe to avoid the risk.

Posted by Claus at January 21, 2009 04:18 AM | TrackBack (0)
Comments (post your own)

You are absolutely correct.
Denmark using 0 gallons of oil by 2012 will just mean slightly cheaper oil for China, USA for a few months.

All the oil that's there will be pumped up and burned. Because it's easy and - relatively - inexpensive.

As for the population explosion: we will kill the forest and the animals at a faster and faster pace. All over the earth. No exceptions. Then we'll each other.

So what can hope for? AIDS is not really a big killer. Every 14th Malawian is HIV positive
It has hardly made a dent in the population growth curve. Conventional war is usually also a rather inefficient killer of breeding humans.

We can probably only hope that people will get smart and secular and that couples will limit themselves to one child for a few hundred years.

But... We'll probably get protracted wars, famine and a throughly raped earth.

Travel now and enjoy it now while you got the money. Après nous, le Déluge.

Posted by: Niels Jørgensen on January 25, 2009 3:47 PM

Well, that's now how I would put it. I don't believe in the apocalyptic scenarios for climate change. Things will happen in a different manner, and the consequences will be to economy and property before they become fatal.
The argument is more that we're better of investing to deal with - inevitable - change, than to try and prevent the change. After all, this is how we defeated Malthus' pessimism.

Posted by: Classy on January 25, 2009 4:52 PM
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