Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Malthus, Ehrlich and The Club of Rome might have gotten everything wrong, but Waikato Professor Michael Cameron thinks we need to consider their work, and consider imposing curbs on population growth, if we want to prevent a future food crisis caused by anthropogenic CO2 emissions.
Curb population growth to tackle climate change: now that’s a tough ask
January 25, 2021 5.50am AEDT
Michael P. Cameron
Associate Professor in Economics, University of Waikato
Population growth plays a role in environmental damage and climate change.
The English political economist Thomas Robert Malthus laid out a compelling argument against overpopulation in his famous 1798 book, An Essay on the Principle of Population
But his essay could not have been timed worse, coming near the beginning of the longest period of sustained global population growth in history. This was driven in part by vast improvements in agricultural productivity over time.
This idea of hard environmental limits to population growth was resurrected in the 20th century in publications such as The Population Bomb, a 1968 book by Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich, and The Limits to Growth, a 1972 publication commissioned by the Club of Rome think-tank.
The implication of these treatises on the perils of population growth suggest population control is an important measure to limit carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions and global climate change.
That leaves population control, but the issues here are no less challenging. Government-led population control presents serious moral questions for democratic countries.
That’s why the only country to have undertaken a (moderately) successful form of population control is China, through the One Child Policy that ran from 1979 to 2015. Over that period, the total fertility rate in China roughly halved.
Read more: https://theconversation.com/curb-population-growth-to-tackle-climate-change-now-thats-a-tough-ask-153382
To be fair the professor goes on to say that prosperity may be enough to limit population growth, though I find it personally repugnant to see China’s disastrous and cruel one child policy described as any kind of success.
Is there a hard limit to population growth? There must be a limit, it is impossible the Earth could support an infinite number of people. But 200 years of failed serial doomsaying suggests those who worry we are approaching a hard limit to global population are almost certainly wrong.
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