Ten Billion and catastrophe?
By Dennis T. Avery
This is a repeat of the wrong-headed "overpopulation" scares of the past. Looking back, there was Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb, 1968; Thomas Malthus's An Essay on the Principles of Population, 1766; and even Quintus Septimus Florens Terullianus, an early Christian Church leader, wrote on the subject while living in sparsely populated AD 200.
Oddly, this claim has new proponents just as the world's birth rate has reached an all time low. Births per woman in the poor countries have fallen from 6.2 at the end of World War II to about 2.6 today. The First World is already well below replacement, with birth rates still falling. The UN projections indicate only 6.2 billion people on the planet in 2100!
As for species loss, only three mammals have gone extinct on the world's continents in the last 500 years according to the Committee on Recently Extinct Organisms of the American Museum of Natural History. Another 58 mammals went extinct from islands, due primarily to humans bringing in such alien species as rats and cats. The story is similar for birds.
The overpopulation authors are also despairing about our "hidden water use" Emmot, a Microsoft "computational scientist," asserts that it takes 3,000 liters of water to produce a hamburger (counting the grass eaten and the water drunk). In real life, if the cattle disappeared from their pastures, the rain would still fall and then run to the sea.
Climate change? The planet has not warmed for at least 15 years. Something shifted in the climate cycling, and climate modelers are trying desperately to claim that they forecasted this interruption—rather than the "unprecedented" warming they actually did forecast.
The worst sin of the "ten billion" books, however, is asserting that societies with elected government can't save themselves! Democratic India's birth rate will soon match that of Chairman Mao's forced one-child China. However, unlike China, India will have some young workers to support the oldsters.
Humanity's fear of societal collapse is natural, given that few of our cultures have lasted more than 500 years. My research indicates, however, that "overpopulation" has had little to do with it.
Climate change, on the other hand, has had everything to do with our collapses:
* The Mayans supported about 15 million people in the jungles of the Yucatan, for centuries. Then came a century-long "little ice age" drought at 800 BC, and 95 percent of the Mayans starved or disappeared into the surrounding jungle.
* The Nile made Egypt the most sustainable human culture—except the Nile failed Egypt for centuries at a time: after 2200 BC, after 1650 BC, and after 1200 BC. Each time, huge numbers of Egyptians died.
* Angkor Wat and its fabulous temples in Cambodia collapsed twice—in the Dark Ages at AD 600, and again during the Little Ice Age after AD 1300. Droughts and floods meant no rice, no food, no culture.
Sustainability is a moving target. Mother Nature has periodically starved its humans, its mammals, birds, and even the plant life. The "little ice ages" are a permanent part of the earth's 1,500-year Dansgaard-Oeschger warming-cooling cycle.
Before we understood climate cycles, humans blamed themselves for bad weather. The ancients feared they had angered the gods. Many captives, virgins, and elderly "witches" paid the ultimate price. Today, when we should recognize the Modern Warming as a natural rebound from the Little Ice Age, affluent countries are threatening to commit worldwide economic "sacrifice" to, again, appease the climate gods. It didn't work then, It won't work now.
Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow for the Hudson Institute in Washington, D.C., is an environmental economist. He was formerly a senior analyst for the Department of State. He is co-author, with S. Fred Singer, of Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years. Readers may write to him at PO Box 202 Churchville, VA 2442; email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our website at www. cgfi.org