A few months ago, NYT columnist Bret Stephens was lambasted for saying this:
A guy I know just had a baby and he’s a big global warming, climate change activist. If he thinks in 20 years we’ll be heading toward unsustainable climates and there will be tens of millions of people being displaced, presumably including himself, at the most apocalyptic level, then presumably he wouldn’t be having children.
It contradicts the belief that we are heading ineluctably for an apocalyptic environmental future.
The entire environmentalist blogosphere erupted. But … the thing is that what Stephens said has been environmentalist gospel for years. There is about half a century of the left side of the environmental movement embracing and even demanding population control. From Ehrlich to Holdren to Bill Nye, we’ve had constant calls for population control. The most recent iteration appeared in the Guardian, which talked about a paper that said the most effective way to reduce your carbon footprint is to have fewer children.
Carbon emissions must fall to two tonnes of CO2 per person by 2050 to avoid severe global warming, but in the US and Australia emissions are currently 16 tonnes per person and in the UK seven tonnes. “That’s obviously a really big change and we wanted to show that individuals have an opportunity to be a part of that,” said Kimberly Nicholas, at Lund University in Sweden and one of the research team.
The new study, published in Environmental Research Letters, sets out the impact of different actions on a comparable basis. By far the biggest ultimate impact is having one fewer child, which the researchers calculated equated to a reduction of 58 tonnes of CO2 for each year of a parent’s life.
Put aside the fancy calculations. What this amounts to is saying that there would be no carbon emissions if there were no people. And that’s true enough, I guess. But this paper has been run with by many environmentalists, including those who criticized Stephens, as sound advice for a healthier planet. You would think the ugly history of population control, such as China’s brutal one-child policy, would give them pause. But no, they’re running out there with another round of, “Stop having babies, everyone!”
Well, they’re wrong against just as they’ve always been wrong on this particular subject. As it happens, the world is not facing an overpopulation crisis. Population is projected to peak mid-century. In fact, many countries are now worried about an underpopulation crisis. Countries like Japan and almost all of Western Europe are worried that their societies will not be able to sustain themselves.
What’s more, global warming is not a problem that we have a solution to. Alternative energy and efficiency are great but they are only delaying actions. The real breakthroughs — on nuclear power, energy storage or climate mitigation — have yet to be made. We need future generations of engineers, scientists and business people if we’re going to make those breakthroughs. That means having children. That especially means educated people have educated children. By encouraging such people to not have children, the greens are delaying future environmental progress, not advancing it.
Post Scriptum: I noted earlier that I was in Israel this week. I’ll write a full report at some point. But one thing I’ve noticed about Israel — especially in contrast to Europe — is the number of children. There are children everywhere in Tel Aviv. This is as opposed to Rome or London, which are almost childless. It’s not unusual to see a family with four or five children. Part of this is religious of course. But it’s not like Israel is a totally oppressive patriarchy. Women serve in the military. The WEF ranks Israel 49th in gender equality, even by their somewhat odd methodology (which ranks Rwanda 5th). If you look at maps of countries by gender equality, Israel is an island of gender equity in sea of oppression.
One theme you run into in Israel is past-present-future, the idea that this is a country which has a rich history but is looking forward to the future. They have one because they’re having children. Europe … doesn’t have a future. And if we listen to the environmentalists and stop having children, neither will we.