Focus on causes of climate change may shift to population control in 2022

It was not in the foreground at the climate change summit in Glasgow, but it was whispered in the hallways and over meals.

For politicians, it is flammable. For some religions, this is heresy. Yet it requires a hearing: the growth of the world’s population.

As the world struggles to decarbonise itself, saving it from sea level rise and other disasters associated with climate change, there is no official recognition anywhere that people play a vital role.

People are doing things that are causing climate change, from burning coal to raising beef cattle. A lot of people equals a lot of pollution, equates to a large, obvious and indisputable climate impact.

In 1950, the world’s population was just over 2.5 billion people. This year, it is calculated at 7.9 billion. By the middle of the century, it is expected to increase by a further $ 2 billion.

There is a time bomb, and this is us.

There has been one big failed attempt to restrain population growth: China’s one-child policy. Besides being draconian, it didn’t work out well and was dropped.

The demographic alarm has a long history, dating back to the 18th century and Thomas Malthus, the English demographer and economist who gave birth to what is called the Malthusian theory. This indicates that food production will not be able to keep up with the growth of the human population, which will lead to famine and war; and the only way forward is to restrict population growth.

The idea of ​​an over-resourceful population revived in 1972 with a controversial report called “Limits to Growth” by the Club of Rome, a global think tank.

This report led to battles over oil supplies when the energy crisis erupted the following year. The anti-growth and population-limiting side found themselves in an uphill struggle with those who believed technology would save the day. It made. More energy entered the market, petroleum resources were discovered all over the world, including in the previously unexplored southern hemisphere.

Since this debate on the limits of growth, the world population has increased inexorably. Now, if growth is the problem, the problem needs to be looked at more urgently. I think 2022 is the year the review will start.

Clearly, no country is going to want to give up on China’s failed one-child policy, and only authoritarian governments could consider it anyway. Free people in democratic countries mismanage diktats: take, for example, the difficulty of imposing the wearing of masks during the time of the Covid pandemic.

If we are to talk about a capping of the world’s population, we have to turn away from diktats for other more subtle pressures.

There is a solution, and the challenge for the world is whether we can get there fast enough.

That solution is prosperity. When people enter the middle class, they tend to have fewer children. So much so that traditional populations are in decline in the United States, Japan, and much of Europe – even in nominally Catholic France. The data is skewed by immigration in all of these countries – with the exception of Japan, where it is particularly striking. This shows that population stability can occur without dictatorial social engineering.

In the United States, the not-so-secret weapon may be nothing more than the excessive cost of a college education.

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of “White House Chronicle” on PBS. He wrote this for