John Gray: Another Idiot!

This diatribe rather brought on a fit of the giggles.

The uncomfortable fact, which is ignored or denied by both ends of the environmental debate, is that an energy-intensive lifestyle of the kind enjoyed in the rich parts of the world cannot be extended to a human population of nine or 10 billion, the level forecast in UN studies for the middle of this century.

John, have you actually tried reading the UN reports? Specifically, the SRES, the economic models upon which the whole edifice of the IPCC, and thus global warming, is built?

Far from denying that the energy intensive lifestyle can be extended to 9 or 10 billion people, the whole system is predicated on the idea that it will happen. If you look at the A1 family, for example, it assumes that in 2100 the average living standard around the globe will be equal to that of the US in 2000.

So far from it being impossible, as you state, it is assumed. Which leaves you with one of two choices. You can carry on with your claim, that it is not possible, in which case you must reject the IPCC report, or you can accept the IPCC and reject your assertion.

Green activists, free-market economists and religious fundamentalists may not seem to have much in common, but they are all agreed there can be no such thing as overpopulation, or at any rate, nothing that can\’t be solved by better distribution, faster growth or a change in human values.

You seriously underestimate free market economists there. It\’s generally accepted (and indeed is again an assumption in the SRES models which underly the IPCC) that at a certain level of wealth (meant in its true sense, things like increasing lifespans, decreasing child mortality) fertility falls. All industrial nations (except the US) are below replacement fertility levels. We assume, as again the IPCC does, that as other nations get to similar levels of wealth as we were in the 60s and 70s, that their fertility will fall also to below replacement.

This is what leads, as with the A1 family again, to a population of 7 billion globally in 2100.

Far more than fantastical schemes for renewable energy, we need to ensure that contraception and abortion are freely available everywhere. A world of fewer people would be far better placed to deal with climate change than the heavily overpopulated one we are heading for now.

And that is simply ignorant. We know very well that what reduces the number of children is not access to either abortion or contraception: they have an effect only when the desire to reduce fertility is there. The more important point is for desired fertility to fall: the current state of knowledge is that 90% of changes in actual fertility come from changes in desired, only the last 10% from access to abortion and contraception. And as above, we know what reduces desired fertility, increased wealth.

Apparently this is extracted from his new book. Don\’t think I\’ll bother reading it (unless, of course, someone is interested in a review, one which might not be all that kind).

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