Ignorant stupidity on climate change and population from Travis N Reider

This is really, really, bad work here. It’s an almost Ritchie level of misunderstanding. For what is being done is to work from first principles without going out and looking to see whether other people had already worked through this problem. Those other people having, just possibly you know, come up with an answer to hte question being asked.

So, that question is, well, should we be having babies when the planet might boil? The answer is – yes.

Our philosopher here says no, perhaps not. And it is our philosopher who is wrong.

Yes, humans are producers, and many wonderful things have come from human genius. But each person, whatever else they are (genius or dunce, producer or drag on the economy) is also a consumer. And this is the only claim needed in order to be worried about climate change.

The problem here is that we have a finite resource – the ability of the Earth’s atmosphere to absorb greenhouse gases without violently disrupting the climate – and each additional person contributes to the total amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. So although humans will hopefully save us (we do, in fact, desperately need brilliant people to develop scaleable technology to remove carbon from the air, for instance), the solution to this cannot be to have as many babies as possible, with the hope that this raises our probability of solving the problem. Because each baby is also an emitter, whether a genius or not.

More humans means more emissions therefore we should have fewer humans. This is one of those things which is possibly true. But of course what we want to know is, well, is it true? And the answer is no.

For this has been considered. In the SRES which came out in, erm, 1992? And which is the economic skeleton upon which every IPCC report up to and including AR4 was built. And it specifically looks at the varied influences of wealth, population size and technology upon emissions. That’s what it’s actually for in fact. It can be thought of a working through of Paul Ehrlich’s I = PAT equation, impact equals population times affluence times technology. Except, of course, it gets that equation right, dividing by technology, not multiplying by it.

And the answer is that population isn’t the important variable. Nor is affluence, not directly, it’s technology which is. Move over to non-emitting forms of energy generation (and no, not some crash program, just the same sort of increase in efficiency which we had in the 20th century will do it) as in A1T and we’re done. Or if you prefer a bit more social democracy, as in B1.

Population size just isn’t the driving force behind the problem. Thus it’s also not the solution. And we’ve known this for more than 20 years.

22 thoughts on “Ignorant stupidity on climate change and population from Travis N Reider”

  1. It’s a fun argument to use against lefties though. Every immigrant from a poor country will consume a lot more upon arrival in the developed world. Therefore immigration is bad for the planet. Cue much amusement as the leftie tries to rationalise that.

  2. A variation on Andrew M’s theme: take a lefty Catholic – let’s give him a random name like, oh I dunno, Pope Francis – and ask him to go over his belief in Economics as a zero-sum game, where all poverty is caused by the greed of Western businessmen. Then ask him how he can stomach the thought of more babies being born into this zero-sum world. Then, if you’re enjoying the game, point out that on your world more babies just aren’t a problem.

  3. ‘I like liking consuming stuff’

    there’s good consumption and bad.

    Mine is good, yours is bad (unless I produced it)

  4. xkcd just went down in my estimations with a graph which conveniently omitted the pause in gorebull warmung, showing a massive increase from 2000-2016…

  5. “I can’t understand the Groan’s obsession with painting ‘consuming’ as evil.”

    It’s the modern mask of the age-old fear and hatred of the proletariat getting wealthier and uppity. Note that the Guardian’s examples of consumerism are unconsciously almost always examples of working class consumption – cheap flights, package holidays, fast food.

    You won’t see importing fine wines or coffee from South America on their lists.

  6. Greens are always going on about how much humans harm the planet, but then also seem to want us to be intervening everywhere to restore some balance or other.

  7. Greenies try to disguise their hatred of other people and desire to control their lives by spouting off about global warming and carbon (sic). They don’t really want to save the planet, they just want humanity to be wiped out

  8. Funny how the people advocating
    ‘More humans means more emissions therefore we should have fewer humans.’
    never volunteer for euthanasia in order to mitigate ‘the problem’.

    If we continued to have a TFR of 1.6 (which we would have if we stopped importing people from the third world)
    The last child in the UK would be born only 80 generations from now (about 2175) and by 2275 the place would be empty.

  9. 3,600 or 3,700 AD ..??

    And that’s assuming a generation is just 20 years. I think you typed 8 in to your calculator rather than 80 (generations)..:)

  10. ‘Population size just isn’t the driving force behind the problem.’

    Population IS the problem. Global warming is sciency bullshit to get us to accept Malthusian elitism.

  11. “Desperately need brilliant people to develop scaleable technology to remove carbon from the air”

    If only these f***wits actually knew the difference between Carbon and Carbon Dioxide…

  12. Michael – “I can’t understand the Groan’s obsession with painting ‘consuming’ as evil.”

    The Left used to dream of a world where everyone was free, equal – and rich. Where the poor would have cars, second homes, enough food to eat.

    Now they dream of a world of subsistence agriculture where putting meat on the table was a rare luxury – but where the serfs will tug their forelock to their betters.

    “I like consuming stuff.”

    I like the stuff that rich people, especially Old Money, consume.

  13. “Desperately need brilliant people to develop scaleable technology to remove carbon from the air”

    How, if none of them are born?

  14. “Desperately need brilliant people to develop scaleable technology to remove carbon from the air”

    He may find that God, or the Blind Forces of Evolution, were there before him. If he likes I can sell him some of these magical devices, guaranteed to be very low maintenance, that are capable of removing quite a lot of CO2 from the atmosphere. They are even scaleable to the point that they could, theoretically I guess, cover a significant percentage of the planet’s surface.

    Best of all, after working quietly and unobtrusively for a few hundred years, you can turn them into very nice furniture.

  15. “Desperately need brilliant people to develop scaleable technology to remove carbon from the air”

    If this need is indeed desperate, then no doubt he will support one of TW’s long standing bugbears and oppose the ban on dumping iron particles in the ocean? Right? Because it is such an important issue, we should be encouraging algal blooms at sea, in order to sequester all that evil CO2, even if there is an insignificant risk something might go wrong.

  16. I tried to find out what Rieder’s degrees are in. Can’t find it. I assume we have a case of Argumentum Ad Verecundiam. We need to know what Rieder’s education is before we pay him any attention at all.

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