Climate change isn’t the problem. A population bomb is killing us

By Paul B. Farrell | 23 September 2014
MarketWatch

The dinosaurs went extinct without knowing what hit them. But human beings know what’s coming and refuse to act.

The human race is in a suicidal rush to self-destruction. We can’t blame some grand conspiracy of climate-science deniers, Big Oil, Koch Bros, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, GOP governors and Congress.

We are the problem. You. Me. Too many of us. Population is out of control worldwide. Seven billion today. Ten billion by 2050, in one generation. Too many babies. Too many old folks. An out-of-control civilization committing mass suicide. We are responsible for destroying the planet.

We keep buying gas guzzlers, keep investing retirement money in Big Oil, forever in denial of the widening gap between perpetual economic growth and runaway population living on a planet of rapidly diminishing resources. We’re in denial, suicidal, blind. Forget global warming … until we face this deadly population bomb.

We’re solving the wrong problems. Yes, even the United Nations and the 2,500 elite scientists in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They’ve updated us with 2,000-page technical reports, every five or six years since 1988. They estimate global population out to 2150 with 12 billion people on the planet. Then, politicians, economists, businesses and families just ignore the disastrous impact of too many people.

As problem solvers, the U.N.’s climate scientists aren’t much different than Exxon Mobil’s CEO Rex Tillerson. He admits climate change is real, just an “engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution.” Same with the IPCC. But Tillerson doesn’t trust those “climate models to predict the magnitude of the impact.” At least Tillerson has faith that humans will “adapt to a sea-level rise.” After all, humans “have spent our entire existence adapting. We’ll adapt.”

The U.N. says we’re 97% certain climate change is human-caused. So what? Even if the U.N. has 20,000 scientists who are 100% certain that climate change will wipe human civilization off the planet like dinosaurs … still you can bet your Big Oil retirement stock that Tillerson and every other science denier will keep fighting for free-market capitalism, subsidies and deregulation, keep investing $37 billion annually in exploration. And with their war chest of $150 billion annual profits, they can still pay off all the politicians and investors they need to make sure Big Oil keeps beating all the U.N.’s climate scientists.

Even 2,500 scientists are in denial about the killer problem

What’s wrong? Everybody on Earth is in denial about our biggest problem — runaway population. Too many new babies, a net of 75 million a year. Admit it, we’re all closet deniers — leaders, billionaires, investors, the 99%, everybody. Even Bill McKibben’s 350.org global team. Everybody knows overpopulation is Planet Earth’s only real problem.

Demographic growth is the one key dependent variable in the IPCC’s scientific equation. But we refuse to take action. So, yes, even IPCC scientists are science deniers too. They know population growth is the killer issue, yet we avoid it.

Thousands of scientists have brilliant technical solutions for their narrow specialties, so many solutions to reduce the impact of global warming. But they keep avoiding the root cause. They keep focusing on Band-Aid solutions to climate-change science equations. Warning, population growth is the cause of the Earth’s problem, not the result.

Time to stop, shift, focus on the real problem. Stop focusing on the wrong variables. Your scientific method makes this clear … we are making too many babies, building an aging civilization. Out of control. Deal with it: Population is out of control. That’s the world’s No. 1 problem. Yet we’re trapped in mass denial. Nobody’s dealing with the world’s biggest problem. Listen:

  • Scientific American says global population growth is “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment.” By 2050 world population will explode from today’s 7 billion to 10 billion, with 1.4 billion each in India and China. With China’s economy nearly three times America’s.
  • Billionaire philanthropists met secretly in Manhattan five years ago: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner, Oprah Winfrey and others. Each took 15 minutes to present their favorite cause. Asked what was the “umbrella cause?” They all agreed: Overpopulation, said the billionaires. But they’re still silent today.
  • Our collective conscience is trapped in massive conspiracy. In “The Last Taboo,” Mother Jones columnist Julia Whitty hit the nail on the head: “What unites the Vatican, lefties, conservatives and scientists in a conspiracy of silence? Population.” But this hot-button issue ignites powerful reactions. Yet politicians won’t touch it. Nor will U.N.’s world leaders. Even when it’s killing us. Cowards talking a good game.
  • Jeremy Grantham’s investment firm GMO manages about $110 billion in assets. He also funds an Institute of Climate Change at London’s Imperial College. He warns, population growth is a huge “threat to the long-term viability of our species, when we reach a population level of 10 billion.” Why? It’s “impossible to feed 10 billion people.” We don’t need more farmers, we need fewer small mouths to feed.

But how? Bill Gates says we must cap global population at 8.3 billion, even as his vaccine and contraceptive plans extend life expectancy. But Columbia University’s Earth Institute Director Jeff Sachs says even 5 billion is too many. Stop adding more babies? Virtually impossible. So how do we not add a billion? Or subtract two billion from today’s seven billion total? Voluntary? Remember how China’s one-child plan failed.

World’s biggest problem — out-of-control population — has no solution?

Worst-case scenario: There is no solution. Overpopulation is going to drive the world off a cliff. And seems nobody really cares. Nobody’s working on the real solution. No one has the courage. Not U.N. leaders, scientists or billionaires. No one. It’s taboo. All part of a conspiracy of silence. A denial that’s killing us.

Any real solutions? Just wait for wars, pandemics, starvation to erase billions? Wait in denial? But will wars, disease, poverty solve Earth’s biggest problem, the problem no one wants to talk about? Meanwhile, Big Oil’s marketing studies keep telling CEOs like Tillerson the truth about the inconsistent behavior of irrational humans living in denial. To Big Oil, population growth is good, more customers, essential for economic growth.

Yes, we just keep telling ourselves we’re recyclers, green, love hybrids, eat organic.

Even as we just keep adding to the billion autos on the planet, keep buying Big Oil stocks for retirement, keep stocking up on carbon polluting products. Why? Our subconscious secretly endorses Big Oil’s strategy. As Tillerson once told Charlie Rose in BusinessWeek: “My philosophy is to make money. If I can drill and make money, then that’s what I want to do,” making “quality investments for our shareholders.” It’s a subtle conspiracy.

Is it already too late? Will we ever stop our insane suicidal obsession?

Don’t bet on it. Watching how America’s dysfunctional government solves problems lately is not encouraging.

Millennium ago dinosaurs disappeared. Didn’t know what hit them in the last great species extinction. They vanished forever. Forever. The planet never brought them back. Today humans know what’s ahead. We can make the big, tough decisions … if only we wake up in time … if only we have the will to act … before it really is too late.

Paul B. Farrell is a MarketWatch columnist based in San Luis Obispo, Calif. Follow him on Twitter @MKTWFarrell.

Last Call: The Untold Reasons of the Global Crisis is a film that shows the urgency of the message of warning launched by the authors of the most controversial book of the past 40 years: The Limits to Growth.

Critical Mass is a feature documentary about the impact of human population growth and consumption on the planet and on our psychology.

The Eighth Billion from Monty Hempel on Vimeo.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. Telling humans they are overpopulated is like lecturing a colony of yeast in a vat full of fruit not to become hard cider. Humans (except for Yours Truly and a handful of others) will whelp until the last fish is eaten and the last tree is sheared unless stopped by a dramatic airborne virus or by blowing themselves into a whole Earth-scale reenactment of Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

  2. Yes, it is too late, we are far into overshoot & the essential resources that made this possible are in decline. Too many ignorant, superstitious people exist to end growth humanely. When you add human caused climate change, we are truly doomed.
    Yes, it is too late, we are far into overshoot & the essential resources that made this possible are in decline. Too many ignorant, superstitious people exist to end growth humanely. When you add human caused climate change, we are truly doomed.

    There is nothing now to prevent collapse, first economic, then population collapse as we become unable to grow enough food or severe weather destroys agricultural crops. There will be more climate refugees. more economic migrants & more crime.
    Then it gets worse, enough said.

    Imagine yourself in a situation when electric service fails, food trucks stop arriving, or the water taps go dry etc.
    What would you do?

  3. But wait, mankind has an invention to halt global warming. Its not PV cells and its not wind turbines, though these technologies are vital for our future, its the contraceptive pill!

  4. The population is going down in the Western world bar the US – its the third world where the misery and suffering of over population is happening now – and will only get worse – tell Bill Gates and the other billionaires that contraceptives given after a family has had two kids is the best way – and pay people a bonus if they wait until they are in their late twenties or early thirties to start having children.

    • That's one of the easy things that we should be doing anyhow. It is so much cheaper to prevent kids than to take proper care of them. We know what causes them, and we have to technology to prevent them in many ways. Make that technology available to anyone willing to use it.

  5. Homo sapiens has always been, and continues to be an Insane Species. "Growth is Good" "Growth is Progress" is built into every facet of our society, our ideologies, our institutions, religions, our political/economic systems. It is the worst of Humanist behavior, the ultimate arrogance on the planet. I attended 2 international population conferences, both of which were meaningless drivel, ignoring the core problem of human fecundity. The mantra was about "development" and how by "developing" the rest of the planet, the poor countries, we will "solve" the human population problem. It has never happened. Now, even so-called "green and sustainable" groups/movements are pushing the idea that with the right manipulation of the environment (meaning more engineering, more human interference in Nature) "we can feed everyone." And many are falling for this lie. Why? Because this species cannot face reality. It is on a collision course with itself: self-fulfilling prophecy of Eco-side. The worst of this reality is that this species is not going down the tubes by itself, for if it were, the planet and some its other life might make it. No, this self-selfish, arrogant species is going to take most all non-human life with it. The latest reports indicate that at least 50% of wild species have already declined in the last few decades due to human activity. When intelligent life, sometime in the future, visits this once-blue/green planet, full of biodiversity, it most likely will look like Mars.

  6. There is no way you or anyone else deciding how many kids my wife and I get to spread our genetic material into. Period.

    Overpopulation is only a problem when it is combined with the capitalist system and wealth generation. There is plenty of resources for all of us if we were to use them wisely. Destroy the system, build communities.

  7. Don't glibly repeat the lie "Remember how China’s one-child plan failed."
    Compared to widespread malnutrition, it has been a great success.
    We westerners balk at their methods, but the net result took them from the example our mother's used to get us to eat our vegetables to a big creditor nation.
    .
    Part of the solution is to keep your eye on the goal.

  8. The flattering Cinderella's mirror known as the media is behind this denial..Climate change is treated as a technical problem to be solved rather than a symptom of what it is-a crisis of civilizational values. Economists see the volume of our goods and services as a measure of our compassion and future mindedness. Politicians see that 90% of pop growth is in the impoverished tropics – and don't want to alienate potential voters, or spoil the superficially amiable mood. Pope Francis, who should know better, is a spokesman for the interests and image of the global South, which the US leaders also want to court. An era of good feelings is fueled by cheap oil and an orchestrated mood of uncritical tolerance. The Left wants to blame the rich. The Right wants to blame the poor. Both oversimplify complex issues, and few in the media do more than join the pileup on one side or another. Soon enough the bills come due, and the longer we wait, the harsher will be the day of reckoning.

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