Over-population is the real cause of climate change – it’s killing us all off

By Joe Barry | 23 April 2014
Irish Independent

GROWTH: India's population is expected to exceed 1.27bn this year and is growing at more than 6.5m a year. (Photo: AP)
GROWTH: India’s population is expected to exceed 1.27bn this year and is growing at more than 6.5m a year. (Photo: AP)

Despite all the warnings of global warming and imminent disaster, it is unlikely that we will change our ways until a real catastrophe actually occurs.

We have all read about the storms, droughts, melting ice caps and rising sea levels occurring worldwide, while here in Ireland, during last winter’s floods and gales, we experienced a small foretaste of what might well become the norm.

But are we prepared to do anything meaningful about it?

Probably not, is the simple answer.

A lot of hot air will be generated during debates, but if changing the way we behave requires a reduction in our living standards, then nothing will happen.

If the worst occurs and the prophets of doom are proved correct, by then it will probably be too late. Our children will be faced with wars, famine and destitution as strong nations attempt to take over the scarce resources available in other countries and in the poorer areas of the globe, people will simply starve.

The remarkable thing is that the real cause of global warming is rarely mentioned. It is the elephant in the room. Everyone can see it but no one wants to speak about it, presumably because this subject is a contentious one and challenges the core beliefs of many religions.

The undeniable fact is that we, the human race, are the cause of our own difficulties and unless we reduce our numbers, we will self-destruct.

We blame the increase in livestock numbers as one reason for climate change while refusing to acknowledge that the true cause is too many people consuming rapidly depleting resources.

The basic belief that man was put on this earth to dominate all other creatures is still widespread, despite unfolding evidence that we are destroying the means of our survival.

We are gradually realising that if we continue to kill off the natural world, its demise will in turn kill us. The planet Earth is estimated to have resources that can sustain one billion people, yet we currently have more than 7bn, all competing for land, food, water, heat and shelter.

When famine struck in 1985 the population of Ethiopia was 36m. That famine eventually ended and their current population is now almost 100m.

In 1960, there were only 11m in the entire country.

The highest population growth currently occurs in nations with the greatest poverty. In peasant societies, large families are seen as a form of wealth and an insurance against poverty and starvation in old age.

Interestingly, the nations with high standards of living have in general, low or zero rates of population growth.

We send money to poor nations to help sink wells and buy livestock but do little or nothing about helping them control their rate of reproduction, which in turn creates further famines.

Assistance and education in introducing birth control would surely provide a more lasting solution.

The destruction of the natural world has been going on for centuries, with the expansion of agriculture, industry and the removal of forests.

During the past two centuries this has accelerated as we developed larger and more sophisticated machinery to help us mow down rain forests, plough and create ever more farm land, drain wetlands, expand our cities and road systems and mine high-carbon fuels which are then burnt and sent in to the atmosphere.

Just imagine the resources required to sustain cities like New York, London, or Paris.

Even worse is the volume of products from around the world imported annually in to places like Beijing or Hong Kong, but unless we visit countries and continents like India, Asia or Africa, we have little idea of what real overpopulation is.

Our current focus is on protecting our own standard of living, and only then making living conditions better for those less well off than ourselves. But if we ignore the threat that overpopulation presents to all of us, we ignore reality.

Like all animals, humans are programmed to reproduce and increase in number but like lemmings, which periodically breed beyond the carrying capacity of their surroundings, we are facing imminent disaster unless we change our ways.

In the past, wars, famine and plagues kept world populations in check. Happily these are now rare events, but if we continue to ignore the true reason for the environmental disasters facing us, we will rapidly pass the point where we can save ourselves.

How the world went from 170 million people to 7.3 billion, in one map

Stephen Emmott’s Ten Billion, Trailer | The Future of Our Planet

Al Bartlett – Democracy Cannot Survive Overpopulation

Overpopulation – We Beat Around the Bush

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56 COMMENTS

  1. Seems people are discussing the blame but not so much the solution, at least the ones who ascribe to this theory. If we already have too many people, we cannot "slow" growth our way out of it population-wise. How does one humanely decrease a population? I don't a good solution, but it seems disingenuous for the author to speak on the issue without an adequate solution. Based upon his words, we are already well beyond the limits of what this earth can support.

  2. Those advancing the dumb idea that this is simply a matter of consumption and not overpopulation – as if those two things are mutually exclusive – are just as dangerous as the religious fundamentalists. And by holding that particular moronic orthodoxy, they’re actually hurting the developing nations the most.

    And the suicide booth people. STFU until you learn something, anything, about this subject. You have a child’s understanding of the problem.

    The cures for overpopulation are great programs, in and of themselves.
    1. Education is first. Worldwide.
    2. Give women control over their own bodies.
    3. Instead of raping and stealing the resources of the developing nations, help their economies.
    4. Ubiquitous access to birth control. Again, worldwide.

  3. Look at all the irresponsible people.

    "It is already too late".

    Bullshit. Ban the combustion engine and put solar cells on as many city surfaces as possible. This will ensure growth and drastically reduce emissions so that "it is already too late" does not make the future really, really shitty for our successors.

  4. This essay is a gross misunderstanding of the problem, and a dangerous absolution of extractive, consumptive practices that have a monetary value associated with them. Overpopulation is potentially a problem, however, most estimates are that we have adequate resources for our current human population – if they are distributed equitably. Despite the threat of overpopulation, it is not the number of people on the planet that have caused climate change. It is the practice of extracting fossil fuels and selling their by-products in a global market to power every facet of our lives that has resulted in our current condition. The fact that Mr. Barry doesn't understand that would be excusable, if his proposition weren't so dangerous to our very survival. By re-directing the cause of climate change from its actual source to overpopulation, Mr. Barry is blaming the very people who are suffering most from the impacts of climate change, while ignoring the data clearly pointing to the greatest emitters of Greenhouse Gases [GHG's] the chemicals causing climate change. The United States has about 4% of the world's population, yet emits close to 30% of all the GHG's in the world. Population is not pushing climate change – consumption of fossil fuels is.

    • Watch ” Cowspiracy”. It’s not the fuels that are the main greenhouse gas threat ! It’s live stock – eg cows . But nobody wants to let go of eating steak every day .

  5. We have not advanced despite all the technology in 50 years. As an architect one out 10 clients has some wish to mqke their and our life smarter, but realestate people, bankers, contractors are unmovable object.
    We are mentally not capable as a society ( societies) as each of us have a system around us that is unwilling to lose their market share or method.
    Very simple.

  6. I agree with this article. Except that it only mentions population. Ehrlich, who has had population as his hobby horse for decades, says it is due to the multiplication of 3 factors, Population times consumption times technology. If population was near zero, people could consume all they want and do negligible environmental damage. If individuals had negligible consumption, large populations would be possible with little environmental damage. Technology can increase or decrease damage even when the other factors don't change. We need to use technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, for instance. We cannot stop global warming by reducing population to 1 billion, for instance, without killing 6 million people, because it will take too long to reduce population. I think the author is right, people won't give up prosperity. In fact, we are unwilling to stop economic growth. A few people like the "minimalist" life, drop out of the rat race, don't work so hard, earn less, but spend much less on things you don't need, and enjoy life more. Likely won't get many converts, but great if it did. Ultimately, Ehrlich argues, population growth is unsustainable, and will stop. We have the choice to stop it by birth control, or let death control do it for us. Simple biology, Technology has made it possible for us to escape Malthus' predictions so far, but it won't go on forever. Sooner we reduce and stop population growth and then bring populations down to more sustainable levels the better we will all be. Among other things, we don't have the natural resources to have all 7 billion people live the way most Americans do.

  7. While I fully agree that overpopulation IS ONE of the problems, in my opinion the other, or real, problem is its solution, which appears to be overlooked. Population growth must come to a full stop (the sooner the better) and the the population must be reduced to a sustainable level (1 to 2 billion) in at most a few centuries….

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