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Population expert: I stand accused of causing a ‘progeny calamity’ for being ‘pro-natal’

Thu Jan 2, 2020 - 2:35 pm EST
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Steven Mosher. LifeSiteNews

January 2, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Like all public figures, I get my share of crank letters in the mail.  Most of these go right where they belong—spiraling downward into the circular file that sits on the floor by my desk.  

But every so often one comes in that catches my attention, like the “Certificate of Recognition” I recently received from a former Stanford colleague of mine.  

In it, he hammers me for my “Pro-Natal Conduct” and my “reprehensible ignorance” of “Climate Change Science.” Don’t I know, he says, that more people means “an Unraveling Social, Economic and Environment, Extreme Weather Events, Massive Midwest Flooding, Rising Oceans, Never-Before-Seen tornado and Hurricane Seasons.”

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Running out of room on the “Certificate”--but not out of words--he ranted on for three more pages about how I was “betraying my grandchildren.”  Among other things, he claimed that “the world is adding 87 million people a year,” “a billion people have no access to fresh clean water,” “energy resources are finite,” and “minerals will definitely run out.”

Such is the value of a Stanford education these days that he is completely, absolutely, and fundamentally wrong on every single point.

“Climate Change”

My hysterical colleague (along with every single Democratic candidate for president) apparently believes that global temperatures are reaching the boiling point.  But the best evidence, published recently in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences, shows a warming rate of just 0.095C per decade over the last 38 years.  One-tenth of a degree every ten years is about half the rate predicted by the computer models on which the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and various government agencies rely for their predictions of climate doom.

Why is that significant? Because it suggests that someone is tinkering with the models--the only basis for predictions of future temperature—to suggest that the warming will be much more dramatic than it actually is.  This is what happens when scientific questions are heavily politicized--as questions concerning the cause, extent, and threat of global warming have been.  

“ … An Unraveling Social, Economic and Environment.” 

My colleague echoes AOC in suggesting that “The end is near.”  But by every available metric, from life spans to caloric consumption, human beings are better off than they have ever been in human history.  Over the past 250 years or so, living standards have improved so dramatically that the average person on the planet now lives longer, eats better and enjoys better housing than European nobility in the Middle Ages. What would King Henry VIII of England have given for a refrigerator, much less for a smartphone or penicillin?

We live in the best of times, not the worst of times.

“ … Extreme Weather Events, Massive Midwest Flooding, Rising Oceans, Never-Before-Seen tornado and Hurricane Seasons.” “

To listen to my hysterical colleague, we are experiencing the last days of the Planet Krypton.  But the evidence simply does not bear this out.  Take the issue of hurricanes, for example.  Even the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was forced to admit in 2012: “There is low confidence in any observed long-term (i.e., 40 years or more) increases in tropical cyclone activity (i.e., intensity, frequency, duration), after accounting for past changes in observing capabilities.” 

“Low confidence” is science-speak for “there is no evidence.” 

“ … The world is adding 87 million people a year,”

Typical exaggeration on the part of the gloom and doom types.  The world actually added 81 million people in 2019.  Global population numbers may be somewhat inflated as well.  There is some evidence that China, for example, has overcounted its population by some 100 million people. 

The more important fact is that fertility rates are falling worldwide, including in the United States, which long had the highest birth rates in the developed world. 

Many countries are currently literally dying — filling more coffins than cradles — and many more will soon follow. Even populous China has one foot in the grave, demographically speaking, as its aging population begins dying off.  The population of the entire world will start shrinking shortly after mid-century.

“… A billion people have no access to fresh clean water,”

Another gross exaggeration.   According to the World Health Organization, since 1990 some 2.6 billion people have gained access to an “improved” drinking water source, that is to say, one that is designed to protect against contamination.  By 2015 the number of people who still drank water from unprotected sources had been reduced to 663 million, and that number has been reduced in the years since as global poverty is reduced.

At the same time, we are becoming far more efficient where the use of water is concerned, especially in agriculture. This in turn leaves more water available for basic human needs. 

Notice what my Stanford colleague isn’t saying.  He’s not talking about famine, because hardly anyone starves to death any more.  He’s not talking about child mortality, because fewer and fewer children die in infancy.  And he’s not talking about disease, because such scourges as malaria, polio, and heart disease are all on the decline.  

“… Energy resources are finite,”

Fossil fuels are theoretically finite, although we keep discovering new reserves, and more ways to extract existing ones, with each passing year.  

Other sources of energy, however, are clearly not finite.  Environmentalists constantly hector us on the need to use wind and solar.  Leaving aside the difficulties of capturing such diffuse forms of energy, do they think that the wind will stop blowing, or the sun will stop shining?  And what about the virtually infinite amount of energy that can be generated by clean nuclear energy from fission or, one day soon, fusion?  

My colleague can’t have it both ways.  Either energy resources are finite or they are not.  And they are not.

“… Minerals will definitely run out.”

This claim has definitely passed its “sell by” date.  It owes its origins to a book called The Limits to Growth published almost 50 years ago which asserted that the world would run out of silver, zinc, copper, mercury and--well, just about everything--by the year 2000.  Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich and others argued from this that radical population control programs were the only answer. 

My friend Julian Simon disagreed, arguing that if any metal grew scarce human ingenuity would enable us to find substitutes.  After all, he noted, the Stone Age did not end for lack of stone.  He bet Ehrlich that any five metals that he (Ehrlich) picked would cost less—not more--in 1990 than they did in 1980.  Prices fell over the decade, as Simon had expected, and he won the bet hands down.  Ehrlich paid up, but not without taking a parting shot at Simon, saying “The one thing we’ll never run out of is imbeciles.” 

I’ll let you judge for yourselves who the imbecile is in this equation, given that, thirty years further down the road, none of the metals Ehrlich picked has run out or even significantly risen in price.   

Another happy but unheralded fact comes from MIT scientist Andrew McAfee, whose book More from Less documents how we are using less water, less land, and less metal to produce more food and more goods.  In other words, the future promises to be greener and more abundant without denying people the right to drive their own cars, own and heat their own homes--or have as many children as they want.  

In fact, the anti-people crank who wrote me got things exactly backwards.  Our long-term problem is not going to be too many people, but too few people.  

That’s the real “Progeny Calamity” and it is occurring right before our very eyes.Steven W. 

Steven W. Mosher is the President of the Population Research Institute and the author of Bully of Asia: Why China’s Dream is the New Threat to World Order


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