The Biggest Driver of Human Contributions to Climate Change

Although we talk incessantly about fossil fuel emissions and to a lesser extent than we should about deforestation, black soot and other human causes of climate change,  the big one is population. More poor people consume more energy (cutting down trees for fuel), need more land (cutting down trees for building materials and space to build) and food (cutting down more trees for farmland). More rich people fly more, jet ski more, snowmobile more and burn more wood pellets in their stoves. They probably drive more, too.

About 10 years ago the UN expected population to peak at about 9.2 billion. They now expect population to reach 11.3 billion by the end of the century and to continue growing afterwards.

So when the UN released its revisions to global population predictions for the rest of the century, I would have expected the climate change community to take notice.

So far I haven’t seen a word.

Nigeria may well have 450 million people by the end of the century–it may have many more. That will have an impact on the environment of Africa. The USA may also have a population of 450 million by that time–and depending on the decisions we are making today, that may have 10 times the impact on the environment that Nigeria’s population growth will have. Put simply, Nigeria’s population rise may devastate Nigeria’s environment. America’s growth may impact the whole world.

China and India are set to remain the most populous countries in the world, with Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan climbing up the rankings.

From a strictly climatic (not anti-climatic) point of view, what needs to happen is for America to innovate for energy efficiency and non-emissivity and to pass that technology on to developing countries as quickly as possible.

I don’t really see a good Plan B.



8 responses to “The Biggest Driver of Human Contributions to Climate Change

  1. What’s needed is a large effort to reduce population growth. I do believe the UN projection is political, they need it to impress on the public the need to reduce emissions. I started criticizing their RCP8.5 along several fronts around late 2013. Since that time I’ve noticed there are quite a few people who agree with me, some of them are commenting along the same lines I use. In response, I saw very badly written papers and estimates come out of academia. They seemed to have been rushed, but they delivered “peer reviewed literature” they need to quote.

    • Prosperity, freedom and education reduce population growth just fine.
      But there is no particular value in population reduction, from what I can see.

  2. “what needs to happen is for America to innovate for energy efficiency and non-emissivity”

    Well, sure. It’s self-explanatorily in everybody’s interest to innovate for energy efficiency.

    Happily, though, there’s zero rational grounds for believing emissivity is a bad thing.

    (Remember, Tom, consensus is not evidence in science. For anything. At all. And yes, that would even apply to an honest-to-god, non-fiction consensus.)

  3. By the way, didn’t you vow (in a moment of insanity) to add my blog to your sidebar?

    Don’t leave me hangin buddy 😉

    • Gawd, I am so busted. I want to add you and a bunch of others and get rid of dead links to inactive blogs. Remind me again on Friday! Weekends are chore time–maybe I can get out of doing the laundry….

  4. Another way to look at the human contribution question is this:
    Since the vast majority of concern regarding “climate change” (still a non-rationally defined concept) is anthropomorphic projection, not anthropogenic, in nature, it is reasonable to attribute it all to humans. Just as with myths, fables, psychological obsessions, “climate change” is a product of the human mind.

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