In discussions about the Climate Crisis, the argument is repeatedly used that the problem of overpopulation must first be solved, and then the solution to the climate crisis will take care of itself. Let’s take a closer look.
Spoiler: Even if you look at this inhumane (and ultimately mostly racist) claim objectively, the conclusion remains clear.
Particularly striking in this context in 2019 were racist statements by the then Schalke boss, Clemens Tönnies and the FDP politician Wolfgang Kubicki. Both used overpopulation in other countries as an argument against climate protection measures in Germany.
Now it is not particularly surprising that the FDP uses every little straw to spread disinformation about climate protection. But since it is always “the others” (mostly in the global south) who are too many, the issue is racially charged.
Consequently, the topic is then also a component of right-wing ideologies. The assassin who shot 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019 wrote in his manifesto that he wanted to protect the environment by tackling overpopulation.
But also German right-wing extremists in parties like the AfD and “Der dritte Weg” have claimed overpopulation is the cause of the climate crisis (and then population reduction as the solution). – At this point, we’ll refrain from linking to them, so as not to give them any visibility…
But what does science have to say on the subject?
Does population growth actually prevent effective climate protection? And how much is the world population growing at present?
The consumption of industrialized societies is much more CO2-intensive than that of poorer countries. As the rich countries cause global warming, it is mainly the poor who suffer. So the problem is overconsumption and not overpopulation! (Source)
The richest 10% are responsible for almost the half of the global CO2-Emissions. The poorest 50% are responsible for only 10% of the global CO2-Emissions.
Very poor countries tend to have very high birth rates. BUT: According to a study, one U.S. citizen causes as much CO2 as over 500 inhabitants of Burundi. One German causes almost 360 times as much as one Burundian.
However, all these per capita figures should not obscure the fact that this is a systemic problem. Our growth-based and fossil fuel-dependent economy is the biggest driver of the climate crisis.
Therefore, one must also always – and really always – consider the historical dimension of CO2 emissions. In case someone again claims that Germany is responsible for “only” 2% of global CO2 emissions – watch this:
And what does population growth look like in general? Is it continuing unchecked?
Even leaving aside climate issues, the thesis of exploding population growth has not been true for a long time. On the contrary, global population growth is slowing down. Families are already having fewer children. (https://www.gapminder.org/answers/how-did-the-world-population-change/)
It is expected that we will have a birth rate around 2 in 2100. This rate is also called the replacement fertility rate. Each generation is thus able to reproduce exactly in numbers. THIS is the scenario we are heading towards. (And yes, 2100 is too late for solving the Climate Crisis)
!! By the way, the reasons why women are having fewer children include: better education for women, greater access to contraceptives and more women in the workforce. LINK
CONCLUSION – there are (at least) three findings:
- Per capita CO2 emissions are very unevenly distributed worldwide: The richest emit a disproportionate amount of CO2. If historical emissions are included, the picture is even more dramatic.
- As wealth increases, CO2 emissions per capita rise, but at the same time birth rates fall when women have better living and working conditions. This can be observed worldwide. Therefore, there is no unchecked global population growth.
- In addition to the necessary drastic CO2 reductions in the industrialized nations, it is therefore necessary to ensure that emerging economies directly make the transition to sustainable economies (without the fossil phase).
The CONCLUSION of the CONCLUSION 🙂 😇
Forget the “argument” that the Climate Crisis and the alleged overpopulation are linked. This argumentation is factually wrong and is only an attempt to evade the historical responsibility and to legitimize racism.
- Hans Rosling’s videos on the subject are well worth watching: Global population growth, box by box | TED Talk