I am a modern heretic. That's because I don't believe in global warming. More precisely, I don't believe that global warming is the problem, I believe that it is a symptom.
The real problem is overpopulation. Treating symptoms never provides a cure. You must attack the true problem.
Why do I think so? Consider the whole situation. We are running out of the capacity of the earth absorb our pollution. What else are we running out of?
- fresh water
- arable land (causing people to cut down the rain forests to feed their families)
- habitat for other species (leading to extinction)
- fish in the ocean. (It's predicted that commercial fish will be exhausted by 2043.)
- free migration: we erect borders which prevent mass human migrations needed to adapt to climate changes. Borders lead to wars.
- metals, rare earths, oil, wood, food, in fact commodities of all kinds.
- breathing room to allow diverse cultures. Where, for example, can the mullahs live their 14th century culture here in the 21st century? That too leads to war.
Do you get the point? Each of these shortages is a crisis, yet they are all happening at the same time. It is not a matter of bad luck. All these things have a common cause. There are too many people on this planet consuming too many resources.
Don't believe me? Take the example of fish in the ocean. Stupid fishing practices aren't the root problem. Smart management of fishing can't save us. There are simply too many mouths eager to consume fish, and to pay for the privilege. If there was no market for so many fish, then there wouldn't be so many fish caught, by stupid or intelligent methods.
Actually, I think there's an important principle here. Humans are very ingenious at finding substitutes. Running out of oil? We'll grow corn to make ethanol. Running out of corn for food? We can make algae edible. We substitute cheap plastics to replace expensive mineral or bio products. If the plastic gets expensive because it needs oil, we can find other bio or mineral products to substitute for that. In fact, we're so ingenious at substituting that it becomes inevitable that we run out of almost all resources simultaneously. I don't know if scientists have validated that as a principle, but I bet they could if they tried. But wait, isn't the near simultaneous exhaustion of all planetary resources exactly what is going on?
The simultaneous crises point to the real problem. The overall demand for resources is far too high.
The total situation is even worse than it seems. Currently, we have about 1 billion affluent people and 6 billion (relatively) poor ones. However, 2-3 billion people in Asia are on the threshold of becoming affluent also. If that happens, according to the Wall Street Journal, global demand for global resources will increase eleven-fold. Not 11% but 1100%! The increases will build cities, highways, cars, houses, yachts, and all the other things those newly rich people will want. Unless you are willing to buy into preserving poverty, it seems inevitable that the product of population and wealth is runaway.
How do we reduce the demand for every kind of resource simultaneously? Certainly not by screwing in compact florescent light bulbs. There's only one way. We must reduce the number of people on the planet demanding stuff.
I'm not talking about slowing population growth. I'm talking about actually reducing the number of people living on this planet.
So, how much population reduction is enough? That's not so easy to answer. I doubt if it has ever been researched scientifically. The only way I know to estimate is based on the famous (and controversial) hockey stick curve.
The point of the hockey stick curve is that everything seemed fine until around the year 1800. Around 1800, the curve started bending upward The population of the Earth around 1800 was around one billion people. Therefore, as a first crude estimate I conclude that the Earth can comfortably hold about one billion people. We already have seven billion people, and we're shooting for ten. Whether the target number is one billion or two or three, the point is that small reductions won't do it. The population reduction must be extreme.
How to go about it? Well, that's the 64 dollar question isn't it? Nobody, me included, can run around advocating genocide or even the killing of a single human being. It's just not moral. We can sit around and wait for war, pestilence or famine to erupt spontaneously, but we can not morally advocate them nor cheer for them if they occur. It's a real dilemma.
Birth control? Maybe, but none of us has the right to play God and say which other human beings may or may not procreate. Indeed other than the heavy handed and perhaps immoral approach of the Chinese, we can't even manage to reduce the birth rate to zero growth.
In fact, the only solution to the dilemma I can imagine would be a virus that makes everyone on the planet sterile, but is only 90% effective. That way, nobody gets to decide who the lucky 10% are. That might help us to navigate the narrow moral eye of the needle, but such a virus doesn't exist except in science fiction or as the invention of mad men in adventure novels.
So, I must admit that I have no solution to the problem. However, there is one thing I can say with certainty. If we continue wringing our hands about the symptoms, we're doomed to failure. If there is to be any planned and rational response to this problem, we must begin by focusing debate on the problem, not the symptoms. Global warming is a symptom.