Population AND Climate Change, A Necessary Conversation

Ganguly, Brittany | November 29, 2018 | Leave a Comment

Image from UN AIDS Awareness | Island Nimbus | CC BY-ND 2.0

In Response to Including Population Control in Climate Policy Risks Human Tragedy

 Dear Ian Angus,

We are writing in response to your article Including Population Control in Climate Policy Risk Human Tragedy.

We agree with your conclusion that population policies should focus on a women’s right to choose and like all social policy must be rooted in social justice and human rights. We advocate for policies and programs that support choice and we also recognize there is a difference between “control” and choice. Population policies should support reducing the threats to our civilization caused by over-population and these threats take many forms, climate being just one.

The examples provided in your article only focus on limited misguided initiatives which, were immediately stopped once recognized. There are hundreds of good examples of effective population policies and interventions that are respectful and accepted, often with community input. Focusing on offensive policies of the past rather than positive policies and progress, inhibits progress.

To effectively work towards population stabilization, we must talk about strategies that improve availability and women’s right to choose. This includes taking a deeper look at: What policies are encouraging people to have children (including tax breaks)? How are we identifying and communicating about unmet need? What are the effects of countries (such as the US) that are limiting the availability of contraception? These polices do have negative effects on population—these policies foster cultures that encourage population growth and the oppression of women.

To make an impact in population growth we will also need to shift norms across the globe. Europe and many parts of India have reached replacement or below replacement levels. In China, where 1-child policies have been softened, people are still choosing one child. Education programs in emerging economies need to include male partners and community leaders in order to continue influencing norms. To effectively shift norms and allow women to make informed decisions the conversation should include not only the direct benefits to the children themselves but the impact of population on climate which, is an indirect benefit to the children. If more people understood the full impact of 220,000 additional people a day on earth, would a majority of our decisions not be more informed? When they understand that every child contributes to extreme weather, drought, sea-level rise the importance of their decision shifts from the personal to the community. This is powerful.

Perhaps this begs the question; what information should a woman operate with when ‘having the right to choose’? When we educate women on the economic and health benefits of family planning this information is motivated by other reasons such as economic success for families, which benefits women and children. Could environmental information not be included in this? Is it appropriate to include how many additional pounds of carbon each birth will contribute to the atmosphere when educating any person on growing their family?  Where do we draw the line between what information is necessary for a woman’s choice and what is motivated by other goals? Are they really separable? One can reasonably argue that all the reasons for choosing fewer children (1 or 2) directly benefit the children that are born.

To make a difference in the world’s growing population and shift norms we have to start thinking about what information is included in ‘informed decision making’. In The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions, Wynes and Nicholas[1] found that one of the most effective high impact strategies in reducing an individual’s greenhouse gas emissions is having one child less. Therefore, population should be on the table when considering environmental policy, considering they go hand in hand, educating about either could help both causes.


The Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere

[1] Wynes, S., & Nicholas, K. A. (2017). The climate mitigation gap: education and government recommendations miss the most effective individual actions. Environmental Research Letters12(7), 074024.


Email this to someoneTweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on LinkedIn
The views and opinions expressed through the MAHB Website are those of the contributing authors and do not necessarily reflect an official position of the MAHB. The MAHB aims to share a range of perspectives and welcomes the discussions that they prompt.
  • Greeley Miklashek

    Dear women of the world (as well as men and children!), population density stress is killing us now worldwide but due to our “diseases of civilization”, which are most prevalent in crowded urban populations growing rapidly all over the finite planet. Do you really want to go through the serious health risks of childbirth only to hasten your own death and watch this child succumb to our rapidly increasing diseases, now well known to be the direct result of overpopulation? The detailed patho-physiology may be found in “Stress R Us” on the net (a free PDF in the library on this very website). I truly believe this information to be the game changer that will finally result in intentional population reduction and save us and our planet. Please join my struggle to get the word out! Stress R Us

    • JohnTaves

      Sorry, but this is technically inaccurate.

      “population density stress” is not new. Humans and all species always average too many babies. The population of all species is relentlessly ATTEMPTING to grow. The one and only way nature can stop or slow that attempted growth is by killing children, unless of course we stop averaging too many babies. Notice that there have always been groups of people that suffer starvation related child mortality. This proves we, have always, and are averaging too many babies.

      This is not “diseases of civilization”, it is a fundamental fact of sexual reproduction in a finite space.

      • Greeley Miklashek

        Dear John: You are a perfect example of a totally uninformed and impervious to new knowledge “expert”. Trust me, I know the type from extensive past experience in the academic world. You have obviously formed your unfounded opinions without bothering to read my free book, “Stress R Us”, which explains the pathophysiology of “the diseases of civilization” ( a formal epidemiological term you obvious have no familiarity with). Maybe you should apply for Trump’s soon to be vacated Chief of Staff position. Clearly, you have all the right stuff, including the know-nothing basic requirement. Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist having some fun at your expense. Happy Holidays!

        • JohnTaves

          It seems you missed the much more important point I was making.

          I did not intend to state that there is no such thing as “disease of civilization” as you have defined the term. I am stating that if you want to solve this problem, you should recognize that we have always been overbreeding and that causes child mortality.

          Also, it seems I have replied to this twice on 2 different computers. The second has not shown up yet. Maybe when it shows up it will be more clear the point I am making.

  • billdowling

    The World Health Organization defined reproductive rights as follows:
    Reproductive rights rest on the recognition of the basic right of all couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing and timing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and the right to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health.They also include the right of all to make decisionsconcerning reproduction free of discrimination, coercion and violence.
    N.B.The key word in here is “responsibly”!

    As this MAHB Post says, this completely fails to consider the obvious they need in the modern world to have all the environmental information necessary to make a responsible decision as well as the means to do so.

    This makes the EDUCATION of ALL people, not just women and girls, about all the pertinent ENVIRONMENTAL MATTERS of absolutely critical importance to the attainment of an evironmentally sustainable future.
    i.e. It is not just an education on family planning, contraception, sexual health and reproductive rights, as well as providing the facilities for them, that is so badly needed!
    Freedom of choice is alll well and good, but when that choce impacts on the children you have, and other peoples lives as well, you cannot possibly make a truly responsinble decision if you do not know and consider all the facts involved.

    • JohnTaves

      Let’s get real with the actual set of facts that must be known.

      1) If your descendants average more than 2, they will cause child mortality.
      2) Averaging too many babies kills children (child mortality), and is doing so right now. The groups of people suffering starvation related child mortality prove this.
      3) The world is blatantly overpopulated with humans. Which means that we must average less than 2 world wide until we no longer consume resources faster then they renew.
      4) If you create more than 2 you are contributing to averaging too many babies which, see above, is killing children. If you create more than 4 grandchildren for your parents, your parents descendants are contributing to averaging too many. If you create more than 8 great grandchildren for your grandparents, your grand parent’s descendants are contributing to averaging too many babies.

      Notice, that the president of the MAHB, Paul Ehrlich is a population scientist, yet he has not stated these facts, much less stated that we all need to know them.


  • JohnTaves

    I am sick and tired of population scientists making this a woman’s issue. There are 2 genders required to get a woman pregnant. This trash is created because population scientists cannot determine how many babies a man has. They only have quality records for how many babies a woman has. We need to stop this nonsense of blaming women and start teaching the brutal facts to everyone.

    The notion that somehow humans will not over breed if we have a “good education”, high standard of living, access to cheap effective birth control and excellent human rights for all, is
    a nonsense conclusion from a bunch of correlations and trends. It fails simple math and logic.

    Our scientists have to prove that there cannot be a belief that is successfully passed on to an
    average of more than 2. If that belief can exist, everyone that does not have that belief can have zero babies, but the population is attempting to grow to infinity.

    Prove that it is not possible for there to be a group of people that have all the attributes that
    correlate to “low fertillity” and yet still have high fertility. Think this through! If that group exists, everyone else can have zero babies, but the population is attempting to grow to infinity.

    Prove that billions of people can act independently and not over breed. Prove that people don’t need to know that averaging too many babies kills only children and only kills children. Prove that we don’t need to know that humans have always over bred, and are doing so now. Prove that we don’t need to know that the groups of people suffering starvation related
    child mortality is the proof that we are over breeding right now. Prove it! Put down your trends, beliefs and correlations and start THINKING!

    I challenge the Millennium Alliance for Humanity and the Biosphere to get off their intellectual rear ends and PROVE IT! Do some real science. Stop running correlations and displaying
    trends and drawing conclusions from those.

    • billdowling

      There is lots and lots of proof that we we can stop overbreeding!
      Here is where to find a great deal of the evidence, Please read and see:

      Birth rates are coming down voluntarily, they just aren’t coming down fast enough! – due primarily to (a) the chronic lack of a decent education of both men and women about environmental matters all over the world, and (b) the lack of free and easy access to even a basic education for women & girls as well as free and easy to familiy planning advice and contraception all over the world. As usual, if only governments would throw enough money at both these problems they could be massively reduced and so would population growth. Please see my post about this above yours.

      • JohnTaves

        I think you missed this:

        “Our scientists have to prove that there cannot be a belief that is successfully passed on to an average of more than 2. If that belief can exist, everyone that does not have that belief can have zero babies, but the population is attempting to grow to infinity.”

        And this: “Stop running correlations and displaying trends and drawing conclusions from those.”

        Trends prove nothing. Correlations prove nothing. Not one of the scientific studies, and there are probably hundreds if not thousands, have any proof of anything. The thing that is so ridiculous is that the studies you are basing your belief, yes belief, that we can stop overbreeding are correlations to …. low fertility. Yes, “low fertility”.

        “low fertility” — What is “low fertility”? Is it low enough? Go ahead and show me anyone that can explain what happens when we average too many babies for too long? What happens? If you can’t state what happens, you can’t state that “low fertility” is low enough.

        • billdowling

          There is a huge problem here I admit. We have to convince an awful lot of people to stay below 2 childrento stop population growth!

          If 75% of world population has a TFR of 1.8 – and 25% a TFR of 2.6, it would give an average TFR of 2.0. But when the two populations are added together, within a hundred years the 25% with a TFR of 2.6 will have caused population to expand by more than 3 billion, compared to a universal compliance with 2 child families, due to the high fertilitypopulation increasing much more rapidly. Many high-fertility countries currently have TFRs far in excess of 2.6, which makes a stabilization transition even more difficult without a global multi- generational commitment to rapidly reducing birth rates. Imagine the effect if justa few countries in Africa and elsewhere are left at TFRs of 5 to 7, even if rest of the world did get down to 1.0.

          • JohnTaves

            This comment of yours seems like you might be close to comprehending why I demanded the following:

            “Prove that it is not possible for there to be a group of people that have all the attributes that correlate to “low fertillity” and yet still have high fertility. Think this through! If that group exists, everyone else can have zero babies, but the population is attempting to grow to infinity.”

            Let’s get serious with the math here. It makes no mathematical sense to average different groups fertility rates. “If 75% of world population has a TFR of 1.8 – and 25% a TFR of 2.6, it would give an average TFR of 2.0.”

            You came close to stating that it if a group maintains a 2.6 TFR, then makes no goddamn difference what the rest of the world does. They can have zero babies, but the population still attempts to grow to infinity.

            Notice that the conventional wisdom of our population scientists, the demographic transition crap, is completely dependent upon averaging fertility rates. The conventional wisdom is based on bogus math.

          • billdowling

            I agree! Therefore To get out of the mess we are now with an average TFR of about 2.4 means that it actually requires an upper limit of one child for every woman on the planet and I can prove that, mathematically as long as you accept that a sustainable number in around 2100 is under 3.5 billion. Are you prepared to accept that supposition?

          • JohnTaves

            I am not about to agree to any estimate for a sustainable population. No 2 scientists will ever reach agreement on such an estimate, and those estimates are totally pointless.

            Let’s work your problem backwards. If you have the goal of ensuring the population drops to 3.5b by 2100 AND STAYS THERE, without premature death doing the job, then there cannot be any groups of people average more than 2. This means that nobody can have the belief that it is OK to have as many babies as you damn well please.

            In order to change that belief, it seems to me that everyone must know that if your descendants average more than 2, your descendants will kill children as a consequence. If people know this, and act accordingly, then it will be trivial to adjust the goals to be say no more than 1.5 TFR until we no longer consume resources faster than they renew.

            Notice, it makes no difference when or at what population level future people might conclude it is OK to average 2. We have a choice. We can teach (x-2)/x and a set of other facts that indisputable, or we can waste our time with all sorts of useless estimates and predictions that no 2 scientists will agree on.

            Paul Ehrlich, the president of the MAHB has never stated that your descendant’s children must die at the rate of (x-2)/x where x is how many babies your descendants average. Instead he is known for the completely useless I=PAT formula, not for the (x-2)/x formula. This is the problem that must be solved today.

            We need to figure out how to get Ehrlich and then all other population scientists to comprehend these concepts so that we can then insist that these facts of nature be taught to everyone in the world. If we do not comprehend this set of indisputable facts, we will continue to overbreed.

          • billdowling

            Lets try to make this simple. We humans collectively havent got a cat in hells chance of a long term sustainble future on this rapidly depleting planet unless we (a) impose a voluntary one child limit globally ASAP, and (b) cut our use of fossil fuels drastically at the same time because of climate change. We could debater the order of priority forever but is hardly worth the trouble because they are intrinsically related and interdependant. It is not a case of either or it is both. However the first is slow acting and the second fast actiing. Althiough both can ber accelerated – it is all under our control should we choose to make it so. The Chinese did it because they had to when the people were facing mass starvation. I still hope it wont get that bad for the whole world that we have to go that far as to make it coercive control! However, once the planet is too hot for survival it wont matter how many or how few of us thetre are we are all going to die, which probably makes climate change priority one for action.

            Please Have a look at this website. http://www.worldpopualtionbalance.org. This is the only NGO I know that has got the right population message apart from http://www.growthbusters.org which has an even better overall picture of the human predicament right now.- basically by saying that on a finaite planet already in overshoot ALL growth must stop! Both are backed up strongly by this organisation http://www.scientistswarning.org. I work with all three of these organisations and along with http://www.populationmatters.org . I am sorry to say that I have no further time to spare in continuing this debate with you personally here.. If you wuld like to join in and support any one of these organisations I would be absolutely delighted, particularly the scientists warning.org -. because it concerns the second dire warning issued in Nov. 2017 by 15,000 scientists in 184 countries all over the world since a first warning 25 years ago – that we ignored almost completely. Yet, we are still not doing anything like enough about taking care of the planet, our only home. We simply cannot ignore this second warning if we want to avoid the 6th mass extinction during this century. .My personal e-mail address is billdowling@talktalk.net, in case you wish to contact me directly.

          • JohnTaves

            “(a) impose a voluntary one child limit globally ASAP, and (b) cut our
            use of fossil fuels drastically at the same time because of climate
            change ….. We could debate the order of priority forever but is hardly worth the trouble because they are intrinsically related and interdependant.”

            NO THEY ARE NOT!!! How many babies we average produces an exponential “force”. Nothing else does. There is nothing equal or ambiguous about the priority.

            I totally understand the concept that if we average say 1 right now it still takes many decades for the population to start dropping and thus this is “slow acting”. I get that if we drastically cut fossil fuel consumption it will be “fast acting”. This is ridiculous. There is no chance in hell of drastically reducing fossil fuel consumption in any fast manner. You are dreaming if you think any of these websites are changing any behavior at all. The president of MAHB, Ehrlich, wrote the population bomb years ago and it was read by far more people than any of these organizations and it had no impact.

            Look at it at a most basic level. Averaging more than 2 causes children to die. There is no mathematical choice in the matter. However, it does not have to be your child. You can burn some fossil fuels to keep your child alive and that means the other person’s child, who depends on using only renewable means, will be the one to die.

            “I still hope it wont get that bad for the whole world that we have to go so far as to make it coercive control.” — You are drinking the koolaide produced by our population scientists. That koolaide is the demographic transition bullshit. Demographers note the downward trend of the birth rate and correlate that to higher wealth, education,etc.. and from nothing more than trends and correlations we have thousands of experts that have the nonsense belief that somehow magically we will not continue to overbreed. From this disgusting science we turn our attention to the consumption side.

            This produces the set of “sky is falling” organizations that you have mentioned and I am totally aware of. They are having no impact whatsoever. They will achieve nothing. They are nothing more than information pollution.

            They all have different estimates for when the sky will fall. Hell, you stated it yourself. You’ve ranked these different organizations. They have all sorts of subjective measures and estimates and “facts”. A fact is something all rational people agree on.

            Let’s compare that information pollution to the following information:

            “Averaging too many babies kills children, and we have always averaged too many babies. The groups of people suffering starvation related child mortality prove that world wide we are averaging too many babies right now. If your descendants average more than 2 they will cause the death of their children. For example, if they average 3, then 1/3 of their children will fail to become adults.

            To ensure you, your parents and your grandparents do not average too many babies, you must not have more than 2. You must not have another if that will produce more than 4 grandchildren for your parents and you must not have another if that will produce more than 8 great grandchildren for your grandparents.”

            I do not intend to debate the exact wording and I certainly have no patience for debating whether TwoFourEight or OneThreeSix should be the goal, but notice the following facts:

            1) This statement is unarguably correct. There is no debatable estimates or numbers. There is no sane person that can do math and understands that Earth is finite that will disagree. Any disagreements regarding this are entirely caused by ignorance. They simply have not ben taught the concept and are unwilling to think it through for themselves.

            2) This information must be known. It is fundamentally not possible to NOT overbreed if we do not know this information. It must be common knowledge. If we average more than 2, we are demanding infinite production from this finite planet. That ensures we have dead children proportional to how many we average.

            3) Look at how short that message is!!! This is the information that affects consumption exponentially. All things being equal, if we average less than 2, consumption drops exponentially. The information affects everyone equally. It does not affect blacks or whites or Japanese or catholics or atheists more or less.

            Notice that not one of the sites you mentioned stated anything about these fundamental facts of nature. Not one of them.

          • billdowling what

  • Jason G. Brent

    Great letter. However, there is one major problem with the letter. To the best of my knowledge, no one has calculated, as best as he can be calculated, the chance that the plan set forth in the letter will fail. In simple terms, no one has determined, as best as it can be determined, the chance that voluntary population control will fail to prevent one or more catastrophes causing the collapse of civilization, with the deaths of billions. To gamble the collapse of civilization on voluntary population control without determining, as best as it can be determined, the chance of failure is an act of folly. I am not saying or implying that coercive population control is the solution to any or all of humanity’s problems. What I am saying, is that it is folly not to discuss coercive population control in every aspect and to compare coercive with voluntary population control. Please go to my web site and read the essays. http://www.jgbrent.com

    • JohnTaves

      “Backed up by countless volumes of statistical data, Jason Brent has
      uncovered mankind’s dirty little secret – we’re consuming our
      environment and our natural resources far faster than we can replenish


      Um, really? It took countless volumes of statistical data to uncover that we are burning fossil fuels? It is a dirty little secret?

      • Jason G. Brent

        Dear Mr Taves: As indicated above go to my web site and read the essays “Coercive Population Control” and “Extinction” together with its exhibits. If you read them carefully I doubt that you will be able to find an error in the math facts or logic. Civilization most likely will collapse before the year 2100 causing the deaths of billions

        • JohnTaves

          Sorry, but I didn’t bother to read past the sentence that I quoted. If a sentence designed to get me to read more is that ridiculous, I was not interested in reading more.

          If you rewrite that sentence and also change the question

          “How long will it take humankind to completely consume all of the Earth’s resources?”

          so that it properly recognizes that there are renewable resources, I will read further.

    • billdowling

      I have Jason. But we are running out of time fast if we are going to do it without coercion.
      It is just about possible if we can get a global one child limit agreed in the next 3 -5 years.
      People deserve to know this. dont you agree? Its their last chance. Of course they wont accept coercion, and the powers that be wont accept that they need to implement it because of human rights and all that anyway. Which means it wont happen, and the 6th mass extinction is inevitable. Unless – we can get this voluntary agreement quick?The trouble is unless we can somehow make sure everyone and I do Mean everyone, gets to know this and believes it when we tell them and so make a deliberate choice to have no more than one child for about 80 years before we can relax it to replacement level, I dont see how we can save the human race from extinction. It is the poor innocent other species I really feel for. They were here first!

      • New Grammar of Living

        Need for immediate steps to curb both population growth and fossil fuels. Difficult unless there are some controls. Vast swathes of global population are uneducated and poor. Both strong triggers for large families. Ironically poor multiply more. Though in case of fossil fuels the rich and educated have highest per capita carbon emissions.

        Controls a touchy subject. Capitalism and politicians to blame. For both to be in power, controls an anathema.