By 2050, there will be nearly ten billion human beings on the planet.
Each of these humans will, just via flatulence, produce a good deal of gaseous emissions. These emissions are the source of CO2 and methane, as well as frequent embarrassment. But if we consider the requirements to live a comfortable existence — the house, car, utilities, food, travel, and other services, each with its own carbon footprint — those nearly 10 billion will place an major burden on the earth. Just the livestock that human beings raise emit 37% of non-natural methane emissions, 23 times more damaging than all the CO2 from cars. From an environmental perspective, 10 billion humans is an unacceptable number.
There are two solutions. One is to drastically reduce the carbon footprint of every human being on the planet. This could be accomplished by mandating E.V.s, or no car at all, and by using taxes and zoning to force humans into smaller, more efficient apartments and eliminate suburban dwellings. But housing and transportation would not be enough. It would be necessary to slash electricity and other utility usage, since power plants are the largest source of man-made greenhouse gas emissions, and to outlaw animal products such as meat, eggs, and dairy. It might also be necessary to limit travel and restrict land use so as to return land to a state of nature.
All of these “solutions” have been proposed, and in many places implemented, but alone they would not reduce carbon emissions to zero. Indeed, they would not reduce emissions to any perceptible extent, since humans would go on requiring food, shelter, heat, air-conditioning, electricity, and other services that produce emissions. If you believe that carbon poses an existential threat to life on Earth, you must consider option #2.
That option is to reduce the number of human beings on Earth, by forced sterilization, birth control, and abortion, or by voluntary or mandatory euthanasia. While they do not always admit it, radical environmentalists have been pushing this option for decades. They envision a planet happily free of human industry and development — a lot like the sparse communal settlement depicted at the end of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
State-mandated sterilization, birth control, and abortion have already been implemented in many countries, notably in Communist China and India, but also de facto in the U.S. where federally funded birth control is provided through the ACA, Medicaid, and Planned Parenthood and by employer health insurance, and where sterilization is readily available and covered for women by the ACA and Medicaid, and where government insurance and federally funded Planned Parenthood cover patient education and counseling related to abortion. Abortion related to rape, incest, or endangerment of a woman’s life is federally funded, and seventeen state Medicaid programs cover abortion with “segregated funds” so as to comply with the Hyde Amendment.
In many other countries, sterilization, birth control, and abortion are all universally available and state-funded. But these “services” alone will not solve the problem of rising population. The Earth’s population is aging, and older people consume a greater than average share of society’s medical services and no longer make a large contribution to economic productivity. From an environmental and economic perspective, euthanasia, whether voluntary or forced, would contribute to global well-being. Euthanasia by another name was popular with the Obama administration and will probably be popular with Biden’s: did not Obama’s Medicare director, Donald Berwick, propose providing elderly individuals with palliative care in place of costly treatment in their final months of life? It’s a short step from “painkillers but no treatment” to euthanasia. Actually, aren’t they the same thing?
There is another class of candidates for euthanasia. For decades, liberals have been taught that they are a burden on the Earth — as indeed they are, if one accepts the theory of man-made global warming. There must be millions of persons who would volunteer for euthanasia if this service became available to healthy individuals. Each of these volunteers would have the satisfaction of knowing he had reduced humanity’s carbon footprint.
There is no way around it. If one believes that carbon is killing the Earth, one must consider both options. Humans must agree to reduce their carbon footprint by radically restricting their patterns of consumption and lifestyle, and they must accept widespread population control measures. If implemented globally and forcefully, these measures would reduce global population and lower though not halt carbon emissions.
Yet even if human emissions were brought to zero, that too would not be enough. Natural sources of carbon emissions would continue to drive climate change. Natural forces drove climate change long before human life appeared on Earth, and they continue to drive it today.
Natural sources would continue to drive climate change because they constitute 95% of greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle, for example, emit 1.85% of total methane emissions as opposed to volcanoes, deep-sea vents, and other natural sources, which emit 95%. And human flatulence, from those 7.8 billion people now living, constitutes just 0.0016% of global CO2 emissions. It may be a bit malodorous and offensive, but it isn’t a threat to the planet.
My own belief is that man-made emissions do not pose an environmental danger and that natural emissions are part of climate cycles that the Earth has endured since its beginnings. The presence of 10 billion or 15 billion human beings on the planet in 2050 will be not a threat, but a blessing. Each of these persons is divinely created and has the potential to make a contribution to other human beings and to the well-being of the Earth. Human ingenuity, a gift from our Creator, will solve whatever problems may arise, as they surely will, either from global warming or cooling.
All by itself, human population is projected to decline after mid-century as existing humans decide to reproduce at lower rates. The real problem that we may face is too few humans as many countries — not just Japan and many in Europe, but throughout the world — face the probability of demographic suicide.
The anti-human teachings of radical environmentalism don’t make this situation any better. They should be tossed out and replaced by a pro-life philosophy that recognizes the truth that human life is a miracle and that every birth is a precious gift. With that knowledge, we can look to 2050 and beyond with joyful anticipation, not with dread, and we can defend all human life from conception.
Jeffrey Folks is the author of many books and articles on American culture including Heartland of the Imagination (2011).
Image via Max Pixel.
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