Copenhagen Update: Population Control Freaks Hitch Their Wagon to Global Warming
“Humans are overpopulating the world,” wrote Diane Francis in Canada’s National Post Tuesday. “A planetary law, such as China’s one-child policy, is the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate currently, which is one million births every four days.”
She’s not alone in that opinion. But before I introduce some others who think likewise, let me just expose the folly of her thinking. It doesn’t take an expert to do so—just someone willing to do a little back-of-the-envelope math.
A million births every four days sounds like quite a lot. Most people in our innumerate society won’t think about it as a proportion of the total human population and whether it means galloping population growth. Being the pest I am, I did.
I calculated how many births that makes every year: 365 / 4 = 91.25, so this birth rate means 91.25 million people are born every year. That sounds like a lot. But a ballpark figure for total human population today is 6.7 billion, which, divided by 91.25 million, yields 73.4.
In other words, at a birth rate of 1 million every 4 days, it would take 73.4 years to replace the world’s population. With the world’s average life expectancy hovering around 67, that means 1 million births every 4 days is below replacement rate, which would entail that population is shrinking now, not growing.
Actually, all of these figures are questionable, since population-watching bureaucrats and non-governmental organizations have vested interests in fudging figures upward to heighten the appearance of poverty (and hence the amount of foreign aid likely to flow, most of which ends up in the bureaucrats’ pockets or the Swiss bank accounts of the countries’ corrupt rulers) or the appearance of explosive population growth (and hence the amount of money donated to the agency promising to fight it). It’s likely that the world’s population is still growing now, though slowly. It’s also likely to peak around 2030 to 2050 and then begin declining, with some demographers seriously suggesting that it could fall to as little as 300 million (less than America’s today) within a few centuries.
There’s more that’s wrong with Ms. Francis’s statement, too. She tells us a one-child policy “is the only way to reverse the disastrous global birthrate.” We’ve already seen that the global birthrate isn’t disastrous. But even if it were, a one-child policy obviously wouldn’t be the only way to reverse it.
All the wealthy nations of the world, except the U.S., have gone from high birth rates and rapid population growth to low birth rates and stable or declining populations over the last few decades. Even in the U.S., the birth rate only hovers around replacement; population continues to grow primarily because of immigration—and the higher birth rates of immigrants. Europe loses about 900,000 people a year, and Russia about 1 million.
Yet not one of those nations ever had a one-child policy, or any kind of legal limit on family size. Ms. Francis, therefore, is either ignorant or lying.
But she’s not alone in her views. Zhao Baige, a Chinese delegate to the UN climate talks here in Copenhagen and vice minister of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, says, “Dealing with climate change is not simply an issue of CO2 emission reduction but a comprehensive challenge involving political, economic, social, cultural and ecological issues, and the population concern fits right into the picture.”
Well, China should have population concerns, but they shouldn’t be about having too many people. They should be about the prospect of having nearly a third of its population above age 60 by 2050 and more and more younger people facing the challenge of providing, all alone, for two parents and four grandparents—because they have no siblings. It also faces the challenge, since Chinese parents faced with the one-child limit frequently decide to kill their girl babies before they’re born, of having 124 boys up to age 4 for every 100 girls, which means an awful lot of young men are going to find it awfully difficult to find a wife. And, marriage being the civilizing force it is for men, a huge and growing population of unmarried men will spell trouble.
Nonetheless, China is calling for strict population control worldwide as part of a climate deal, and wants credit for reducing its carbon dioxide emissions by 18 million tons by preventing 400 million births since it instituted its one-child policy—many of those through forced abortion or forced sterilization.
And United Nations Fund for Population Activities Executive Director Thoraya Obaid sings the same song: “Rapid population growth and industrialization have led to a rapid rise in greenhouse gas emissions. We have now reached a point where humanity is approaching the brink of disaster.”
Other proponents of global warming alarmism also push it as a justification for population control. Recently the journal Global Environmental Change published an article by two Oregon State University statisticians titled “Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals” that argued that offspring should be counted as part of our carbon footprint—and limited to prevent global warming, prompting the grim prospect of cap and trade for babies.
American billionaires Bill Gates, David Rockefeller Jr., Warren Buffett, George Soros, Michael Bloomberg, Ted Turner (who says, “We’re too many people, that’s why we have global warming”), and Oprah Winfrey all favor reducing human population, in part to forestall global warming. President Obama’s science advisor John Holdren has advocated abortion and other involuntary measures to fight population growth.
Even evangelical Christians, who ought to know better (Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:1; Psalm 127:3-5; Psalm 128:3), aren’t immune to this twisted thinking. Former National Association of Evangelicals Vice President for Government Affairs Rich Cizik (now a Fellow and grantee of the Open Society Institute, part of the Soros Foundations Network), told the World Bank in a speech in May 2006, “I’d like to take on the population issue, but in my community global warming is the third rail issue. I’ve touched the third rail . . but still have a job. And I’ll still have a job after my talk here today. But population is a much more dangerous issue to touch . . . . We need to confront population control and we can—we’re not Roman Catholics after all—but it’s too hot to handle now.”
It’s encouraging, then, to see some people pushing back, like former Ohio secretary of state and columnist Ken Blackwell and Concerned Women for America, which has issued the following letter to President Obama on the eve of his trip to Copenhagen:
As you engage this week in international discussions at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, we strongly urge you to publicly denounce the “solution” proposed by a delegate that parents should be forcibly limited in the number of children they may have.
The most controversial aspect of the subject of climate change is the policies that are promoted by global warming activists and politicians. No proposal is more despicable and, if followed, would constitute a violation of basic human rights than the suggestion that governments should emulate China’s coercive family planning program.
Over our thirty years, Concerned Women for America (CWA) has drawn attention to the numerous human rights violations China has committed through its one-child policy, including the forced abortion and sterilization of Chinese women and men.
In a move that should cause climate change advocates to blush, China characterized its oppressive, inhumane “one-child” policy as a legitimate, successful way to combat global warming.
The state-run China Daily reported on December 10, 2009 that Zhao Baige, Vice-Minister of China’s National Population and Family Planning Commission, stated that as a result of the family planning policy, China has seen 400 million fewer births, which has resulted in 18 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions a year. Zhao made the comments in Copenhagen as one of Beijing’s delegates to the United Nations climate conference.
It is instructive that she chose to say “fewer births.” As documented by the U.S. Congress and State Department, China relies on forcibly aborting women and employs gruesome methods to reduce the number of babies who survive birth.
The United States cannot remain silent at a conference while another country advocates forced abortions as a legitimate means of caring for the environment. The Chinese representative not only bragged about their inhumane “family planning” practice, but also suggested other countries should follow in their footsteps, claiming that studies have shown that family planning programs are more efficient in helping cut emissions than other measures like alternative fuels.
On November 10, 2009, the United States Congress held a hearing on 30 years of China’s one-child policy. The witnesses consisted of Chinese citizens and human rights activists who gave first-hand accounts of the human rights abuses committed by the Chinese government.
One story was particularly heart breaking, although not uncommon. In 2004, Wujian was delighted to discover that she was pregnant with her first baby. However, she did not have a permit from the Chinese government to have a child. Wujian tried to hide from government officials who enforce China’s strict one-child policy, but eventually officials were informed of her pregnancy. Because they were not able to locate Wujian, they arrested and tortured her father. She testified, “My heart was broken into pieces as I faced this terrifying dilemma: either my father or my baby, one of them had to die, and I had to make the decision.”
Wujian was discovered and dragged away, along with other “illegally pregnant” women, and their babies were forcibly aborted.
President Obama, in your memorable speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize Award you highlighted the importance of protecting human rights around the world. “[I]f human rights are not protected, peace is a hollow promise.”
We respectfully ask that you not ignore the cry of the many women who have suffered numerous human rights abuses at the hands of the Chinese government as a result of their oppressive “family planning” policy.
We ask that you clearly denounce this audacious attempt by a Chinese official to justify their inhumane practices in the guise of reducing global warming. The purposeful violation of human rights is never justified even in the pursuit of protecting the environment.
The anti-human animus of environmentalism is coming increasingly to the fore. If you don’t want a global one-child policy, it’s time to let your leaders know.