Hey Oakland: Climate Change Is Due To Human Population Growth

Under Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, The City of Oakland has embarked on a path where it declares climate change an emergency, and has petitioned, with San Francisco and other cities and states, to reopen a nuisance lawsuit against fossil fuel companies that was thrown out of court. The overarching political pressure tied to that news is that if you’re a progressive democrat you have to agree to this action, without argument against it.

That political pressure, done by self-described activists, and so-called environmental groups, takes on the guise of bullying, and looks a lot like the practices of white supremacists hate groups: anyone who disagrees is labeled and shunned or physically intimidated.

In all of this, it ignores one fact.

Climate Change Is Caused By People And Populations On Earth

All of that political activity is done in ignorance of one simple fact: climate change is due to the very existence of people, and even major lifestyle changes in energy consumption will not alter the long-term impact of climate change as much as a decrease in the overall human population of the World itself.

And here is another simple fact that’s the collorary to the one above: the rate of growth in the World’s population has decreased consistently, and is generally considered to be at 1.1 percent per annum now.

That sobering thought comes not from this blogger, but from a number of publications that point to the role of population growth in global warming and climate change. The AGU100 document expresses the role of population groth in global warming as an equation: R=P x A x E x C x F.

In R=P x A x E x C x F, the AGU100 document has it that “P = population of the region; A = affluence (per‐capita gross domestic product (GDP); dollars per person per year); E = energy intensity (the energy required to make a dollar of GDP; Joules per dollar); C = “carbon content of energy” (CO2 emitted per unit of energy consumed, grams per Joule); f = fraction of CO2 emitted that is not sequestered.”

The AGU100 document then explains “The consequences of sea‐level rise depend very much on the size of that country’s population: whether it is 80 million (in 1975), or 160 million (in 2013), or 200 million (projected for 2050) The fact that small differences in fertility rate can lead to large differences in population supports the proposal of Motesharrei et al. that Earth‐system models should include feedbacks involving human population dynamics.”

In other words, what happens if we encourage the following activities that, over time, will get us to zero population growth: birth control and increase in rates education? In the 2009 study “Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals” by Paul A. Murtaugha, and Michael G. Schlax at Oregon State, the researchers tested the idea that lifestyle choices impact emissions of carbon dioxide against family reproduction, and discovered that “each child adds about 9441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average female.” Then, the writers ultimately concluded that “A person’s reproductive choices must be considered along with his day-to-day activities when assessing his ultimate impact on the global environment.”

Moreover, while the authors do not at all discount the impact of lifestyle changes, saying that they are important in that “immediate reductions in emissions worldwide are needed to limit the damaging effects of climate change that are already being documented,” but conclude and assert that such changes, alone, are not enough: population control via reproductive behavior is necessary.

That, alone, should tell the reader that filing a lawsuit against a fossil fuel company will not throw the switch and stop climate change.

Cities Like Oakland Should Focus On Improving Incomes And Technological Applications To Lifestyle

Missing in the studies presented and the equation is the application of technology to improve productivity while using less energy. The current problem is that habit of producing, well, robots, has formed a trend of the elimination of many basic skills jobs. To counter the loss of income, some have called for “universal basic income”, a modern variant of the “guaranteed minimum income” policy that President Richard Nixon came close to adopting in 1974.

Currently, Oakland, like many cities in California, is facing the giant problem of homeless Oaklanders. The Oakland effort should be to provide “universal basic income” combined with a safety net of basic industry employment, job training programs, affordable housing, and free education and health care programs.

Financing such a network of programs will call for a combination of state and federal funds, as well as tax increment financing for affordable housing construction, and financing for targeted localized wage and rent subsidy programs, and Mello-Roos financing for targeted, localized health care assistance programs.

Right now, the City of Oakland has no such coordinated set of interrelated programs that can achieve the overall objective of contributing to the slowing of the rate of climate change without wrecking economic wealth in the process.

Filing lawsuits against oil companies is silly and ultimately baseless – it will not solve the climate change problem. The real problem is us, and only a systemic, comprehensive approach that includes population growth control will give us a fighting chance to curb climate change.

In that effort, partnering with fossil fuel companies rather than suing them seems to be the more intelligent alternative. The popular belief is that oil companies don’t care to do this, but a simple Internet search will show that firms like Exxon are ready to be willing partners in such an effort, and even supports the work of the Paris Climate Agreement. Exxon says “We believe that climate change risks warrant action and it’s going to take all of us — business, governments and consumers — to make meaningful progress.”

Oil Companies Knew About Climate Change 40 Years Ago, And So Did I

Limits To Growth Model
Limits To Growth Model

One of the more hilarious presentations by so-called environmental activists is that “Exxon Knew about Climate Change Almost 40 Years Ago”.

The fact is, so did I.

During a backyard BBQ in the Summer of 1977 in Chicago, and when I was 15 years old, Clarence Rudy, a friend of the family, and now a commercial airline pilot, presented me with a book called Limits To Growth, by Dennis Meadows, Donella Meadows, Jørgen Randers, and William W. Behrens III, and published in 1972 by “The Club Of Rome”. The Club Of Rome is “an organisation of individuals who share a common concern for the future of humanity and strive to make a difference.” The book had a massive impact on my intellectual development, and I became an expert in system dynamics modeling, even to the point of building such models for various clients.

The Limits To Growth book introduced the world to a computer simulation based on a modeling paradigm called “system dynamics.” System Dynamics was created by Professor Jay Forrester at MIT in 1956, and was expressed in a then-new programming language called DYNAMO. The World 3 Model was based on a series of feedback equations that represented population growth, technological change, and resource use, as expressed in Forrester’s World One model and a book called “World Dynamics.”

World 3 System Dynamics Model

The World 3 model was built around five variables: population, food production, industrialization, pollution, and consumption of nonrenewable natural resources.” And that was in 1972; for someone to argue today that pollution was not something widely known as a problem in 1974, or to claim that oil companies held some kind of monopoly on such information and didn’t share it with the public, is completely insane. It’s also not true.

The Limits To Growth, and its controversial forecast of zero-population growth by 2010 (as well as giving us the gift of the word “sustainability”) rapidly became part of popular culture during the 70s. And that’s not to say that some in the fossil fuel industry and in state-run oil companies didn’t try to blunt the impact of its message because some did, but for someone today to write that the oil companies had complete control over information related to climate change and shielded it from public view is, again, silly. And it proves those persons may not have been alive when The Limits To Growth was published. I was.

Toward Intelligent, Comprehensive Economic Planning For The Future In Oakland And The World

The City of Oakland’s willingness to take an anti-intellectual, non-comprehensive and non-coaliton-building approach to climate change is disturbing. Oakland willing to give up responsible, environmentally-sensitive economic development for the false promise of haphazzard lawsuits and emotionally-driven coal bans. Indeed, this approach has held up the development of the Oakland Bulk And Oversized Terminal at the former Oakland Army Base, and caused the formation of a new class of people who are homeless in many parts of Oakland. Oakland must turn away from this approach, and before it realizes the hard way that it will not work.

Stay tuned.

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