Much of the basis for concern pushed by climate change alarmists has hinged on estimates of the global population (and its corresponding carbon footprint) expanding to between 9.4 billion and 12.7 billion by the year 2100. These estimates were based on the 2019 United Nations World Population Prospects report.
Now, a new study published in The Lancet on July 14, 2020 flips those population estimates - and the corresponding climate change alarmism - on its head. According to the study, highlighted in a WSJ op-ed called "Snooze The Climate Alarms", the global population is now being estimated to be as low as 6.29 billion by 2100; about 33% lower than current U.N. projections.
The new study suggests that the global population will peak at 9.7 billion in 2064 and will then fall to as low as 6.29 billion, if the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals for education and contraceptive are met in full. If those goals are not met, the study suggests the population could still drop to 8.8 billion by 2100.
Even under the 8.8 billion population scenario, the difference is profound. China would fall to third in world population rankings behind India and Nigeria. Places like Japan, South Korea, Italy, Portugal and Spain could all see their populations decline 50% from their highs. America would be estimated to have a population of 336 million, only slightly more than today.
The economic growth that is expected to take place globally would be a positive in keeping the population under control, the report says, as it would drive future improvements in health care and education for women around the world - including information about contraception and urbanization - and would result in declining fertility rates.
The impact on climate emissions, from the same economic growth and population declines, would also be profound. More important, the study shows a link between economic progress and combating climate change that most parts of the "green" movement ignore.
The WSJ op-ed then talks about the importance of policy makers in realizing these links. "Conventional strategies for combating climate change are too narrowly conceived," author Walter Mead writes. "A focused global effort to ensure that the education and contraceptive SDG targets are fully met could have a significantly greater long-term impact on emissions than more-expensive and unpopular policy choices like carbon taxes or the mandated use of expensive renewables."
Reproduction is put into focus as one of several human behaviors that changes with greater wealth and better education. Those with access to both also are more inclined to preserve their natural surroundings, Mead says. Poor countries may be more likely to cash in on the natural resources they have available to them, but rich countries invest in repairing such damage, he argues.
Mead also argues in favor of factory farming, which often draws the ire of the "green" movement:
The transition from traditional agriculture to more-intensive “factory farms” offends green sensibilities but can achieve green goals. Factory farms produce more food on less land and are often more carbon-efficient than the small-scale organic farms beloved by hipsters. The U.S. today produces far more food than in the 19th century, but as marginal land is taken out of production, the forests return. In America, forests have been expanding for more than 50 years, and even though population has more than tripled, there is more forested land in the country today than there was in 1910. In Europe, forested land expanded by an area the size of Portugal between 1990 and 2015.
He concludes: "If economic development spreads the blessings of greater freedom and greater education to more of the world, popular demands for cleaner air, cleaner water and the protection of nature will only grow."