Home Headline News Science Have Fewer Kids to Fight Climate Change? By E. Calvin Beisner

Have Fewer Kids to Fight Climate Change? By E. Calvin Beisner

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Because “having one fewer child reduces one’s contribution to the harms of climate change,” Travis Rieder argues, “everyone on Earth ought to consider having fewer children.” Rieder confesses that “this is an uncomfortable discussion.” He says he’s “certainly not arguing that we should shame parents, or even that we’re obligated to have a certain number of children.”

But on his grounds, why shouldn’t we? If he thinks we’re morally obligated to limit our childbearing, shame would seem the least penalty appropriate. If having too many children is, as he implies, analogous to murder, why not criminalize it?

Does he really analogize childbearing with murder? Yes:

If I release a murderer from prison, knowing full well that he intends to kill innocent people, then I bear some responsibility for those deaths …. Something similar is true, I think, when it comes to having children ….

So we shouldn’t be surprised that he recommends an article justifying China’s one-child policy. There Sarah Conly says the world’s 7 billion people cause “soil depletion, lack of fresh water, overfishing, species extinction, and overcrowding in cities.” When we reach “9.7 billion by 2050,” the situation will be even worse.

That’s standard rhetoric for population-control advocates. More people = more consumption = resource depletion. Scholars like Julian Simon (a former advocate), Ronald Bailey, Indur Goklany, and even myself have rebutted that equation for decades.

Those who predict resource depletion as a consequence of population growth treat humans solely as consumers. They forget that we’re also producers. On average, we produce more than we consume. That’s why each generation tends to be wealthier than its parents. And our productivity rises through mutual interaction. That means the more people there are in a given locale—including the whole world—the more, on average, each will produce.

They also forget that resources aren’t natural. They’re manmade. Petroleum was a nuisance until people figured out how to refine it into fuel, plastics, fertilizer, and medicines. Raw materials become resources when people relocate and refine them. With some substances, like clean air and fresh water, under most circumstances that’s easy. With others, like uranium, it’s extremely difficult. And even air and fresh water can require considerable relocation or refining under some circumstances. Ask any scuba diver or desert traveler!

The combination of rising human productivity and this understanding of resources explains why the long-term inflation-adjusted and wage-indexed price trend of all ‘natural’ resources is downward. That means resources are becoming less scarce. The truth is that more people = more production = more resources.

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