If you really wanted to do it, here’s how
Population control to fight climate change is wrong, but if you’re going to do it, then do it right. Forget the poor, who contribute next to nothing to climate change. ‘Control’ the rich.
This is of course not what people mean when they say overpopulation, they mean the unwashed hordes, breeding uncontrollably; the classic, classist fear since Malthus. Since forever really. This fear of the poor was always wrong, and it’s wrong today. When it comes to climate change, the problem isn’t overpopulation, it’s overconsumption. It isn’t people, it’s profit.
A rich person emits as much carbon with one vacation as many Africans do in a year. A rich person’s food, water, and fuel usage are also exponentially more. So please, leave the innocent poor alone. If you’re going to go Thanos on climate change, go Thanos on the rich.
Who Emits Most?
50% of the population accounts for 86% of emissions. And it’s not the bottom half, not the dirty poor having dirty children. It’s the global rich. Eliminating the richest people will basically eliminate climate change, or at least limit it to what they’ve already baked in.
If you want to save more people (ie, yourself), then maybe settle for reducing emissions by half. To do that you just need to reduce the population by 16%. You guessed it, the top 16%.
These numbers include all emissions, including stuff you have no control over. If you just live a saintly life in America you still inherit emissions from the infrastructure and the nature of the national grid. These ‘controls’ basically call for eliminating America, and there’s a lot of poor people in America that don’t deserve it.
So let’s look at another measure, which is lifestyle consumption. These are things you can control though — let’s be clear — the ultimate responsibility is on the 100 companies, 33 banks, and the captive governments that let this happen despite knowing better.
If you look at this lifestyle consumption measure, the differences are even starker. According to this, the top 10% are responsible for 50%. So, if you’re talking about population control, that must be who you mean.
However, as I said, even our lifestyle ‘choices’ are embedded in political and financial systems that we have little control over. So forget the people for a minute, who profits.
Cui Bono? Who Profits?
If you look at who profits from these emissions, it’s really just 100 fossil fuel and mining companies. These 100 companies alone are responsible for a shocking 71% of greenhouse gas emissions. They have also known the climate science for as long as anyone, buried the evidence, and actively deceived the public.
These companies are financed by 33 banks, led by JPMorgan Chase, which continues to fund more fossil fuel extraction, well beyond the livable limits. So the banks are responsible too. In fact, the one person most directly responsible for climate change isn’t a fossil fuel exec, it’s Jamie Dimon, a banker. Increasingly, technology companies like Microsoft, Google and Amazon are getting in on the blood money as well.
So, as a matter of climate justice, if you are talking population control, perhaps we could settle for just the directly responsible, the companies, banks and ultimately politicians that have sold our children out for profit.
Population Control Is Wrong
However, as I mentioned at the beginning, population control to fight climate change is wrong. I suppose we either drag the deniers and profiteers into a clean future or go down together. They have most of the power anyways, and that’s not the way to do it.
What I am trying to illustrate is this. All the talk of population control and ecofascism takes the same tone as population control and fascism throughout the centuries. Just another excuse to beat up on the poor and the weak. The poor and marginalized have never been the problem, but they’re always first against the wall. This is especially unfair if we’re talking about climate change.
Poor people, by virtue of their poverty, do not emit much carbon. Our economy is set up so that carbon is directly pegged to GDP, and if you don’t have it, you’re not emitting it. We could support another billion people, we just can’t support any more billionaires.
So if you hear someone talking about population control like sadly Jane Goodall and David Attenborough, ask them to do it right. The problem is really overconsumption, but if you’re going to be genocidal about it, don’t look to the developing world or the poor. We didn’t start the fire. Look to the people that did. The ‘developed’ world, the fossil fuel companies, and the big banks. That’s the population that we need to control. If you want to control anybody, control the rich.