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Forced Responses: Dec 2018

Filed under: — group @ 2 December 2018

A bimonthly thread for discussions on solutions and responses to climate change. For climate science topics, please comment on the Unforced Variations thread.

697 Responses to “Forced Responses: Dec 2018”

  1. 601
    Al Bundy says:

    Zebra: And women certainly can have children whether or not you choose to participate with them. So, if male, your “decision” is meaningless.

    AB: Yep, humans CAN lie and cheat and steal, but that’s statistically minor. MOST reproduction occurs within couples. So men have nearly the same power with regard to reproduction as women, and, if you think about it, probably more because much of the world is patriarchal. “B****, you forgot to take the pill??? I’ll teach you….”

  2. 602
    flxible says:

    Zebra: “I am puzzled by how often the claim is made by men along those lines, since men can’t actually give birth in the first place. And women certainly can have children whether or not you choose to participate with them. So, if male, your “decision” is meaningless.”

    So women are capable of “virgin birth”??

    Usually reproduction requires 2 participants, so it’s unlikely my decision is meaningless …. as it happens, my female partner shares my decision, how about you and yours?

    I’m not ignoring your long range projections, or the details of your link – I’m just not counting chickens 200 or more years in the future as, short of dealing with the problems pressing today, humanity will not see 2200CE.

  3. 603

    AB, #596

    OK, you cracked my up with your tagline there. I’ll admit it.

  4. 604
    zebra says:

    Al Bundy,

    I’ve been meaning to respond about your invention thing, because I have some experience. (It may be one of the things that makes me less optimistic than some on how things will change over the near term in our fix-the-climate quest.)

    I’ve had three “ventures”, in disparate fields; I sold stuff I designed/developed in two of them, and got praise in the third. But here I am, and I can’t count myself “a successful businessman” by any measure. Nothing was sustained at a high level, for many reasons unrelated to the quality of the product.

    The point is, the initial reaction, including purchases, even by people whose expertise gives you validation about your efforts, is not going to predict where you end up.

    So, get your patent, and I will look forward to your crowd-funding efforts. I can probably find a couple of bucks to send if I like the design.

    BTW, I do think biofuels are a necessary component going forward, but corn ethanol is a perfect example of how things can go astray. Nothing to do with efficacy, and everything to do with Presidential primaries and such.

  5. 605

    a 589: It does YOU no credit that you are so hysterical in attacking the only nation on earth that has lifted a billion out of poverty

    BPL: Congratulations to China for lifting a billion out of poverty. It’s still an ugly dictatorship. Both can be true at the same time.

  6. 606
    James says:

    #600. “Treatment of domestic animals is not an environmental issue. It is an ethics issue.”

    Please see the links again. Much more than just treatment of domestic animals is involved.

  7. 607
    Al Bundy says:

    #592 Kevin McKinney, “Step on the brakes hard”

    Zebra: You haven’t done much driving on ice, eh.

    AB: Amazingly apt analogy

  8. 608
    zebra says:

    Al Bundy and flxible,

    Ah, I see you guys have a bit of difficulty with biological basics.

    There are groups of hundreds of children born from a single sperm donor.
    There are many, many, smaller groups born from the sperm of a single male, the old fashioned way, without being part of a “couple”.

    If you think about it, it would be perfectly possible to maintain a population with a minimal number of males, to be determined by the necessity for genetic diversity.

    So, no, flxible, you are not making a meaningful decision– if your partner wanted to have children, she could easily accomplish that without your cooperation. No virgin births required. You are quite redundant for this purpose.

    And Al, with respect to the current paradigm you describe, remember what flxible said:

    “The measure of life is change, the measure of intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”

    This is one of the problems with all the “solutions” we see here; people want to “change the world” without really changing the world, because they are afraid of real change, (or perhaps just lack imagination?).

    Consider how many words have been written here; how much effort would it take to answer my easy questions instead of justifying not answering? There has to be a reason.

  9. 609
    Al Bundy says:

    BPL: Congratulations to China for lifting a billion out of poverty. It’s still an ugly dictatorship. Both can be true at the same time.

    AB: And congratulations to the USA for many things. The Marshall Plan comes to mind. And I am very hopeful that the USA will, with the new generation, evolve into a “more perfect union”, one that can, not lead the free world, but join the pack. The USA’s insistence that they must be in charge of everything really grates. Seriously, in the fighting climate change arena, here’s a big lumbering fool who’s tugging as hard as he can in the opposite direction from progress and he thinks HE’S the “natural leader of the free world”. The USA should have a vote commensurate with its population, but leadership should have nothing to do with size.

    By the way, when I said “biofuel all the way” I was being a cheerleader. I drive very little, but my car eats dinosaurs and corn, both of which are sins. (O, the shame)


    Kevin, thanks. I put some of my saying on T-shirts. Today I’m “God’s gag gift to women” And I’m trying to do as Killian suggested, to give validation instead of silence.


    Zebra, I don’t foresee asking anyone other than my rich brother for funds, and even that would not be to build anything, but to finish getting my patent and trademarks in order and to get a good peer review. After that it’s just marketing, though it is possible that that will require the fabrication of a wheel/tire prototype. Fortunately, stuff that approximates the more difficult to craft parts is available so it’s not a hard build.

    Imagine a 1999 Buick cobbled up with really strange wheels and being driven by a Doc Brown doppleganger (dressed appropriately with industrial gloves, lab coat, and gas mask) and getting perhaps 60% higher gas mileage in the city than it did 20 years ago.

    So, not crowd-funding but validation. Plus, there’s Feynman, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”

  10. 610
    flxible says:

    zebra: “…. how much effort would it take to answer my easy questions instead of justifying not answering?”

    What was the question? I don’t see questions, I see rambling distractions and meaningless assertions.

    Yes, all it takes for a woman to have a child is a random sperm donor, ie: a male. And if a majority of males refused to donate, your dream of a global population of 300 million might one day come to pass, but not likely before the collapse of our “life support system”. You want to know about genetic diversity, find a forum about biology and population dynamics, not one about climate.

    Next question – I’ve been adapting to changing times for decades, how about you?

  11. 611
    Carrie says:

    What’s with all the very biased moderation and culling of posts going on again? Can’t you find something better more constructive to do? With a semblance of being grounded in “fair standards and consistency”? (sheesh)

    [Response: This is my only statement on this. Comments that are without substance and just a personal attack on another commenter will be deleted. No if’s, no buts, no appeals. No-one has the time or interest to work out who started it, or why someone is in fact all those things. You are not the only person who’s comments get cut for this, and if everyone just stopped, we’d all be happier. – gavin]

  12. 612
    Mr. Know It All says:

    Mitigation facts:

    CO2 emissions by country – China is #1, over 2 x US emissions.

    China is doing great things for the environment: Maybe not.

    USA has largest decline of CO2 emissions of any nation for 9th time this century; China emissions increase largest of any nation:

    “Global energy-related CO2 emissions grew by 1.4% in 2017, reaching a historic high of 32.5 gigatonnes (Gt), a resumption of growth after three years of global emissions remaining flat. The increase in CO2 emissions, however, was not universal. While most major economies saw a rise, some others experienced declines, including the United States, United Kingdom, Mexico and Japan. The biggest decline came from the United States, mainly because of higher deployment of renewables.”
    Source: International Energy Agency:

    This is weird:

  13. 613
    zebra says:

    #610 flxible,

    There is obviously some personal issue for you in this, which is making you a bit irrational indeed– the math is really pretty simple.

    If “a majority of men” in the world had vasectomies tomorrow– say, 60%, for example– it wouldn’t be at all difficult for women to have exactly the same fertility rate as they do now, the old fashioned way. “Friends with benefits” would have a slightly altered meaning, but not a big deal.

    Of course, there may be some ratio of females to fertile male where artificial insemination would be more efficient, but that just requires an expanded application of existing technology.

    So I’m still curious about what you think causes those existing low fertility rates in various populations right now. For example, is it that lots of Italian men have made an ecologically moral decision like yours, and Italian women who want children just can’t find anyone to impregnate them?

  14. 614
    Killian says:

    Re #598 zebra said But you are simply ignoring what I have said multiple times, which is that the 300 million number is not a short-term goal, but a value that we use to begin to learn how population affects human-ecological interactions. (Which includes, obviously, socioeconomic and geopolitical structures.)

    In what strange world do you think we don’t know this?

    I have suggested that many of the “problems” people would like to “solve” would not exist in such an environment, and so far nobody has disagreed…

    Not true. I have. I used the eternal mouse on a cheese planet to explain sustainability matters, and that population is irrelevant. All population does is affect time so long as they maintain unsustainable practices. How much time would matter on the degree of consumption. Like consumption curves shifting with rates of consumption not much at all, population has the same effect, merely shifting the curve, not eliminating it.

    The key is not, at this time, population, but consumption. Yes, we can reach the point of Dr. Bartlett’s yeast, and are, imo, very close to or in that last minute, but simplicity allows us to reduce consumption to sustainable levels and maybe cool the planet and do so in mere years (sustainability, not cooling).

    But, the planet is the cheese, we are the mice, and there is no way out except sustainability, and no way to a happy future of sustainability but through regenerative systems – also the only way to cool the planet; simplicity is actually the low-hanging fruit that gives our reductions the power to arrest climate change in a time period *hopefully* pre-irreversible bifurcation(s).

  15. 615
    Killian says:

    Re #599 zebra said #592 Kevin McKinney,

    “Step on the brakes hard”

    You haven’t done much driving on ice, eh.

    Haven’t seen Thelma and Louise, eh?

  16. 616

    #599, zebra–

    You haven’t done much driving on ice, eh.

    I grew up in Ontario, so yes, actually, I’ve done tons of driving on ice–including significant time in the Volkswagen Beetle, the rear-engine design of which combined good traction to the drive wheels with a strong tendency toward horizontal spins.

    Now, perhaps you can explain why you think the road of climate mitigation is analogically ‘icy?’

    Because as it is, your intended zinger seemed to me to be a fairly pointless bit of contentiousness.

  17. 617
    Killian says:

    Re #553 Al Bundy said Killian: I come here with no attitude, only to learn/educate.

    AB: You have no attitude but it seems that you do.

    No, I really don’t. If I came to climate science with preconceptions, I would not be able to harmonize what to do about that with creating regenerative futures. I wish, truly, everyone understood the principles and could assimilate them. Makes things so much easier.

  18. 618

    “No, we’re not doomed!” Something here for everybody to love–or hate:

    Basically, bring on the renewables and the soil storage of carbon, through regenerative land use and management. A lot of this will sound kinda familiar to regulars here, though the comprehensive modeling may be a new feature.

    Interesting to me is the estimate that the price tag should run about $1.7 trillion a year–as compared with the more than $5 billion currently being spent to subsidize fossil fuels. Fossil fuel subsidies are tough to get rid of, because from Indonesia to France, countering them hurts people in vital ways, leading to very significant political blowback.

    So, how about ending all fossil fuel subsidies and rebating that money directly to the populace? And further, how about starting with the rebate rather than with the subsidy cuts? That would, of course, entail financing the ‘prebates’, but I bet that would be possible–particularly since a lot of the most egregious fuel subsidies are in developing nations which already receive assistance in carbon mitigation and development. That means that much larger economies could be helping smaller ones restructure. (Seems like the leverage runs in the right direction there.)

    But, you object, “Fossil fuel interests will fight like hell to avoid this?”

    To which I reply, “What do you mean, ‘will?'”

  19. 619
    flxible says:

    zebra: “So I’m still curious about what you think causes those existing low fertility rates in various populations right now”

    Obviously any of a number of things you refuse to imagine in your population fantasy could drive declines in birth rates, like heat waves causing low male fertility. Wow, your technological solution might not cure the worlds ills, who’da thunk.

    It appears to me you are the one with the irrational personal issues.

  20. 620
    nigelj says:

    A global population of 300 million would obviously solve most environmental problems, by reducing demand and impacts. Zebra thinks that such a civilisation would also have higher per capita energy efficiency (from his earlier post), and it would in theory, but humans can be perverse and everyone might want to live in huge homes! You also have jevons paradox, so such a society would still want to cultivate good environmental values, and would have to find a way of limiting personal consumption. But a 300 million high technology society might be a feasible number, and would obviously have a long future and would minimise environmental impacts

    But 300 million is probably 1000 years into the future if it ever happens. Its hugely hypothetical. Median population estimates (business as usual demographic transition) are 11 billion by 2100 and then stable. The most optimistic estimates suggest about 6 billion by 2100, and 2 billion by 2300 and slowly falling in a long tail, but this assumes low global fertility around 1.5, and this would probably need government policies. But I feel its a realistic possibility, and with no huge downsides. Anything more would have to be fantasy land, or the result of some horrendous natural disaster.

    We should be encouraging governments to be a bit more proactive with population policy and asap. While realistic policies wont do a lot for climate change mitigation in the next 50 years, they would have very significant impacts beyond this.

    I would personally like humanity to have a high technology based culture and prolong this as long as possible. Lower population, a steady state economy and more prudent levels of personal consumption all promote this goal.

  21. 621
    Jan Sunner says:

    RE #614 Killian
    It would seem obvious that BOTH population and (the lack of)sustainable practices are important. Let’s consider meat production, which now requires about 75% of all arable land for grazing and feed production. If we had been 1/10 of the present population, each one of us would have had to consume more than a kilogram of meat every day to reach the same effect, i.e a near total marginalization of wilderness and or wildlife, as well as irreversible loss of biological diversity. Assuming a smaller population does not simply change the time frame!
    Let us also consider that we already have the technology to produce animal feed, proteins, etc., using bacteria. This will require solar energy, almost no land and almost no water. When implemented, this technology will allow us to free up maybe as much as half of the arable land on earth. This would, in turn, allow us, through reforestation, to put back maybe 200 Gt C, of the 450 Gt C that humanity has removed since the beginning of agriculture 6,000 years ago. into the biosphere.
    Maybe we can save ourselves (?), but it will definitely not happen without optimism and dedicated efforts.

  22. 622
    nigelj says:

    But while lower population is a worthy goal, the main tools to mitigate climate change are renewable energy and negative emissions strategies.

  23. 623
    Al Bundy says:


    Killian takes the long view and doesn’t consider that course changes can occur in 1000 years. In my opinion, using a resource for 1000 years and then running out (ignoring any collateral damage) is no worse and could be far better than quitting the use now because the sustainable replacement will have had 1000 years to develop and we’ll have the use of a superior resource for a thousand years. No downside that I can see. Perhaps Killian can explain. Perhaps he’s zeroing in on the imperfect (impossible?) conditional “ignoring any collateral damage”.

  24. 624
    Killian says:

    Re #621 Jan Sunner said RE #614 Killian
    It would seem obvious that BOTH population and (the lack of)sustainable practices are important.

    You maybe do not read enough of my posts to parse that post. Or maybe you missed this, “All population does is affect time so long as they maintain unsustainable practices.

    …The key is not, at this time, population, but consumption. Yes, we can reach the point of Dr. Bartlett’s yeast… simplicity allows us to reduce consumption to sustainable levels [with up to 12 billion!]…

    So, yes, there are absolute limits and a rapid reduction of population would certainly be an ecological good, but at this time, i.e. in the short term, consumption is the only pathway to sustainability. It will be decades before population even stabilizes, let alone reduces.

    That is, zebra is not wrong on the basic point: Lower population makes everything easier, and likely better. However, zebra is 100% wrong that population is the primary route to solving climate and/or resource issues, and it is obvious. I do not understand why the clear logic of this escapes zebra, but I also am not interested in the many words spent on this (in the short term) moot point, so this will hopefully suffice.

    I get it. I have one child, intentionally. And if everyone did as I we could have a nice inflection point on population pretty quickly. I am all in favor of, and have often said this, reducing population, but I also know legislating it will not work and is unnecessary because, as I said, education and awareness and equality pretty much do the heavy lifting for us. No need for culling or prison or fines. Educating, informing, and equalizing women = done.

    Funny…. but Regenerative Governance would accomplish this… so once again simplicity solves the problem. There is no problem not solved by simplification.

  25. 625
    Killian says:

    Re #620 nigelj said I would personally like humanity to have a high technology based…[and] a steady state economy

    The failure to understand this is literally impossible is the great failing of many. Very smart people fall for this. This is the (black) magic of economics rearing its ugly head. You can’t make a high consumption (high tech) society steady-state because the consumption of resources to the level of depletion is inevitable.

    I would personally

    I suspect you will say this is not what you meant, but it is the point I wish to make: Yes, personal desires overcome rationality quite commonly and regardless of your intent, it is inclusive of this sort of thinking. Personally should have nothing to do with your thinking on climate, resources or regenerative possible futures.

    …prolong this as long as possible.

    Which says, again regardless of your intent, I want mine, for me, screw the future folks because the phrase “as long as possible” would only mean until it can’t continue, i.e. to exhaustion of the ability to continue, thus leaving little for those that follow. This is what Nate Hagens refers to as discounting the future. (I don’t remember if that was his term or came from elsewhere.) (<— Many readers (and the blog owners) would benefit from spending a bunch of hours perusing The Oil Drum archives.)

  26. 626
    Al Bundy says:


    Yes, short term triage is not about population, but long term bliss is largely about population. The lifestyle, efficiency, and whatever other issues will be solved soon (though implementation will add another level)
    And remember, death may be regulated to bad luck quite soon. Figure out how to propagate stem cells and regulate them and 10,000 year average lifetimes aren’t unthinkable. All you have to do is survive long enough that someone (or some “thing” (AI)) defeats your killer.

  27. 627
    Al Bundy says:

    As zebra says, think beyond the first move.

    What happens when population is a choice, old folks want to live, and you want to have a baby?

    Coming soon to the only Goldilocks planet near you.

  28. 628
    Al Bundy says:

    Yeah, I live in an alternate universe. Deal.

    On bets:

    A penny is a playful exploration. I’m thrilled when the one in a hundred pays off for my “opponent”. (Note the smooth egotistcality)
    A Nicklaus (really, auto-incorrect??) Is significant. I win. You lose. Period. Quarters are about nose-rubbings and dollars, well, a different realm. The big leaves (hmm does AI mean that the machine taunts us) and respect.

    So, maybe I should up the bet to a dollar?

  29. 629
    zebra says:

    #621 Jan Sunner,

    Yes, you illustrate nicely what should be obvious to everyone, which is that there are limits to how much individual humans can consume, assuming that they are rational.

    And even more significant is the binary consequence of the numbers. For some people here, it is downright blasphemous to point out that, with large amounts of land relative to the population, local, sustainable, agriculture is the (cover your ears, Killian et al) Rational Economic Capitalist Choice!

    It would be absurd, for example, in a low population scenario, to invest in producing artificial fertilizer. And very likely, herbicides and pesticides as well, given the ability to diversify crops and locations and planting cycles.

    These binary consequences exist in all the areas people talk about wanting to change– energy use, infrastructure, economics, social structures, and so on.

    And if we use the numbers suggested to understand how these binary choices work, we can then incorporate that understanding into shorter-term planning.

    But it does take away the need for moralizing and touting “the wisdom of ancients” to us scientifically inclined pragmatists.

  30. 630

    Al, #626–

    And remember, death may be regulated to bad luck quite soon. Figure out how to propagate stem cells and regulate them and 10,000 year average lifetimes aren’t unthinkable.

    My guess is that unless that happens in a radically more egalitarian economic context than I expect any time soon, the net result would be a spasm of mass homicide unlike anything the world has ever seen.

    Envy is a powerful and destructive force–and 10,000 years versus 79 years would be extremely productive of envy.

    Who knows? Maybe that’s even a plausible pathway to get to zebra’s 300 million humans’ milestone a whole lot quicker than expected. But limiting the collateral damage to the planet and to human civilization and its technical and intellectual capacity might be challenging.

  31. 631
    alan2102 says:

    #586 zebra 21 Jan 2019:
    “If the harm to humans of climate change is something you think is critically important to minimize, then you can’t rely on “if only”…”

    I am not relying on “if only”. Bloomberg and other analysts don’t deal in dreamy wishful thinking. And I have already admitted that I could be wrong, somewhat (like, 10 years, either way). So I don’t know what the argument is at this point. I hereby will cease to post on the subject unless significant new FACTS (or new analyses) come to the fore that are worthy of a post.

    zebra: “If there were a stable global population of 300 million humans, would people burn fossil fuels for energy, and if they did, would it be at the same per capita rate? Not a hard question”

    Your suggestion of a stable population of 300 million is brilliant and unassailable. It suffers from only one minor drawback: it is impossible in anything less than centuries (plural), and might be impossible even then. With the exception already noted: global nuclear war, and nuclear winter, which are a distinct possibility, so in that instance the cited drawback would vanish.

    #591 zebra: “#588 flxible, “There never has been…there never will be…” …. the premise is absurd, since we can observe even now populations with just replacement rate fertility, as well as well below replacement. What “cataclysmic event changing the entire paradigm of human existence” caused those?”

    Yes, we can observe below-replacement fertility. And what happens? POPULATION DOES NOT CHANGE. Actually it keeps growing, for a generation or so. THEN it might level off for a good long while, then begin a SLOW descent, over multiple generations and centuries. This glacial speed of change is not remotely comparable to cataclysmic events like nuclear war.

    Maybe we can get to your 300 million population organically. I would guess by the year 2400, though that might be too optimistic.

    #594 flxible: “Below replacement rate in some populations does not indicate possible/probable reduction of global population to 300 million in future, your premise that slightly declining fertility will reduce population by many billions in human time frames is the absurdity.”

    Well, let’s be fair. If fertility in Africa and some ME states were sufficiently controlled over the next half-century, adding that to collapsing fertility everywhere else (as is now happening) WOULD put us on a trajectory to slowly but surely reduce human population. Still would take centuries, but it would happen.

    And I might add (favorite subject of mine): China’s development work in Africa has great promise for reducing fertility there. Infrastructure and general development are critical for fertility reduction.

    flxible: “I suspect you’re not finding a lot of discussion of your fantasy because folks aren’t here for speculation about 100s of years hence.”


    I think the useful speculation horizon goes out about one century.

  32. 632
    alan2102 says:

    #595 James 21 Jan 2019:
    “It’s great that China is a leader in solar and electric vehicles, and we should learn from them on that score,”

    They are a leader in MUCH more than that. But I won’t get into it now. Gotta keep that crazy sinophilia under control.

    James: “but environmental concern and responsibility entails much, MUCH more than just the one homocentric issue of alternative energy.”

    Yes, of course it does! And that is why they commit to building “Ecologic Civilization” — their orientation for the rest of this century. It will be a century-long transition. Have you looked into it? I have. Fascinating stuff. And quite incredible, relative to the West. Can you even imagine a U.S. “leader” speaking of building an “Ecologic Civilization”? No, you can’t, because the moment it left their lips they would become a national laughing-stock. That’s one reason why I cannot help but view the West as retards, relative to the Chinese.

    James: “The list of their environmental horrors is long and sad”

    Indeed it is. I am acutely (and literally painfully) aware of this. In fact I have links to articles much better than the ones you cited about China’s oft-terrible environmental record. I can post them if you like.

    I have no problem with the facts, and some of the facts regarding China’s environmental history are disturbing indeed. I said that I view the West as retards, relative to the Chinese; that does NOT mean that the Chinese are without sin.

    However, everything exists in context and in relation to everything else. China, as I pointed out somewhere (might have been the post that was censored, I’m not sure) has been busy pulling itself up by its fingernails from a dreadfully retarded, impoverished state. The only option, for a very long time, to generate the needed energy, was coal. That in addition to other environmental sins. But, you see, development was a higher priority, because they were in such dreadful shape. They HAD to burn a butt-load of coal, and etc., to pull themselves up from poverty. You cannot seriously maintain that they should have tolerated famine, mass impoverishment, life expectancy under 40, and so on, in order to save the environment. That is, to save the environment that the West was busy destroying for the previous century, while setting a TERRIBLE example for others (e.g. China) to follow. That does not let China off the hook, but it does set the necessary context.

    China is guilty of developmentalistic as well as environmental excesses. I personally would have preferred if they had developed a bit slower, and in somewhat different ways, not using the West so much as a model (BAD model!). However, and inexplicably, they were not consulting with me or you over the last 40 years, and were not listening to our sage advice. I guess they had a few other things on their plate, and didn’t have time. The result was LOTS of environmental stress in exchange for wondrous progress, including as I’ve mentioned lifting a billion out of poverty, among other things.

    Was it worth it? That is a very tough question.

    And while you are pondering that question, consider how things might have unfolded if the West had, circa 1970, realized that it itself was guilty of severe developmentalistic as well as environmental excesses, honestly faced that guilt, and begun changing course, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and non-renewable resources, and emphasizing green development? All of that under the banner of building “Ecologic Civilization” or the equivalent as a national priority and explicit program for the next century. Would things have turned out differently? Would China have taken a somewhat different path? The answers are: of course, and of course. We would be living in a very different world, with dramatically reduced risk.

    China is guilty, but let’s not forget context, and who it is that acted as a model for the rest of the world. Starting with the first Earth Day in 1969, the U.S. had a fantastic opportunity to be a true global leader, the City on the Hill, a light unto the world. The fascist anti-green backlash — well-organized and well-funded — began almost immediately, and was brilliantly successful, such that by the early 1980s the U.S. was going in the opposite direction. Reagan removed the solar panels from the WH roof, and with that symbolic act, set the tone for the next several decades of fascist neoliberalization, pro-fossil policy, etc., etc., the whole ugly ball of wax, including not least out-of-control CO2 release.

    So now, we complain about CHINA’S environmental record? Yes, we complain. I complain. But my complaint is a bit different from others’. My complaint is set in context, and I bid that you do the same.

    China must be criticized, even harshly where necessary. But only from the left. Criticism from the right (i.e. most conventional mainstream media) is invariably de-contextualized BS, intended to obscure the full picture, i.e. the truth, and undermine China’s evident and now-unfolding world-historic role.

    James: “And for those who will claim it’s all fake news”

    Who claimed that “it’s all fake news”?

  33. 633
    zebra says:

    #631 alan2102,


    Yes, we can observe below-replacement fertility. And what happens? POPULATION DOES NOT CHANGE. Actually it keeps growing, for a generation or so. THEN it might level off for a good long while, then begin a SLOW descent, over multiple generations and centuries.

    wikipedia and other sources:

    Japan’s population began to decline in 2011. In 2014, Japan’s population was estimated at 127 million; this figure is expected to shrink to 107 million (16%) by 2040 and to 97 million (24%) by 2050 should the current demographic trend continue.

    Jeez, I need to crack some dictionary or mathematics book. Who knew 40 years was really centuries, and decreasing population is really growing population?

    Anyway, it really is interesting to see the denial dynamics around this issue– so far, no answer to the question of how come the populations with fertility rates around 1.5 have fertility rates around 1.5.

    Why does this question make you guys so uncomfortable, I wonder?

  34. 634
    flxible says:

    “…. no answer to the question of how come the populations with fertility rates around 1.5 have fertility rates around 1.5”

    I gave you one answer, did you consider it? There are a variety of other factors at play – the real question is why are you so obsessed with declining fertility being the solution to anything?

  35. 635
    Al Bundy says:

    Below replacement fertility happens when opportunity cost balloons and there’s a plethora of choices for women. It turns out that maid/cook/brood mare isn’t every woman’s dream life.

    But given that paradigm changes are guaranteed, crystal balls might be too cloudy to be more effective than one of those old Magic 8-balls.
    And when I spoke about not giving parents’ tax breaks I should have explained that I prefer that kids get stuff directly. Free meals, free daycare, stuff.


    Ya, know, what Trump needs is a war. Let’s see… Gotta be Big Oil, of course. Needs to help stem the brown tide. Socialist or communist is primo.

    Gosh, where will Trump find a country to invade?

  36. 636
    nigelj says:

    Al Bundy @627, interesting dilemma. Do it by lottery or something. Like similar problems are resolved in the sci fi movies.

    But lets solve one problem at a time, and get the big picture right. Get the ship pointing in the right direction by choice before its forced on everyone painfully, ie smaller population (and more prudent consumption).

  37. 637
    nigelj says:

    Killian @625

    A high technology society with a steady state (zero growth economy) is possible, because Japan has been pretty close to this for the last 30 years (about 1% growth p/a). But I admit it cannot last more than a couple of centuries at most, before resource depletion starts to still hit some limits.

    This problem can be substantially mitigated by deliberately aiming for smaller population size.We have about 100 – 200 years before critical minerals in short supply become seriously scarce. This is plenty of time to get population down to a useful size providing we start soon. We could also help mitigate the problem with some reduction in per capita use of “quantity” of technology and other resources providing we start soon, but it’s best to be philosophical about what is realistically possible. Recycling will help obviously and will become more common.

    Taken together, I would estimate this would extend the life of the high technology society to probably 1000 years or more, so many future generations, then it will probably be forced to scale down to something more basic. Of course we might colonise other planets or mine asteroids but that is an unknown at this stage.

  38. 638
    nigelj says:

    “Yes, you illustrate nicely what should be obvious to everyone, which is that there are limits to how much individual humans can consume, assuming that they are rational.”

    True, but big assumption that they will be rational. It might be one big, particularly ugly party.

    “But it does take away the need for moralizing and touting “the wisdom of ancients” to us scientifically inclined pragmatists.”

    Maybe the wisdom of the ancients is that they were more rational than we are?

  39. 639
    nigelj says:

    Alan @632, fair comment. A couple of books I have relevant to China:

    Why the West Rules For Now, Ian Morris.

    The Silk Roads, Peter Frankopan.

    I havent read all of this yet.

    Americas GOP turned away from environmentalism around the Reagon Era:

    Sorry I don’t mean to sound like a know it all, but I just happen to have this stuff on the shelves or have read it recently. Might be of interest.

  40. 640
    Al Bundy says:

    Zebra: Who knew

    AB: up is down? Faux news.

  41. 641
    nigelj says:

    “Japan’s population began to decline in 2011. In 2014, Japan’s population was estimated at 127 million; this figure is expected to shrink to 107 million (16%) by 2040 and to 97 million (24%) by 2050 should the current demographic trend continue.”

    Yes and its faster than one would think, but they are now encouraging immigration to compensate. Something Japan has resisted until recently. So while Zebra complains none of us are realistic about electric cars, how realstic is he about his preferred population growth trends?

  42. 642
    James says:

    #632. Alan, I pretty much agree with everything you wrote in this post. I will say however that it was around 1970, as you point out, that the U.S. began to take major responsibility for their environment in multiple ways. Earth Day, the ESA, the EPA, Clean Water act, etc. True, it’s been tough because it’s a capitalist system and people are constantly having to go to war with the 1%, their corporations and their paid “think tank” mouthpieces. But it’s also a democracy, so many gains have been made.

    “It will be a century-long transition.”

    I don’t think their environment can wait that long and remain savable. My opinion. But I’m crossing my fingers for their “ecological civilization”.

    Clearly if we are to compare China vs the U.S. environmentally, as a rule, the west is far ahead. But I do admire China’s current push for solar. While we here in the west must constantly battle dirty energy’s lies and stumbling blocks re: solar, China has no time for that kind of obfuscating obstructionism. We should learn from that.

    “Who claimed that “it’s all fake news”?”

    Sorry. That’s how interpreted your comments in #495 and #576.

    #589 “China’s character and morality, diligence, forbearance, dedication to the good and right, and planetary consciousness is absolutely EXEMPLARY, and for you, BPL, or anyone — especially one with pretensions to climate awareness — to fail to recognize it is irresponsible in the extreme, even despicable.”

    It’s hard for me to justify such a statement considering their awful record on the environment. Then there’s their bizarre plans to light up the night with artificial moons. It appears hastily thought out, like the Great Leap Forward. Unless they abort it, it will likely spread. What would that do to, not just the nocturnal wildlife, but to people? The other is their recent turn toward, what could be considered, dystopianism with a social credit scoring of people. A “Worth” system. Oh there are beneficials for the country, but the dangers for imperfect individuals are obvious. Thing like this often turn pretty nasty with time.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s LOTS to criticize the west over, especially capitalism, and it’s usually given a good thrashing here on Real Climate. One should never blind oneself to wrong or censor the truth for nationalistic reasons.

  43. 643
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Barton Paul Levenson@191 from Unforced Variations
    I am basically a utilitarian and libertarian (in the true sense of that word, rather than the political meaning: e.g. a Republican who smokes dope.)

    I think that science is not value free. It is a human endeavor, and as such, it can help us understand what criteria are important for our species–as self-aware, social mammals capable of advanced communication, etc. We can ask ourselves what values are most conducive to the long-term, happy survival of such a species? Our psychology is such that I do not think we can thrive without individual autonomy and liberty, and we need to ultimately have a system that is sustainable within a finite environment. And so on. The ethics we construct would then be one which promotes those values.

  44. 644

    #633, zebra–

    A disappointing comment. Alain was a bit hyperbolic in his phrasing “over multiple generations and centuries,” but in essence he is right, and the Japanese example you cite shows it: as you say, their population began to fall in 2011. But they’d had TFR rates at or below replacement levels since about 1955, near as I can figure by collating the following graphs:

    So, 2011 – 1955 = 56 year lag, give or take. That seems reasonably in line with alain’s “generation or so” (though I’d have said it’s closer to 2–but then TFR was fairly close to replacement until 1976–except for 1966, when births were avoided in large numbers due to superstition–which would give a lag of 31 years. That would put “a generation” right on the money.

    And what did Japanese population do during those periods at or below replacement?

    Grew from 90.5 million in 1960, to 112.7 million in 1976, to a peak above 128 million (2007-2010), that’s what.

    As I remember, that general perspective was also what came out in the explorations I did with the population calculator you posted–demographic age structure of a population can determine growth rates over decadal scales more strongly than the actual birth rate itself. (Though eventually, of course, the influence of the latter ‘catches up’, as the real-world example of Japan shows.)

    And there have been multiple commenters providing reasoned opinions on “how come the populations with fertility rates around 1.5 have fertility rates around 1.5.”

    Among them, I and others have previously cited:

    –Empowerment of women and girls, socially, educationally, economically and politically

    –Available, affordable, reliable birth control technologies

    –Public health and medical improvements leading to drastically reduced infant and child mortality

    –Increased cost of raising and educating children

    –In some cases, policy incentives and/or regulations (In other cases, these have been deployed in order to *increase* TFR.)

    I really don’t think it’s so mysterious, though no doubt there is useful research on the topic still to be done.

  45. 645
    Hank Roberts says:

    The problem with optimism is that it can be indulgent, exclusive or easily manipulated. Often, utopian proposals are libertarian escape pods or dubiously fanciful advertisements. Designing for the actual world, as it will unfold for the vast majority of people, is a task best approached with what philosopher Antonio Gramsci called “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”.

  46. 646

    Noted in passing:

    NextEra Energy CEO says either wind plus battery storage or solar plus battery storage is going to be undercutting natgas slightly and of course with no uncertainty about fuel costs. NextEra had a good quarter financially, and expects to put upwards of 10GW on US grids by the end of 2020.

  47. 647
    alan2102 says:

    How long does it take to reduce global population?

    study this:

    … note China’s population peaking about now at 1.4 billion.

    China has had below-replacement fertility (2.1) since 1992; currently 1.6. Note how China’s population GREW from 1.2 billion in 1992 to 1.4 billion today, in spite of collapsing and, as the 90s wore on, far-below-replacement fertility. That’s demographic momentum.

    Note the curve for China after 2020, showing that the decline from 1.4 billion to 1.0 billion is expected to take almost the rest of this century, let’s say about 70 years. 70 years for a reduction of 400 million. If that same pattern repeats, it would take another 120 years or so to get China’s population below 300 million. In other words, a total of about 200 years from 2020, or until 2220, for China to reduce population to 300 million. That’s China ALONE, not including the other 4/5ths of humanity. How much longer to reduce global population, including China, to 300 million? I don’t know. Another century? 1.5 centuries? That gets us well into the 2300s. That’s assuming that the other 4/5ths of humanity reduces population as fast as China, with a current fertility of 1.6 and falling. Africa is still at least 50 years, and probably a century, away from fertility of 1.6, and even then, just like China, it will be multiple centuries to get population back down from its peak (3 billion? 4 billion? as of late 2000s). So, reducing global population to 300 million would seem to take a bare minimum of 3 centuries, probably a good deal more. Is it useful to speculate out that far? I don’t know. You tell me.

  48. 648
    mike says:

    Nigel: at 293 you seemed to think population growth was an important aspect of a green energy plan. at 622, it appears you have downgraded population growth to a worthy goal. What happened?

    fwiw: I think population growth is very important. I don’t think it is likely that we will do much about population growth, but we do have options. We could choose to build up global education levels for women because education correlates with lower fertility rates. And we could improve availability of basic health care to humans on the planet, specifically including contraception in every form. The costs to improve education and basic health care seem to be a problem for moving forward. I think these “expensive” steps are likely to pay for themselves over time.

    What do you think?



  49. 649
    alan2102 says:

    #633 zebra 24 Jan 2019: “wikipedia and other sources: Japan’s population began to decline in 2011. In 2014, Japan’s population was estimated at 127 million; this figure is expected to shrink to 107 million (16%) by 2040 and to 97 million (24%) by 2050 should the current demographic trend continue.”

    Funny that you should take ONE estimate of ONE SMALL country’s population curve and immediately assume that that is replicable (and WILL be replicated) worldwide, even though it is very different from almost all projections for the countries (e.g. China, India) and continents (Africa) that are significant, in contrast to Japan, which is insignificant.

    Zebra, I’m noticing that there’s a tendency for you to ignore the negative projections while assuming that all the “good stuff” will occur at the highest possible rate. What’s up with that?

    In any case, it really is interesting to see the denial dynamics that you’ve displayed around this issue.

    As for why populations with fertility rates around 1.5 have fertility rates around 1.5, that’s an important question and not fully resolved, but general development, urbanization, education, access to birth control, etc., etc., etc. (a bunch of stuff that tends to occur simultaneously, so it is difficult, and possibly pointless, to try tease out precise causes) appear to be the key things. Also, the causal arrow points in both directions to an extent, such that access to birth control (and related) can foster more-rapid economic development. This is a big issue. Have you ever read any of the literature on demographic transition? Have you ever read any literature on demographics at all? Have you ever tried to answer your own question? What did you come up with?

    “Why does this question make you guys so uncomfortable, I wonder?”

    We’re not uncomfortable. I just answered your question.

    We’re mostly just bored, because your “proposal” is not well-researched, not well-reasoned, runs contrary to much other reason, is poorly argued-for, and really amounts to not much more than Pollyanna-ish speculation, like “here’s my proposal to solve all the world’s problems: LOVE! yes, LOVE!” In other words, it is not a real proposal at all. But we humor you, playing along from time to time, for whatever it is worth.

  50. 650
    alan2102 says:

    #624 Killian: “zebra is 100% wrong that population is the primary route to solving climate and/or resource issues, and it is obvious. I do not understand why the clear logic of this escapes zebra”

    Neither do I. It shall remain a mystery.