Did you know that the poorest half of humanity–3 1/2 billion people–emit only 7% of humanity’s greenhouse gases? That’s the only place any significant population growth is happening and even that is slowing, as it has been since the 1960s. It’s widely expected to level off by 2050. Further, much of what the poorest people and countries produce is because of the way they’re forced to live by the rich, and what they produce for the rich.
Climate catastrophe and the larger ecological crisis is a problem caused almost entirely by rich people.
Imagine that everyone on Earth magically disappears and there are only 10 people left. 9 of them live as people did for a hundred thousand years–a completely ecologically attuned stone age life. The other, a former pilot, flies a B2 bomber all over the world dropping napalm on ecologically sensitive areas and nuclear bombs on abandoned nuclear reactors, military nuclear facilities, toxic waste dumps, oil refineries and drilling fields and chemical factories.
The result is that in this scenario humanity as a whole has an even worse impact than we do with our current 7 billion people, and each person has an even worse impact, on average, than we do now. In this scenario do we have a population problem? According to calculations like the IPAT equation, and whatever thinking the people in the survey seem to be using, we do.
The best science shows we have to reduce GHG emissions by at least 90% in the next 15 years for civilization to have a reasonable chance at survival. In the long run it’s important to reduce population growth as fast as possible, and population itself slowly after that, (to avoid the massive disruption that fast reduction would cause). The only non-tyrannical, non-genocidal ways proven to do that are: increasing both political and economic equality; empowering all, especially women; emphasizing education for all, especially women; ensuring security in sickness, old age and hard times; and ensuring free access to contraception. But whatever it’s long term importance, no population solution can be any more than a tiny part of the solution to our current crisis.
This is a problem caused almost entirely by a very small percentage of humanity, and it is a problem that is only fixable by addressing that problem and not being distracted by blaming others who cause almost none of it.