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Low Hanging Fruit in Addressing Climate Change
In another blog I criticized one of the favored approaches to reduce carbon emissions in the US. So as to not get the inevitable “What is your solution” here is one. In 1996 when climate change became a visible issue there were about 2.9 billion of us world wide. Today there are just shy of 7 billion of us. Each of us generates carbon emissions. Doubling the numbers of us all other things equal doubles the carbon emissions. Do we need seven billion people? Not only do we generate carbon we are consuming ever greater amounts of the planets resources.
.There are a number of estimates of how much a person generates in carbon emissions but using recent government originated data for the US the average person generates 5 metric tons of carbon emission per year. For each of us with a life expectancy of 60 years that is about 300 tons per lifetime. A decline in our population of just 10% would reduce carbon emissions by something close to 30 million tons a year. That is a massive reduction in carbon (and a pressure relief on our global resources). For reference the entire coal fired infrastructure of the US generates 1.9 billion tons of carbon emissions per year
Not only do we not look to population reduction as an element of climate change mitigation, we subsidize having children. Our tax deductions and credits favor having children. The costs of rearing them have been increasingly transferred to the society at large rather than remaining with the parent (health care, education and the like). Perhaps as a first step we could at least be tax neutral about children and let market forces drive choice about the number in a given family.
Now there are other nations on our planet that have taken step to actively limit population growth. Of course that is a significant intrusion by the stare in things that are generally considered personal. I would submit that many of the proposed solutions to mitigate climate change are also very intrusive on personal choice. Why is limiting children not just considered one more such approach?
Returning our population to a level consistent with the point where climate change was identified as a problem (1960s) we could reduce our carbon emissions by an amount equal to half the emissions from our coal fired plants. Combining such an initiative with a responsible program to replace coal and we could essentially eradicate the contribution of coal to climate change without massive impact on our economy.
Why is population reduction off the table if the climate change problem is so dire that some of us want to imprison our elected officials for inaction? Are we serious or are the only solutions proffered those that redistribute income to favored parts of the electorate and disproportionally punish coal burning states (why are so many red) for burning coal?