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Demography is Destiny

Want to save the planet?

Want to save the planet?

by Marcus Roberts | April 06, 2019

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Many in the Democratic Party of the USA believe that time is running out. Not only do they have just a handful of months left in which to impeach the President, they also have, slightly less importantly, only 12 years left to do something about Climate Change.

That is why so many of the current Presidential candidates for the Democratic Party endorsed the Green New Deal (the one that wants to phase out cows and air travel and replace all the buildings in the USA and introduce universal healthcare and universal income for all. The latter because, well, environment…

And yes, I know, some of these proposals were in the notorious Q+A part of the document that was only a draft and was retracted once the uproar about it began. Quaere: why if it was a draft was it sent to the media? And why, if it was a draft, has it not been replaced by the final version? 

Anyway, the GND was introduced to the Senate floor by the Republicans to get the Democrats to vote on it and thus hurt their electoral chances. The Democrats by and large abstained, because, you know, only 12 years to do something! It makes perfect sense apparently. Because the Republicans were pulling a stunt. OF COURSE THEY WERE! And the GOP demonstrated that the GND was itself a stunt.

And as Senator Mike Lee of Utah argued on the Senate Floor when debating the GND: it is a profoundly unserious stunt. Lee argued that the best way to combat climate change is not to embrace full scale communism or the stone age, but instead to have more children. And of course, his counterintuitive argument has been lampooned by many. Children cause climate change! Having more of them is nuts! Etc etc

Actually, there may be more to Lee’s argument than meets the eye. In an opinion piece for Bloomberg, Tyler Cowen argues that there are good reasons for having more children, particularly in industrialised nations in order to combat climate change. But how does this make sense? Well, basically the argument is this: in order to reduce climate emissions we must make our economic output more “green”. In order to do this, we need technological innovation: clean fuels; better batteries... In order to get these innovations, we need innovators and these innovators need to be born!

As Cowen argues, not only do more babies increase the chance of having a ground-breaking scientist or entrepreneur, it also increases the market which incentivises people to research and pour funding into innovations. Cowen writes:

“For instance, there are significant fixed costs to coming up with higher-quality electric cars or better solar panels. Investors put money into those areas only because they hope to sell a lot of units. Your children will boost demand.”

For that reason, he argues that the solution(s) for climate change will more likely come from North America than from New Zealand. (To which I say, he obviously hasn’t heard of the Pavlova – we invented that. Shhh, Australia!)

We can either reduce our population, reduce our economic activity or reduce our emissions per unit of economic activity. The first might have some effect in a generation or two (but only with fairly drastic coercive measures) but then it would be too late -- right, Democrats?

The second option is a good way of ensuring that poor people remain poor and that standards of living that have been rising for the last 60 years or so globally start to reverse. Not popular, nor fair nor likely to have much impact in the short to medium term.

The final option is where the circuit breaker can be made. It can offer immediate benefits and, importantly, is not limited to one country – innovation in North America will soon be exported/sold/stolen by other countries. So come on everyone, have babies to stop climate change!

Marcus Roberts is co-editor of Demography is Destiny.

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