Why There Will Be No Reversing Global Warming
James English, Fiscal Policy Contributor
esearch and global population trends indicate that neither global warming nor increased carbon dioxide levels will likely be reversed by humans. Here are some reasons why:
Global population increased more during industrialization than ever in recorded human history
The global population in the year 1900 was estimated to be 1.55 billion. United Nations’ estimates state that by the end of the 20th century, the global population exceeded 6 billion. And 2015 estimates indicate that there are over 7.3 billion people alive, more than ever recorded.
There is no debate that human activity results in carbon dioxide and heat being released into the atmosphere. Basic activities necessary to sustain human life, such as food consumption and the use of fire, have these results. However, there are countless secondary effects of an increased population. Humans naturally need to undertake new activities to cope with population growth. In simpler agrarian societies, this may have meant clearing more land to settle on and farming more land for food.
The Industrial Revolution made large cities possible in the Western world, setting the stage for population growth in the 20th century. As technological advances came about, less of the population had to directly participate in farming and other basic activities necessary to live. This series of changes affected the way people used their time and allowed them to move to the cities. No longer did the majority of the population have to live a life of hard physical labor to obtain basic provisions. Instead, working adults specialized their efforts in more distinct areas. Quality of life improved rapidly due to resources and education becoming more easily available.
The resulting increase in quality of life and life expectancy led to population growth. Conservative projections state at least 11 billion people will be alive. If the estimates are remotely correct, it’s impossible to deny that there will be more human activity on Earth than ever before.
Industrialization is fundamental to improving quality of life in less-developed countries
It is widely understood that the worldwide transition to industrialization is not complete. Only 1/5th of the world’s population lives in more-developed countries, or MDCs. The characteristics of an MDC, in contrast to a less-developed country (LDC), include:
- Youth in MDCs receive more education and enter the workforce later than youth in LDCs
- MDCs have higher literacy rates than LDCs
- Population in MDCs is more stabilized than in LDCs. Stabilization is characterized by lower fertility rates, more even age distributions, and longer life expectancy than in LDCs.
- Poverty is a larger problem for people in LDCs than MDCs
There are still over 1 billion people in “extreme poverty” (living on under $1.25 a day). Many of these people still lack basic resources such as toilets and running water.
Consider the many advances that have made life more comfortable in MDCs since industrialization. It wouldn’t be morally acceptable to deny the right of people in LDCs (in favor of climate) to improve their quality of life through industrialization and creation of urban centers. Many countries of the world have already flourished through use of these advances to their benefit. Therefore, these advances shouldn’t be denied to others simply because of their effect on the environment.
Methods that reduce use of nonrenewable resources still affect climate and resource use
Proponents of increased climate change regulations argue a switch to renewable energy resources is necessary. Obviously, it’s responsible to promote conservation of nonrenewable resources. But the use of alternatives still has a large environmental impact. Though electric vehicles give off only half the emissions a comparable gasoline car may use in its lifespan, they raise a new set of concerns. What rare-earth metals in batteries, solar panels, and their accompanying electronics? How will the increased use of these metals affect their future availability and market prices? Won’t mining for these metals increase environmental damage and usage of fossil fuels to operate the mining equipment? Won’t efforts to recycle batteries and solar panels at the end of their useful lifespans cause toxic waste and environmental contamination from constituent elements that are poisonous to humans and animals?
Population growth was, and remains to be, one of the largest concerns regarding the stability of human civilization. Despite its contribution to climate change, the world transition to industrialized economies has created invaluable improvements to the quality of life and the progress of humanity. Free markets and the sharing of ideas will continue to dictate the spread of advances that bring people out of poverty.
An attempt to stifle human activity in favor of limiting the impacts of climate change denies humanity the basic right to bettering the quality of life, even if it means working to supply basic needs such as food for balanced diet and clean water. LDCs long ago embarked on the journey to create upward social mobility for the impoverished. Accomplishing this will use more resources, changing climate as a result.
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