Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bret Stephens - As Ill-Informed On Population As He Is On Climate Change

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Bret Stephens - Permanent moron on climate change and population.

Blog readers may recall just over nine months ago I skewered the WSJ toadie columnist Bret Stephens on is imbecilic takes to do with climate change while appearing on Bill Maher's Real Time, e.g.

"In the end, the fact that Stephens confuses scientists with economists in the "Copenhagen Consensus"  discloses he's not even remotely qualified to be involved in any climate change-global warming discussion. Hell, he wasn't even aware that global dimming (google!) was responsible for the aberration of cooling in the 70s and the fact that "theory" has long since bit the dust."

Now, as if to go one better - to prove he's an even bigger moron than demonstrated on 'Real Time', he unloads on the Chinese and "Malthusians" (who have predicted scarcity with increasing population) in his latest column, 'The Tyranny of a Big Idea' (Nov. 3).

He begins by castigating China for its "one child" policy which it recently revised, referring to it as "a 35 year experiment in folly and human cruelty, instituted in the name of resource conservation"  TO cap it off he ends his screed by writing this refuse:

"China's one child policy has been one of the great unrecognized tragedies of our time. It is a modern day lesson in the danger of environmental fears and the misanthropic solutions they typically inspire".

Which, to be sure, even exceeds in bollocks the assorted nonsense spouted on Maher's segment about climate change. In fact, it makes one wonder if Stephens is qualified to comment on anything environmental or to do with climate change and its prime driver, overpopulation. Indeed, it's clear this asshole doesn't even believe in overpopulation when he also writes such claptrap as:

"The idea of a population bomb was always preposterous. The world's 7.3 billion people could fit into an area the size of Texas with each person getting 1,000 square feet of personal space."

Yes, Stephens actually wrote that - perhaps in a state of drug-induced delirium given that the resource footprint of each person - to get the food, water, etc. needed would be a least 2 hectares. (The U.S. mean is 9.5 hectares per person). Next time you Google, compare the area of a hectare to Stephens' "1,000 square feet" then tell me the man isn't a moron. And now, to continue that line of thought - imagine all those people - hell, even half of them - taking a dump all at once. Where the fuck is that effluent going to go? You'd need a sewage treatment system even larger in area than that on which this bozo would place all those people! And we won't even go into the colossal traffic jams  - even if barely one tenth used cars and the rest bikes. 

And what about potable water?  Where is that going to come from to slake the thirst of all those billions in one limited area?  Would he have it pumped in from the Great Lakes? What about the energy sources? You'd need something like 6 to 7 power grids on the scale of the U.S. or European grids. Where would the grids go with people stacked cheek to jowl?  Where would the transformers, etc. go?

The point is this numbskull has no clue that supporting a massive population isn't simply based on finding the space in which to squeeze them. You also need to consider the support systems, for growing enough food to feed them all each day, as well as the water (clean water) to meet basic needs - not to mention an energy and transport infrastructure. And we aren't even going to get into the number of hospitals (or even urgent care centers) that'd be required to serve all their medical needs.

It is such limits that factor into the carrying capacity, or rather the bio-support capacity of the planet. Even now, 1 billion people live in water-stressed conditions, meaning that renewable water supplies drop below 1,700 cubic meters per capita. One notable ‘State of the World’ report (2000, pp. 46-47), warned that the ever increasing water deficits will likely spark “water wars” by 2025

Now, let's consider the implementation of China's one child policy in view of what I just noted - on the dependency of a population on accessible resources.  Nowhere in his little rant is Stephens honest enough to cite what China's fertility rate was in 1950. As per an earlier article in the WSJ (Nov. 2) it was 6.11 per woman.  (Compared to 1.55 now).

Does this bozo have any remote idea what such a birth rate would have translated into had China not acted? It would have meant a population exceeding 2.2 billion by 1990 and the Chinese never would have been able to support it, nor would the country have reached the near superpower status it has  - even being a creditor to U.S. bond debt. (Owning nearly $1.3 trillion of our bond debt). Further, China's trade capacity would never have evolved to what it become, nor would it have been able to support the military it has - now rivaling the U.S. in the Pacific.  For all intents, China would have remained little better than one of those poor, overpopulated African nations - from which hundreds of thousands are now trying to flee to get to Europe.

China chose boldly not to do that, but to contain its numbers so as to strive for higher life quality for all its people. The proof 'is in the pudding' as they say, and if anyone doubts it they merely have to look at the size of China's middle class which now is vastly greater than the U.S. And when you travel to Europe, If you do, you will see Chinese tourists all over- from Jungfraujoch in Switzerland, to Bratislava, Slovakia, to Vienna, Austria and Prague, Czech Republic. There is NO way that many well off Chinese would be turned into globe trotters had the population policy not been changed to provide more material support for Chinese citizens. So Stephens, like many other Right wing American yahoos is talking through his ass.

And let's get it straight that lower fertility rates in correlation with greater material abundance and financial status is not peculiar to China.  South Korea is also such a success story, despite the fact its fertility rate is now so low its government is worried that its population "will go extinct by 2750". More likely, however, is that humanity will go extinct well before that year due to the runaway Greenhouse effect.

The same applies to all the European nations, e.g. Germany, Denmark, Norway, etc. to which all those poor Syrians, Afghans, Iraqis, Gambians, Zambians, Ghanians etc. are fleeing. Why do you suppose so? Well, because those destination nations have the space and resources that the others lack because of lower birth rates (To be honest, they also haven't faced the brunt of climate change, which most experts believe has been responsible for displacing at least one third of the 11 million Syrians headed out.)

So here's the essential axiom: a nation cannot at once have a vast population and material wealth. If the population outstrips its available resources it is condemned to destitution. The Chinese themselves, if the earlier WSJ story ('Chinese Face Hurdles To Baby Boom After Policy Shift')  is to be believed, are in no hurry to make more babies via the revised policy either. (And if Stephens took the time to read "ambitiously" the articles in his own paper he'd see that - before writing a column full of codswallop)  As one Chinese mother, He Yanping, said when asked about having more children:

"There are so many pressure with having a baby. It's exhausting to take care of a child and also requires so much energy".

And money too!  As one Chinese official, Li Jianmen, observes in the same article:

"To raise a child is very expensive these days. To send your child to a good kindergarten could be as much as 5,000 yuan ($787) a month".

And the cost of sending the kid to a university is vastly greater.

Maybe in Bret Stephens little pie-eyed capitalist clown fantasy world population can grow unabated with material wealth per person, and a family with seven or eight kids can afford "the best'. Alas, it doesn't work like that in most of the real world, by which I mean outside the gated enclaves of the rich.

The Cornucopians like Stephens get it wrong because they don't see population growth for the toxin it is, and can't put 2 plus 2 together to see how it leads to the Malthusian nightmare (not necessarily on Paul Ehrlich's timetable).  All of this comes back to net energy which is that energy humans need to survive. If the oil taken from the ground, say by fracking, only has a ratio of 1:1 (for energy produced to energy consumed) then it is useless to extract it. The same amount of oil-energy you are using up to get it, is basically what it carries. There is no net gain.

It is the net gain that has allowed humans to reproduce and thrive in many places around the globe. It is the erosion of net gain (reflected in ever lower GDP)  that will eliminate a majority of  humans. Right now, with humans consuming nearly the equivalent of 1.6 Earths per year there is no way even a population of 7.3 billion can be sustained - far less squeezed into an area the size of Texas as the dimwit Stephens claims.

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