Monday, December 29, 2014

The Inconvenient Truth the Pope Will Not Talk About

Global warming is not the hand of God by too many hands of man.
It seems Pope Francis is going to give a major speech on climate change in 2015.

Good for him.

"Pope Frankie" is moving fast to bring the Catholic Church into at least the second half of the 20th Century -- an astounding level of progress for a Church stuck in the 16th Century or older.

But will Pope Francis address the root cause of global warming or, like Al Gore, is this too much of an "Inconvenient Truth" for him to handle?

Back when "An Inconvenient Truth," was still playing in movie theaters, I went to see the file.

I found Al Gore's global warming documentary extremely well done and not boring. This is a recommended movie, and was certainly better than most of the pap offered up on the Silver Screen at that time (and since).  And guess what?  Now you can watch if for FREE on your computer,

Having just given the movie "two thumbs up," however, let me say that there are a few "inconvenient truths" that Al Gore has left out of his documentary.

At the beginning of the movie, Al Gore tells us he has been following global warming issues since he was in college. Me too, and oddly enough for the same reason.

Al Gore was a student of Roger Revelle's at Harvard. It was Revelle who designed some of the first experiments and theories underpinning the nascent science of global climate change.

It so happens that my father was head of the climatology program for the American Association for the Advancement of Science back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and worked closely with Revelle. In fact, I think my father may have written the first New York Times editorial ever written on global warming.

When Al Gore first met Roger Revelle back in 1966, Revelle was Director of the Center for Population Studies at Harvard -- a position he held from 1964 to 1976.

Gore manages to tell us quite a bit about Roger Revelle and his own youthful conversion to environmental causes without ever mentioning Revelle's demographic concerns, or the size of the Gore nuclear family.

In fact, I would argue this is not an accident. Population growth is an "inconvenient truth" -- the one that underpins global warming, and one that is particularly inconvenient for Al Gore as he tell us his global warming jeremiad.

A nice man, a lovely family, and an inconvenient truth.

You see, Al Gore has four children. Think about that for a minute.

If the average woman in the world followed Al Gore's lead, the population of the world would double every 25 years -- FOREVER.

Al and Tipper Gore chose to have more children than the average woman is having today in India, China, Zimbabwe, South Africa, El Salvador, Jamaica, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Vietnam or the Philippines -- to randomly pick from a few of the less developed countries from around the globe.

Al Gore had a choice to make when it came to having a family. He could have had no children. Or one child. He could have chosen to stop at two. He could have built his family through adoption or stopped at three kids. Instead, Al and Tipper Gore chose to double the human load they put on this planet.

It's not like Al and Tipper did not have access to health care and a diverse array of family planning options. Al and Tipper had more information about, and better access to, contraception than almost anyone else on the planet.

It's not like Al and Tipper Gore did not know better. Al and Tipper were married in 1970, at a time when Paul Ehrlich's book "The Population Bomb" was a national best seller, and when the speed of both world and U.S. population growth were core messages of the first Earth Day.

And yet Al Gore ignored it all. Al and Tipper had their first child in 1973, their second in 1977, their third in 1979, their fourth in 1982.

Let's put this story in numerical context. When Al Gore was listening to Roger Revelle at Harvard in 1966, the population of the world was 3 billion. Today it is over 6.2 billion people, and it will be over 12 billion by 2033 if the world follows the Gore model for family planning.

Gore's discussion of global warming shies away from causation. It is an odd but true fact that this very smart man has made an entire movie about global warming and greenhouse gases without once saying where those gases come from.

There's a reason for that. The inconvenient truth is that the world is NOT producing more greenhouse gases per person than it did in 1830 when the world had 1 billion people. Nor is it producing more greenhouses gases per capita than it did in 1930 when the world had 2 billion people.

The inconvenient truth is that the world is producing about the same or less greenhouses gases per person today that it did 50 or 100 years ago. People forget that horses produced serious amounts of greenhouse gases (methane) and so too did homes heated with wood and coal.

Table 1, page 19 from "Per Capita Carbon Dioxide Emissions Convergence or Divergence?" by Joseph E. Aldy, 2005 published by Resources for the Future (PDF)

The simple fact is that while the atmospheric level of CO2 has increased 30 percent since 1860, world population has more than quadrupled since then. Per capita CO2 emissions in the industrialized world are actually in decline, and have been for quite some time. When we look at all CO2 production, we find that global population growth and CO2 emissions track almost perfectly.

The problem is not that we are driving cars or cooling our beer in refrigerators -- it's that there are too many people. Too many people necessarily results in too many cars, too many refrigerators, and too many coal-fired electrical plants.

There are too damn many of us!

Population growth, energy use and CO2 emissions track perfectly. The causal agent here is human population growth -- an "inconvenient truth" largely glossed over in Al Gore's otherwise excellent movie. Figure 2 is from "Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide as a proxy for growth of the human population? ," 1995, University of Washington.

Al Gore is willing to talk about rebuilding power plants, building nuclear reactors, knocking down or retro-fitting every building on the planet. He is willing to discuss what's wrong with Ford and Chevy, but he is not willing to talk too long or too loudly about population growth for fear his audience might look over his shoulder to see how many people are sitting in his own family room.

Like most people, Al Gore is more comfortable talking about CO2 emissions than he is about IUD's. He would rather talk about the need for a new type of internal combustion engine than about the need for internal self-restraint, birth control pills, and vasectomies. He would rather count carbon molecules than count human noses.

In this sense, Gore (like most politicians) is part of the problem.

A politician is always willing to invest a few billion dollars to subsidize energy research at the local university, or pump a few billion dollars into a program to subsidize new car designs by General Motors. But talk about cutting back on immigration (which is driving nearly 100 percent of U.S. population growth), or pumping a billion dollars a year into Third World contraception programs and .... well, there are a thousand and one excuses to do little or nothing. To be fair, those excuses come from both sides of the political aisle. While people may be the source of greenhouse gas emissions, they are also the fuel of politicians, political parties and corporate sponsors.

And so, in the end, we have a movie about global warming that does not really talk about what causes global warming. How ironic is that?

Al Gore's global warming movie concludes by telling us to turn down the thermostat and to send more letters to Congress. It tells us to ride bicycles and use public transportation. It tells us to use more energy-efficient light bulbs and bring more people to the Al Gore movie.

But it does not tell us to have fewer children.

It does not remind us that an open-border immigration policy in this country has global resource consequences in the form of more greenhouse gases, more energy use, and more pollution.

Al Gore's slide show does not suggest contraception, immigration law enforcement, and communitarian self-restraint, nor does it point out that the science of reproduction is widely understood and that improved access to contraception is extremely popular across all cultures and religions. (Did you know that Catholic countries have the lowest fertility rates in the world? The abortion is legal in Italy? That Iran has below-replacement fertility? Did you know that the U.S. has the fastest population growth rate in the developed world?)

The end result is that Al Gore's movie on global warming offers us little more than hot-air solutions.

The inconvenient truth is that immigration-fueled population growth in the United States is negating every single energy conservation effort we are making in this nation today, and that population growth across the globe is negating every single energy conservation effort being made in the world today.

That's a message you won't hear at the local Multiplex.

Will we now hear it from Pope Francis?

Or it that a message that's still a little too "inconvenient."

We can't grow on like this.

The good news is that most of the Catholic world is already practicing family planning. In fact, Catholic people in Catholic countries such as Italy, Spain, and France have among the lowest birth rates in the world, and in Italy (including the Vatican) contraception is paid for by the state and there is abortion on demand.

So does that mean the Pope will be brave enough to catch up with his congregation in this arena?  I would not count on it.


Lauren said...

What does immigration have to do with it? Each person on earth is going to produce carbon wherever they live. It may seem like letting somebody immigrate from a low-carbon country to a high-carbon country like the US would increase total carbon output, but do you think the typical immigrant has an average carbon footprint in their country of origin? Apart from refugees, the legal immigrants to the USA have middle-class lifestyles where they came from. The USA has made a lot of questionable land-use choices that make it difficult to have a small carbon footprint here, but I do not think that it is so terrible that we should be trying to reduce the relative proportion of the global population living here. On the contrary, greater population density on the coasts would reduce per-capita carbon use by making mass transit more economically viable.

jeffrey thurston said...

Very interesting- I don't know for sure about you but in my case having a father who was a professor has allowed me to have a skeptical point of view and finely tuned Bullshit-O-Meter. My dad was a professor of plant pathology who was in the Norman Borlaug Green Revolution. He then taught at Cornell and going against his previous work he began a course in SUSTAINABLE agriculture. He began to study and appreciate the small farmer worldwide and began to doubt the long term benefits of runaway growth even in agriculture. Anyway- one of the main lectures I grew up with growing up was about overpopulation and how although it seemed to be worse in the Third World it was actually the First World and its ceaseless material acquisition which was worse. One American burns up about what 40 Third Worlders do. So your critique of Al Gore is spot on- we worried wealthy here in the rich West are at the root of the problem. My upbringing was interesting because I was ingrained with an innate skepticism and pretty much little or no respect for "experts" of any sort- let actions not words be proof. My dad did not suffer fools gladly and really disliked pompous bullshit. That's why I appreciate your blog- wide ranging yet extremely specific- I might not agree with some of your conclusions but about canines you're my expert.

jeffrey thurston said...

PS- Just as you think your father may have written the first NYT editorial about global warming so I am about 99% sure my father was the first to use the term "sustainable agriculture" back in the late Seventies/early Eighties. He meant "sustainable" in the same sense that all the hipster trendy people use it today- it just wasn't so cool back then.

PBurns said...

Have you ever lived in another country Lauren? If you have you will know the answer -- moving people around does more than move the deck chairs around. Nearly 100 percent of U.S. population in the last 30 years has been due to immigration, and that population growth has negated every step forward we have made in terms of Co2 emissions, oil and gas consumption, and other forms of conservation. In fact, if those same people had stayed in their home countries, they would not only have used less resources, but they also would have spurred the economic, social and political transformation needed in those countries.

Jennifer said...

I agree with the thrust of your (PB) argument. But your 'facts' don't jive with global data. Yes, there have been some spectacular declines in CO2 emissions per capita in the developed world in recent years. These have been negated by large increases in emissions in the parts of the world experiencing rapid income growth. The net outcome has been increase in CO2 emissions per capita. The world Bank has a nice web page that lets you graph at least the period from 2005-2010. See:

In general, when a family adds such things as electricity, a refrigerator, a car, and a lot of other gadgets and conveniences, its energy consumption rises rapidly. Doesn't much matter if the energy-intensification that comes with higher income takes place via migration or economic growth in the home country. If your income goes from $200/yr to $20,000/yr, you're going to increase your energy footprint by a few orders of magnitude.

On the other hand, birth rates have declined in most regions. In the global average, birth rates have declined more rapidly than death rates, so net population growth rates have declined by around 0.2% between 200 and 2012. See, eg. which is using the CIA World Factbook. The decline in birth rates is even more spectacular if you go back to, say, 1950.

Improved living conditions, greater valuation of education, especially for women, and associated factors have done a lot more to bring down birth rates than Erlich or Ravelle talking about population growth; though I would love to see the Pope or Al Gore come out in favor of ZPG.

5string said...

Oh so much here... I'll be brief.

CO2 is coined "carbon" by the global warming promoters because it sounds dirty like soot. Since it is only one part carbon and two parts oxygen wouldn't it be more accurate to call it oxygen? No, that wouldn't do for the cause. Oxygen sounds soooo good.

CO2 is what plants breath and is the fifth most abundant gas in the atmosphere at 0.03% or .0003 or three ten thousandths.

We can debate man's use of energy, horse or cow flatulence, deforestation, overpopulation, etc. but it certainly takes an ego to think the piddlings of mankind can compare to natural activity like volcanic eruptions, solar activity or even meteor strikes.

Just imagine the hysteria if Al Gore and his ilk were around during the last Ice Age. The Earth is billions of years old. Why are we basing anything strictly on the last few years? And they call themselves scientists?

Fact is, the climate has been changing since the Big Bang and nothing man can do will stop it. To proclaim that at this exact point in time the Earth is at it's optimum temperature is ridiculous.

As it usually applies to most things, just "follow the money."
MMCC is just an obvious energy grab. You control energy and you control power, money and the daily lives of every citizen. These power lust filled people sicken me.

And what the frick is the Pope doing talking about the climate? A more urgent topic might be the lust for power and control that the Devil has tempted the Climate Changer with. Or even a trip to Syria for a chat with IS leaders. Or a tour of the lower Americas for meet and greets with gangs and cartels.

P.S. for a retort on Al Gore's attempt just Google "An Inconsistent Truth" and watch with an open mind.

PBurns said...

Where you live matters quite a lot. In the markets of Algeria and Zimbabwe, the food does not come from all over the world, electrical devices do not run 24-7, and no house had three cars. Here is the data.

PBurns said...

The question with gloal warming may be simpler 5-string.... Does anyone believe cars wil run on gasoline and houses will be heated with coal, oil, or natural gas even 30 years from now? No, no, and no. The solar electrical world is right on our doorstep.

Lauren said...

I think it would be a fallacy to assume that the patterns of the way people were living in the past 50 years can just be projected into the next 50 years. I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you are not against expanding access to electricity and motorized transport in the developing world.

If the way people are living now in the USA is unsustainable, that is a reason to change the infrastructure so people live more sustainably, not to slam the door shut behind us. Let's allow denser growth and decrease regulation of alternative transportation so having a car is not a prerequisite to having a job. Let's require device manufacturers to have low-energy sleep modes, and continue to develop and encourage the use of programmable thermostats. Let's desubsidize and tax petrochemicals so the true cost of shipping fresh fruit and frozen fish halfway around the world is reflected in the price. And then let's let anybody who wants to live in a sustainable, democratic, developed country come live here.

5-string can go live in unregulated paradise in Algeria.

PBurns said...

Gee Lauren, "mighty white of you" to "give me the benefit of the doubt." If you had spent 20 seconds on this blog you would know I am a demographer who has written about population and the environment for more than 35 years. Are you that old?

As for the world overseas, and U.S. immigration policy, I might know a bit more there too having been born and raised in Africa, having served on the board of an international adoption agency, and having two adopted children of my own.

The point here is that I am not some 20-something with a unified field theory of how the world works or how population growth shapes the natural world or the human one.

I asked a question earlier, which you did not answer. No matter. Your views are set and you are cutting the facts to suit your conclusion. I get it. You want to rock on your heels and sing "It's a Small World After All." So do I, but my opinion is tempered by actual experience, 35 years worth of data and debate, as well as 35-years of hands on experience shaping law and regulation in Washington, D.C. Go ahead and click your heels and wish the world were are you would imagine it. Those of us who have actually changed a few minds, and a few laws, are burdened by experience. Magic wands are Walt Disney. But slowing immigration? That's actually on the agenda in the Real World. The simple truth is that the world's problems will not be eased by moving all the displeased and dispossessed to the U.S., nor will it be eased by allowing the displeased to flee rather than fight. Have you ever heard of Edward Abbey? Look him up and even take the time to read him. He came to visit me once, and later wrote a piece saying we should meet everyone at the border, give them a gun and a box of ammunition, turn them around, kick them in the ass, and say "Now you know what to do with that right?" I wish I had written that. That kind of clarity makes a legend.

jeffrey thurston said...

Wow- again- very interesting! I too am an expat- I grew up in Colombia during the 1950s and 1960s. I moved to the US at 13 from there. My Dad's lectures to us over the years taught me that it was corrupt governments, the gap between rich and poor and overpopulation which were driving the world's misery. I figured out on my own that this actually was and is US policy and that's the way the world has to be for us to enjoy the lifestyle we do. My Dad was a pie-eyed visionary really- he had hope. It sounds like you do too Patrick- I guess that's a good thing. Now in my extreme right-wing old age I believe we should lock down the borders- kick out the job-stealing illegals and suspend ALL foreign aid for ANYONE. As you (and Edward Abbey) say so diplomatically- let them go back and change their own shitblasted Third World dungheaps.

Lauren said...

Sorry, I thought it was a rhetorical question. I studied abroad in Ukraine for a semester in 2001. The people who did not have continuous electricity in their apartments thought it was very inconvenient. But the pedestrian underpasses at major intersections and the "marshrutka" shared taxis made it much easier to navigate the city without a car than it is where I live now.

LMAO at the "born and raised in Africa." Intentional, or unintentional irony?

PBurns said...

So really you know nothing about most of the world. A semester abroad. A vacation or two.

You must be very young or simply willfully lazy. I am the son of a U.S. diplomat. Born in Zimbabwe. My bother was born in Beirut. Like I said, not born yesterday and not fresh from the turnip patch. I also have other things to do than this nonsense. Goodbye!