Tuesday, August 16, 2022

A Global Warming Win-Win-Win

A Global Warming Win-Win-Win
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, August 16, 2022, p. A5

Can women cool global warming?

Homo Sapiens first appeared about 300,000 years ago. We’ve been growing rather than chasing our food since 10,000 B.C. Estimates of the population then are between one and fifteen million persons.

With more food available, villages evolved and population increased dramatically.

Yet, it took until 1803 to reach one billion people. Then 124 years to reach two billion; 33 years to reach three billion; and 15 years to reach four billion.

Need I say more?

Apparently so. Because most of what we’re told about environmental change and daily disasters stops with the phrase “climate change.”

Many are willing to do their part. To borrow from the Great Depression, they “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” They become vegetarians, bicycle or walk to work, turn up the air conditioner thermostat, recycle, compost, and grow some food.

That’s good citizenship in a crisis. But it only offsets a tiny fraction of the problem.

In fact, many of our environmental problems have been created, or at least made worse, by the rapid increase in rate of human population growth. One example: Humans are responsible for a 1,000-fold increase in other species’ natural rates of extinction.

The increase to eight billion of us also multiplies potable water shortages, polluted air, deforestation, wetlands destruction, increased trash and toxic waste, depleted fisheries and finite resources, increased farm, river and ocean pollution and acidification, and the substitution of concrete for agricultural land and open spaces now under sprawling communities and 4 million miles of roads.

Human activity is not only responsible for most of the greenhouse gas CO2 since our industrial age. We have also reduced the forests and soils that could remove and store it. Our country creates the most – and at a rate seven times per person that of China, number two.

Transportation creates the largest share of U.S. emissions.

In 1922 the U.S. population of 110 million was driving 111 vehicles per 1000 people (12 million vehicles). By 2012 the population was 314 million, but the number of cars per 1000 population had gone from 111 to 808 (271 million vehicles).

Say what you will about fuel efficiency and electric vehicles, more people driving 20 times more vehicles produce more CO2.

Exponential population growth is an environmental challenge for the U.S., but especially third world countries.

Fortunately, women will naturally reduce population growth if they are provided the support they deserve: social status, economic opportunity – and education. Women (and men) with secondary education and access to contraceptives have far fewer births. They space more time between pregnancies. Plus, their children also end up with better health, quality of life, and education. [Photo credit: wikimedia commons.]

We ought to be doing this anyway. Saving our planet is a bonus.

After writing this I discovered 21,000 scientists agree: “We are jeopardizing our future … by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.” Think about it.

Nicholas Johnson lives in Iowa City where he thinks about his great grandchildren. FromDC2Iowa.blogspot.com contact mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

The proposal that I do a population growth column came from my son, Sherman Johnson, who has studied the issue for decades. Many of the sources, below, were his suggestions -- including the potential role of women. Without his urging and assistance this column and its supporting sources would not exist. The photo was suggested by my wife, Mary Vasey.

Earliest humans. John Noble Wilford, “When Humans Became Humans,” New York Times, Feb. 26, 2002, https://www.nytimes.com/2002/02/26/science/when-humans-became-human.html (“The first human ancestors appeared between five million and seven million years ago, probably when some apelike creatures in Africa began to walk habitually on two legs.”)

Stacy Morford, “When did we become fully human? What fossils and DNA tell us about the evolution of modern intelligence,” The Conversation,

Sept. 9, 2020, https://theconversation.com/when-did-we-become-fully-human-what-fossils-and-dna-tell-us-about-the-evolution-of-modern-intelligence-143717 (“Bones of primitive Homo sapiens first appear 300,000 years ago in Africa, with brains as large or larger than ours. They’re followed by anatomically modern Homo sapiens at least 200,000 years ago, and brain shape became essentially modern by at least 100,000 years ago. At this point, humans had braincases similar in size and shape to ours.”)

“What Does it Mean to be Human? Humans Change the World,” Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History,” https://humanorigins.si.edu/human-characteristics/humans-change-world (“12,000 years ago, ‘The Turning Point,’ Eventually, humans found they could control the growth and breeding of certain plants and animals. This discovery led to farming and herding animals, activities that transformed Earth’s natural landscapes—first locally, then globally.

Human population. “World Population to Hit Milestone With Birth of 7 Billionth Person,” PBS Newshour, Oct. 27, 2011, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/world-population-to-hit-milestone-with-birth-of-7-billionth-person (“First, the figures. It took all of human history up to 1804 for the world's population to reach 1 billion. But the next billion came only 100 years later, in 1927. And after that, the rate of growth accelerated, 3 billion in 1959, 4 billion 1974, 5 billion 1987, 6 billion 1999, and now 7 billion. We're adding a billion population every 12 years.”)

Use it up. “Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make it Do, or Do Without,” Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, https://www.fdrlibrary.org/use-it-up-wear-it-out-make-it-do-or-do-without (“During the Great Depression money was hard to come by and so people were not able to go to the store or order whatever they wanted or needed online. In fact there was no online in those days! People became creative in the way they used, and reused, what they had. 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without' became a popular saying.”)

Species extinction x 1000; other examples. Peter Aldhous, “We Are Killing Species at 1000 Times the Natural Rate,” NewScientist, May 29, 2014, https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn25645-we-are-killing-species-at-1000-times-the-natural-rate/

Artic ice. Steve Gorman, “Satellite imagery shows Antarctic ice shelf crumbling faster than thought,” Reuters, Aug. 10, 2022, https://Reuters.com/world/satellite-imagery-shows-antarctic-ice-shelf-crumbling-faster-than-thought-2022-08-11/ (“Taken together, thinning and calving have reduced the mass of Antarctica's ice shelves by 12 trillion tons since 1997, double the previous estimate, the analysis concluded. . . . The consequences could be enormous. Antarctica holds 88% of the sea level potential of all the world's ice . . ..”)

California megaflood. Matthew Cappucci, “A ‘megaflood’ in California could drop 100 inches of rain, scientists warn; It hasn’t happened since 1862, but California is due for another one,” Washington Post, Aug. 12, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/08/12/megaflood-california-flood-rain-climate/ (“The idea seems inconceivable — a month-long storm that dumps 30 inches of rain in San Francisco and up to 100 inches of rain and/or melted snow in the mountains. But it has happened before — most recently in 1862 — and if history is any indicator, we’re overdue for another, according to research published Friday in Science Advances that seeks to shed light on the lurking hazard.”)

Four million miles of roads. “Highway Statistics,” Office of Highway Policy Information, Federal Highway Administration, Aug. 23, 2018, https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2017/hm16.cfm (“In 2009 there are 4.1 million centerline lane miles and 8.5 million lane miles (an average of 2.1 lanes per centerline).”)

Humans and CO2. “Carbon Dioxide Emissions,” in “Overview of Greenhouse Gases,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, May 16, 2022, https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/overview-greenhouse-gases (“Human activities are altering the carbon cycle–both by adding more CO2 to the atmosphere and by influencing the ability of natural sinks, like forests and soils, to remove and store CO2 from the atmosphere. . . . [H]uman-related emissions are responsible for the increase that has occurred in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution.2”)

U.S. creates most CO2. Andriy Blokhin, “The 5 Countries That Produce the Most Carbon Dioxide (CO2),” Investopedia, July 2, 2022, https://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/092915/5-countries-produce-most-carbon-dioxide-co2.asp (“The U.S. is the largest emitter of CO2, with approximately 416,738 metric tons of total carbon dioxide emissions by 2020. The largest sources of CO2 emissions in the U.S. came from transportation . . ..” Note that the second country, China, with roughly four times the U.S. population, generated only a little over half as much (235,527) as the U.S.)

Other reports of who creates “the most.” For example, a small country emitting a small percentage of the global total, with a small population, may nonetheless have a high “per capita” number. Hannah Ritchie, “Where in the world do people emit the most CO2? There are large inequalities in the carbon footprint of people across the world. How do countries across the world compare? Where in the world do people emit the most CO2?” Our World in Data, Oct. 4, 2019, https://ourworldindata.org/per-capita-co2 (“The world’s largest per capita CO2 emitters are the major oil producing countries; this is particularly true for those with relatively low population size. Most are in the Middle East: In 2017 Qatar had the highest emissions at 49 tons per person, followed by Trinidad and Tobago (30t); Kuwait (25t); United Arab Emirates (25t); Brunei (24t); Bahrain (23t) and Saudi Arabia (19t).”)

Largest share from transportation. “Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Overview,” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, August 5, 2022, https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/sources-greenhouse-gas-emissions (“The transportation sector generates the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions.”)

Increase in transportation CO2. “Fact #841: October 6, 2014 Vehicles per Thousand People: U.S. vs. Other World Regions,” Vehicle Technology Office, Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, https://www.energy.gov/eere/vehicles/fact-841-october-6-2014-vehicles-thousand-people-us-vs-other-world-regions (1922 112 (111.53) vehicles per 1000 people; 2012 808/1000 people (807.99); 111.53/1000 -> 110049 x 111.53 = 12,273,765 vehicles; 808/1000 -> 335,051 x 808 = 270,721,208 (22 x 1922))

“US Population from 1900,” Demographia, http://demographia.com/db-uspop1900.htm (1922 110,049,000, 2012 314,000,000)

“United States Population,” Worldometers, https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/us-population/ (U.S. population Aug. 5, 2022, 335,000,000 (335,051,677))

Educating women. Elina Pradhan, “Female Education and Childbearing: A Closer Look at the Data,” World Bank Blogs, Nov. 24, 2015, https://blogs.worldbank.org/health/female-education-and-childbearing-closer-look-data (“In a nutshell, data show that the higher the level of a woman’s educational attainment, the fewer children she is likely to bear.”)

“Overpopulation: Impacts and 6 Solutions for 2022,” MindsetEco, https://mindseteco.co/overpopulation-solutions/ (#1. Support Education for women and girls. Numerous studies . . . have shown that there is a direct and significant link between improved education for women and girls and a lower reproduction rate”. . . “[C]ase studies of improved secondary education for females offer hope for the future. A 1998 study of Niger discovered a 31% decrease in fertility rate among women who had completed secondary school. A comparable 1997 study in Yemen found a 33% decrease”. “Supporting the education of women to at least secondary school level is a definitive impact on reducing birth rates. It also improves the spacing between children and improves the health and quality of life for those children. This has a knock-on effect, where the children of better-educated mothers are also more likely to be educated themselves.”

“#2: Support Initiatives that Provide Education and Access to Family Planning (“Accurate, factual and unbiased education for children, adolescents and adults about reproduction, sexual health and consent are essential to reduce the number of unintentional births that occur each year. Approximately 40% of pregnancies are unintended, which translates to around 85 million unintended pregnancies per year.” “Easy, affordable, and reliable access to contraceptives and birth control is a major factor in preventing unplanned births and is one of the stronger overpopulation solutions.”)

21,000 scientists. Haydn Washington, Ian Lowe, Helen Kopnina, “Why Do Society and Academia Ignore the ‘Scientists Warning to Humanity’ On Population?” Journal of Futures Studies, Sept. 2020, 25(1): 93–106, https://jfsdigital.org/articles-and-essays/vol-25-no-1-september-2020/why-do-society-and-academia-ignore-the-scientists-warning-to-humanity-on-population/ (“The Second World Scientists Warning to Humanity (Ripple et al., 2017) has now been signed by 21,000 scientists. . . . We are jeopardizing our future by not reining in our intense but geographically uneven material consumption and by not perceiving continued rapid population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and even societal threats.”)

William J. Ripple, Christopher Wolf, Thomas M. Newsome, Mauro Galetti, Mohammed Alamgir, Eileen Crist, Mahmoud I. Mahmoud, William F. Laurance, 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries, “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” Oxford Academic, BioScience, BioScience, Volume 67, Issue 12, December 2017, Pages 1026–1028, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/bix125, Nov. 13, 2017, https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/article/67/12/1026/4605229

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