Fight climate change by paying people to have fewer children?

One point from a geology class (previous post) was that the Black Death resulting in global cooling due to agricultural land (roughly 37 percent of Earth’s non-glacier-covered land) being returned to forest (see also “Immigration is the Reverse Black Death?”). So if the climate change alarmists are right that there will be a catastrophic loss of human life, the result should be an Earth that quickly returns to equilibrium state.

What about avoiding a sudden catastrophic reduction in human population?

The geologist teaching the course steps back from 40+ lectures and concludes towards the end that humans are currently the world’s biggest agent for geological change, perhaps dominating even the Milankovitch cycles that formerly got us into and out of ice ages. Considering all of the Earth’s resources, he thinks that a human population of around 2 billion is the sustainable number.

(Having seen what the Chinese are able to do with infrastructure and the latest “Crazy cheap solar power plant”, I think this estimate of the Earth’s carrying capacity might be low.)

We’re close to 8 billion right now. What are the governments and non-profit organizations that say they’re concerned about climate change doing? Paying people to have children! In the U.S., we have tax credits for the middle class who have kids, free housing, health care, and food for low-income Americans who have kids, free K-12 education to replace what used to be a parental expense (and soon, thanks to Bernie and Elizabeth Warren, free college). (see birth rate versus family income for how effective these programs are and also for how eventually most Americans will be descended from those who don’t work) In poor countries, various non-profit orgs are especially keen on providing services to “families” (i.e., adults who have chosen to have children). Traditionally, people in poor countries had children as a form of retirement financial security.

[In the U.S., there are also people having kids in order to harvest child support. Recent example from the news: Lunden Roberts is pursuing the unlimited child support profits available in Arkansas via a lawsuit against Hunter Biden, the former VP’s son (Biden is married, though, so this is really a financial tug-of-war between two women, the plaintiff former stripper and the Trump-hating previously-married wife). Would the plaintiff have been enthusiastic about populating the Earth with this additional CO2 source if not for the cash incentive? As noted in “Child Support Litigation without a Marriage,” there are plenty of Americans who are happy to sell an abortion at a discount to the net present value of the expected child support cashflow, indicating a fondness for cash rather than children.]

What if we took the scientists seriously on the subject of human population being the main source of climate change? Wouldn’t a good first step be stopping the cash incentives to have more children? After that, why not actually pay people who refrain from having children? World median household income is roughly $10,000 (Gallup). A $1,000/year payment would therefore provide a significant bump. What about paying adults with no kids $1,000/year and those with one child $500/year? We’d have to continue the payments into retirement to make up for the fact that children might otherwise provide retirement security.

Since it is tough to track the number of children that a human identifying as “male” might have, we can look at only those identifying as “female”. Assume roughly 2 billion “women” of childbearing age currently on Planet Earth (2011 source says 2 billion out of 7 billion, but they use an age range of 15-49). Let’s say that roughly 1 billion have fewer than 2 children and that we need to pay an average of $750/year to these 1 billion. That’s a total annual spend of $750 billion that will perhaps trend up to $1.5 trillion over the coming decades. World GDP is roughly $80 trillion (and will grow quite a bit as the cost of payments rises). So this is less than 1 percent of GDP to save the planet from the climate change and other environmental damage that scientists say is inevitable when human population is above 2 billion.

How does this compare to other ideas for mitigating climate change? Morgan Stanley estimates a $50 trillion cost for a combination of solar panels, wind, electric cars, carbon capture, etc.

Readers: What do you think? Is it inconsistent to bemoan climate change and simultaneously encourage population growth?


17 thoughts on “Fight climate change by paying people to have fewer children?

  1. This is a post that requires a little extra thought to swallow the whole thing, but one part of it is already becoming much easier:

    > Since it is tough to track the number of children that a human identifying as “male” might have, we can look at only those identifying as “female”.

    Is it that tough to track, or is it just because we haven’t done it aggressively yet, in an organized way? When I was a child/adolescent, only people who had a reason to think they might pass on an inherited disease had their DNA tested, at considerable expense, and the tests were for gross chromosomal abnormalities like Trisomy X. It got a little more sophisticated through the years, I took a medical ethics course about it, around 20 years ago. Nowadays, everybody in the United States can walk down to the local Walgreens and buy a home DNA testing kit. $27.99 for this one ( 21st Century medicine is increasingly driven by the development of drugs and treatment plans unique to a person’s genome. Hospitals, healthcare providers and insurance companies, therefore, are going to be incentivized to maintain specific DNA data on every single person – particularly if health care becomes single-payer, as everyone from Harvard University wants. Even Elizabeth Warren has had her DNA tested recently. At least in advanced countries, it’s going to be duck soup to track exactly how many children a man has fathered. Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if divorce attorneys start requiring that if they are going to take a case, the father has to have a DNA sample taken before anything gets rolling.

    So my guess is that within 10 years we could establish a database containing the genomes of every single human being in the society, at least in countries with modern medicine. At that point, it will be a simple query to establish paternity and make it illegal for Daddy to father more than their allotted number of children. No more Jeffrey Epsteins and his baby farms.

    Separately, what if we really took the scientists seriously and just decided we were going to try to raise the mean IQ of the human race by a full standard deviation or more? Wouldn’t having a world populated by a smaller number of much smarter people be better?

    • You’ll notice on that link that the lab fee is $139, so the whole enchilada winds up costing about $170. For many men, that’s a price they’re absolutely willing to pay to establish or rule out paternity. If everyone in the country did it, I’ll bet we could get the fees down to a one-time cost of $20 or less.

      So: Now we know exactly who has kids and exactly how many they have, and with whom. Step 1 of the population control through management problem has been technically solved. Now it’s a matter of politics and legislation.

  2. I mean, let’s face it: dumb people with an IQ of 100 or less are a burden on humanity on so many levels. They’re almost incapable of thinking through the consequences of their actions. They wind up in prison, they can’t manage their lives, they get stuck in dead end jobs, they’re self-destructive, they cover themselves with tattoos and freeload off of gullible SJWs in Los Angeles, they’re difficult to train, and they make nothing but mistakes and other people have to clean up their messes, lest they wind up on the street. And then nobody can fix them.

    Pretty much what we actually do is cultivate and promote the smart people and try to protect them enough so that they can manage all the dumb ones, and it’s burning them out! It might be better to try and raise the mean IQ and let the population control take care of itself through a combination of mandatory DNA testing and the right incentives, adequately explained. So we’re back to eugenics, but this time for real.

  3. $50 trillion is 2% of global GDP over the time period of the Morgan Stanley study.

    It is pretty clear that it is not necessary to “pay people to have fewer children”. Raising median income to “first world” level seems to reliably reduce fertility to replacement level or below. Yes, this would require significantly increasing global per capita GDP, but only requires economic performance similar to what has occured over the past 20 years.

  4. Finally, if we factor in the increase in human lifespan since 1900 (it was 49 then, it was 78 in 2006, it’s about 83 now NYT: and project that individualized medicine can get the average person born today another full decade, almost everyone born today could live to age 93-95, and that seems like an achievable number. It could be even higher if we figure out how to slow down telomere shortening and correct other, cumulative types of genetic damage. So the population is going to continue to skew older in advanced economies.

    I don’t see how we can address climate change and sustainability without population control and raising the mean IQ. People who are born today are entering a world where intellectual capacity and mental flexibility are the most important factors in their ability to maintain productivity and live worthwhile lives into their later years. They’re not going to be able to count on three to four children and a gaggle of grandchildren to help them. They’re going to have to take care of themselves better. I think we’re reaching the point where laissez-faire child rearing is basically over. And yes, we’re going to have to basically force/coerce those changes on the entire world to make it work. Our current demands and habits are simply incompatible with sustainability, climate change, medical advancements, and technological progress. That’s a bold statement but I think it’s true.

    It’s coming. It has to, particularly because this country is trending Socialist within less than one generation, so We the People are going to hand it all over to the government, and Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that!

    • Heh. Funny you should mention this. A lot of people are (or were) concerned about that problem, just not precisely the way you put it. My take on it is that they’re very good people, they know what they’re doing, but the real risk isn’t hand sanitizers or antibiotics, it’s that pathogens will be deliberately created in a laboratory and then accidentally (or purposefully) released. It’s all up in the air right now. The Cambridge Working Group website hasn’t been updated in more than 4 years.

  5. >That’s a total annual spend of $750 billion that will perhaps trend up to $1.5 trillion over the coming decades.

    And if anyone thinks that $750 billion will wind up in the hands of the people it’s designed to influence, I’d like to hear how they propose to do it while overcoming all the cultural, educational, religious, tribal, and other hurdles and simultaneously avoid it being absquatulated away with by the politicians responsible for administrating the program. You’re not going to be able to drop $750 per person out of helicopters and then make sure they don’t just take that money and have the children anyway. I doubt it will work.

    No, I think we’re going to have to let the Chinese take over most of the world and then deal with the people under their aegis with ruthless brutality.

  6. Is a geologist’s opinion on the number of people the planet can sustain entitled to any more weight than the opinion of a random person on the street? It does not strike me that this is something within the purview of geology.

  7. I love it when a commenter posts something long and boring, and I skip it, only to see that the next comment is him responding to himself with another boring comment. And then he decided his insight is such that he posts 3, 4 additional times. Why do people do that?

    • I assume you’re talking about me.


      1) The WordPress configuration of this blog doesn’t allow posts to be edited or deleted. Mine would be more concise and fewer if I had the ability to do that. I also understand why Philg doesn’t allow it. He has a good reason why.
      2) Take a look at the subject here: Philg is suggesting reconfiguring the entire world economy to address climate change through population control. It’s a big subject, and he embeds 15 links for further reading.
      3) While everyone in the world has become accustomed to summarizing massive, elephant s**t discussions in 280 characters or less, subjects like this really can’t fit in that space.
      4) I’m sorry for wasting your time. I’ll make an effort to accommodate you better in the future.

      5) Executive Summary: If we accept anthropogenic climate change as a dire an existential threat, yes, I think we’ll need to lower the population and work to raise the mean IQ. It is inconsistent to incentivize population growth given that assumption. If we truly believe the world is cooking, we’re going to need lower populations, a higher mean IQ, and a total re-think of the way our society presently rewards fecundity, in order to be “sustainable.” We can accurately track people’s offspring. I’m pessimistic about helicoptering money into Africa and elsewhere. Hang on tight.

  8. Homosexuality is very effective birth control. Transgerism is even more effective. Teach women to prefer career over family and you lower the birth rate as well. Make divorce and child custody laws so lopdided against men that they dread fatherhood.

    Who or what is behind it: Satan, the Bilderburg group, strange currents of history, natural feedback mechanisms built into human society to curve excessive population growth, or just man trying to make sense of an ultimately absurd universe.

  9. The capital elite want infinity cheap laborers and infinity consumers of toothpaste and socks and Marvel movies to drive up their revenues. Their entire goal is a geometrically growing underclass. America, Europe, and some Asian countries were actually so effective at getting citizens out of the underclass that the capitalists were starting to run out of proles. So the current MO is to import infinity foreigners.

    The solution to the problem is sealed borders, globally. Zero immigration and emigration anywhere. In the places with excess fecundity, people will learn restraint. In the places with rapidly shrinking population, smart 22 year olds will suddenly realize they can easily afford to have six kids.

    Watch as Japan has a fertility turn around. For 20 years there’s a drumbeat of stories about how Japan’s population is crashing and they need immigration. Well, now you can buy a farm house almost in commuting distance of Tokyo for amazingly cheap. Watch that demographic story change “defying” demographic predictions. Instead we’ll get stories about the terrifying rise of large nationalistic right wing Japanese families where everybody is high IQ.

    • “The solution to the problem is sealed borders, globally. Zero immigration and emigration anywhere.”

      The solution is something absurd and impossible?

  10. If you look at the projections, the only continent that is looking at continued major population increase over the next few decades is Africa – and the only reason the population is increasing there is that westerners have been giving them food and medicine that they are incapable of producing themselves. Just prohibit any aid to Africa, and the problem pretty much takes care of itself.

    Of course, people like Bill Gates who are the most concerned with Climate Change are also the ones pushing aid the most, so what are you gonna do?

  11. The more pressing question is how does society work if growth rates are negative? No one knows how to run companies or stock markets or families or cities if the number of people is shrinking. In the US, Detroit is a mess due to shrinking population. But Phoenix and other growing cities are doing great.

    Japan is the first big country to see shrinking population. They are having big issues with too few workers. There latest plan is importing workers instead of letting population decrease and manage the issues,

    So no one is addressing the issues of negative growth necessary for a global CO2 fix……. Remember they called it the Dark Ages that followed the black plague and shrinking population.

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