Immigration has driven 75% of U.S. population growth over the last five years, and without changes to policy, the United States is projected to grow by another 20-30 million people over the next decade. That is a conservative estimate given the record levels of illegal immigration that we've witnessed since 2021.
One can argue that immigration-driven population growth is a positive, negative, or neutral event, but there is no question that these numbers have a profound impact on the way we live, from individual freedoms to environmental quality of life.
In 1970, the environmental movement gave rise to a brilliant (albeit simplified) equation, describing the linkage between population growth and environmental degradation, as follows: I = PAT, where "I" represents "environmental impact," "P" is "population," "A" is "affluence," and "T" is "technology."
I asked Professor Philip Cafaro to explain the concept.
California graphically illustrates the principles behind the I=PAT equation. California has the highest number of cities with poor air quality. It is no coincidence that California also is our nation's most populous state, with more than 39 million people.
Much of California's air quality problems come from motor vehicles. So, in addition to discouraging car ownership (which is the "affluence" part of I=PAT), California now is aggressively promoting electric vehicles in hopes of improving "ground level" air quality (electrification represents the "T" of I=PAT). For this approach to work, there will need to be more power plants to generate the electricity to power California's more than 31 million registered cars. In addition, there will need to be mining of minerals (e.g., lithium, cobalt, nickel) at a massive scale to meet the demand for electric vehicles.
This is where population (the "P" of I=PAT) magnifies the impacts. California's ban on gas-powered cars by 2035 is an example of a growing population exceeding its "carrying capacity" and being forced to choose between environmental degradation, economic burdens, and personal freedoms.
There are many other American cities, i.e., high-density centers of population growth, where the concentration of burned fossil fuels is causing poor air quality. Because immigration greatly increases the numbers of consumers, immigration policy is - among other things - an air quality policy.
Most members of Congress are likely unaware of how high levels of immigration impact quality of life. Please urge them to support H.R. 319, the Legal Workforce Act, which establishes a mandatory E-Verify system that can lead to substantial reductions in illegal immigration. E-Verify is popular, effective, and the logical place to start moving immigration policy back into balance.
JEREMY BECK is a V.P., Deputy Director for NumbersUSA
Updated: Thu, May 11th 2023 @ 3:23pm EDT