Leon Kolankiewicz's Picture


  by  Leon Kolankiewicz
In today’s polarized America, there are certain “third rail” or “hot potato” issues one just can’t touch without an explosive reaction. They’re too hot to touch, and so most politicians ignore them rather than risk getting burned.

Emotionalism, knee-jerk responses, heaping scorn, and scoring cheap political points trump rational deliberation, discussion, and debate. Right and Left alike gorge themselves in these feeding frenzies of vituperation and irrationality.

Sadly, our inability to hold grownup conversations about these issues means that some of the nation’s most pressing problems never get addressed and continue to fester.

Immigration of course, is one such issue. Another is America’s population growth, especially when that growth is driven almost entirely by high immigration levels.

Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders learned this lesson the hard way last week in the “Climate Town Hall Meeting” sponsored by CNN.

From the audience, school teacher Martha Readyoff asked Sanders:

Human population growth has more than doubled in the past 50 years. The planet cannot sustain this growth. I realize this is a poisonous topic for politicians, but it's crucial to face. Empowering women and educating everyone on the need to curb population growth seems a reasonable campaign to enact. Would you be courageous enough to discuss this issue and make it a key feature of a plan to address climate catastrophe?

Sanders’ response – that he shared Readyoff’s concern about global overpopulation and would do something about it if elected U.S. president – brought the wrath and indignation of both Left and Right ideologues down upon him. Both demonstrated that they are equally numerically-challenged.

On the Left, socialist-turned-climate-activist Naomi Klein tweeted:

On that population control question: Emission growth has far more to do with the consumption behavior of the rich than the procreation of the poor. 70% of emissions come from the richest 20% ppl in the world. Let’s get our own house in order.

But Klein’s simplistic, politically correct formulation ignores what happens when a previously overpopulated, poor country grows rich. China, with its 1.43 billion carbon emitters, is the poster-child of this reality. (India, with its 1.37 billion, is fast on China’s heels.)

While Chinese annual per capita carbon emissions are still only about 40% of Americans’, China in aggregate now emits more than twice the carbon annually to the atmosphere that the United States does. And it is these aggregate emissions that count for the climate, not per capita ones.

On the Right, conservative commentators accused Sanders of eugenics and racism.

“Sanders’s formulation smacks of population control by limiting nonwhite births,” wrote Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post.

Others likened Sanders to Marvel movie villain Thanos, who plots to murder half of all life in the universe.

But in the real world as distinct from comic-book fantasy universes, this is the hard truth: If the world’s poor are ever to increase their per capita energy consumption and carbon emissions ten-fold to levels commensurate with a half-decent standard of living rather than a grinding, hand-to-mouth level of subsistence, it matters a great deal for the climate whether there are four billion versus eight billion poor people in the process of growing richer.

For example, unless its fertility rate comes down substantially, sub-Saharan Africa – adding an additional 3 billion by 2100 (according to U.N. population projections) – is where most of the entire world’s population growth will take place in the 21st century. It is not racist to point this out; it is demographic reality. Africans themselves, to say nothing of the continent’s already beleaguered wildlife, will bear the brunt of these surging numbers.

Focusing on the United States, which is our mission here at NumbersUSA, there is no way to achieve a sustainable population without reducing immigration back to sustainable levels.

For those who care about the consequences of U.S. carbon emissions, it matters a great deal whether the U.S population remains at 330 million, or is pushed by immigration to more than 400 million by 2060 and more than 500 million (half a billion) by 2100. It also matters that, by settling in the United States, immigrants, on average, increase their carbon emissions by 400 percent over those of their countries of origin.

Numbers Count. This is the inconvenient truth that Al Gore ignores.

LEON KOLANKIEWICZ is the Scientific Director for NumbersUSA


Updated: Fri, Oct 11th 2019 @ 9:10am EDT

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