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COP26: The Causes of Climate Change

By Dr John Sydenham.

My favourite quote from the past 40 years on the subject of climate change is by Rex Tillerson, the CEO of the giant oil company Exxon, who famously said:

"What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?". (See Exxon Mobile and Climate Change Controversy and Global Climate Coalition).

Everything about climate change and the ecological crisis has been modified by the corporate media to reflect the needs of powerful lobby groups so that no-one is clear about what happened or is happening.

What happened?

Here is a graph that you hardly ever see in all those reviews of climate change:

CO2 emissions are directly linked to the number of people in the world.  This is not rocket science, it is obvious that as the population increases the pollution created by people will increase.

It has become popular to blame individuals for climate change and to claim that if we all became vegans there would be no problem.  In fact individuals have been fairly well behaved, with each person having limited their CO2 output between 1972 and 2018. 

CO2 has increased dramatically but the emissions for each person have not greatly increased so the reason for the increase in CO2 is that the population has grown massively.   Global warming is not your fault, excessive CO2 emissions are due to population growth.   So why did the world fill up with people?  Why didn't we stop it?

In the 1960s and 1970s it was obvious that population growth was going to cause immense problems that could be averted by a population control program.  As early as 1965 the Rand Corporation and other powerful lobbying groups had persuaded the US Government that limiting global population was essential for the well-being of the world and in 1968 Paul Ehrlich’s book, "The Population Bomb" made overpopulation a major issue. Congress increased the U.S. Agency for International Development's budget twentyfold over three years to support population control.  By 1970 twenty seven countries had agreed to cut birthrates. World Bank Loans became contingent on undertakings to cut birth rates and the whole world was becoming aware that something had to be done.

It looked like the world would pull together to avert the coming overpopulation crisis.  

However a whole series of utterly crazy and shocking events occurred alongside the new awareness.  A Ford Foundation report speculated in 1967 about the potential of a technological breakthrough: “an annual application of a contraceptive aerial mist (from a single airplane over India), neutralized only by an annual antidotal pill on medical prescription.”.  The President of the Population Council suggested a “mass involuntary method [of birth control] with individual reversibility.”  Worst of all an IUD was used for birth control that had a c.50% adverse reaction rate and no-one took any notice of the suffering of the women who received it. 

Even the supporters of birth control were shocked at the mentality of those running the programs.  Basically the philanthropic organisations such as Ford and Rockefeller, USAID and NGOs were both ruthless and incompetent.  In the period from 1975 to 1994 the Population Control Programs were attacked and steadily dismantled. Finally, at the 1994 UN Cairo International Conference on Population and Development the "Cairo Consensus" was announced where most states rejected targets and incentives for population control and affirmed reproductive rights.  The Postmarxists and Radical Feminists had arrived*. 

The conclusion at Cairo was to introduce a moratorium on birth control programs rather than a set of rules by which these programs might operate safely and humanely.  An essential step to make the world into a utopia by not covering it in roads, houses and pollution was damned in 1994 as being a violation of Human Rights.

Having got rid of birth control targets humanity was faced with an unstoppable population boom. The World Bank, Ford, Rockefeller, USAID, UN agencies and NGOs all agreed that it was essential to "develop" the world so that this boom did not result in famine and disease.  The development had to keep pace with population growth until the population had become educated and rich enough to choose contraception for itself.

Green Parties moved from being supporters of population control to supporters of overseas development.  In the UK Caroline Lucas became head of the Greens  and led them to be supporters of population growth in the UK (see below) and avid supporters of development overseas so that women could make their own choices as they became educated.  The Greens became part of the problem.

The predictions are that population growth will stop at around 11 billion. Some people say that this is perilously close to the "carrying capacity" of the world, the idea that there is a limit to the number of people that Earth can support. 

How many people can Earth actually support?

So who put us on the verge of total unsustainability?  The World Bank, Ford, Rockefeller, USAID, UN agencies and NGOs, the Human Rights industry and the Greens.    The same people who, only a few decades before, were telling the world that overpopulation would be the death of humanity.  Well, at least they know what they are doing.

The optimal world population has been estimated by a team co-authored by Paul R. Ehrlich. End-targets in this estimation included:

Based on this the estimated optimum population was thought to be roughly 1.5 billion to 2 billion people.  The current global population is about 8 billion.

Which brings us to China.  China contains a fifth of the world's population.  As part of the "development cures all ills" agenda after Cairo the West educated and financed China so that, within 30 years, it has become a major world power, bristling with armaments, ready to compete for dwindling resources and the prime emitter of CO2.

Humanity realised what was happening in the 1960s.  It was destroying the world with overpopulation.  Population could have been controlled without upsetting the world but the responsible organisations were so "gung ho" that they destroyed the credibility of the programme.  The same organisations as fouled up population control then did a complete reversal of policy and gambled that they could develop the world before it was overwhelmed. 

Where does the "development" programme leave the world?  In many countries "Nature" has become something that happens in wild life parks.  This is the ecological disaster, people have crushed nature with their bulk alone.  People have already done this.  David Attenborough is not talking about the future when he comes near to tears recounting what has happened.   As for global warming etc. - what did anyone expect?  Obviously bad things will happen if we dispose of the biosphere and endlessly increase consumption.

What bothers me is that people seem to be so evil, had the global population been held and returned to two billion we would, even today, be living in the Garden of Eden.  Worse still, the damage has been done by those who pose as denizens of the moral highground.  These are the people who elevate their beliefs above reality and forget that nature, including us, needs somewhere to live.

Fixing the Ecological Crisis and lowering population fixes global warming.

The world now has a high population and CO2 is building up rapidly because we have removed much of the natural landscape.  Unfortunately the attitude of Rex Tillerson is alive and well with the IPCC and media still using terms for the natural world such as "ecosystem services".  This all means that we have a serious problem that needs to be fixed.

The international Climate Ambition Summit (COP 26) is seeking to achieve a carbon neutral world as soon as possible.  Suppose we are indeed able to become carbon neutral, will this stop global warming?  The short answer is "no".

The big problem is that man made (anthropogenic) CO2 seems to have a very long lifetime in the atmosphere.  The IPCC calculates that around 15% to 40% of anthropogenic CO2 remains in the atmosphere for 1000 years (given a carbon neutral world).  In other words if we stop emitting CO2 today we will get at least 1.5 degrees of warming and this will stick around for a very long time.  Of course we are not going to stop CO2 emissions today so 2 degrees or more of warming look fairly certain.

In 2019 the Intergovernmental Panel  on Climate Change (IPCC) produced a summary of the current position on climate change: see summary.  This made clear that tackling global warming had two components: lowering CO2 emissions to zero and extracting CO2 from the atmosphere.  CO2 must now be removed from the atmosphere to fix global warming.

The IPCC calculated that reducing CO2 with forestry and land use changes would probably not be enough to lower CO2 (left hand graph in picture below).  Carbon capture and storage and biofuels would also be needed (right hand graph).

Fixing global warming


I would not seek to gainsay the scientific findings or expertise of the IPCC but I would ask for their interpretation of the data to be reconsidered.

Reducing the emissions of CO2 will certainly reduce the growth in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. However, carbon neutral policies based on biofuels are not obviously beneficial.  As an example, if we cut down a large area of forest and replace it with Palm Oil plants the forest, a permanent carbon sink, will have been replaced with a crop that is less effective at permanently removing CO2.

If we use Genetically Modified Palm Oil that is weedkiller resistant we can grow more oil but at the price of destroying organic matter in the soil. Using biological oils and sugars as biofuels produces agri-desert which is extremely bad for biodiversity.  So biofuels will reduce the growth in atmospheric CO2 levels but also reduce permanent carbon sinks and exacerbate the ecological crisis.

The IPCC is also unclear in its presentation of the fate of man made CO2.  At present we inject enough CO2 into the atmosphere to raise concentrations by 2.5 ppm (parts per million) annually. Compare this with the seasonal cycle of CO2 emissions shown by the red line below:

The natural variation is about 10 ppm CO2 a year.  If nature can take care of the 10 ppm natural variations in CO2 annually why is 2.5 ppm of man-made CO2 overloading the system?  In fact, taking into account the non-seasonal CO2 that is emitted naturally, anthropogenic CO2 is only 5% of annual global CO2 emissions.  If we recognise this we can understand the really big question of Climate Change research: why are the natural carbon sinks being overwhelmed by a relatively small increase in CO2 emissions?

The carbon sinks are the processes that remove CO2 from the atmosphere and lock it away.  The most effective carbon sink is the mud in the sea at some continental margins and shallow seas. This mud is the stuff that eventually ends up as sedimentary rocks such as mudstones, sandstones, shales etc.  Carbon in these rocks is permanently locked away until we start drilling, mining or fracking it.  Permanent natural forests are also excellent carbon sinks.

 The IPCC view is that these permanent carbon sinks are kaput.

The view that the permanent carbon sinks are no longer capable of reducing CO2 is probably an artefact of the immense damage that has been inflicted on them.  The draining of wetlands, removal of peatbogs, coastal pollution, canalisation of rivers and estuaries and dredging has virtually eradicated the permanent CO2 sink capacity of open land and coastal waters (See Blue Carbon).  Anyone who has ever been "fossiling" knows that these wetlands and shallow seas produce mudstones,  and shales etc. which lock away carbon.  They created the rocks that are nowadays the source of oil, gas and shale oil.  The current burial rate of carbon by river deltas is about 0.1 Gigatonnes per year ,  this is now so small that it is being ignored as a major carbon sink. However, modern river deltas are a poor shadow of their former glory.  Of the largest river deltas only the Amazon and Congo are fairly pristine, the Indus, Ganges, Nile, Yangtze, Mississippi, Rhine etc. have all been dammed, and canalised with agriculture reaching to the river banks, flood plains drained etc. so that their transport of organic matter to the sea and burial has been dramatically reduced. It is not just the deltas that have been damaged, across the world the continental shelves have been seriously compromised by untreated human waste and fishing practices.

The failure of the carbon sinks in wetlands, bogs and coastal margins is part of the ecological crisis.  If we wish to reverse global warming naturally we must confront this crisis.

If the loss of tree cover over the past 250 years were corrected it would be almost enough to offset the CO2 in the atmosphere by about 30% and so return the earth to near pre-industrial levels of CO2  (although the figures above are contested):

If we were to increase the size of forests by 25% by 2050 we might reduce CO2 by about a quarter (NASA Data).  The forests would need to be permanent, preferably natural for their region and not recycled with logging etc.

If natural carbon sinks can be used to offset global warming so dramatically then how far did the loss of these sinks help to create global warming in the first place?  It is generally agreed that planting trees, restoring wetlands, river deltas etc. is essential  to combat the rise of CO2.  Over the past 200 years we have massively reduced tree coverage, wetlands and the transport of organic material to river deltas etc.  How far has the disappearance of the carbon sinks caused the high atmospheric CO2 levels?  As can be seen above, just the loss of forest might account much of the current 120 ppm excess CO2 without including industrial production in the CO2 budget.  

The fact that the growth curves for deforestation, population growth, CO2 accumulation and global temperature rise all overlie each other is not a coincidence.  Global warming is an ecological crisis. If we "fix" it with carbon capture and storage and biofuels we will just hit another ecological or geophysical problem.  Carbon capture and storage is especially dangerous because it could become a method of allowing industrial pollution to continue, so it must be seen as a method of dealing with a temporary problem and not the long term solution.

Let the sun shine in.  Let us tell the truth.  Humanity has, mostly as a result of its sheer mass and area of occupation, created an ecological crisis in which the rest of the natural world has been destroyed and exploited.  The only healthy long term fix is to reduce CO2 emissions, restore ecosystems and, most of all, reduce the population by persuading parents that 2 children is optimal (it is optimal for the family as well).  We should be ambitious and imagine the creation of a Garden of Eden on Earth as the goal of our correction of global warming.

The worst possible measure that could be taken to correct global warming is "geoengineering" where artificial clouds are produced to screen sunlight or the oceans seeded to grow algae etc.  Meddling with the Earth on a global scale with geoengineering "solutions" is so obviously dangerous that it is mind boggling that it should even be considered.  This is the Mordor approach to fixing global warming.

It is essential that humans take the natural route to correcting global warming of reducing population and CO2 output and restoring nature because any other approach will lead to further, perhaps wholly intractable problems as we destroy the biosphere.

Politics and avoidance of alarm in the IPCC View

It is important that the IPCC clear up a couple of problems with their analysis and presentation of the carbon cycle.

The IPCC needs to make it far clearer that damaging carbon sinks is equivalent to emitting CO2 and destroying permanent carbon sinks is central to what has happened.  This is a matter of presentation but the existing presentation decouples the ecological crisis from global warming.  We can only assume that the decoupling is politically motivated because it carries the message that humanity has the absolute right to damage natural systems except where such damage can be proven beyond doubt to also damage humanity today.

The IPCC is also keen not to be seen as alarmist but there are reasons for alarm.   There is some evidence that the release of CO2 from stores such as the ocean and soils is temperature dependent and that the Arctic region may flip into large scale CO2 and methane release.  This graph by Hermann Harde demonstrates the co-dependency of temperature and CO2:

Harde interprets this as meaning that the rise in temperature is causing the rise in CO2.  The IPCC view suggests that the opposite is largely true but it is very difficult to disentangle the two factors, however if both temperature and CO2 are in play, reinforcing each other's effects, it bodes ill for plans to control CO2.  If Harde is right then solely reducing anthropogenic CO2 will not solve global warming.

These problems do not mean that we can ignore anthropogenic CO2.  They imply the opposite: our CO2 emissions might have a far worse effect than predicted.   CO2 is a pollutant that we must cease emitting.

How do we stop Climate Change?

Tackling global warming was relatively easy in the 20th century, all that was needed was to stop population growth and phase out fossil fuels. The problem is harder today because we have now attained a very high population, destroyed the carbon sinks and emitted vast amounts of CO2.

The most important measure that can be taken is to stop population growth.  This is doubly important because it is population growth that is directly causing the ecological crisis.  One of the most remarkable aspects of the current approach to global warming is that the media never mention population growth.


See Population Matters


Having one less child is 25 times more effective than foregoing the use of a car because each pair of  children, on average, gives rise to an entire line of extra people.

You can see the effects of Corporate and media pressure from a survey of school textbooks on climate change.  The obvious most effective action - having one less child - is not mentioned at all:

The Climate Mitigation Gap

It is so easy to manipulate school children.  Adults should be angry. In the period from 1990 to 2016 the UK increased its population by almost 20% by importing people from overseas (without migration the UK population would have been stable).  Importing people in very large numbers from countries with relatively low emissions to countries with high emissions to boost the population can only be described with one word: insane.  Many Western countries have adopted the UK model but few on such a scale.

Apart from persuading families to have only two children (which is optimal for the families as well as the world), there are other measures that can be taken to reduce CO2 emissions.

The UK has a fairly good record of reducing CO2 emissions by phasing out fossil fuels: Unfortunately much of our gains have been due to offloading manufacturing to other countries such as China. The true decline in UK emissions is shown by the light blue line in the graph above.  Taking this into account the UK had still reduced emissions by 10% between 1990 and 2016.  This would have been 30% had the UK not swelled its population with migration at the same time.  The same pattern of offloading emissions to other countries and encouraging migration can be found in almost all Western nations. 

What should the UK do?

Many readers will recoil from this next section because there has been an intense program in Western countries to condition the population to accept relatively cheap labour from overseas.  As a result many readers will immediately confuse a section on avoiding exacerbating the ecological crisis in the UK with incipient racism.  But how do we protect our poor land and the creatures in it if we are not honest about what is happening?

The population of the UK already exceeds its sustainable population (See Migration Observatory).  The UK mass media, especially the BBC, is pressing very hard, with daily propaganda, for the UK population to be increased.  The current UK population of around 65 million is being deliberately increased at a rate of 500,000 people a year due to migration and the children of migrants (see note).  As a result of migration and the families of the children of migrants, in 30 years the UK population will have increased by about 20 million people.  85 million people in the UK, mostly in England, is utterly unsustainable.  This is very serious.  The country cannot feed this number of people from its own land so if global warming etc. becomes critical there will be massive suffering and probably widespread deaths as imported food prices rise to be unaffordable.

The huge growth in UK population is leading to the disappearance of our beautiful countryside and the widespread destruction of habitat for the remaining wildlife.  Apart from humans the rest of nature will be relegated to a few wildlife parks over the next two or three decades.  There is still time to stop this happening but our journalists and most political parties are indeed children of Mordor.  You can imagine journalists and politicians reading this and thinking "just another racist diatribe" so placing their political beliefs above reality, like the CEOs of oil companies put their prosperity above the survival of humanity in the 1990s.  Journalists and politicians who would cause obvious and abundant harm to the environment through population growth in their own country will never support saving the world.  Their beliefs are so far from reality that their motto is also: "What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?".

Tranquillity Map

The UK is in an incredibly fortunate geographical position where it will be one of the least affected areas after global warming.  It could reduce its population over the next 30 years by the relatively simple measure of stopping migration and could implement green policies and restore its natural environment, especially long term carbon sinks.  But it is doubtful that this will happen. 

Never has a country had a media and governing class so determined to destroy it.  The media are the heart of the problem with journalists vying with each other for a "moral highground" that is either ignorant or for pleasing Corporate cronies.  The record of the media is appalling, they supported population control then supported the race for development, then in the 1990s and noughties they allowed oil industry stooges to convince the population that there was no problem with global warming and now they are suppressing the population problem and diverting people away from the ecological crisis by suggesting that global warming can be cured by individual action (blaming the victim).

17/9/2021

Note: there are 600,000 people immigrating to the UK annually and 300,000 emigrating.  Many of the immigrants are fit young adults, most are officially welcomed and their purpose is to work.  This means they are of an age where they rapidly have children and size their families to the customary size found in their country of origin.  It should be noticed that the figures show there are 600,000 people as the source of families, not 300,000 as might be expected from net migration figures.  It must be stressed that the objection to migration is an objection to overpopulation, not to the migrants themselves who are encouraged to come to the UK by the government despite the endless public statements to the contrary.

References and links:

How did the ‘population control’ movement go so terribly wrong?
By Matthew Connelly 2008.  The Wilson Quarterly

Australian Academy of Science: How many people can Earth actually support.

Daily, Gretchen C.; Ehrlich, Anne H.; Ehrlich, Paul R. (1994). "Optimum Human Population Size". Population and Environment. 15 (6): 469–475.

Global Carbon

* Postmarxism is the philosophy of continual revolution where creating polarisation and struggle leads to an ever "better" world.  Anarchy and damage create revolutionary change and the death of nature is just another battlefield for postmodern politics. Sitting on the moral highground whilst preventing any action to solve a problem is the ideal way to polarise society.



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