Incredibly, the UCS seems unaware that the rise in the number of cars and other items of industrialized societies is closely correlated with an increase in population. And many people who do not yet have access to such items are very eager to get them. Under a section with the heading “How focusing on population causes harm,” the climate change and population explainer valiantly attempts to delink environmental degradation from population growth:
Efforts to link population growth and environmental degradation, and in recent years population growth and climate change, tend to wrongly assume a simple and direct relationship between human numbers and environmental impacts such as deforestation, species loss, and greenhouse gas emissions. People living near areas of environmental degradation get blamed, even if the main drivers of those problems are consumption and production choices far away—such as when forests get cleared for timber, or to grow livestock or cash crops, for export.
In fact, most deforestation around the world, with concomitant loss of wildlife habitat and biodiversity, is driven by agricultural expansion which is in turn driven by population growth. According to the United Nations Population Fund’s State of World Population report for 1992, the year the UCS warning was issued, the total world population was 5.29 billion, of which 1.21 billion lived in the more developed regions and 4.09 billion lived in the less developed regions. SWP 2023 gives the world population as 8.05 billion, with the more developed regions having 1.28 billion, and the less developed regions 6.77 billion.
Yet the Union of Concerned Scientists would have us believe that the increase of 2.68 billion in the less developed regions (vs. an increase of 0.07 billion in the more developed regions; a ratio of 38:1) could not have had a “simple and direct” impact on deforestation. It did in fact have exactly such an impact. The impact of clearing for timber, livestock and cash crops present an additional burden on the environment, but do not erase the impact of needing to feed an additional 2.75 billion people (including both the more and the less developed regions).
The UCS’s explainer on food security and population, also linked in its introduction to the 1992 Warning, is equally embarrassing. It explicitly says, with emphasis, that “population is not the problem that deserves our focus.” It disassociates world hunger from population growth, while condemning the technologies, notably the green revolution, that made feeding a burgeoning population possible. It’s true that industrial-scale agriculture is harmful, but the USC provides no evidence that 8 billion people would otherwise be fed. It has a lot to say about how things should be, without providing any realistic way of getting there at 8 billion and growing. As is de rigueur in Marxist-feminism, it views concerns with population growth as an automatic endorsement of coercive population control methods. Its concluding paragraph reads:
So, if you hear someone suggest that global population growth is threatening food security now and in the future, tell them this: we must reject population control and advocate for meaningful systemic changes to how we produce, distribute, and consume food. In fact, doing both is essential.
An ideological rejection of population realities
The driving force behind the 1992 World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity was Henry Kendall, a Nobel laureate in physics, who died in a diving accident in 1999 at the age of 72.
Kendall was a founding member of the UCS in 1969, whose purpose was to direct scientific research away from military problems to solving pressing environmental and social problems. UCS was therefore on the political left from inception. However, like so many organizations and corporations in this era of “wokeness,” it seems to have shifted to the far left for which concerns about population are anathema.
However, such denial does not change the realities of human overpopulation, which Kendall recognized. He said: “If we do not voluntarily bring population growth under control in the next one or two decades, then nature will do it for us in the most brutal way, whether we like it or not.”
It is regrettable that an organization of allegedly concerned scientists is helping to make that outcome more likely.