A New York Times newsletter published an article by staff editor Spencer Bokat-Lindell arguing that declining fertility rates and a shrinking population could be a good thing to help the world combat climate change.
The article, titled “U.S. Population Growth Has Nearly Flatlined. Is That So Bad?”, speculated that population decline may “actually bring welcome changes.”
“For a population to replenish itself in the absence of immigration, demographers estimate that there must be, on average, about 2.1 births per woman,” Bokat-Lindell noted while pointing out that in the United States, the fertility rate has been below that since 2007.
“[T]he global average fertility rate has been falling for decades, and even China’s population, the world’s largest, may very soon reach its peak,” he wrote.
He cited a United Nations projection that “the human population will start declining by the end of the century.”
Bokat-Lindell wrote that the main concern people have with falling fertility rates is that, eventually, there will not be enough working age people to support the older retirees. However, he argued that automating away jobs will help address this problem, and the economic hardship caused by a declining population will make people less inclined to consume energy, which he says is good for the planet.
“The challenges of an aging population could push countries to pursue policies that improve quality of life,” he argued.
One way he said governments should address “labor shortages caused by population aging is by investing more in the automation of work.”
“Fertility rate declines may also be making climate change easier to combat, albeit not in the way many think,” he wrote.
“As Sarah Kaplan of The Washington Post has explained, fossil fuel consumption is driven primarily by increases in affluence, not the number of people on the planet per se,” he continued.
He went on to argue that population growth in rich countries like the U.S. would “almost certainly” lead to “large increases in planet-warming emissions,” which he says is bad for the planet.