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Population and climate change

Posted April. 04, 2020 07:47,   

Updated April. 04, 2020 07:47


The number of newborns has fallen over the last 50 consecutive months while the period recording the second highest yearly number of deaths, according to Statistics Korea’s report on population trends of January 2020, The national agency added that this year will see the first ever natural decline in the Korean population. In fact, the country has the lowest fertility rates in the world. In other sense, it makes me wonder whether or not higher fertility rates are a complete blessing to the world.

The 2014 movie “Kingsman: The Secret Service” unfolds against the backdrop of the world faced with growing climate risks due to increasing carbon emissions. Global warming is the culprit behind lack of food, contagious diseases, environmental devastation and extreme weather events such as super typhoons, droughts and floods. Billionaire villain Valentine in the film hatches a plot to decimate citizens to counteract a warming globe. This begs the question: Can we reduce carbon emissions and mitigate climate risks by killing a mass of people just as in the film? Theoretically, the answer is yes.

Climate events and environmental change can drive hundreds of millions of people into risks of droughts, floods, extreme hot waves and poverty. We have only 11 years to fight against disastrous climate change, according to the Special Report on Climate Change and Land published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the United Nations. This report encouraged a woman to stage a campaign not to have children. British activist Blythe Pepino is the leader of “Birth Strike” in the U.K. When asked about her motive for her action, she answered that she is afraid to see the next generations living in a tough and harsh environment devastated by the current state of climate emergency, pointing out the harms of having and raising children in a quasi-apocalypse.

Travis Rieder, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, argues that reducing birth rates to 0.5 baby per woman is the key to rescuing the Earth from looming catastrophe. Here is his argument: The planet will be barely inhabitable if the average global temperature rises by four degrees Celsius or above by the end of this century. Regrettably, people do not put any effort into reducing carbon emissions but instead enjoy their overly materialistic lifestyles full of luxury cars, high-end cuisine and expensive clothes. Mr. Rieder proposes to decrease the number of people on the planet as the last resort. He believes that a fewer population is the most effective and easiest choice to make to cut down on carbon emissions. Personally, I agree with the theoretical reasoning of Blythe Pepino and Professor Rieder. Nevertheless, I preach the virtues of having at least two children as a marriage officiant at weddings because I fear that South Koreans may go extinct some day.

Eun-Taek Lee nabi@donga.com