A paper by Edwin S. Rubenstein for Negative Population Growth, a US organisation which advocates population reduction in order to achieve environmental and resource sustainability, argues that current rates of US population growth mean that converting to renewable energy is an insufficient step in combating climate change.
In ‘Renewables to the Rescue? The Myths, The Reality, And Why A Smaller US Population Is Needed To Save the Planet’, Rubenstein says that “the bold claims made for renewable energy simply do not hold up in the real world” and states that it must be acknowledged that “there are no viable ‘supply-side’ solutions to energy-related CO2 emissions in sight at this time. Technological breakthroughs in the storage and transmission of wind and solar energy are always possible, of course, but even if that were to occur tomorrow, the case for a smaller US population would still be overwhelming.”
In reviewing the role of biomass and hydroelectric power as the leading renewables in mid-20th century America, Rubenstein focuses on the sun and wind. He says: “Solar and wind power are the great green hopes of renewable energy fans. It’s hard to find a more taken for granted, unquestioned assumption than that it will be possible to substitute these two sources for fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases, and still grow the economy. But objective analysis shows these assumptions are without merit.”
He highlights that: “To avoid blackouts, every additional BTU of wind and solar capacity must be backed up by another BTU of conventional power. This means that coal, natural gas and even nuclear plants cannot be phased out. We have created a CO2 Catch 22, where a system touted as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions relies on coal and fossil fuel plants for backup – plants that emit even more CO2 when ‘peaking’ to replace sudden drops in renewable generation.”
Rubenstein makes a case for lower US immigration levels in the future by asserting that: “Over the long run population growth is the most important factor in CO2 emissions emanating from this country. Whether a new immigrant or a baby born to a US-born mother, the number of children the new arrival chooses to have is far more important to 2100 climate than whether he or she recycles, bicycles to work, drives a hybrid vehicle, or sets the thermostat high or low.” He claims that “had immigrants remained in their home countries they would have still produced some CO2, but their output would have been far less. Immigration to the US represents a large-scale transfer of population from countries with comparatively low per capita CO2 emissions to one of the highest per capita CO2 emitters in the world.”
Rubenstein comes to the conclusion that: “Our growing population has overwhelmed improvements in energy efficiency and emissions abatement. Indeed, for most of our recent history, reductions in energy use per capita and per dollar of GDP have failed to offset the increased demand for energy brought on by population growth. Immigration is expected to account for 82% of US population growth by 2050. Our immigration policy is, therefore, key to the global effort to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The war on global climate change starts at home.”
Read the article online at: https://www.worldcoal.com/special-reports/21032018/npg-benefits-from-renewable-energies-negated-by-us-population-growth/