Club of Rome Reconvenes to Make New Alarmist Population Predictions

International   |   Susan Yoshihara, Ph.D.   |   Sep 14, 2012   |   10:20AM   |   Washington, DC

Members of the Club of Rome, a group made famous forty years ago for its prediction of global starvation due to overpopulation, defended their projections recently in a top foreign affairs journal.

“The sad fact is that despite the study’s warnings, humans are already overwhelming the earth’s carrying capacity…. if human society does not reduce the size of its footprint, the ecological systems that underpin its well-being will collapse,” said Jorgen Randers, co-author of the group’s best-selling 1972 book, The Limits to Growth.

Co-author Dennis Meadows said its hypothesis was recently vindicated by a statement by a group of 105 scientific academies saying, the planet is “on track to alternative futures with severe and potentially catastrophic implications for human well-being.”

The comments came as a rebuttal to an essay by Bjorn Lomborg who called the book’s projections “phenomenally wrong-headed” but that the environmental alarmism it engendered shaped popular consciousness ever since with “malign effects.” Lomborg’s article and the rebuttals appeared in successive issues of the prestigious journal Foreign Affairs.

The Limits to Growth predicted that overpopulation and scarcity of raw materials would bring global economic collapse. In fact, prices dropped with the invention of improved harvesting techniques and resources abounded. “So why did the authors get it wrong? Because they overlooked human ingenuity,” Lomborg said. By focusing on marginally effective campaigns like recycling, and issues important to developed countries like banning effective pesticides, Lomborg said environmental alarmists quashed opportunity for better health and economic growth in developing countries. Even his critics admit that economic growth, in turn, increases investment in protection of the environment, he said.

In their new predictions, the group has switched focus from precious metals to natural resources. Randers published an updated version, “Club of Rome Report, 2025,” in which he predicts the melting of the tundra. “In short, the future is unpleasantly similar to the ‘persistent pollution scenario’ from The Limits to Growth,” Randers concluded.

In their essay, “Alarmism is Justified,” environmentalists John and Mary Ellen Harte said
“The Limits of Growth was eerily correct…increases in the human population and consumption levels undermine the sustainability of human society,” they said. “We know how to stem the problem of overpopulation by supplying family planning knowledge and contraceptives to more than 100 million women who lack them in developing countries.”

“Accounting for the world’s natural capital is not alarmist,” Frances Beinecke said in her essay, “Clean air, a stable climate, plentiful fish, lush forests, fresh water…are the building blocks of prosperity.” Beinecke is the president of Natural Resources Defense Council, a major Washington, D.C.-based environmental group which forged ties with population groups earlier this year over the objections of some of its pro-life staff. Beinecke has elsewhere argued that, “simply by meeting women’s existing needs to plan the number and spacing of their pregnancies, population growth will slow and global carbon emissions will be reduced by between 8 and 15 percent – the equivalent of stopping all deforestation today.”



Lomborg says the new predictions suffer the same fundamental flaws as the old. “All four of the critiques of my essay rely on the language of doom to motivate action,” he said, “which, to the detriment of the environment, convinces society that it must pursue all its environmental goals at once, regardless of the costs and benefits.” Note: Susan Yoshihara writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Friday Fax publication and is used with permission.