Glory be, Paul Ehrlich is still wrong

We;re arriving at the 50th anniversary of Paul Ehrlich's megaselling panic book, The Population Bomb. Nothing predicted in the book has come true therefore it's still a bible to a certain sort of environmentalist. You know, those who insist that precisely because it hasn't come true yet it's obviously about to.

At which point the observation that Paul Ehrlich is still wrong. But not just wrong about what will happen, wrong about the solutions too:

Fifty years after the publication of his controversial book The Population Bomb, biologist Paul Ehrlich warns overpopulation and overconsumption are driving us over the edge

A shattering collapse of civilisation is a “near certainty” in the next few decades due to humanity’s continuing destruction of the natural world that sustains all life on Earth, according to biologist Prof Paul Ehrlich.

Well, if that's true then we've not got to worry about climate change, do we? For the very basis of any concern we might have over that is that industrial civilisation continues for the next century roughly as currently. If it's not then there won't be that climate change. Ehrlich doesn't argue that we shouldn't be doing something about climate change therefore either he doesn't believe his own argument or he's simply ignorant of our climate models.

But more than that he's wrong, even if we accept his predictions and concerns, about how to avoid the civilisational collapse:

The solutions are tough, he says. “To start, make modern contraception and back-up abortion available to all and give women full equal rights, pay and opportunities with men.

“I hope that would lead to a low enough total fertility rate that the needed shrinkage of population would follow."

Sure, those who desire to use contraception should have access to it. Sex is far too much fun for that not to be a useful goal in increasing human happiness. But the problem with Ehrlich's argument is that access to it doesn't have much effect upon fertility. The best guesstimate is that such access explains about 10% of the change in actual fertility - it's the desire to use it which explains the other 90%.

What is it that changes that desire? Richer people have fewer children. We've observed this absolutely everywhere that people have got rich, this isn't an arguable point. You want to reduce population then get people rich.

To be wrong in your predictions and also wrong in the solutions to your own predictions is pretty good going but then Ehrlich hasn't really changed these past 50 years, has he?