Elon Musk says ‘population collapse’ is more dangerous than global warming. Experts say it won’t happen
Elon Musk. Andrew Kelly/Reuters
- Elon Musk fears the low birth rate could lead to what he calls “population collapse”.
- Experts tell Insider that the world’s population continues to grow and will gradually decline.
- That won’t necessarily be a problem for society, they added.
- For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
Elon Musk has something to do with birth rates.
The Billionaire Tesla and the richest man in the world frequently tweets about what he calls “demographic collapse” arguing that we as a species must increase our fertility rates to counter aging populations.
Musk said during a conference in May humanity needs: “At least maintain our numbers.
“We don’t necessarily need to grow dramatically, but at least don’t gradually shrink until civilization ends with all of us in adult diapers,” he added.
In an August tweet, Musk sounded the alarm again, saying: “Population collapse due to low birth rates is a far greater risk to civilization than global warming.”
Insider spoke with a demographer and a geographer, both of whom disputed the idea that there will be a “population collapse”.
“Although there are countries [that] have declining populations due to below replacement fertility, overall the world population continues to grow and is expected to do so (albeit at increasingly slower rates) until the end of the century,” said Professor Alice Reid, director of the Cambridge Group for the history of population and social structure.
Reid said this is partly due to a phenomenon called “demographic momentum,” which means that even when women have fewer than two children on average, populations continue to grow because: “large cohorts of women already born contribute to a large number of births.
“The decline of the world’s population is therefore still a long way off and is expected to occur gradually when it does. It can hardly be considered a disaster for civilization,” she said.
Dr Peter Matanle, an expert in the social and cultural geography of East Asia, agreed that low birth rates “will not cause a population crash”.
“Populations will steadily age and shrink, and this could lead to a number of collective benefits,” he said.
The words of the duo join those of three demographers CNN.
Lower birth rates could be a good thing
Matanle said the improved living space could be a potential benefit and the reduced workforce could boost wages.
Reid also sees positives in declining birth rates.
“Falling fertility and shrinking populations should be celebrated rather than feared,” Reid said, adding that falling birth rates are often linked to better education for women, greater gender equality and a higher standard of living.
“It would be a retrograde step to force women to have children they don’t want to have, and it would lead to more unhappy societies with poorer health and other negative outcomes,” she added.
Reid said aging populations pose societal challenges, but the answer is not to increase birth rates. If people stay healthy longer in their lives, they can keep working longer, she said.
“Changes in the nature of work and economic shifts away from a focus on economic growth would also help,” she added.
Reid also took issue with Musk’s claim that low birth rates are “a greater risk to civilization than global warming.”
She said that although her area of expertise is not climate change, she is convinced by the scientific consensus that global warming is a “real danger with potentially catastrophic effects for human civilization as well as for global ecosystems. “.
Professor Nick Bostrom, a philosopher and director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, said Insider Musk’s fears about population decline mirror concerns about the population explosion.
“We have to be humble about our ability to come to the right conclusions,” Bostrom said, adding, “The Earth system is very complex, and we’re probably wrong right now on one or more crucial considerations.”