Climate Change Skeptics Have Ready Allies in Africa

"So when you say stop to your fossil fuel, what’s the alternative? "
— Fortune Charumbira, president of the Pan-African Parliament, November 2022

This is a question without an answer. But for nearly three weeks in November, over 35,000 people including heads of state and the global corps d’elite, pretended they were solving what they claim is the most urgent crisis in the world—the climate emergency—while ignoring the only relevant question. What is a practical alternative to fossil fuel?

Also ignored at the latest U.N. Climate Change Conference, an event sponsored by some of the world’s biggest corporations and covered, uncritically, by the biggest media conglomerates on earth, was the primary reason for environmental challenges in the 21st century. It’s not fossil fuel. It’s population trends.

How patterns of population growth and population decline among the nations of the world intersect with the necessary trends in per capita energy use to eliminate global poverty is by far the most relevant variable affecting the future of humanity and the planet. But nothing in the program of COP27 explicitly focused on either of these genuinely existential challenges.

The imbalance in population demographics between wealthy nations, in which the native populations are failing to reproduce, and poor nations, which continue to explode in population, is easily apparent. The decline in birthrates in wealthy nations is well documented, even if it is rarely discussed. But what is almost never discussed, because it invites accusations of racism, is the unchecked population growth in nations that still have not managed to emerge from poverty.

Global Population Trends: Feast and Famine

According to the most recent World Bank data, the population of “low-income” nations has quintupled since 1960, whereas “high-income” nations have seen their populations over the same 61 years increase by only 60 percent. China’s population has more than doubled, and India’s population has tripled, while the population of the United States is up by 80 percent. But the most rapid population growth is in the Middle East and Africa.

These are nations that are the least equipped to handle massive population growth. The Middle Eastern nations have money but no water, the African nations have water but no money. In many cases, such as in Pakistan or any Sahelian nation in Africa, they don’t have nearly enough of either. But that isn’t stopping them from reproducing. In fact, thanks mostly to Western foreign aid, heavy on food and medicine, their populations continue to explode.

For example, Pakistan’s population has increased from 44 million in 1960 to 225 million today. Nigeria’s populationhas grown from 45 million people in 1960 to 211 million today. Sudan’s population is more than six times greater than it was in 1960, up to 45 million from only 7 million. Uganda’s population is up more than seven times, from 6 million in 1960 to 47 million today. And there is no end in sight.

In terms of current rates of population increase, the populations of Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Angola, Uganda, Burundi, Chad, Gambia, Tanzania, Mali, Zambia, and Equatorial Guinea are all over three percent per year. At that rate, the populations of these nations will double in just 20 years. These are staggering numbers. Today, in Niger, the average woman of childbearing age has seven children. In Somalia, the Congo, Mali, and Chad, the average is six, and in Angola, Burundi, Nigeria, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Benin, Mozambique, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Senegal, South Sudan, and Zambia, the average is five children per woman. Today.

On the list from the World Bank of the most fertile nations as measured by births per woman of current childbearing age, the first 25 nations are all in Africa. At number 26 is the Solomon Islands at 4.3 children per woman. Of the top 50 nations in terms of current fertility, 39 of them are in Africa. The only nations of any size occupying the top 50, outside of African nations, are Afghanistan (28), Yemen (45), and Iraq (46). And for that matter, the only large African nations that are not in the top 50 are just outside that distinction; Zimbabwe at 52, Kenya at 53, Namibia at 55, and Egypt at 56. These nations all have female fertility still around 3.5 per woman. The only outliers are South Africa (85), Libya (98), and Tunisia (103).

The practical impact of these demographic facts is stupefying. Global population has just reached 8 billion. By 2050 it is expected to reach 9.7 billion. Africa, all by itself, is projected to account for 1.2 billion of that 1.7 billion increase. Every one of these African nations is riven with conflict or potential conflict. Some of them, such as Somalia, or any nation in the Sahel region, would be grievously challenged to support their existing population with the resources currently available in their nations, even if they were politically stable.

Meanwhile, nations experiencing population decline are invariably high-income nations with high rates of per capita energy consumption. High energy consumption enables prosperity, and with prosperity comes lower birth rates. The worldwide trend is unambiguous. Prosperous societies in Europe, North America, and East Asia are all experiencing population implosions. Italy and Greece have fertility rates of 1.3. Spain’s is 1.2. Throughout Europe the picture isn’t much better. Germany’s is 1.5, the U.K. is 1.6, and France’s is 1.8. Across the Atlantic, the United States is at 1.6. Japan is down at 1.3 and South Korea is at 0.8. These nations will either dramatically increase their birthrates, or admit millions of immigrants, or they will disappear.

This is the demographic reality in the world today. It’s feast or famine. The developed nations are dying, while Africa’s population is exploding. The biggest Asian nations, China (1.7 average births per woman) and India (2.2), are on the same trajectory as the developed nations, but their populations are so big, their immigration policies so restrictive, and their governments so nationalistic, it is unlikely they will substantially alter their demographics merely to keep their populations from declining.

There is a difference between thoughtlessly yielding to a Malthusian reflex by claiming all civilization is unsustainable and recognizing that, in some cases, population growth is unsustainable. African population growth is not sustainable at the current rate without major political and economic changes. The solution being implemented by the Western-led international community rests on dubious foundations. 

The consensus of Western elites is to facilitate mass immigration into Western nations from every destitute country that is experiencing rapid population growth, under the pretext that developed nations have caused climate catastrophes which in turn has led to the hardships these nations are experiencing.

Lies Are the Consequences of Denial

This is a preposterous lie. An example of this lie, and there are countless examples, is how the recent flooding in Pakistan was reported as so terribly severe due to climate change. That is false. Yes, they had a lot of precipitation. But in 1960, with only one-fifth as many people living there, there would still have been forests to stabilize the hillsides and absorb runoff, there was a much smaller area covered with impervious surfaces because the cities were much smaller, there weren’t nearly as many people living in areas prone to flooding, and there was far less built out property to sustain damage.

Compounding this lie, however, is an even bigger lie, which is that it is possible to stop developing fossil fuel without destroying the global economy. The Western-dominated climate agenda, reinforced once again at COP27, is to require “rapid, deep and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions of 43 per cent by 2030 relative to the 2019 level.” The COP27 “implementation plan” also calls for “about USD 4 trillion per year to be invested in renewable energy up until 2030 to be able to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and, furthermore, a global transformation to a low-carbon economy is expected to require investment of at least USD 4–6 trillion per year.”

Take a look at the presenters at COP27. Note their affiliations: international NGOs, investment banks, government agencies, renewable energy companies, service providers, consultants, carbon emissions trading firm executives, and professional activists. Imagine the slavering anticipation with which these ambitious individuals and the organizations they represent intend to grab their slice of $10 trillion a year.

These are the thought leaders whose marketing and propaganda stochastically nurture militant climate warriors who stage “die-ins” on the streets of European capitals, or throw milkshakes onto art masterpieces, or shut off energy pipelines, or occupy the offices of elected officials. These are the people who fund the studies that feed the doomsday narrative, amplified by activist journalists, and used to manipulate voting populations while terrifying a thoroughly indoctrinated generation of school children. Don’t expect these people to explore honest alternatives to their sanctimonious proclamations. Trillions of dollars are on the table.

And here is where the words of Fortune Charumbira, president of the Pan-African Parliament, carry profound meaning. African nations want to develop their ample reserves of natural gas and build a gas infrastructure to generate electricity and enable urban residents to cook meals with clean-burning gas. They want nuclear power plants. They want water projects to irrigate land and treat water that they can safely drink. Instead, at a cost that would have paid for all of that and then some, they’re going to get wind and solar farms.

The Rest of the World Rejects Western Energy Denialism

The established policy of wealthy European nations and the United States is to impoverish their citizens in order to develop “renewables.” At the same time, these nations will pressure Africans to renounce rapid economic development, triggering a massive diaspora, one that will make current migration pressures appear trivial by comparison. It will be interesting, to put it mildly, to wonder how long the citizens of either sphere will tolerate this. But meanwhile, the rest of the world is not going to stop developing nuclear power, gas, oil, or coal.

The biggest consumer of coal in the world, by far, is China. Consuming an estimated 86 exajoules of coal last year, the Chinese accounted for 54 percent of all coal consumption worldwide. In second place was India, at 13 percent of all global consumption of coal. The entire rest of the world only accounted for a third of all coal consumption. But why would nations like Pakistan, whose per capita energy consumption is only 1/16th as much as the average American, choose not to burn coal, the cheapest and most abundant fossil fuel?

When examining patterns of energy use by nation, it is obvious that renewables can’t possibly deliver the amount of energy nations are demanding. They cost too much, and the environmental penalty for digging up all the required minerals is far greater than simply developing more fossil fuels.

Nigeria, the most populous nation in Africa, is so energy poor that the BP Statistical Review of Global Energydoesn’t even track it individually. The only nations in Africa for which there is enough of an energy economy to track individually are South Africa, Morocco, Egypt, and Algeria. For the remaining nations in Africa, BP estimates the per capita energy consumption at 2.42 gigajoules, compared to 279.89 for the United States. This is an incredible disparity. In 2021, the average American consumed 115 times as much energy as the average African.

The geniuses of COP27 want Africans to shut up, build windmills, stay poor, have lots of babies, and migrate to Western nations. That’s their solution to the very real challenge of energy, and the very overstated and exploited problem of climate change.

To quote out of context a famous Democratic politician known for his climate conformity, the Western elites who think Africans are going to accept energy poverty are going to “reap the whirlwind.” A productive strategy for anyone committed to energy sanity in the West is to recognize that Africans are also rejecting the COP27 narrative. Climate skeptics may rest assured that “allyship” with Africans like Fortune Charumbira will be of mutual benefit.

About Edward Ring

Edward Ring is a senior fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He is also is a contributing editor and senior fellow with the California Policy Center, which he co-founded in 2013 and served as its first president. Ring is the author of Fixing California: Abundance, Pragmatism, Optimism (2021) and The Abundance Choice: Our Fight for More Water in California (2022).

Photo: MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP via Getty Images

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