Malthusian overpopulation remains a popular idea across the globe as something that needs to be combated, especially with the anthropogenic impact on the environment. The central guiding question is: To what extent is “overpopulation” a valid notion with regards to the present climate crisis, and should action be taken regarding population reduction? This research concludes that the notion of overpopulation itself is racist, classist, and has caused senseless amounts of suffering in its wake. The inherent notion of overpopulation can only be reductively applied to our current global status with regards to fighting climate change. While the climate crisis is real and looming, there is more to the equation than flat human influence. The simple recognition of people needing resources to live, and thus more people need more resources, is not enough to fully understand why the anthropogenic climate crisis is as it is. There is inequality among those who emit and are affected by climate change with the worst damage falling onto global marginalized populations that contribute the least to the world’s net carbon emissions. The use of overpopulation as a justification for policy throughout history has been instrumental in the implementation of grievously harmful policies, often eugenic in nature, such as China’s One-Child Policy, India’s Emergency Period, the United States’s campaign in Puerto Rico, and across Nazi Germany, as well as past and present colonial extraction. Thus, “overpopulation” should not be applied to the argument of climate change.
Semester/Year of Award
Mentor Department Affiliation
Open Access Thesis
Mann, Kris, "The Spectre of “Overpopulation” in Climate Change" (2022). Honors Theses. 885.
Figure 1. Malthusian Catastrophe Simplistically Illustrated
Fig2 Logistic Growth.png (230 kB)
Figure 2. Logistic Population Growth: Carrying Capacity [Original]
Fig3 Temperature Comparison.jpg (300 kB)
Figure 3. Temperature Anomalies in °C Since 1880 From Various Research Institutions.
Fig 4 Emissions by Country.png (19 kB)
Figure 4. Country Categories vs. % of World CO2 Emissions and World Population
Fig 5 Per Capita Emissions by Country.png (13 kB)
Figure 5. Average Per Capita Emissions for Country Categories
Fig6 Carbon Inequality.png (254 kB)
Figure 6. Share of cumulative emissions from 1990 to 2015 and use of the global carbon budget for 1.5C linked to consumption by different global income groups.