Tesla CEO Elon Musk has rehashed one of his favorite talking points yet again, warning of the dangers of having fewer children, something that he says could lead to the collapse of human civilization.
"At least maintain our numbers," he said during a conference in Miami earlier this week, as quoted by Insider. "We don't necessarily need to grow dramatically, but least let's not gradually dwindle away until civilization ends with all of us in adult diapers, in a whimper."
He also opined that "having fewer kids is better for the environment" is "total nonsense."
The environment is going to be fine," he said, "even if we doubled the size of the humans." (We can only assume he meant doubling the size of the human population, rather than doubling the size of every individual human.)
In other words, the kids will be alright, so have more of them before we run out.
Musk provided no evidence to back up his rather controversial claims. But, in his defense, there may be at least some credibility to his predictions.
On one hand, research has shown that fewer people could drastically cut carbon emissions. According to a 2017 study, having just one fewer child had the greatest effect, compared to other lifestyle changes, to reduce annual personal emissions, cutting on average 58 tons of CO2 emissions. Ditching the car came in second, cutting 2.4 annual tons of CO2.
On the other hand, though, experts have found that living a climate-friendly lifestyle could actually outweigh the effects of having more children. Besides, carbon emissions range massively depending on where the person lives or how much they travel internationally, complicating the picture significantly.
"The disparity in per person emissions is most stark between rich and poor countries, with the average Indian emitting less than a tenth of the average American or Canadian," a 2020 report by Founder's Pledge, a London-based charity and think tank, concluded. "Monthly emissions per person in rich countries are usually higher than yearly emissions per person in the poorest countries."
And it is true that most researchers now agree that Earth is headed for an astonishing population decline, which could have several knock on effects. Some argue that with fewer babies being born, the carbon footprint offsets may actually be a moot point, considering we'll be dealing with a rapidly aging population.
In short, human-driven climate change is rapidly deteriorating the environment, and without drastic changes to our behavior, our carbon footprint will likely only rise in the short term if the global population keeps growing.
But with several countries, notably Japan and China, entering periods of natural population decline, those effects become harder to grasp.
Will humanity truly end "in a whimper," as Musk has repeatedly warned, if we have fewer kids? It's might be a scenario we won't even get to see play out — if we don't take drastic action to ensure that a rapidly warming planet doesn't put an end to us first.
READ MORE: Elon Musk says we can't let humankind end in 'adult diapers' and that the environment would be fine if we doubled our population [Insider]
More on population collapse: China's Population Projected to Fall by Half Within 30 Years