And What Is The Scientific Basis For Imposing Energy Poverty On The Masses?

Yes, I'm old enough to remember when governments thought it was a big part of their responsibility to enhance the well-being of the people.  In the area of energy, that meant pursuing policies that would lead to lower prices and greater availability for things like electricity and gasoline.  Crazy, eh?  But then everything got turned on its head.  In 2009 we got a President who, shortly after taking office (March 18, 2009), promised "Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket."   And he clearly thought that that was a good idea, even a moral imperative.  Henceforth we will use the force of government to pursue the intentional impoverishment of the people!  When Congress declined to act on the "cap and trade" plan, Obama then proceeded via executive actions and regulations with efforts designed to increase the cost and decrease the availability of energy -- things like the Clean Power Plan, refusing to grant permits to pipelines, hobbling the coal industry, and so forth.

And thus we come to the big demonstrations by the Obama/Democratic/progressive factions this past weekend that I have called the March for Poverty.  But, to be fair to them, they called their demonstrations the "March for Science."  If you have read yesterday's post, you will know that I think that "science" is a process of challenging hypotheses, rather than a body of fixed and  unchallengeable established knowledge.  Is there any sense in which the people asserting a moral necessity of "saving the planet" through impoverishment of the people can legitimately claim the mantle of "science"?

It's not particularly easy to pin down everything that the march itself might have stood for, given the profusion of groups and spokespersons associated with it.  So, to get a handle on the deep thinking behind the legal end of the climate movement, I thought to listen in today to a webinar put on by the Harvard Law School Open Lecture Series, featuring Professor Jody Freeman.  She's the Director of the Harvard Law School Environment Law and Policy Program, and previously worked for the Obama administration, among other things in designing the (failed) cap and trade legislation.  She's the Zeke Emanuel Obama's climate regulations!

I'll bet you think that a Harvard-sponsored webinar on environmental policy would be conducted at a high and sophisticated level, so high indeed that humble you probably couldn't even understand it.  Don't be silly!  This program was really an insult to the intelligence of any listener who knew anything at all about the subject matter.  From all you could tell, poor Ms. Freeman was completely uninformed about the state of the science that underlies all Obama-era climate and energy regulation, in particular EPA's Endangerment Finding.  (The alternative hypotheses, no better for Ms. Freeman, is that she was being intentionally deceptive.)  Although she did not address the EF directly in her prepared remarks, in a Q&A portion Ms. Freeman got a specific question as to the state of the science underlying the EF, and the prospects for its being revoked.  Her answer was that the EF will be very hard to impossible to revoke, because the "science" is "extremely strong" and the underlying evidence "overwhelming."  The one source she mentioned for her confidence was the IPCC (whose latest report dates from 2013).  Of course, she completely failed to address the major challenges to the EF that are out there and well-known to everybody familiar with the issues.

So, what is the latest on the actual, real science?  The answer is that the EF has been totally invalidated by the accumulation of empirical real-world evidence.  Many readers here may be familiar with my post from last September, "The 'Science' Underlying Climate Alarmism Turns Up Missing."   There, I reported on the issuance of a major Research Report from Wallace, Christy and D'Aleo asserting that, using basic statistical techniques applied to empirical evidence, they had invalidated each of the three "lines of evidence" on which EPA claimed to base its EF.  And now, just yesterday, it so happens that Wallace, Christy and D'Aleo have released a new, updated and expanded version of the Research Report.  Here is a link to the Report itself.  Michael Bastasch at the Daily Caller was the first to report on the story, headline "New Study Calls EPA’s Labeling Of CO2 A Pollutant ‘Totally False.'"  Excerpt:

A new study published by seasoned researchers takes aim at the heart of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to issue regulations to curb carbon dioxide emissions.  The study claims to have “proven that it is all but certain that EPA’s basic claim that CO2 is a pollutant is totally false,” according to a press statement put out by Drs. Jim Wallace, John Christy and Joe D’Aleo.  Wallace, Christy and D’Aleo — a statistician, a climatologist and meteorologist, respectively — released a study claiming to invalidate EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding, which allowed the agency to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.  “This research failed to find that the steadily rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations have had a statistically significant impact on any of the 14 temperature data sets that were analyzed,” the authors say in the release for the second edition of their peer-reviewed work.  “Moreover, these research results clearly demonstrate that once the solar, volcanic and oceanic activity, that is, natural factor, impacts on temperature data are accounted for, there is no ‘record setting’ warming to be concerned about,” the researchers say. “In fact, there is no natural factor adjusted warming at all.”
 

And the Research Report is just one -- although perhaps the most important -- of many demonstrations of the invalidity of the EF.  In his testimony before Congress on March 29, John Christy (one of the authors of the Research Report) also pointed, for example, to the fact that after some thirty years of collecting temperature data, the level of temperatures measured by satellites and weather balloons falls far below the level predicted by the IPCC climate models.

In actual science, when there is a credible demonstration that a hypothesis has been falsified, it becomes incumbent upon the proponents of the hypothesis either to explain or distinguish the claimed falsification, or to abandon the hypothesis.  When the "ether" hypothesis was falsified by the Michelson/Morley experiment, it was rather quickly abandoned.  But then, the "ether" hypothesis was not invested with particular political baggage.  By contrast, when Galileo expounded on the Copernican heliocentric view of the universe, that was viewed as a challenge to his authority and prestige by Pope Urban VIII, who had Galileo tried and imprisoned.  Fortunately the facts, and the scientific method, won out in the end.  Does anybody today have a good word to say for Urban VIII?

The scientific method will also win out in the end in the matter of the current climate hysteria.  It will not help the climate hysterics that they have attempted to claim the label of "science," when in fact they have no idea even what science is.  And, unfortunately, "the end" may not come all that quickly, and many, many people stand to be impoverished by the craziness in the meantime.

Comments On The March For Poverty

Today's quiz has just one question.

Science is:

(a) A body of knowledge that has been established and now may no longer be challenged.

(b) A process by which all that passes for human knowledge is always subject to challenge.

This is not a difficult quiz.  At one point in my life I would have thought that 90 or more percent of people who had attended high school would have gotten the right answer.  Even though it's a huge number of years ago, I can actually remember being taught about how lonely dissenters Copernicus and Galileo overturned the "consensus" of a geocentric universe through close observation of the heavens; and about how two guys, Michelson and Morley, with one experiment, overturned the "consensus" ("WAY more than 97%") of a background "ether" that mediated the transmission of light in the universe.  Indeed, the history of science -- real science -- is a history of outlying skeptics overturning the accepted "consensus" on one subject after another.  (Stomach ulcers are caused by stress and anxiety?  Wrong!  The continents don't move?  Wrong!  Dietary fat causes heart disease?  Wrong!)  Don't they teach these things to high school students any more?    

Over the past weekend we have just been treated to a march of maybe a couple of hundred thousand people in several hundred cities, calling itself the "March for Science," where all the marchers unanimously seem to have thought that answer (a) above was the right one.  OK, lots of people don't retain very well what they learn in high school.  But hundreds of thousands of seemingly educated people unanimously getting such a simple thing completely wrong?  Even more incredibly, it appears that many thousands of the marchers were people who work in fields that are somehow "scientific," and who call themselves "scientists" by profession.  As John Stossel comments in a post titled "Earth Day Dopes,"  "The alarmists claim they’re marching for 'science,' but they’re really marching for a left-wing religion."  It's obvious, but how is it possible that not a one of them can see it?

I would be inclined to just let the stupid fanatics have their delusions, except for one thing: somehow, this particular religion seems to call, as its route to salvation, for sacrifice of the world's poor at its altar.  Three recent articles provide a roundup:

From Paul Driessen today at the Global Warming Policy Foundation, "Welcome To Green Energy Poverty Week."  Excerpt:

[F]olks who actually care about poor, minority, elderly, working class and developing country families [have] again designated April 17-23 as Green Energy Poverty Week.

For industrialized nations, “green energy poverty” refers to households in which 10% or more of family incomes is spent on natural gas and electricity costs – due to policies that compel utilities to provide ever increasing amounts of expensive, less affordable, politically preferred “green” energy. It’s a regressive tax that disproportionately affects low and fixed income families which have little money to spend beyond energy, food, clothing, rent and other basic needs. Every energy price increase hammers them harder.

Beyond our borders, the concept underscores the lot of families that enjoy none of the living standards we take for granted. They have no electricity or get it a few hours a week at random times, burn wood and dung for cooking and heating, and spend hours every day collecting fuel and hauling filthy water from miles away. Corrupt, incompetent governments and constant pressure from callous environmentalist pressure groups in rich countries perpetuate the misery, joblessness, disease, starvation and early death.

Andrew Follett Saturday at The Daily Caller links to a post from a site called Money Supermarket, ranking the countries of the world based on their "human impact on the environment."  Follett's post is titled "World's Greenest People Live in Ridiculously Poor Authoritarian Regimes."  So, Money Supermarket, which countries of the world are the "greenest" in terms of their low impact on the environment?  Yes, it's Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Zambia.  They get, respectively, 99.87%, 99.43% and 99.71% of their energy from what MS calls "green energy" (which I presume means all or almost all animal dung, since I don't think they have much in the way of windmills or solar panels).  And by the way, the energy consumption per capita per year in these countries is, respectively, 8.90, 1.75, and 10.64 BTU.  (For comparison, annual per capita U.S. BTU consumption is given as 312.78.)  Way to go, Mozambique, Ethiopia and Zambia!  Your virtue is unsurpassed!  Follett troubles to point out a slight downside:  "The average person living in Mozambique earned $511.47 a year in 2015, which was 4 percent of the global average."  Without doubt, to the extent there is any electricity in these countries, it all goes to the strongman and his close associates living in their palaces.  For the masses, there is no electricity, no transportation other than walking, no heat when it's cold or air conditioning when it's hot, and you plow your field by dragging a manual plow behind an ox.  And in a bad year for crops, you starve.  Do our "science" marchers know that this is what they are seeking?

And finally, from NoTricksZone on March 3, discussing wealthy Germany:

The DPA German press agency reported yesterday on the rapidly spreading energy poverty now engulfing the country.  The main driver is Germany’s skyrocketing electricity prices – primarily due to the legally mandatory feeding-in of wind and solar power. Currently regular household consumers are paying nearly 30 cents a kilowatt-hour – almost three times the rate paid in the USA.  Many households are no longer able to afford electricity and are seeing themselves catapulted back to the 19th century. According to t-online.de here, “More than 330,000 households in Germany have seen their electricity cut off over the past year alone.” . . .  According to Bulling-Schröter: “Energy poverty in Germany is a silent catastrophe for millions of people, especially in the cold and dark winter months.”

So, time for an official re-naming.  It wasn't the March for "Science."  It was the "March for Poverty."  The March to keep those already poor trapped in enduring life-long poverty, and to throw millions more of those just outside of poverty back in.

And how about the state of the "science" behind this evil and immoral cause?  That will be the subject of tomorrow's post.

The Two Bills: Clinton And O'Reilly

Over the past few weeks, starting with the New York Times on April 1, there has been a well-coordinated effort to take down Bill O'Reilly.  That effort has now succeeded.  

It is not my purpose to defend O'Reilly.  From my perspective, TV hosts come and go.  I admit to having been a relatively frequent viewer of O'Reilly's program.  Compared to other hosts, he has a pretty good sense of humor, and is relatively entertaining.  He's also a blow-hard, but aren't they all?  I did not find him to be particularly conservative, let alone libertarian, although he did have at least some skepticism about unchecked government power -- which cannot be said of his competitors at CNN and MSNBC.  Maybe I would agree with his point of view about 40% of the time; but that's 40% more than I would agree with the point of view of his competitors.

But what is to me most interesting about the O'Reilly story is the comparison of the accusations made against him to those made against the other Bill, Clinton.  Or to put it another way, there is no comparison.  Now, I don't know whether any or all of the accusations against either man are true.  Except that, in the case of Clinton, one of the very most serious allegations (Lewinsky) was proved rather definitively; not so as to O'Reilly, who apparently denies everything.  But assume for these purposes that all of the accusations in both cases are true.  For one Bill (O'Reilly), these are accusations of failed jokes, allegedly inappropriate looks, allegedly condescending remarks, and, in the most recent case that brought matters to a head, an invitation to a hotel room which was declined and not pursued further.  For the other Bill (Clinton), it is accusations of rape, blatantly improper sexual contact including with a young intern and a babysitter, numerous instances of forcible contact and groping, and attempted seduction.

And yet the same voices that are raised so stridently against O'Reilly have never have raised a peep against Clinton, even up to this day.  No amount of accusations against Clinton make so much as a dent in his reputation.  He's a liberal icon!  It's almost as if this really has nothing to do with standing up for maltreated women, and only has to do with bringing down our enemies and supporting our friends.

Let's look at some of the respective accusations.  BuzzFeed here has a roundup of accusations against O'Reilly.  Examples:

  • From Caroline Heldman, a professor at Occidental University who was a frequent guest on O'Reilly's program from about 2008 - 2013:  "The first time I met him in person he said, 'when I was in college professors didn't look like you,'" she recalled. "He likes to stare at legs and breasts. He was belittling as well as flirtatious. . . .  He tried to rattle me and other female guests," she said. "He would say condescending things like, 'OK ladies, try and be smart today.'"
  • From former Fox News employee Perquita Burgess (a black woman and not an on-air personality):  "One day he walks past my desk ... he walks past and says 'Hey, hot chocolate,'" Burgess said. "I didn’t respond. I was mortified ... I took that as a very plantational remark."
  • From Wendy Walsh, a psychologist and former regular guest on the program (and source of the most recent accusations that brought the matter to a head):  Wendy Walsh claims the talk show host asked her to come to his hotel room and, when she declined, he retaliated by dropping her as a regular guest on his show and reneging on an alleged promise to help her land her own show on Fox News.  (Via PowerLine)
  • From Jehmu Greene, another former regular guest on the program:  Greene, who was a regular Fox guest and later became a contributor, reported that in 2007, O’Reilly told her she should show more cleavage.
  • The most serious allegations that I find come from a former regular guest named Juliet Huddy, and relate to events in 2011:  Juliet Huddy . . . said that Mr. O’Reilly pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011, at a time he exerted significant influence over her career. When she rebuffed his advances, he tried to derail her career. . . .  [Huddy's allegations include] that Mr. O’Reilly had called Ms. Huddy repeatedly and that it sometimes sounded as if he was masturbating. He invited her to his house on Long Island, tried to kiss her, took her to dinner and the theater, and after asking her to return a key to his hotel room, appeared at the door in his boxer shorts, according to the letter.  (From an article in the New York Times, January 10, 2017.)

There are more, but that gives a good flavor.  The closest thing there to actual physical contact is Huddy's allegation that O'Reilly "tried to kiss" her.  There are no allegation of touching, nor of groping, nor of force, and certainly not of rape.  

Now consider Clinton.  You already know about Monica Lewinsky.  Here are a few others:

  • Juanita Broaddrick:   "And then as he points over my shoulder, he grabs me and turns me to him. And that was a shock. And I tried to push him away. And I only weighed about 120 pounds at that time. He was a very large man. And I kept telling him, 'No. I don’t want this at all.'  And he grabbed me again, very forcefully. And started biting on my top lip. And this was extremely painful. I thought he was going to bite my lip off. And that’s when he pushed me back onto the bed."  It goes on from there.  (Via Breitbart)
  • Kathleen Willey:  Willey was a volunteer in Clinton’s White House Social Office in the early 90s. She said she was sexually assaulted by then-President Clinton in the Oval Office when she allegedly went there to speak to him about a job. In her book, Target: Caught in the Crosshairs of Bill and Hillary Clinton, she says she was subjected to threats and extreme intimidation by goons purportedly hired by Hillary Clinton.  (Via The Daily Caller)
  • Paula Jones:  “And he sat down really fast and he dropped his pants,” she recalled, after being escorted to the hotel room by an armed state trooper.  And he was fondling himself. And he asked me to kiss it. Now that is disgusting. And I said, ‘I am not that kind of girl.’”  (Via Breitbart)
  • Here is a roundup of six other accusers (Eileen Wellstone, Carolyn Moffet, Elizabeth Ward Gracen, Becky Brown, Helen Dowdy and Christy Zercher).  One of them (Gracen) is again an accusation of forcible rape, and several others involve extensive unwanted physical contact and groping.

Again, not meaning to stand up for O'Reilly, but clearly the accusations against Clinton are on an entirely different level.

What is the reaction of corporate America to these respective allegations?  Forbes here has a list of more than 50 national advertisers who dropped their support of O'Reilly's program just since April.  It's a who's who, from automobile manufacturers (Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hyundai, Lexius) to Big Pharma (Pfizer, Sanofi, Lilly, GSK). to insurers (Allstate, Esurance, Pacific Life), and on and on.  For comparison, from ZeroHedge here we have a list of some $26.6 million of paid speeches given by Bill Clinton to major corporations over just a two-plus year period from January 2013 to May 2015.  All of the allegations against Clinton were well-known by that time.  Admittedly I don't find exact overlap with the O'Reilly droppers.  But Clinton's list of non-droppers is an even more prestigious who's who, starting with most of the big banks (Goldman Sachs, Bank of America, JP Morgan, UBS, Deutsche Bank), software and tech companies (Oracle, Microsoft, SAP), insurers (Zurich, Standard Life), and so on.  What, there's no problem associating your name with this guy?

Sometimes the term "double standard" has been used to describe circumstances like these, but I don't think that term really comes close to a fair description.   

 

Finally, Some Critical Thinking On The Subject Of The Feasibility Of Renewables

If you are interested in the question of whether it makes sense to try to eliminate fossil fuels from the electricity production system, you are undoubtedly frustrated, as I am, by the astounding absence of critical thinking coming from almost everybody who writes about this subject.  There just seems to be such an incredible hunger to believe that this can work that literally nobody is willing to raise, let alone address, the very serious issues of feasibility and cost.  I have made my own humble efforts to throw something into the void by writing a series of posts that principally address the cost side of the problem.  See, for example, here and here.  

Now there is a serious contribution to the feasibility side of the problem, in the form of a recent (March 23) article from the publication Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, titled "Burden of proof: A comprehensive review of the feasibility of 100% renewable-electricity systems."   The authors are a group led by B.P. Heard of the University of South Australia in Adelaide.  I don't know anything about most of the authors; but the fact that Tom Wigley of UCAR is one of them would indicate that you could not fairly call these people "climate deniers," or even "skeptics."  Hat tip to Kenneth Richard at NoTricksZone for the pointer to this article.

Heard, et al., have undertaken a comprehensive effort to identify every study since 2006 that has made a claim that "a 100% renewable energy system is achievable."  From that universe, they have then narrowed the field to some 24 that "have forecast regional, national or global energy requirements at sufficient detail to be considered potentially credible."  And then they do a deep analysis of each of the 24 on four fundamental feasibility criteria:

  1. Realistic projection of future demand.  The issue here is that many of the studies in question project leveling off or declining of demand over the 21st century, somehow not realizing that world population is almost certain to increase by several billion during that period, and that electricity is going to come to large areas that don't currently have it, like Africa.  (Some of the studies in question, particularly ones done by environmental groups like WWF, project global energy demand declining by something like 90% by 2050!);
  2. Realistic simulation of the matching of supply to demand so as to maintain near 100% reliability of the system.  Here the problem is that electricity supply must be matched very closely to demand on literally a minute-by-minute basis.  Therefore, studies that only consider or simulate the matching of supply and demand on a daily, or even hourly, basis are just kidding themselves;
  3. Realistic simulation of how much additional transmission capacity would be needed; and
  4. Realistic handling of what are referred to as "ancillary services."  The two big ones are voltage control (an electric grid operates with near-constant voltage -- not such an easy thing to achieve with wind and solar inputs ramping up and down by orders of magnitude over the course of minutes), and frequency control (alternating current systems have current that changes direction on a set frequency, generally 50 or 60 times per second -- again, not such an easy thing to keep regular when wind and solar production surge in and out).

And the results:

Based on our criteria, none of the 100% renewable-electricity studies we examined provided a convincing demonstration of feasibility. Of the 24 studies we assessed, . . . [f]our scenarios . . . did not meet a single feasibility criterion. Eight of the 24 scenarios did not do any form of integrated simulation to verify the reliability of the proposed renewable electricity system. Twelve of the 24 relied on unrealistic energy-demand scenarios, either by assuming unrealistic reductions in total primary energy and/or by making assumptions of extreme increases in electrification. Only four of the studies articulated the necessary transmission requirements for the system to operate, and only two scenarios, from the same authors [8], partially addressed how ancillary services might be maintained in modified electricity-supply systems. No studies addressed the distribution-level infrastructure that would be required to accommodate increased embedded generation, leaving a gap in the evidence relating to ancillary services and overall system reliability.    

To put it another way, 24 out of 24 studies that rose to the level of "potentially credible" all proved without exception to be exercises in self-delusion.  Who here is surprised?

The authors are notably critical -- and in my view appropriately so -- of trendy Stanford prof Mark Jacobson, the guy who provides the supposed studies that give Jerry Brown the idea that he can "save the planet" by forcing Californians to get all of their power from wind and solar.  Here are Heard, et al., on Jacobson:

The absence of whole-system simulations from nine of the reviewed studies suggests that many authors and organizations have either not grasped or not tackled explicitly the challenge of ensuring reliable supply from variable sources. . . .  Jacobson et al. [24,113,116] also proposed supply systems without doing simulations, instead referencing other studies to assert that system reliability is possible [8,117,118]. Jacobson et al. [24,113,116] did not apply simulation processes to their own, different proposed systems, nor did they address the uncertainties, challenges and limitations articulated in their supporting references or related critiques . . . .   

Well, good luck with your hallucinations, California!

And here are a couple of more tidbits from the "Conclusions" section:

For the developing world, important progress in human development would be threatened under scenarios applying unrealistic assumptions regarding the scale of energy demand, assumptions that lack historical precedent and fall outside all mainstream forecasts. Other outcomes in sustainability, social justice and social cohesion will also be threatened by pursuing maximal exploitation of high-impact sources like hydro-electricity and biomass, plus expanded transmission networks. The unsubstantiated premise that renewable energy systems alone can solve challenge of climate change risks a repeat of the failure of decades past. The climate change problem is so severe that we cannot afford to eliminate a priori any carbon-free technologies.  

Yes, these guys actually believe that the "climate change problem" is "severe."  But at least they are able to maintain a modicum of critical thinking when seeking to address the "problem."

And finally this:

Our sobering results show that a 100% renewable electricity supply would, at the very least, demand a reinvention of the entire electricity supply-and-demand system to enable renewable supplies to approach the reliability of current systems. This would move humanity away from known, understood and operationally successful systems into uncertain futures with many dependencies for success and unanswered challenges in basic feasibility. 

And with all of that, they never get to the question of cost.  Anyway, believe me, I'm glad to welcome anyone willing to do critical thinking on this subject as an ally.

 

An Extreme Example Of The Progressive Approach To Public Policy

As noted here many times, the key tenets of the Progressive approach to public policy are (1) total aversion to looking up easily available facts and information, and (2) blind faith that all human problems can be solved with the magic elixir of government taxing and spending.  If we believe something is true, then it must be true; and if it is a problem, we will fix it by throwing taxpayer money at it!

There are way more examples of this than I could ever cover, but today's New York Times (where else?) contains an example that is so extreme as to be just completely ridiculous.  The headline is "Birthrates Fall With Fortunes," and the author is Liz Alderman.  The sub-headline is "Greek Austerity Extends Even to the Cradle."

The article reports on the low fertility rates afflicting several of the countries of Southern Europe (Spain, Portugal, Italy), and particularly focuses on Greece.  It seems that after a few years of slight recovery from previously very low levels, the fertility rate in Greece has recently declined again.  Why?  It's the "economic crisis":

As couples grapple with a longer-than-expected stretch of low growth, high unemployment, precarious jobs and financial strain, they are increasingly deciding to have just one child -- or none.

And what's the evidence that the decline in births is caused by economic stagnation and "financial strain"?  Of course, it's anecdotes!  Example:

“People are saying they can’t afford more than one child, or any at all,” Dr. Mastrominas, a director at Embryogenesis, a large in vitro fertilization center, said as videos of gurgling toddlers played in the waiting room. “After eight years of economic stagnation, they’re giving up on their dreams.” . . .  Maria Karaklioumi, 43, a political pollster in Athens, decided to forgo children after concluding she would not be able to offer them the stable future her parents had afforded.

And so forth.  But can we just do a little checking to see if this narrative stands up to even the slightest amount of scrutiny?  Well, not in this article -- remember, it's the New York Times.  However, the spooks at the CIA helpfully provide a country-by-country list of fertility rates for the whole world for 2016.  There's a lot to be learned from just perusing this list for a few minutes.  Examples:

  • Although the correlation is not quite perfect, it is completely obvious that fertility rates have a very strong negative correlation with the overall wealth of the country.  That is, with some modest exceptions, the richer the country the lower the fertility rate, and the poorer the country the higher the fertility rate.  In other words, the facts are exactly the opposite of the Pravda narrative.
  • The fertility rates of the stagnating Southern European countries are indeed low:  Greece - 1.42; Italy - 1.43; Spain - 1.49; Portugal - 1.53.  ("Replacement" level -- the level needed to keep population from declining -- is about 2.1.)  But then there's the richest large country in Europe, Germany.  Its fertility rate is 1.44.  Austria's rate is 1.47.  Super-wealthy Switzerland, at 1.55, is not really distinguishable from Portugal.
  • And what countries in the world have the very, very, very lowest fertility rates?  Yes, it's the richest countries in the world, the Asian city-states.  The lowest rate I can find for any country is Singapore at 0.82.  Hong Kong is not far behind at 1.19.
  • The relatively rich major economies of Asia all have low fertility rates, some even lower than the Southern European countries.  Examples:  South Korea - 1.25; Taiwan - 1.12; Japan - 1.41; Thailand - 1.51.  China is substantially poorer, and has somewhat higher fertility at 1.6.
  • And where should we look for the very highest fertility rates in the world?  To the very poorest countries, of course, most of them located in sub-Saharan Africa.  The contrasts with the wealthy countries are dramatic.  The highest rate I can find is Niger at 6.62.  Other examples:  Burundi - 6.04; Mali - 5.95; Nigeria - 5.13; Zambia - 5.67; Malawi - 5.54; Mozambique - 5.15.  There are plenty of others.
  • And outside of Africa, where will you find the countries with highest fertility rates?  Just look for the very poorest countries.  For example, in Asia, it's Afghanistan (fertility rate: 5.22).  In Latin America, it's Haiti (2.79).

So what is the answer to the problem of low fertility?  This being Pravda, it isn't hard to guess:  tax breaks and subsidies from the state.

The lower birthrates have been aggravated by fiscal pressures that constrained countries from offering robust family support programs. Whereas France offers a monthly family benefit of 130 euros (about $138) per child after the second child, Greece provides just 40 euros. . . .   Italy increased bonuses for having babies and backed labor laws granting more flexible parental leave.  Greece, as the weakest economic link, does not have the same options.  Struggling to manage a recovery after nearly eight years of recession, the government cannot make the fertility drop a top priority. Child tax breaks and subsidies for large families were weakened under Greece’s austerity-linked international financial bailouts.

It really makes you wonder what kind of lavish parental leave and tax breaks they must have in Niger and Burundi!