The Depopulation Bomb

the depopulation bombBy Tom Quiner, Board President, Pulse Life Advocates

I conducted a little survey amongst family and friends. I asked this question:

By the year 2100, will the population of the planet be:

  1. One billion MORE persons?
  2. About the same as today?
  3. One billion LESS persons?

Most answered one billion more persons. The correct answer is one billion fewer persons, according to demographers, Joel Kotkin and Wendell Cox. Their essay in Quillette (The Unexpected Future) portends a planetary depopulation trend based on data published by the United Nations.

Surveys show ignorance on depopulation concerns

How can this be? A YouGovAmerica survey asked:

“Which do you think is of greater concern to the world in future decades?”

53% of respondents said overpopulation; 22% said neither; 15% didn’t know; and only 10% said underpopulation.

No one is worried about underpopulation. Just the opposite. I remember when Paul Erhlich’s apocalyptic tome, “The Population Bomb,” was published in 1968. I was in high school, and it made quite a splash. Students went from class to class making presentations based on his prognostication: 

“The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

His book asserted that overpopulation is the root problem. Not only did he influence impressionable high school students, the political class jumped on board. High profile public figures, such as Zbigniew Brzezinski (who became President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser), J. Paul Getty, and Henry Luce III among others took out a full page ad in the Wall Street Journal declaring:

“The world as we know it will likely be ruined before the year 2000,” since “food production cannot keep pace with the galloping growth of population.”

A demographic misdiagnosis

Of course, they were wrong. None of Erhlich’s dire predictions came to pass. In fact, the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization said hunger dropped from one of four people in the world at the time Population Bomb was published to but one in ten today. Those affected by famines dropped from 27 million in 1900 to less than a million today.

Nonetheless, the damage was done. Anti population measures were aggressively implemented in countries like India and China, including forced sterilizations and abortions. In the U.S. and Europe, liberal abortion policies have helped drive birth rates below replacement levels.

The fruit of these polices is now evident, according to Mssrs. Kotkin and Cox:

“It’s not a matter of if but when global populations will start to decline. Under the UN’s medium variant projection, the world’s population will peak in 2086, while under the low variant, the peak will occur in 2053, and by 2100, the population will be about a billion below today’s level.”

Devastating impact

Sadly, the overpopulation myth is having a devastating impact on our culture. Erhlich claimed that the earth didn’t offer enough resources to accommodate the planet’s population. When that claim was proven false, a new breed of alarmists came on the scene and said that our growing population was heating up the earth and unnaturally changing the planet’s climate. 

A Wall Street Journal October 7, 2018 headline said:

“U.N. panel warns drastic action needed to stave off climate change.”

In another piece on September 26, 2019, the Wall Street Journal began a piece with this provocative paragraph:

“Inside the United Nations General Assembly this week, world leaders tackled the gravest issues facing humankind. Nuclear weapons. Tensions in the Persian Gulf. Fears of a climate apocalypse.”

Politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez amplified the media’s apocalyptic rhetoric with dire forecasts, like this claim made in 2019:

“The world is gonna end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change and your biggest issue is how are we gonna pay for it?”

With 1.8 followers on Facebook and another 13.4 million on Twitter, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has tremendous influence.

“A social intelligence of a sea sponge”

Although she later backtracked, claiming that only those with a “social intelligence of a sea sponge” would believe such a claim, the damage was done. A Rasmussen Poll showed that two-thirds of Democratic voters do believe the claim. 

We’re still waiting to see if Ms. Ocasio-Cortez apologizes to the sea sponge lobby.

Climate alarmism affects young people’s willingness to bring children into this world, as the New York Times pointed out. They asked readers for their feedback on reactions to the “existential” threat of climate change. Here was a fairly typical response:

“I have one child, a daughter, who told me age 8 that she would never have a child because of global warming. She’s now 34 and has never changed her mind. So I will not experience a grandchild. For her wisdom, I am grateful. I would be heartsick if I did have a grandchild who would have to experience the onslaught of changing climate.”

Overpopulation has been a bogeyman for most of Baby Boomer’s adult lives. But now that they have reached retirement age, a depopulation bomb looms as a serious threat to the U.S. economy and social-safety net. Every single state in the U.S. has a fertility rate below replacement level.

Depopulation weakens our social safety net

At the time of the Roe v Wade decision (1973), there were 29 people on Social Security per hundred workers compared to 37 today and projected to rise to 66 by 2100, according to SS trustees. Reserve funds will be depleted by 2035.

The depopulation bomb presents more than an existential threat to our social safety net. It guts the vitality of an entire economy, as Japan’s experience shows us. 

Their fertility rate dipped below replacement level in 1973. Their economy began to sag twenty years later as the effects of a shrinking labor force were felt. Their per capita GDP fell from $44,198 in 1995 to $39,285 by 2021.

The depopulation bomb is an existential threat

So what is the biggest existential threat to the United States and the world? The depopulation bomb. Demographic projections have a more reliable track record than climate projections. The same people warning of global warming today warned of a coming ice age just fifty years ago.

In light of the growing need for more people, the U.S. can’t afford aborting 900,000 human beings a year, who represent our ultimate resource. The time has come to end the moral and economic confusion at the heart of the abortion debate.

[Tom Quiner is Board President for Pulse Life Advocates, a pro-life advocacy group located in Des Moines, IA. You can learn more about their educational outreach at and support their cause here.]


  1. Douglas J Volkmer on December 30, 2022 at 11:15 pm


    • iowansforlife on January 2, 2023 at 8:43 am

      Thanks for responding!

  2. BJ on December 31, 2022 at 7:01 am

    great article Tom, I think China now too is having a huge economic meltdown with their population issues.
    Kevin always talked about how strong economies were based on rising population growth. “The Rising Road” is what he called it. Wish I had a recording of it:)

    • iowansforlife on January 2, 2023 at 8:44 am

      Kevin was spot on, BJ.

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