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Elon Musk’s claims about ‘population collapse’ debunked as ‘flawed’ and ‘outer space’

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Claims by billionaire Elon Musk about impending “population collapse” have been debunked as being “from outer space”.

Population Matters, a UK-based non-profit focused on population research and environment sustainability, investigated almost all of the claims made by Mr Musk on the subject in a report published on Monday.

Mr Musk has asserted on multiple occasions that low birth rates would lead to the collapse of “civilisation” – which he has described as his biggest fear.

The SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO has also called himself a “rare exception” among billionaires for the number of children he has, with the current estimate at nine.

As Population Matters highlighted in its report, Mr Musk recently tweeted that he was doing his “best to help the underpopulation crisis” amid news of twins he had fathered, but were previously unreported.

Earlier this year, he argued that “Earth could maintain a population many times the current level”, despite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identifying population growth “as one of the two ‘strongest drivers’ of carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion”, Population Matters said.

Population has also been described by the IPCC as a “key impediment” to keeping global warming under 1.5°C, which scientists say will limit how severe the impact of a warmer climate will be.

On Monday, figures from the United Nations estimate that the global population will hit 8 billion in November, making the global effort to keep warming below 1.5°C even more challenging.

The forecast predicts another 2.4 billion more people added to the global population by 2086 – again proving that there is no such “underpopulation crisis” or impending collapse for humanity, as Mr Musk has claimed.

Population Matters director Robin Maynard said following the release of the report that Mr Musk’s “underpopulation crisis” theory was “reckless, flawed and potentially harmful”, and ignored the health risks that many women in low income countries face as well as environmental concerns.

“Elon Musk’s claims on population range from the just-about-grounded-in-reality to floating free in outer space,” said Mr Maynard. “It would be easy to laugh them off, if he didn’t have 100 million Twitter followers and a stratospheric media profile lending them spurious credibility”.

“It’s easy to mock him for his extravagant claims but there’s something really serious here too,” Mr Maynard added. “The number of women with an unmet need for modern contraception in low-income countries stands at 270 million and is growing.”

“Covid, climate change and the economic downturn all threaten to push back the vital gains in health, poverty reduction, family planning, gender equality and education that have reduced family size and population growth and improved the lives of billions. And we’re seeing hard-won reproductive freedoms from Iran to China to the US being pushed back, sometimes explicitly to promote higher birth rates.”

Some of the other tweets from Mr Musk that appeared in the report included one from 2019 in which the billionaire warned that Japan would “cease to exist” because of its declining birth rate. Statistics show otherwise.

Mr Musk said Italy, where the birth rate has been falling since the 1960s, would also have “no people”. Figures from Istat, the Italian statistical institute, show the country’s population being 20 per cent smaller by 2070, rather than disappearing. The US has experienced a similar decline.

Mr Musk, who the Population Matters report said had ignored immigration as a solution for wealthy nations with lowering birth rates, has previously tweeted: “The common rebuttal is ‘what about immigration?’. I’m like, from where?” That has lead to accusations online of echoing population “replacement” conspiracy theories spread by the far right.

The Independent has approached Mr Musk for comment.

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