When it comes to the issue of anthropomorphic climate change, I tend to be “acognostic”—I’m not convinced we even have the cognitive ability to determine whether climate change is occurring, much less whether it can be attributed to human activity. But I have no doubt that the responses to perceived climate change have already been disastrous for humanity.

Take, for example, the British government’s use of climate change as an excuse for population control. In 2010, a working paper published by the UK’s Department for International Development cited the need to fight climate change as one of the key reasons for supporting forced sterilization programs in India. According to The Guardian, the “document argued that reducing population numbers would cut greenhouse gases, although it warned that there were ‘complex human rights and ethical issues’ involved in forced population control.”

Despite such concerns, the British government funded the program—which has led to miscarriages, botched operations, and even death:

Human rights campaigner Devika Biswas told the court that “inhuman sterilisations, particularly in rural areas, continue with reckless disregard for the lives of poor women”. Biswas said 53 poor and low-caste women were rounded up and sterilised in operations carried out by torchlight that left three bleeding profusely and led to one woman who was three months pregnant miscarrying. “After the surgeries, all 53 women were crying out in pain. Though they were in desperate need of medical care, no one came to assist them,” she said.

The court gave the national and state governments two months to respond to the allegations.

Activists say that it is India’s poor – and particularly tribal people – who are most frequently targeted and who are most vulnerable to pressure to be sterilised. They claim that people have been threatened with losing their ration cards if they do not undergo operations, or bribed with as little as 600 rupees (£7.34) and a sari. Some states run lotteries in which people can win cars and fridges if they agree to be sterilised.

Despite the controversy, an Indian government report shows that sterilisation remains the most common method of family planning used in its Reproductive and Child Health Programme Phase II, launched in 2005 with £166m of UK funding. According to the DfID, the UK is committed to the project until next year and has spent £34m in 2011-12. Most of the money – £162m – has been paid out, but no special conditions have been placed on the funding.

Most people would be shocked by the fact that officials in the U.K. are still supporting forced sterilization. Because we don’t often hear about such practices, we assume they died out in advanced Western countries by the 1920s. But state-supported forced sterilization was occurring in the U.S. until the late 1970s. And there is no reason why it couldn’t return here again. Whenever citizens embrace the mentality that “officials know best what is good for us” crimes against humanity are soon to follow.