Is Reducing Population a Key to Fight Climate Change?

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Is Reducing Population a Key to Fight Climate Change?

Developing countries are the ones disproportionately affected by climate change.  When major disasters hit, like severe floods, strong typhoons or cyclones, developing countries would register many casualties – vast numbers of people get killed, displaced, or lose their assets.

Developing countries and communities also take longer to recover from them disasters due to a lack of resources. One may wonder if the number of casualties during catastrophes or their high vulnerability to climate change linked in developing countries linked to their high population?

According to Roland Berger research, they find a 97% increase in the population, equivalent to 1.2 billion people between 2013 to 2030, in developing regions of the world. In developed countries, population growth is just a mere 3.3% or adding 41 million to its current 1.3 billion people.

Net migration will also increase in developed countries or those in Northern America, Europe, and Oceania but will fall on regions in Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

These trends in migration will see a share of the population from developing countries moving to developed regions in the world.

Population increase and climate change threats

Experience shows that the more populated an area is, the higher the casualties are when a disaster, say a severe tropical cyclone of flooding, hit the area. While some studies show that that global increases in population linked to GHG emissions increases.

A study by William Ripple and Christopher Wolf published in April 2021 from Oregon State University says that the two crucial factors that could help fight climate change – limiting population growth and social justice, are given minimal emphasis, based on the number of research published on the topic.

The study revealed strong links between high population growth and ecosystem impacts connected to food and water security in developing countries. Curbing population growth in the context of social justice should be given more attention because of its potential to address the impacts of climate change and to mitigate its consequences, the research suggests.

Both researchers also argue that the more people there are on the planet, the worse it is for the climate.

Researchers acknowledged that China’s one-child policy and the forced sterilisation campaign in other countries have led to population control’s bad reputation.

However, population policies through improved education can be a powerful tool to fight climate change and promote human rights, equity, and social justice by educating young women, ending child marriages, and boosting the availability of family planning services. In Ethiopia, Kenya, and Indonesia, improved education for girls and young women is linked to a decline in their fertility rates.

Who will pay for these projects? 

Researchers thought the wealthy countries should pay because they are the major contributors to GHG emissions and primary beneficiaries of fossil use. Although rich countries’ populations are on the decline, their consumption hasn’t.

The study mentions that policies like carbon pricing can be used for rich countries to pay for their overconsumption and high carbon emissions.

To solve the climate crises, both problems – the high fertility rates in developing countries and overconsumption of the wealthy governments, corporations, and individuals need to be addressed from social justice and social equity perspective. It’s not enough nor fair to focus on one problem while neglecting the other.

Regarding the high fertility rates in developing countries, Ripple said, “Social justice and the climate emergency demand that equitable population policies be prioritised in parallel with strategies involving energy, food, nature, short-lived pollutants and the economy.”

“With feedback loops, tipping points and potential climate catastrophe looming, we have to be taking steps in all of those areas and not ignoring any of them,” he added.

To read the entire paper, click the link below:

Source Citation:

97% of population growth to be in developing world. (2015 June 24). Consultancy.uk. Retrieved from https://www.consultancy.uk/news/2191/97-percent-of-population-growth-to-be-in-developing-world

Satherley, D. (2021, April 30). Population control and ‘social justice’ key to fighting climate change – scientist. Newshub. Retrieved from https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2021/04/population-control-and-social-justice-key-to-fight-climate-change-scientists.html

Oregon State University. “Socially just population policies can mitigate climate change and advance global equity.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 April 2021. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/04/210428135525.htm

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