Climate Ethics and Population Policy

February 27, 2012 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to Phil Cafaro, Ph.D. and Vice President/President Elect of the International Society for Environmental Ethics, for the following paper. The abstract is presented below. Also, it should be noted Dr. Cafaro’s paper was recently cited in an article in Ecologist online (link below) in which the United Kingdom’s chief scientist, Sir John Beddington, described the issue of population as ‘under thought’ and ‘our biggest challenge’.

ABSTRACT: According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, human population
growth is one of the two primary causes of increased greenhouse gas emissions
and accelerating global climate change. Slowing or ending population growth
could be a cost effective, environmentally advantageous means to mitigate climate
change, providing important benefits to both human and natural communities.
Yet population policy has attracted relatively little attention from ethicists, policy
analysts, or policymakers dealingwith this issue. In part, this is because addressing
population matters means wading into a host of contentious ethical issues,
including family planning, abortion, and immigration. This article reviews the
scientific literature regarding voluntary population control’s potential contribution
to climate changemitigation. It considers possible reasons for the failure of climate
ethicists, analysts, and policy makers to adequately assess that contribution or
implement policies that take advantage of it, with particular reference to the
resistance to accepting limits to growth. It explores some of the ethical issues
at stake, considering arguments for and against noncoercive population control
and asking whether coercive population policies are ever morally justified. It also
argues that three consensus positions in the climate ethics literature regarding
acceptable levels of risk, unacceptable harms, and a putative right to economic
development, necessarily imply support for voluntary population control.

Current World Population


Net Growth During Your Visit