Do Not Underestimate Family Planning

November 2, 2014 • Empower People, Impact Population Projections, Daily Email Recap

Do Not Underestimate Family Planning 

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A recent article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has ignited a small firestorm of criticism. As reflected by its title, “Human population reduction is not a quick fix for environmental problems,” the authors argue that reducing projected population growth rates, by itself, would not have an immediate impact on environmental threats like climate change. In a broad sense that’s true, but it is sort of like saying that “Reducing fossil fuel emissions is not a quick fix for climate change.”

While fossil fuel consumption is one of the primary drivers of climate change, even the most optimistic scenarios for reducing fossil fuel consumption over the next 5-10 years would have little or no effect on global warming over the next two or three decades. Scientists, in fact, are now warning that an increase of 2 degrees Celsius is virtually locked-in. But anyone who is truly concerned about climate change is not giving up on reducing fossil fuel consumption. It’s late in the climate change game, but not so late that we should give up on curbing carbon emissions.

The same is true with respect to population growth and its environmental impact. Humanity, with 7.2 billion people on the planet, is already over-utilizing planetary resources. With respect to our use of renewable resources, the Global Footprint Network asserts that we will need two Earths by 2030 to sustain us for the long haul. And if, as many demographers now predict, world population grows to 9.6 billion by 2050 and to 10.9 billion by the end of the century, the environmental impact with respect to climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, and the acidification of the oceans could be severe and, in many areas, irreversible.


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