Population and Climate Change

by frog

As greens, it seems pretty intuitive that runaway population growth is unsustainable. That argument rages in back rooms, but rarely gets much air in the media because it is such a controversial topic.

The Greens here in Aotearoa have debated the topic and written our population policy. It was no less difficult a debate for us either. To my knowledge, no other political party has the courage to front the issue.

There was a burst of media in February/March, as the Global Population Speak Out encouraged people like the BBC’s John Feeney and others to do just that – speak out.

The question for debate here is whether population growth is a direct driver of climate change. New research just published claims that the link is very weak indeed.

Dr David Satterthwaite, of the London-based policy research centre and think tank the International Institute for Environment and Development, analysed changes in population and in greenhouse gas emissions for all the world’s countries.

He found that between 1980 and 2005: Sub-Saharan Africa had 18.5 percent of the world’s population growth and just 2.4 percent of the growth in carbon dioxide emissions; the United States had 3.4 percent of the world’s population growth and 12.6 percent of the growth in carbon dioxide emissions; China had 15.3 percent of the world’s population growth and 44.5 percent of the growth in carbon dioxide emissions; Population growth rates in China have come down very rapidly – but greenhouse gas emissions have increased very rapidly; Low-income nations had 52.1 percent of the world’s population growth and 12.8 percent of the growth in carbon dioxide emissions; High-income nations had 7 percent of the world’s population growth and 29 percent of the growth in carbon dioxide emissions; Most of the nations with the highest population growth rates had low growth rates for carbon dioxide emissions while many of the nations with the lowest population growth rates had high growth rates for carbon dioxide emissions.

It makes your brain hurt to read it, but it does make it clear that the link is not as ‘obvious’ as one would assume.

While many of us take it as read that unfettered population growth is bad for the environment and that unfettered consumerism is bad for the environment, it seems that consumerism takes the rap for climate change.

What do you think?

frog says

Published in Environment & Resource Management | Society & Culture by frog on Mon, September 28th, 2009   

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