‘Is the world’s population explosion threatening our climate efforts?’
Is the world’s population explosion threatening the efforts we’re about to do to save the climate for further warming up? “It doesn’t matter how many people live on earth, as long as we manage to create a society without burning fossil fuels, it’s the fastest way to success”, historian Peter van Druenen states in an opinion article in De Standaard.
According to the Dutch historian, specialized in climate matters and author of ‘The Climate Paradox’ (De klimaatparadox),”The world’s population should go down to save the planet. Couples should have fewer children to decrease their ecological footprint” are often heard statements. But they are incorrect.
The rise in population will probably stabilize by the end of this century because fertility rate has decreased significantly. In 1960, women had an average of five children, today this is hardly 2,5. This is leading to a stable population, at least for a while, because after some time the effect of the decreased fertility rate is compensated by the absolute numbers and the fact that more and more people are living longer.
An estimated 2,3 billion extra people by 2050 are putting an enormous pressure on several of the earth’s resources, but at the same time they have the smallest impact on emissions of greenhouse gases. Why? Because most babies are born in poor countries, where emissions per capita are the smallest. Fifty per cent of the poorest people in the world are responsible for hardly 10% of all emissions worldwide.
What about the call upon people in the Western world to have fewer children?
The average European woman is hardly having 1,6 children. Without migration the European population would even have gone down. If you really want to do something about the rise in population, you need to look at the developing countries.
More than half of the expected rise in population is limited to nine countries: India, Nigeria, Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the United States, Uganda and Indonesia.
Solution for the problem is known, though. Women tend to have fewer children when they are educated, relatively wealthy and have contraceptives within reach. The combination of the three conditions is the fastest key to success, wherever in the world.
However, the call for fewer children has nothing to do with the core of the climate question. About 70 to 75% of worldwide emissions are caused by human activities, like the burning and extraction of fossil fuels, which is by far the most important cause of the climate problems.
Fastest way to climate success
If we will succeed in creating a society without any fossil fuels, emissions will really tumble down. No matter the number of people involved. Zero emissions multiplied by 7 or 11 billion people is still resulting in zero. So, eliminating the use of fossil fuels is the fastest way to climate success.
Let’s take the example of the United States. Between 2008 and 2017, population over there increased with more than 20 million people. Still, CO2 emissions went down with 10%, because the Americans replaced an important part of coal by gas and renewable energy, producing only half of the emissions. Say no more…