Robert Engelman, New Security Beat - As most of the world’s governments are puzzling out what they can offer to combat global climate change, a sensitive but critical aspect of the problem is coming into clearer focus: population. The word appears 20 times in a new 66-page synthesis of country pledges to cut greenhouse-gas emissions by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Secretariat. And those are the mentions of population in the context of size or growth, not the word’s more frequent use as a synonym for “people.”
This follows the strongest statement yet from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change one year ago on the contributions of population growth to rising greenhouse gas emissions. The IPCC for the first time also touted the benefits of wider access to voluntary family planning services.
This growing awareness matches one of the emerging conclusions of the Worldwatch Institute’s Family Planning and Environmental Assessment project: Researchers around the world are increasingly recognizing the strength of the population-climate change link.
This isn’t to say that population dynamics will gain serious attention at the upcoming climate conference in Paris beginning on November 30. The topic remains too fraught with the potential for shaming of high-fertility groups and individuals, and scars from coercive “population programs” by some governments in the past. Yet the question of how changes in population influence changes in the environment, and how people respond to them, cannot be wished away.