[Coral-List] population

Douglas Fenner dfenner at blueskynet.as
Fri Dec 26 19:47:58 EST 2008

Sometime back there were a few messages on population.  Someone made the interesting observation that economic improvement of the status of a family in a developing country would have a much larger effect on CO2 emissions than population growth would.  Interesting point.

I came across a statement that makes another interesting point:

"Saving a gigaton of carbon by reducing our 2050 population by 1 billion, through education for women and family planning information and services, would cost 1,000 times less than any of the other technical options - nuclear power, renewables, or increased car efficiency."

That comes from Behavior, Energy, Climate Change and Population
 By Kimberly Rovin on November 25, 2008 

Another very interesting article on this issue is at
AP story: Population growth and emissions growth

Myself, I've come to think of population as a multiplier.  
If the amount of consumption and damage to the environment per person remains the same but population doubles, the total consumption and damage doubles.  If population stays the same and consumption and damage per person doubles, the total consumption and damage doubles.  If consumption and damage per person is halved, but population doubles, the total stays the same.  Rapid population growth can undo a lot of good work on reducing impacts.  I know it's simplistic.  I know others have argued that more people means more minds finding ways to solve problems.  But it seems hard to see how a society could escape the basic arithmetic.  And I don't think the wealthy countries have a right to say to the poor countries that "no, you have too many people, there are not enough resources for you to develop, and besides you will destroy your environment.  You can't develop, but we'll go right on consuming many times what your citizens get to consume, and we'll waste if we feel like it.  Tough."  Not that anyone has actually said that or would admit that is their policy.  But it seems unlikely there are enough resources in the world for 6 billion people to consume, waste and damage their environment the way the wealthiest countries do.  Let alone what would happen to the environment if they did so.  We have to tackle all the problems and multipliers simultaneously like our future depended on it, because it does.  Nations that consume and waste too much have to learn to be much more efficient, poor countries need to be able to develop but restrain consumption by being efficient, wealthy countries have an obligation to help them do that, and population growth needs to be slowed, not only in poor countries but also some wealthy ones like the US.  I speak as a US citizen, born there, I can remember when there were less than 200 million in the US, now it is approaching 300 million.  That's a lot of people, third largest population country in the world I believe.

     Rapid population growth can also help keep a country in poverty, it makes many problems harder to solve.

-Doug Fenner

"Minds are like parachutes: they only function when they are open."  Thomas Dewar (of whiskey fame) 1864-1930

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