photo: Paul Keller/Creative Commons
Population growth is one of the touchiest issues out there. It's really easy for people to leap to paranoia about government control of who can and cannot have children and no amount of qualification about how that's not being advocated seems to stop it. Nevertheless population growth and its flip side, resource consumptionis a critically important environmental issue. Which is why some new research from Worldwatch Institute showing, again, that better access to contraception can slow population growth and therefore slow global warming is so important.Population, Climate Change, and Women's Lives illustrates how slowing population growth through better family planning policy and ensuring that all women have access to contraception has huge implications for climate change mitigation.
By 2050 it's expected that there will be 9 billion people on the planet, if we could slow that growth so that there were only 8 billion people we could reduce annual CO2 emissions by 5.1 billion tons per year--more than if we stopped global deforestation entirely or doubled average fuel efficiency of the world's car fleet. In making this assertion the researchers note that the growing prevalence of contraceptive use has caused family size and population growth to fall in close correlation.
The report solidly places slowing population growth both as a serious environmental benefit, as well as one crucial for furthering gender equality:
In crafting policies, population change should be viewed as one element of the historic effort to bring women into equal standing with men. Women and children in poverty are among the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, despite their disproportionately low contribution to the problem. Removing the obstacles that hold back more than 3 billion potential agents of change--women and girls--is both pragmatic and necessary.
Women manage a broad range of consumption and production decisions that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As farmers and foresters, they pull carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it in soils and vegetation. Through cooperative and future-oriented approaches to leadership, as well as a tendency to manage risk more conservatively than men do, they contribute powerfully to social resilience and can help societies adapt to climate change. Increasingly, women also are acting directly on climate change as policymakers and negotiators.
In short, as Robert Engelman of Worldwatch says, "Increasing women's reproductive rights should be at the heart of the climate discussion, in the same basket as strategies like increasing energy efficiency and researching new technologies."
Like this? Follow me on Facebook.
More on Population Growth:
Connecting the Dots: Population Growth, Consumerism & Biodiversity Loss Tangled Together
When Population Growth And Resource Availability Collide
Australian Anglican Church Says Population Growth May Break Commandment 'Thou Shall Not Steal'