Did someone say population control? An activist group is claiming that access to birth control is key to slowing population growth and stemming global warming.
The Population Reference Bureau says that rising populations across the world are contributing to rising greenhouse gas levels. The group says that ensuring universal access to “family planning” will help limit family sizes and lower population growth.
“This would ultimately lead to substantial reductions in future carbon dioxide emissions, because even though carbon emissions tend to be low in countries where population growth rates are high, current evidence shows that per capita emissions rise as nations develop,” according to the bureau.
Reuters reports that PRB, along with other climate activists, is pushing for “universal access to family planning” to be considered “climate-compatible development” by the United Nations when delegates meet to discuss development issues in September.
Population control measures could be funded by the U.N.’s Green Climate Fund, reports Reuters, which will begin doling out $10 billion in climate aid to poor countries. President Obama has proposed giving $3 billion to the fund in his 2016 budget, but it’s unlikely Congress will approve the funds.
“We’re not talking about population control,” Baroness Jenny Tonge, who chairs a parliamentary group on population growth, told U.K. Parliament on Monday. “We’re talking about giving people the choice to limit their family size and all the good things that go on from that.”
Environmentalists have long argued that human population growth is straining the environment and the climate. In the 1960s, academics like Paul Ehrlich and current White House science czar John Holdren pushed for population control methods to stave off ecological disaster.
“Indeed, it has been concluded that compulsory population-control laws, even including laws requiring compulsory abortion, could be sustained under the existing Constitution if the population crisis became sufficiently severe to endanger the society,” Holdren and Ehrlich wrote in a textbook. “Few today consider the situation in the United States serious enough to justify compulsion, however.”
More recently, former Vice President Al Gore and Microsoft founder Bill Gates said “fertility management” was the key to fighting global warming.
“Depressing the rate of child mortality, educating girls, empowering women and making fertility management ubiquitously available … is crucial to the future shape of human civilization,” Gore said at the World Economic Forum last winter.
But so far, most U.S. politicians and environmentalists have not pushed population control as a way to fight global warming, instead focusing on green energy and banning fossil fuels.
“They’re both sensitive and it’s difficult to make headway on either, much less both together,” Jason Bremner, a demographer at PRB, told Reuters.
But even U.N. experts have called into question the notion that limiting population growth will have that big of an impact on global warming. the U.N.’s chief demographer John Wilmoth recently said that while there is “relatively little uncertainty” in population growth estimates over the next hundred years, there is “complete uncertainty” population will have little effect on carbon emissions.
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