United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said humanity “really should make every effort” to reduce global population trends to protect the environment and fight global warming in an interview with Climate One.
The U.N. predicts the global population will number 9 billion people by 2050 — a number that makes many environmentalists worry. Climate One Founder Greg Dalton pressed Figueres on whether or not she thinks there are policies to reduce the 9 billion 2050 estimate.
“I mean we all know that we expect nine billion, right, by 2050,” Figueres told Dalton in an interview. “So, yes, obviously less people would exert less pressure on the natural resources.”
Indeed, the U.N. has warned that food and water resources will be stretched thin as the global population booms. A recent U.N. report on water argued that the world would only be able to meet 60 percent of its water needs in 15 years because of population and economic growth. The U.N. said countries will have to increase water prices or recycling programs to accommodate more people.
The U.N. argued in 2013 that more people should eat insects for protein and help the environment by reducing the demand for traditional meats from cows, chickens and pigs.
“Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly, and they have high growth and feed conversion rates and a low environmental footprint,” the U.N. reported.
“So is nine billion a forgone conclusion?” Dalton asked. “That’s like baked in, done, no way to change that?”
“We can definitely change those numbers and really should make every effort to change those numbers because we are already, today, already exceeding the planet’s planetary carrying capacity, today,” Figueres responded. “To say nothing of adding more population that is really going to overextend our capacity. So yes we should do everything possible.”
“But we cannot fall into the very simplistic opinion of saying just by curtailing population then we’ve solved the problem. It is not either/or, it is an and/also,” Figueres added.
For decades, environmental activists have been suggesting the world has too many people. White House science czar John Holdren argued in the 1970s that governments needed to take measures to reduce population or suffer ecological calamity.
Calls for population controls cooled in the 1980s and 90s after predictions of ecological collapse from overpopulation failed to materialize. But in recent years, some have been pushing for the use of birth control to keep birth rates down in developing countries.
Former Vice President Al Gore and Microsoft founder Bill Gates have 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.
Ironically, the U.N.’s chief demographer has said reducing global population increases will have little to no impact on global warming. John Wilmoth said that while there is “relatively little uncertainty” in population growth estimates over the next century, but there is “complete uncertainty” population will have little effect on carbon emissions.
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