Population Growth and Climate Change

The world’s population, currently 6.8 billion people, is increasing dramatically: the UN estimates that by late 2011 it will reach 7 billion people, and by 2050, it will surpass 9 billion, an exponential increase that poses numerous challenges for countries seeking to mitigate against potential climate-change related impacts (from increased resource use to potential migration). But it is too simple to equate more people with more CO2 in the atmosphere, or vice versa. Crucial imbalances remain between population, socioeconomic level, emissions levels, vulnerability, and the capacity to adapt to environmental change: per capita, Australia is a world leader in CO2 emissions (currently about 20 tonnes per person), but is only the 55th largest country by population. Yet India only emits about 2 tonnes of CO2 per capita, despite being the second-largest country by population. The 21st century will require innovative solutions — not just limits on carbon emissions or birth rates — to tackle these imbalances.

See also: Greening Cities, Environmental Refugees

Further Resources

CIA World Factbook
UN World Population Prospects 2008
Population Dynamics and Climate Change (UNFPA)
“The Human Time Bomb” (Prospect, November 2009)

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