A recently published article asked European demographers about their attitudes towards climate change and population growth. It shows that while most demographers are in agreement on the need to act on climate change, the effect of population growth is largely not understood.
By The Overpopulation Project
An article published in March this year in the European Journal of Population explores demographers’ attitudes towards climate change and the role of population growth. Titled Population and Climate Change: Consensus and Dissensus among Demographers, its abstract reads as follows:
What role does population play in thinking about the problem of climate change and some of its solutions? In a survey conducted between February and April 2020, we asked European demographers to state their views on the relationship between climate change and population developments, and asked them to rate their concern about climate change and other socio-demographic issues. We found that climate change is at the top of the list of demographers’ concerns, but that their sense of urgency with respect to taking action to redress global warming is not matched by their belief that population policy can make a crucial difference in reducing CO2 emissions: demographers are highly divided on the question whether the global population size should be reduced to lower CO2 emissions, as well as on the question whether family planning is an effective policy instrument.
Probably one of the most interesting findings is described in table 4. The surveyed demographers were asked to rate their level of agreement with statements regarding humanity’s effect on climate change, the effect of climate change on migration patterns, and the effect of population size on carbon dioxide emissions. The majority of demographers fully agreed that climate change is primarily the result of human action (59%) and that saving the environment should be top priority, even at the expense of economic growth (52%). Half of the respondents (49%) agreed with the statement that climate change leads to unprecedented migration flows across the globe, while less of them fully agreed (25%). Even fewer fully agreed that the act of reducing global population size is a crucial part of reducing emissions, only 10%, and the largest group (33%) disagreed that the current world population exceeds the Earth’s carrying capacity. There was large variation in the sentiment of effectiveness of family planning in curbing rapid population growth, with only 5% fully agreeing that family planning policies are by and large effective.
The role that population growth plays in driving climate change emissions and environmental degradation is something we at TOP constantly address, along with acknowledging the effectiveness and success of well-developed family planning programmes. According to the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report, “Globally, economic and population growth continue to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion” (see figure). And looking forward, again according to the IPCC: “Without additional efforts to reduce GG emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist driven by growth in global population and economic activities.”
Demographers need to review the plain words of the IPCC on the role that population growth plays in driving climate change. They also should check out the material we provide on our site and learn more about this crucial driver, including what measures we can take to humanely reduce our numbers.