Around 390,000 new humans are born every day. So, on a planet with dwindling resources and an increasing strain on natural systems… is curbing our booming population the key to solving our environmental woes?
In 2018, just North America and China were responsible for almost half of the world’s CO2 emissions. These are also the countries with the highest concentrations of the world’s wealthiest people. Their populations are living longer and having fewer babies, so their population growth is actually slowing down. By contrast, the poorest half of the world—where most global population growth is currently concentrated — produces only 10% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
These populations typically lack the technology and wealth that result in high energy expenditure, increased industrialization, and pollution. So, in climate change projections that take these imbalances into account, it’s been shown that redistributing wealth—so, reducing both extreme wealth and extreme poverty—has as much impact on carbon emissions as reducing overall population would.
Even in projected scenarios where a reduction in population does make a difference in emissions, it’s not enough of a difference to affect projected temperature rise. No amount of population reduction would achieve the reduction in emissions necessary to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius in our near future.