Qu: To what extent will reductions in carbon emissions in the UK as a result of greener cleaner technologies be compromised by predicted world population growth of (according to a study by the U.N) a further 2.5 billion souls by the 2050?
Good question, and one that seems to be ignored in the general media hype surrounding climate change. Everywhere you look media channels and big business alike are out to persuade individuals to ‘do their bit’ by reducing their personal CO2 emissions. All well and good and as an empowering strategy to positively impact climate change but one that starts to look more like a convenient marketing strategy when you consider predicted population growth. The sad fact is that unless we do something drastic out-of-control population growth will wipe out the gains by even the most ambitious conservation and recycling schemes.
As John Feeney, writing for The Guardian, points out: “To avert catastrophe, we need to reduce both factors in the equation: our numbers and per person consumption.”
Yet the population issue is routinely overlooked. Feeney goes on to highlight the work of the Global Footprint Network (GFN), which tells us that, given the current population, each person has an allowance of just under 1.8 gha (global hectares of biologically productive land and sea) to maintain a sustainable global footprint. Given our current average of 2.2 gha per person we are exceeding the earth’s limits by 25%.
The GFN calculate that a drop in consumption to 1.8gha per person in the UK would involve a reduction in consumption to match level of Uzbekistan. Globally this would mean radically raising or reducing the living standards of some countries not a very realistic prospect.
?And these stats don’t take into consideration the UN’s projected increase in population of 40% by the middle of next Century. Compensating for the rise would mean shrinking the global footprint to under 1.3 gha, roughly the level of Guatemala or Nigeria. Again – not a vision of the future I’d put my money on being realized.
Although it is important to do your best to minimize personal contribution to global consumption it’s equally useful to be aware of the issues involved. In the face of the UN’s predictions population is a very real factor in the climate change debate and should be treated as such by governments and the media.
Further reading & useful sites: