by NS Venkatraman 16 November 2019
A well-researched study has been conducted about the linkages between global population growth and climate hazard. The research has been done by Nandini Consultancy Centre, a firm of chemical engineers based in Chennai and Singapore (www.nandinichemical/com).
The study report urges the UNO to recognize the inadequacies of the decisions taken during the Paris Climate Conference and convene another world conference to discuss the climate issues with a focus on reducing global population growth and density of population, which is the ultimate way to solve the impending global climate crisis once for all.
Highlights of the study are given in this article, which has a high level of relevance to the present global climate crisis.
Global Climate Conference was organized in Paris in 2015 when various measures to protect climate were discussed, and some steps were initiated with a specific target and time frame.
World leaders have committed themselves to keep global warming below 2 deg C, with an ambitious target to limit it to 1.5 deg.C
However, decisions taken during the Paris Climate Conference are not being implemented at the desired pace, due to the conflict of interests between different countries, particularly about the production and use level of fossil fuel.
With the decision of the USA to withdraw from the agreement signed during the Paris Climate Conference, it appears that the decisions of the Paris Climate Conference have lost its sheen since the US is the largest economy in the world, and it is also the large emitter of carbon dioxide.
In the Paris Climate Conference, the interrelation between the damage to the climate and increasing growth and density of the global population has not been adequately stressed or addressed. The implications are now increasingly seen and realized both by environmental activists and population experts in the world.
Population growth itself causes ecological issues due to higher needs for production to meet the increase in consumption demand, consequently requiring more exploitation of natural resources, such as oil, natural gas, coal, etc. as well as other issues such as deforestation.
With climate deteriorating, the holistic solution has to be found for the global severe ecological issues, avoiding conflict of interest between the countries.
There must be less demand for resources, such as fossil fuel, that can be achieved only by decreasing order, which can happen primarily only with less population.
Global population outlook
The world population, which increased at an annual average growth rate of 0.85 % per annum between 1900 to 1950, increased at a higher average yearly growth rate of 1.65% per annum between 1951 to 2019.
On reading the population growth trend, it is evident that the birth rate is increasing while the death rate has been showing a falling trend.
The increasing birth rate has primarily taken place in developing countries. In developing countries, economic and social stress are of a high order, and literacy level is comparatively weak,
The death rate has declined mainly due to improvement in medical science and more significant efforts in medical research. This has resulted in increased longevity of the individuals to a considerable extent.
Global energy outlook
An increase in the generation and consumption of energy is the precondition to sustain the economic and industrial growth of the world.
While the world population is increasing, the per capita energy consumption has not come down, which means the production of fuel/energy is rising, due to the need to meet the surging demand for enlarging population.
It is not possible to reduce the use of crude oil, natural gas, coal to any significant extent, given their large scale use at present. An increase in the production of renewable energy will not be adequate to reduce the need for fossil fuels significantly.
Prevention of an increase in energy consumption and energy production is needed to protect the climate. This is not possible without curtailing the population growth to a significant level.
Inevitable ecological issues due to inevitable growth in production and services
Considering the scale of the requirement of industrial products to meet the needs of the increasing population, the use of fossil fuel such as crude oil, coal is inevitable. The application may marginally decline due to renewable energy development, but it is unlikely to make a significant impact in reducing fossil fuel consumption in the foreseeable future.
Is the war for climate protection conducted in a vacuum?
There is a lack of clarity about the appropriate strategies to prevent disturbance to ecological standards and ensure climate protection.
Most of the campaign and discussions in various forums till now have been centering on imposition of curbs on the production and consumption of fossil fuels, development of more eco friendly technologies to prevent environmental pollution in the process plants, imposition of ban on the production and use of certain products, recycling, and promotion of renewable energy such as solar, wind, hydroelectric and eco friendly nuclear power, etc.
It appears that governments and environmental activists have not thought beyond these measures to find a fundamental and permanent solution to protect the climate.
There is undoubtedly a lack of clarity, as universally acceptable strategies and formula are yet to be evolved, without conflicts of interest.
Conflicts of interest
The world is today deeply divided between developed countries and developing countries, with the interests and priorities of developed and developing countries being considerably different. While the developing countries have a large population with high density and high levels of poverty conditions, developed countries are more prosperous and have lesser population density.
It is strange that while developing countries are struggling to overcome the grim problem of population explosion and consequent economic miseries, several developed countries are concerned about less population growth and an aging population with a reduction in some active working hands.
Developed countries often accuse the developing countries of causing damage to climate due to the use of inadequate and outdated technology practices and unchecked population growth.
Developing countries, in turn, accuse the developed countries of having high per capita consumption of energy and in the process causing more emissions than the developing countries.
Resistance by developing countries to some measures
There have been subtle or strong objections by some of the developing countries to measures suggested by the developed countries to curb the climate damages.
For example, coal will remain the primary energy source in India and China for the next few decades, although its share may gradually fall as the countries push renewable power generation.
Under the circumstances, India and China do not seem to be inclined to reduce coal production and consumption to any significant extent.
Is the climate war carried out in a vacuum?
While a lot of noise is being made about climate issues, this grim issue can not be solved by suggesting some corrective measures like reducing production and consumption of fossil fuel, which face a conflict of interest issues.
Alternate methods like the development of biofuel, development of eco-friendly substitute products, recycling of plastics, etc. would help only in a small way.
Such measures may make headlines in the media but would have little impact on the ground. The more fundamental solution is called for.
What are the fundamental solutions?
There is absolutely no doubt that the production and consumption of fossil fuels and polymers have to be brought down necessarily to improve the climate.
This has to be done, and the only way is to reduce the demand for such fossil fuel and products that are causing environmental hazards.
When demand would come down, production would automatically come down and help the cause of climate protection.
Only one obvious way of reducing the demand would be to reduce the growth of the population, which would reduce the need.
This reduction should be targeted without allowing scope for any conflict of interest between different countries.
What is the universally acceptable solution for growing world population density?
In the case of suggestions earlier made for global climate protection like reduction in consumption of fossil fuel etc. there is a conflict of interest between different countries due to lack of alternate energy sources.
However, concerning the suggestion to curtail population growth, there can not be any severe objections in several quarters, as there is no particular major conflict of interest.
When the world population is curtailed with time, there would be a direct impact on the reduction in the consumption of environmentally harmful products, which would lead to a drastic reduction in emissions and pollution in various forms.
Every country realizes that curtailment of the overall global population that would reduce climate problems is in everyone’s interest.
Based on recent growth in population-level and a projected population that the world can afford to achieve climate stability, a maximum number of people per square kilometer can be fixed around the globe based on consensus and discussions and thus working out a scientifically evolved formula.
UNO should bell the cat
It is now necessary for UNO to convene one more global climate conference, where conflicts of interests that happened in implementing the decisions of the Paris Climate Conference would be recognized so that alternative strategies could be initiated.
The alternate strategy has to be worked out, which should be universally acceptable.
Such a universally acceptable solution is a reduction in the global population to a stipulated level, that would be needed to ensure climate protection in the coming years.
The solution to the climate issue by effectively reducing population growth is the most feasible and acceptable way of reducing harm to the climate with the least pain for the world community.
This strategy is far better than producing and using eco-unfriendly fossil fuels and other resources in an exploitative way and then searching for ways and means to solve the consequences of the problem arising out of such exploitation of natural resources in an ecologically unfriendly way.
The ball is clearly in the court of UNO.
Will population reduction lead to an economic recession?
Many people seem to believe that with a slow down in the growth of the global population, global demand for various products would be constrained, and the pace of demand growth would shrink. This would inevitably cause a slow down in the global economy and result in a worldwide economic recession.
This negative view of skeptics has caused unnecessary fear.
With the population level coming down, the resources in the world would likely be better deployed and put to use optimally, resulting in improved productivity as well as per capita income. The buying power of people will increase. Therefore, it is not necessary to think that the shrinking population will inevitably lead to a slow down in the global economy. On the other hand, the economy will become healthier, and its pace of development would become stronger.
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