Earth experiences a plethora of issues. Much of them are linked with the excessive population growth of the human race. (Illustration by Anibal Santos)
Climate change continues to remain a controversial and divisive issue. The conflict has reached a new head with governments across the world increasingly viewing it necessary to counterattack it.
The United Nations considers climate change to be a huge threat and has provided extensive reports on the issue. They hope to deal with what’s causing it behind climate change are linked with the use of fossil fuels, wasted energy and over-consumption.
One other factor still receives very little coverage from media outlets and is linked with all of that however: population growth.
Allison Camelot, department chair at Saddleback College’s sociology department, said population growth results in issues due to the resulting human behavior.
“Global climate change is affected by industrialization and agricultural activities,” Camelot said. “The more people, the more that it will be affected.”
She said greater numbers of people being born results in greater strains and issues.
“With [increases] in population we have to produce more food, “Camelot said. “We’re raising more cattle. There’s more people using electricity, transportation, industry and industrial processes increase which increases the carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, more pollution, green house gases that are emitted due to human activity [that affects] the ozone layer.”
The United Nations agrees and finds excessive population growth to be an issue. Increases in population, according to its official site, will “exacerbates existing problems” such as crime, economic problems, cultural clashes, diseases and numerous social issues such as human rights. It’s been estimated by the organization with 80 percent certainty that by 2100 the population is expected to reach somewhere between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion people.
A 2009 study conducted at Oregon State University adds another problem to the list. According to the study, one of the biggest contributions to the emissions of carbon is owed to one single act: human reproduction.
“Much attention has been paid to the ways that people’s home energy use, travel, food choices and other routine activities affect their emissions of carbon dioxide and, ultimately, their contributions to global warming,” said the study. “However, the reproductive choices of an individual are rarely incorporated into calculations of his [or her] personal impact on the environment.”
To best illustrate the impact of population growth, imagine an elevator packed to the max with students. (Niko LaBarbera/Lariat)
Given current conditions in America, giving birth to a single child alone raises a person’s carbon emissions by 9,441 metric tons through carbon legacy, the study suggests.
The study further suggests that act alone raises a person’s carbon footprint 20 times more emissions even if a person minimizes that by doing such things as driving a high-mileage car, recycling, using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.
Furthermore, individuals must change their life style habits where reproduction is concerned or else there will be consequences.
“Ignoring the consequences of reproduction can lead to serious under-estimation of an individual’s long-term impact on the global environment,” said the study.
The study has further solidified evidence that population growth is a factor behind climate change. The issue has has resulted in mixed responses about how best to deal with this issue.
Governments, such as India and China, have attempted to lower their high birthrates usually through incentives designed to encourage people to have fewer children. In the case of the latter, people are only permitted to have two children.
However, studies show that birthrates, most notably in developed societies such as Germany, Japan, America and South Korea are declining not due to government intervention, but through the voluntary decisions of individuals to limit the number of children they have or not have any at all.
This trend is noticeable especially among younger generations. An Urban Institute study found that fertility rates among female milennials in America aged 20 to 27 has been decreasing driven mainly by the great recession which began in 2007.
However, scientists, according to a recent Pew Research study, still worry about the growing population of the planet than the public despite such drops. They worry about finding an adequate solution to this problem.
Journalist Alan Weisman offers a few initial steps to accomplishing that in his book “Countdown”: providing good education, giving people the means to help regulate the number of children they had and enabling people access to greater reproductive freedom.
To prove this, Weisman specifically cites a successful family planning program utilizing in Iran beginning in 1989 until 2006. During this period, the country enjoyed access to education about being responsible about having children along with aids designed to prevent unwanted pregnancies such as contraceptives.
Iran’s birthrate dropped from a high birthrate of 3.2 percent from 1986 to just 1.2 percent in 2001: one of the fastest drops ever recorded in history.
However, the birthrate has begun to rise again due to the dismantling of these programs under the highly conservative regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As a result, the education programs once designed to help curb the country’s burgeoning population are still being systematically eliminated.
This kind of undermining behavior, Weisman said, allows a major factor behind climate change to continue.
- 1/3 of the population growth in the world is the result of incidental or unwanted pregnancies according to the Germany World Population Fund.
- Worldwide only 57.4 percent of women aged 15-49 who are married or in a union are using modern contraception, and this figure falls to only 31.0% in the least developed countries according to the World Health Organization.
- Every second there are 4.3 births and 1.8 deaths, for a net population gain of 2.5 people per second.
- Monaco, France has one of the world’s lowest birthrates: 6.72 percent according to the latest edition of the CIA World Factbook. The Factbook also notes that Niger in Africa retains one of the world’s highest birthrates: 46.12 percent.
- The world population increased in just twelve years to one billion between 1999 and 2011.
- Every twenty minutes, the human population grows by approximately over 3,000 people. That’s roughly the same amount of time it takes for another plant or animal species to become entirely extinct (the rate of species extinction is roughly 27,000 per year).
- Human activity, population growth and urbanization are major driving force behind the loss of ecosystems such as coral reefs, wetlands, artic ice and rainforests. In the case of the latter, Rainforests once covered 14% of the Earth’s land surface, now they cover a bare 6% and experts estimate that the last remaining rainforests could be consumed in less than 40 years.
- The World Health Organization that population growth, coupled with environmental degradation, are major causes behind the rapid increase of human diseases plus contributes to the malnutrition of roughly 3.7 billion people globally.
- The recent population explosion is not because of increased birth rates, but decreases in death rates, with the help of medicine, agriculture yields, urbanization, technology, education, disease prevention, and less war.
- More than 1 billion people in the world do not have enough food or safe drinking water.