Posted on July 26, 2010 by Stephen E. Herrmann
The population issue has not received much comment when countries discuss ways to mitigate climate change and slow down global warming, according to Zhao Baige, Vice Minister of National Population and Family Planning Commission of China (NPFPC).
“Dealing with climate change is not simply an issue of CO2 emission reduction but a comprehensive challenge involving political, economic, social, cultural and ecological issues, and the population concern fits right into the picture,” said Zhao.
Zhao cites studies that link population growth with emissions and the effect of climate change, saying:
“Calculations of the contribution of population growth to emissions growth globally produce a consistent finding that most of past population growth has been responsible for between 40 percent and 60 percent of emissions growth,” citing the 2009 State of World Population report, released earlier by the UN Population Fund.
Although China’s family planning policy has received criticism over the past three decades, Zhao said that China’s population program has made a great historic contribution to the well-being of China’s society.
As a result of the family planning policy, China has seen 400 million fewer births, which has resulted in 18 million fewer tons of CO2 emissions a year, Zhao said. The UN report projected that if the global population would remain 8 billion by the year 2050 instead of a little more than 9 billion according to medium-growth scenario, “it might result in 1 billion to 2 billion fewer tons of carbon emissions.”
Meanwhile, she said studies have also shown that family planning programs are more efficient in helping cut emissions, citing research by Thomas Wire of London School of Economics that states: “Each $7 spent on basic family planning would reduce CO2 emissions by more than one ton” whereas it would cost $13 for reduced deforestation, $24 to use wind technology, $51 for solar power, $93 for introducing hybrid cars and $131 for electric vehicles.”
Zhao admitted that China’s population program is not without consequences, as the country is entering the aging society fast and facing the problem of gender imbalance.
Whether, and, if so, how, population control should be an active part of a country’s climate control is certainly a difficult political and cultural issue – but one that fast-growing economies such as China, India, and Brazil may have to face in the coming years.