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article imageReport: Contraception Can Help Prevent Climate Change

By Chris Dade     Sep 9, 2009 in Environment
A report produced by the London School of Economics (LSE) has concluded that family planning is the most cost effective means of reducing global C02 emissions.
In the report titled Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost, commissioned by the Optimum Population Trust, the LSE found that within the next four decades 34 gigatons (billion tonnes) of CO2 could be saved if greater priority were given to controlling the size of the world's population.
Those 34 gigatons of CO2 represent almost six times the annual emissions of the U.S. and close to 60 times the annual emissions of the U.K.
Some perspective on the idea that improved access to family planning might assist in the fight against climate change is offered by the United Nations, which estimates that 40 per cent of worldwide pregnancies are unplanned. Furthermore data produced by the UN indicates that as many as 72 per cent of those unplanned pregnancies could be avoided if there was better access to family planning. With the world population expected to exceed 9.1 billion by 2050, reducing unplanned pregnancies to such an extent would see that figure drop below 8.7 billion.
To present those figures in a slightly different context, it would mean that between 2010 and 2050 only 326 billion "people-years" would be lived, as opposed to 338 billion "people-years" being lived under current projections.
From a financial viewpoint population control also proves more attractive than spending on low-carbon technologies. Global CO2 emissions could reportedly be cut by more than a ton for every $7 (£4) spent on family planning over the next 40 years, whereas cutting emissions by a similar amount through the use of low-carbon technologies would supposedly cost at least $32 (£19).
Roger Martin is the Chairman of the Optimum Population Trust and in a news release he gave the following reaction to the report compiled by the LSE:It’s always been obvious that total emissions depend on the number of emitters as well as their individual emissions – the carbon tonnage can’t shoot down, as we want, while the population keeps shooting up. The taboo on mentioning this fact has made the whole climate change debate so far somewhat unreal. Stabilising population levels has always been essential ecologically, and this study shows it’s economically sensible too.
The population issue must now be added into the negotiations for the Copenhagen climate change summit in December. This part of the solution is so easy, and so cheap, and would bring so many other social and economic benefits, from health and education to the empowerment of women. It would also ease all the other environmental problems we face – the rapid shrinkage of soil, fresh water, forests, fisheries, wildlife and oil reserves and the looming food crisis.
All of these would be easier to solve with fewer people, and ultimately impossible to solve with ever more. Meanwhile each additional person, especially each rich person in the OECD countries, reduces everyone’s share of the planet’s dwindling resources even faster. Non-coercive population policies are urgently needed in all countries. The taboo on discussing this is no longer defensible
The idea that contraception could help tackle climate change is not an entirely new one. In July 2008 Sideways News reported that the British Medical Journal (BMJ) had suggested better family planning as a means to reduce CO2 emissions. The BMJ emphasized that what it wished to see would not affect the size of families as such but would ensure that those who were not planning to become pregnant did not conceive.
And it was in the developed world where it was felt better family planning could be of most benefit, bearing in mind that a Briton allegedly produces more than 160 times the amount of greenhouses gases produced by an Ethiopian.
In its report on the research conducted by the LSE the Telegraph makes mention of a warning issued by the British Government's Climate Change Committee. The committee has stated that a dramatic 80 per cent reduction in the amount of CO2 emissions is unlikely to prove adequate in addressing the issue of man-made climate change.
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