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article imageThe math on emissions points to population and affluence

By Michael Krebs     Dec 18, 2010 in Environment
In sobering assessments by both Ted Turner and The Nature Conservancy, the math on carbon dioxide emissions points to growth in population and affluence - however, some believe the population question is a myth.
In doing the math on carbon dioxide emissions, The Nature Conservancy has found disturbing answers in the growth in global population and the rise of global affluence. In a posting in their Mother Nature Network, The Nature Conservancy cited the application of the mathematics that originated from Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich and came to the grim realization that as humanity gets bigger and more economically comfortable the finite resources of the planet will decrease more rapidly and the burn rate of our fossil fuel reserves will inherently increase.
The Nature Conservancy draws on the book, "Prosperity Without Growth; Economics for a Finite Planet," written by Tim Jackson, to convey the gravity of the population and affluence challenge as it relates to carbon dioxide emissions in three succinct points:
"In 2006, our technological efficiency was such that globally, for every U.S. dollar spent, we emitted on average 770 grams of carbon dioxide. According to the U.N.’s mid-range estimate, the world’s population is expected to increase to 9 billion people by 2050. To achieve the necessary emissions reductions, this would mean that by 2050, the efficiency with which we use resources would need to drop from 770 grams to only 40 grams of carbon dioxide per U.S. dollar by 2050," Mother Nature Network reported.
The population growth issue has been echoed by Ted Turner for some time - and most recently Mr. Turner has called for a global one-child policy, as reported by The Globe and Mail.
“If we’re going to be here [as a species] 5,000 years from now, we’re not going to do it with seven billion people,” Mr. Turner said, in comments made at the Cancun climate conference in early December.
Turner's comments have attracted attention from religious groups and from those who see the desire to manage the population question as an abuse of human rights. The Population Research Institute has drawn analogies to Mr. Turner's comments and the approaches taken by China to address the problem.
"The Chinese population control police don’t merely 'encourage people to have one child,' as Turner says, they arrest women for the crime of being pregnant with an illegal child, they subject them to detention without trial, and they forcibly abort them if they don’t 'voluntarily consent' to an abortion," PRI's Steven Mosher wrote.
But the Population Research Institute goes one step further - claiming that the overpopulation challenge is a myth, in their aptly named web property: Visitors to this site can view a number of animated videos that cite numerous sources and that claim the planet is fully able to sustain the undulating global population growth. One memorable segment suggests that the entire human population - nearly 7 billion of us - could fit snugly in townhouses throughout the state of Texas.
When looking at secondary issues that are most readily impact by the overpopulation concern, the grim reality on the fact that nearly 1 billion people do not have access to proper drinking water; that global economies are struggling to remain solvent under the weight of human need; that basic infrastructure projects are struggling to keep up with current demand; and that viruses are experimenting within large population bases, the magnitude of the problem is becoming more and more unwieldy.
"These simple numbers — no more than primary school arithmetic — offer a stark reminder of how we must use our planet’s finite resources a great deal more carefully than we currently are," Eddie Game wrote on The Nature Conservancy's Cool Green Science blog.
More about Population, Carbon, Emissions, Affluence, Overpopulation
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