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    The role of population growth in global warming.

    Bartiaux F; van Ypersele JP

    In: International Population Conference / Congres International de la Population, Montreal 1993, 24 August - 1st September. Volume 4, [compiled by] International Union for the Scientific Study of Population [IUSSP]. Liege, Belgium, IUSSP, 1993. 33-54.

    Global warming is a relatively new issue for demographers, although many theories link population growth to environmental impact. There are different ways to quantify the responsibilities for global warming, and, by presenting a set of scenarios, it is possible to assess the roles of various factors. The topic of population and climate has been avoided since publication of a 1915 claim that certain climates are conducive to high levels of civilization. The link between population and the food supply has been of continual concern, however, since the time of Confucius. Recent studies of the connection between family planning and environmental degradation conclude that simply slowing growth will not provide a short-term solution. Some attempts to quantify the links between population and climate change have been relatively simple, such as comparisons between less developed (LDC) and more developed (MDC) countries' fossil fuel-derived carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, or CO2 emissions from deforestation, or per capita CO2 emission. Others have been more complex, including developing an index of various greenhouse gases called the "Greenhouse Warming Potential." This index has been criticized by 2 Indian scientists who propose that natural sinks to absorb pollution should be assigned each country on the basis of population, with the share of pollution to be based on any excess. Another complex quantifier is the Ehrkich-Holden equation, I = PAT, where I is negative impact on the environment, P is population size, A is affluence, and T is environmental impact/quantity of consumption. The problem with the use of this equation lies in aggregation; it must be applied to a homogeneous region to yield useful indicators. The equation also ignores the impact of international trade. Tabulation of annual CO2/capita emissions for 9 regions of the world in 1950, 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990 and, for the same time periods, tabulation of the role of population growth in past CO2/capita consumption in MDCs and LDCs are variously assigned 1950 values which are compared to real annual data, lead to following conclusion. Population increase in LDCs contributed much less to CO2 emissions than did consumption and population increases in MDCs. This would argue for an emphasis on changing consumption habits in MDCs to reduce CO2 emissions and allow population growth to be checked to achieve sustainable development. As demographers become familiar with the debate on global warming, they can apply their techniques to place the role of population in its proper perspective.
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