By NS Venkataraman*
A well-researched study has been conducted about the linkages between global population growth and climate hazard. The study has been conducted by Nandini Consultancy Centre, a firm of chemical engineers based at Chennai and Singapore.
The study report urges the UNO to recognize the inadequacies of the decisions taken during the Paris Climate Conference and convene another world conference to discuss the climate issues with focus on reducing global population growth and density of population, which is the ultimate way to solve the impending global climate crisis once for all.
Global Climate Conference was organized in Paris in 2015, when various measures to protect climate were discussed and some steps were initiated with specific target and time frame.
World leaders have committed themselves to keep global warming below 2 deg C, with an ambitious target to limit it to 1.5 degree Celsius.
However, decisions taken during the Paris Climate Conference are not being implemented at the desired pace, due to the conflict of interests between different countries, particularly about the production and use level of fossil fuel.
With the decision of USA to withdraw from the agreement signed during the Paris Climate Conference, it appears that the decisions of the Paris Climate Conference have lost its sheen, since US is the largest economy in the world and it is also the large emitter of carbon dioxide.
In the Paris Climate Conference, the inter relation between the damage to climate and increasing growth and density of global population have not been adequately stressed or addressed. The implications are now increasingly seen and realized both by environmental activists and population experts in the world.
Population growth itself causes ecological issues, due to higher needs for production to meet the increase in consumption demand, consequently requiring more exploitation of natural resources, such as oil, natural gas, coal etc. as well as other issues such as deforestation.
With climate deteriorating, holistic solution has to be found for the serious global ecological issues, avoiding conflict of interest between the countries.
There must be less demand on resources, such as fossil fuel that can be achieved only by decreasing demand, that can happen largely only with less population.
Global population outlook
World population which increased at annual average growth rate of 0.85 % per annum between 1900 and 1950 increased at greater annual average growth rate of 1.65% per annum between 1951 to 2019.
On reading population growth trend, it is evident that birth rate is increasing while death rate has been showing falling trend.
Increasing birth rate has largely taken place in developing countries. In developing countries, economic and social stress are of high order and literacy level are comparatively poor.
The death rate has declined mainly due to improvement in the medical science and greater efforts in medical research. This has resulted in increasing longevity of the individuals to significant extent.
Global energy outlook
Increase in the generation and consumption of energy is the precondition to sustain the economic and industrial growth of the world.
While world population is increasing, the per capita energy consumption has not come down, which mean production of fuel/energy is increasing, due to the need to meet the surging demand for enlarging population.
It is not possible to reduce the use of crude oil, natural gas, coal to any significant extent, in view of their large scale use at present. Increase in production of renewable energy will not be adequate to significantly reduce the need for fossil fuels.
Prevention of increase in energy consumption and energy production is needed to protect climate.This is not possible without curtailing the population growth to a significant level.
Inevitable ecological issues due to inevitable growth in production and services
Considering the scale of requirement of industrial products to meet the needs of the increasing population, use of fossil fuel such as crude oil, coal is inevitable. The use may marginally decline due to renewable energy development, but it is unlikely to make significant impact in reducing fossil fuel consumption in the foreseeable future.
Is the war for climate protection conducted in vacuum?
There is lack of clarity about the appropriate strategies to prevent disturbance to ecological standards and ensure climate protection.
Most of the campaign and discussions in various forums till now have been centering on imposition of curbs on the production and consumption of fossil fuels, development of more ecofriendly technologies to prevent environmental pollution in the process plants, imposition of ban on the production and use of certain products, recycling and promotion of renewable energy such as solar, wind, hydroelectric and ecofriendly nuclear power etc.
It appears that governments and environmental activists have not thought beyond these measures to find fundamental and permanent solution to protect the climate.
There is certainly lack of clarity, as universally acceptable strategies and formula are yet to be evolved, without conflicts of interest.
Conflicts of interest
World is today deeply divided between developed countries and developing countries, with the interests and priorities of developed and developing countries being considerably different. While the developing countries have large population with high density and high level of poverty conditions, developed countries are more prosperous and have lesser population density.
It is strange that while developing countries are struggling to overcome the grim problem of population explosion and consequent economic miseries, several developed countries are concerned about less population growth and aging population with reduction in number of active working hands.
Developed countries often accuse the developing countries of causing damage to climate due to use of inadequate and outdated technology practices and unchecked population growth.
Developing countries, in turn, accuse the developed countries of having high per capita consumption of energy and in the process causing more emissions than the developing countries.
Resistance by developing countries to some measures
There have been subtle or strong objections by some of the developing countries to measures suggested by the developed countries to curb the climate damages.
For example, coal will remain main energy source in India and China for the next few decades, although its share may gradually fall as the countries push renewable power generation.
Under the circumstances, India and China do not seem to be inclined to reduce the coal production and consumption to any significant extent.
Is the climate war carried out in vacuum?
While lot of noise is being made about climate issues, this grim issue, cannot be solved by suggesting some cosmetic measures like reducing production and consumption of fossil fuel, which face conflict of interest issues.
Alternate methods like development of bio fuel, development of ecofriendly substitute products, recycling of plastics etc. would help only in a small way.
Such measures may make headlines in the media, but would have little impact on the ground. More fundamental solution is called for.
What are fundamental solutions?
There is absolutely no doubt that the production and consumption of fossil fuels and polymers, have to be brought down necessarily to improve the climate.
This has to be done and the only way is to reduce the demand for such fossil fuel and products that are causing environmental hazards.
When demand would come down, production would automatically come down and help the cause of climate protection.
Only one obvious way of reducing the demand would be to reduce the growth of population, which would reduce the demand.
This reduction should be targeted without allowing scope for any conflict of interest between different countries.
What is the universally acceptable solution for growing world population density?
In the case of suggestions earlier made for global climate protection like reduction in consumption of fossil fuel etc. there is conflict of interest between different countries, due to lack of alternate energy sources.
However, with regard to the suggestion to curtail population growth, there cannot be any serious objections in several quarters, as there is no particular major conflict of interest.
When the world population is curtailed in the course of time, there would be direct impact on the reduction in the consumption of environmentally harmful products, that would lead to drastic reduction in the emissions and pollution in various forms.
Every country realizes that curtailment of overall global population that would reduce climate problem is in everyone’s interest.
Based on recent growth in population level and projected population that the world can afford to achieve climate stability, maximum number of people per square kilometer can be fixed across the world based on consensus and discussions and thus working out a scientifically evolved formula.
UNO should bell the cat
It is now necessary for UNO to convene one more global climate conference, where conflicts of interests that happened in implementing the decisions of Paris Climate Conference, would be recognized, so that alternative strategies could be initiated.
Obviously, alternate strategy has to be worked out , which should be universally acceptable.
Such universally acceptable solution is reduction in the global population to stipulated level, that would be needed to ensure climate protection in the coming years.
Solution to the climate issue by effectively reducing the population growth is the most feasible and acceptable way of reducing harm to the climate with least pain for the world community.
This strategy is far more better than producing and using eco unfriendly fossil fuels and other resources in exploitative way and then searching for ways and means to solve the consequences of the problem arising out of such exploitation of natural resources in ecologically unfriendly way.
The ball is clearly in the court of UNO.
Will population reduction lead to economic recession?
Many people seem to believe that with slowdown in the growth of global population, global demand for various products would be constrained and the pace of demand growth would shrink. This would inevitably cause slowdown in the global economy and result in global economic recession.
This negative view of skeptics has caused unnecessary fear.
With the population level coming down, it is likely that the resources in the world would be better deployed and put to use optimally, resulting in improved productivity as well as per capita income. Buying power of people will increase. Therefore, it is not necessary to think that shrinking population will inevitably lead to slow down in the global economy, On the other hand, economy will become more healthier and it’s pace of development would become stronger.
Trustee at the Chennai-based Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a not-for-profit organization