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New Study Links Population and Climate Change

October 14, 2010

A new scientific study released this week indicates that reductions in projected population growth could significantly reduce projected carbon emissions and help to avoid the worst effects of climate change.  The report was prepared by an international team of scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.  The study, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), concludes that by slowing population growth to the lower U.N. population projection for 2050, carbon emissions would be cut by 16 to 29 percent over the next 40 years.

The team drew on data from 34 countries representing 64% of the world’s population to look at the effects of demographic change including aging, urbanization, and household size, something that has never been studied in relation to climate change. The study also found that demographic aging reduces emissions by up to 20% in the long term, mostly in developed countries.  In addition, urbanization can lead to increased emissions by over 25%, particularly in developing countries.

The report also highlighted the substantial unmet need for reproductive health services and family planning in many countries. The authors concluded that “family planning polices would have a substantial environmental co-benefit.”


The full report is available here: "Global Demographic Trends and Future Carbon Emissions" 

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