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Climate change through human population control – Part 2

By Guardian Nigeria
12 January 2022   |   3:19 am
If we assume the green solutions will help with the climate crisis, we need to be mindful that if the level of demand for the solutions is as present or higher, then the solutions will become stressed...

(FILES) This file photo taken on August 27, 2017 shows people walking through the flooded waters of Telephone Rd. in Houston battled with tropical storm Harvey and resulting floods./ AFP PHOTO / Thomas B. Shea / With AFP Story by Kerry SHERDAN

If we assume the green solutions will help with the climate crisis, we need to be mindful that if the level of demand for the solutions is as present or higher, then the solutions will become stressed, stretched, unsustainable and a source of concern towards the environment and the climate. Just like what happened and still happening with fossil fuel. We should also recall what happened after the realisation that more mileage is gained with a diesel engine compared to a petrol engine: demand for diesel cars rose, the cost for diesel fuel rose and pollution from diesel engines increased drastically.

So, it looks like we are missing a basic important factor in the supposed climate change “equation”. When climate change has been attributed to human activities, then the basic starting point to manage human activities impact on the climate is to control the human population. Reducing global human population will reduce demand and allow for sustainable management of the resources.

According to Worldometers (a world statics website operated by an international team of developers, researchers and volunteers), the world population has grown tremendously over the past 2,000 years: It hit the billion mark in 1804 and doubled by 1930. It doubled again in less than 50 years to about four billion in 1970. Between 1970 and 2020, a period of 50 years, the population doubled, and this is the cause of the rising DEMAND for resources.

Our species now extract 60 billion tonnes of resources each year, almost double the amount in 1980, though the world population has grown by only 70 per cent in that time. The discharges are overwhelming Earth’s capacity to absorb them. More than 80 per cent of wastewater is pumped into streams, lakes, and oceans without treatment, along with 300m-400m tonnes of heavy metals, toxic slurry, and other industrial discharges. Plastic waste has risen tenfold since 1980, affecting 86 per cent of marine turtles, 44 per cent of seabirds and 43 per cent of marine mammals. Fertiliser run-off has created 400 “dead zones,” affecting an area the size of the UK. The human footprint is so large it leaves little space for anything else.

According to the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world’s population has been rising at a rate of roughly 83 million people every year, and the trend is expected to continue, even though fertility rates have been dropping in almost all regions of the world. The world’s overall fertility rate still exceeds the rate for Zero Population Growth. Whereas the population-neutral fertility rate is estimated at 2.1 births per woman, the world’s poorest countries have a fertility rate of 4.3 births per woman. In contrast, the fertility rate in many developed countries is below replacement value as more loss of people than those born to replace them are recorded.

The increasing population has been a source of concern to many professionals, as it is difficult to understand and predict what will happen on a global scale when the world’s population reaches 10 or 15 billion. The issue is not so much about space as it is a matter of resources like food and water. According to author and population expert David Satterthwaite, the concern is about the “number of consumers and the scale and nature of their consumption that some lifestyles and cultures currently support.” When you’ve got a population growth rate of about three per cent, that means less food on the table for many (and outright malnutrition for some), disease, poverty and overcrowded urban areas (with face-me-I-face-you type of living accommodations) with its accompaniment of crime, pollution and epidemic.

There is a direct proportionality between human demand/activities and the human population. At the rate the world is going, if nothing is done, the global population may hit 11+ billion in 2060―the year India and some countries pledged to achieve net zero emissions. Just PLEDGES. Will those pledges be redeemed and in full? Time will tell.

On the other hand, a more realisable and measurable global objective will be to use the next 40 years (2021–2060) to bring down the world population―neither by genocide nor by any other means unacceptable―to the 1980 levels. Then in conjunction with the proposed green solutions, we will achieve net zero emissions faster. In other words, reduce population, and there will be a consequential reduction in human demands/activities, pillage and destruction of the earth, and consequently, too, a reduction in the emissions that contribute to climate change.

World leaders should seek to reduce human population (and consequently human demands) by getting countries to pledge to population control until they reduce their population to sustainable levels. For example, a country like Nigeria, whose current population is about 200 million, should aim to come down to 50 million. This will not cost much to achieve and is easily adoptable and implementable by all countries. Reducing the population will not cost taxpayers money.

A large population has nothing to do with the wealth and wellness of a nation. Though some cultures still believe that having numerous children is better than silver and gold. So, teach and guide the poorer countries on how to manage their population. Global and local quotas may be introduced, with couples or individuals having to obtain permits before having a child. A One-Child Policy may also be considered for the next 20 to 40 years. While this may sound drastic or draconian, it will yield tangible results faster than the pledges only to reduce emissions by x and y percentages in 2030, 2050 and 2060.

A managed local and global population together with the green solutions being proposed will help limit and hopefully reverse the damage already done to planet earth as well as manage the available resources responsibly and leave something for the generations to come.


Dr Okoroafor wrote from Lagos.