If left unchecked, global climate change has the potential to drastically affect our access to fresh water, adequate food, and ample landspace for housing and agriculture.
Many experts point to the rapid growth of the world’s population in the last hundreds years as one of the factors that have intensified the effects of climate change that we are already beginning to see.
In a report released earlier this week, the U.N. Population Fund stated that the battle against global warming could be helped if the world slowed population growth by making free condoms and family planning advice more widely available.
Although the mere mention of limiting family size as a way to reduce global warming is likely to raise the hackles of both environmentalists and climate change skeptics alike, the fact remains that slowing or halting the current rate of population growth could be effective in reducing the level of harmful carbon emissions that human activities send up in the atmosphere.
“As the growth of population, economies and consumption outpaces the Earth’s capacity to adjust, climate change could become much more extreme and conceivably catastrophic,” the report said.
Rather than suggest that people should be limited in the number of children that they are allowed to have, the report instead offered that “women with access to reproductive health services … have lower fertility rates that contribute to slower growth in greenhouse gas emissions.”
The world’s population will likely rise from the current 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion in 2050, with most of the growth in less developed regions, according to a 2006 report by the United Nations (AP).
The agency did acknowledge the fact that there is currently a lack of evidence for a direct, causal link between population growth and climate change. However, slowing the rate at which humans are born is one of the only ways that all countries would be able to participate in an emissions reduction plan that without being denied access to energy resources needed to continue development.
Although some have referred to the U.N. Population Fund’s statements as “alarmist” and “unhelpful,” it is worth pointing out that advocating increased access to various methods of birth control and reproductive education isn’t a radical new concept. Many nonprofit organizations, both in the United States and abroad, are designed specifically to make condoms and sex education available to areas of the world that are suffering from widespread sexually transmitted disease and extreme poverty.
Of course, it is ludicrous to suggest that by handing out more free condoms, we can effectively mitigate the consequences of centuries of industrial development. In fact the production and distribution of that many condoms would be quite harmful itself. But would it be such a bad thing if one of the side effects of more well planned families was a reduction in greenhouse gases and the effects of climate change?
Although there is no easy answer to the best way to reduce human effects on the health of the planet, we might be running out of time to enjoy the debate. In three weeks, leaders of the world will meet in Copenhagen in hopes of reaching a deal to replace the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which required 37 industrial countries to cut heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.
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