Climate change and population

Sir, – The size of the Earth’s human population and its rapid growth is the obvious and universally acknowledged driver of anthropogenic climate change and yet discussion of remedial actions to slow climate change never seem to address restraint of population growth as a potential course of action.

The world’s population is currently growing by 1.1 per cent per year and the most sophisticated predictions are that growth will level off at around 11 billion by 2100, an increase of nearly 40 per cent on today’s figure. Even if the pollution and energy use per person could be cut by 40 per cent globally through reduce/reuse/recycle, alternative power, etc, within 80 years population growth means humanity would still be producing the same amount of pollution.

In fact, as traditionally agrarian parts of the world are becoming increasingly industrialised, per-person pollution and energy consumption levels are actually increasing.

As populations increase, more and more forested areas will need to be cleared for agriculture, with additional significant negative impacts on climate and biodiversity.


Population control does not mean the draconian methods of China’s one-child policy. Providing education about sex, providing subsidised contraception, or offering vasectomy and similar services to those who wish to avail of them are approaches that do not infringe on anyone’s rights or freedoms. People have advocated similar approaches for many years as means of addressing poverty, but climate change is an even greater impetus. If we really believe that failure to address climate change represents an existential threat to all of humanity then this is a global conversation that needs to begin in earnest.

Bringing a reusable cup, when your coffee beans require acres of rainforest to be cleared to grow them and thousands of miles of transport to get them to Ireland, is just whistling in the wind. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.