According to a new study by the National Academy of Sciences, population control by itself will not be sufficient to head off the looming global environmental crisis. The new study notes that there are so many people in the world already that even a dramatic slowdown in global birthrates right now would not have a significant impact on the vast majority of the climate and environment issues human being will face over the next few decades.
Too many people already for population control to make much short-term difference
It should be clearly noted that population scientists do still emphasize the importance of population control over the long run if we are to survive as a species, but that even if we somehow managed to cut the global birth rate in half by next year, we will still face huge environmental issues in the coming years.
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Real problem is rising affluence and increased consumption
More human beings on the planet leads to continued cutting down of forests for agriculture, increased urbanization, pressure on many wildlife species, widespread pollution and climate change. Moreover, the more people on the planet, the worse these problems will get. But it’s not just about the number of people on the planet. According to the researchers, the relative impact of mankind on the environment is much higher now than just a few years ago because so many more people have become urban consumers. It boils down to the fact that an urban consumer lifestyle is many times more resource-intensive than an agrarian lifestyle, and the environment is being exploited at a clearly unsustainable rate to provide resources for this rapidly growing urban class.
Statements from population researchers
“We’ve gone past the point where we can do it easily, just by the sheer magnitude of the population, what we call the demographic momentum. We just can’t stop it fast enough,” explained Prof Corey Bradshaw from the University of Adelaide in an interview. “Even draconian measures for fertility control still won’t arrest that growth rate – we’re talking century-scale reductions rather than decadal scale, because of the magnitude.”
“Even if we had a third world war in the middle of this century, you would barely make a dent in the trajectory over the next 100 years,” Prof Bradshaw noted, a fact he described as “sobering”.
Prof Barry Brook from the University of Tasmania commented: “Our work reveals that effective family planning and reproduction education worldwide have great potential to constrain the size of the human population and alleviate pressure on resource availability over the longer term.”
“Our great-great-great-great grandchildren might ultimately benefit from such planning, but people alive today will not.”