“Too Many Births Said to Threaten the Climate” read the headline in the November 19 edition of the French daily Le Monde. The headline refers to the new “State of World Population 2009” report published by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The document is called a “report,” but in light of the unabashed and unrelenting advocacy of which it consists, it might be better described as a “pamphlet.” Subtitled “Facing a Changing World: Women, Population and Climate,” what it advocates is combating “global warming” (“There is no time for delay; we are already on the precipice”) and its novelty is precisely to suggest that limiting population growth could represent a crucial contribution to this end.
While protesting — evidently too much — that “no government or United Nations entity is suggesting to ‘control’ population,” the UNFPA pamphlet estimates that population growth has been responsible for some 40-60% of the supposedly climate-driving growth in carbon dioxide emissions. It also contains passages like:
Each birth results not only in the emissions attributable to that person in his or her lifetime, but also the emissions of all his or her descendants. Hence, the emissions savings from intended or planned births multiply with time.
No human is genuinely “carbon neutral.” … Therefore, everyone is part of the problem, so everyone must be part of the solution in some way. The world’s Governments and peoples will need to work together on every aspect of the factors that increase greenhouse-gas emissions. One such factor is the earth’s growing population.
This means that the net emissions savings achieved through a low population growth scenario would be equivalent to the net emissions savings achieved through major investments in energy technologies in a medium population growth scenario.
The low-variant projection assumes lower fertility rates that might result from increased access to reproductive-health services, including family planning. … One study of the cost of averting a fixed amount of fossil-fuel carbon-dioxide emissions found that dollar-for-dollar, investments in voluntary family planning and girls’ education would also in the long run reduce greenhouse-gas emissions at least as much as the same investments in nuclear or wind energy.