Guest essay by Eric Worrall

A debate is raging amongst climate economists, about whether we need a drastic reduction in global population, or whether simply making everyone poor will suffice to save the planet.

It’s wrong to blame ‘overpopulation’ for climate change

By  Sarah Kaplan
May 25, 2021 at 8:00 p.m. GMT+10

“Why is the impact of population growth infrequently mentioned? A couple producing more than two children will impact carbon emissions to a greater degree than any other activity. That impact cannot be offset by any practicable lifestyle change; switching to vegetarianism doesn’t come close to balance the scales.”

— James, Lebanon, Pa.

The answer is: Not necessarily. Climate change isn’t caused by population growth. It’s caused by greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels.

“But,” you might respond, “doesn’t having more people on the planet lead to more fossil fuel consumption, which leads to more emissions?”

Again, not necessarily, says Princeton University environmental engineer Anu Ramaswami, an expert on sustainable cities and contributor to the United Nations’ Global Resources Outlook reports.

To measure humanity’s collective mark on the planet, environmental scientists like Ramaswami use the “IPAT” equation: Impact = Population x Affluence x Technology. In this formula, affluence is defined as the gross domestic product per capita, and technology is a measure of the amount of resources required to produce a unit of GDP.

These data suggest that stabilizing the climate depends on addressing the affluence and technology aspects of the IPAT equation, Ramaswami said. “Fixating on population decrease doesn’t make much of a difference.”

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Anu Ramaswami mentions decoupling, that magical spreadsheet adjustment by which somehow everyone gets rich without digging stuff up or emitting more CO2. But to date real world decoupling mostly appears to be something which happens in China, when the CCP wants to conceal an economic slowdown.

via Watts Up With That?

May 25, 2021