How do Recent Population Trends Matter to Climate Change?

Abstract

Although integrated assessment models (IAM) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) consider population as one of the root causes of greenhouse gas emissions, how population dynamics affect climate change is still under debate. Population is rarely mentioned in policy debates on climate change. Studies in the past decade have added significantly to understanding the mechanisms and complexity of population and climate interactions. In addition to the growth of total population size, research shows that changes in population composition (i.e. age, urban–rural residence, and household structure) generate substantial effects on the climate system. Moreover, studies by the impact, vulnerability and adaptation (IAV) community also reveal that population dynamics are critical in the near term for building climate change resilience and within adaptation strategies. This paper explores how global population dynamics affect carbon emissions and climate systems, how recent demographic trends matter to worldwide efforts to adapt to climate change, and how population policies could make differences for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    While it improves energy efficiency, rapid technological change under the A1 Scenario encourages higher energy consumption, along with rapid economic growth. As a result, carbon emissions in A1 are the highest among the four scenarios for much of the twenty first century, and will not change until further, substantial technological advancement late in the century drives emissions downward.

  2. 2.

    B1 includes the least fossil fuel combustion, a high proportion of renewable energy use, and the most rapid improvement in land use changes.

  3. 3.

    Million tons of oil equivalent.

  4. 4.

    Gigaton of carbon.

  5. 5.

    Data used in this analysis is ‘Global Multihazard Frequency and Distribution’ developed by Columbia University Center for Hazards and Risk Research (CHRR), International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, and Columbia University Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN). It is a 2.5 by 2.5 min grid presenting a simple multihazard index solely on summated single-hazard decile values. This dataset also includes variables of population, gross domestic product (GDP) and transportation infrastructure.

  6. 6.

    Family planning programs were responsible for at least 40% of the fertility decline in developing countries from the 1960s through the end of 1980s (Vlassoff 2004).

  7. 7.

    A less significant factor contributing to higher population growth than that previously projected in sub-Saharan Africa is because of the downward revision of HIV/AIDs prevalence in many African countries, thanks to the aggressive global actions against HIV/AIDs in the past decade.

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Jiang, L., Hardee, K. How do Recent Population Trends Matter to Climate Change?. Popul Res Policy Rev 30, 287–312 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11113-010-9189-7

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Keywords

  • Population
  • Climate change
  • Demographic trend
  • Mitigation and adaptation