The (7 billion) Population Problem

peopleThe world is headed toward 7 billion people and soon. As reported by Jeremy Hance at Mongaby.com (here) – in 2011 to be precise. That’s just 12 years after hitting 6 billion in 1999. 12 years earlier still we were at 5 billion. As the article notes:

“The great bulk of today’s 1.2 billion youth—nearly 90 percent—are in developing countries,” said Carl Haub, PRB senior demographer and co-author of the data sheet. “During the next few decades, these young people will most likely continue the current trend of moving from rural areas to cities in search of education and training opportunities, gainful employment, and adequate health care.”

Let’s say it: if 90% of the population growth were happening in America the planet would’ve been toast years ago, as we Americans (and Canadians and Australians) are now at the disgraceful level of emitting approximately 22 tons of CO2 per person per year. Yet on a world-wide basis 2 tons of CO2 emissions per person per year is generally now thought to be the necessary limit. Hence, we are morally and practically required to drop our emissions by 90% as fast as possible, certainly well before 2050.

BUT, with this population explosion in the developing world there’s a bigger problem still. Because places like India are fast approaching that mythical 2 tons per person – as reported by G.S. Mudur in Calcutta’s The Telegraph (here). The developing countries are now heading into the red – and it won’t take much per capita emissions growth for them to have a huge impact.

As India heads into the red and beyond, what’s the measure?

Given its population, per capita emissions of 6 tonnes for India would translate into more than 6,000 million tonnes of emissions per year — approaching or even exceeding the current US emissions.

And as the article notes, right now India and China alone are projected to account for 56% of world-wide emissions growth through 2030.

Consequently the ongoing population explosion makes our Herculean task of radical emissions reductions seem downright Sisyphean too.

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