Op-Ed: Climate change solutions should take cues from global progress on population growth – Los Angeles Times

by | Nov 20, 2022 | Climate Change

In the 1960s and ‘70s, global population growth was a huge concern. Scientists and the popular press spoke of a population explosion that threatened to cause famine, poverty and depletion of the Earth’s natural resources. The world’s population had grown at an accelerating rate from just under 1 billion in 1800 to 2 billion in 1928 and 3 billion in 1960, with growth peaking at 2.1% per year in 1968.It seemed then that slowing the population growth rate would be an insurmountable challenge. And yet in the past six decades, we have been able to flatten the curve — growth has slowed to 0.8%. Even with decelerated growth we just hit 8 billion people on Nov. 15, according to the U.N. But a peak population is in sight — predicted to be 10.4 billion during the 2080s.Today’s climate emergency is reminiscent of the past population growth crisis: Both represent existential challenges requiring sustained global efforts. Our success on the population issue holds key lessons for addressing the climate crisis as well.AdvertisementIn the face of accelerating population growth, the global development community learned that it would take urgent societal interventions to slow the trend. While researchers couldn’t pinpoint exactly what level of world population would be sustainable, they determined that slower growth would allow public and private sector institutions to keep pace with people’s needs.To slow growth, some governments undertook coercive and unethical interventions, like forced sterilizations in India, Peru, China and other countries. These programs pitted people against their governments, violated human rights and exacted enormous damage on the social fabric.In reaction to those draconian efforts, …

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