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Pop Goes the Climate Problem

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorOctober 12, 2010 10:47 PM


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Well, not exactly. But this new paper in PNAS, which is bound to make make a splash, finds that

slowing population growth could provide 16-29% of the emissions reductions suggested to be necessary by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change.

What surprises me most about the paper's findings, as Grist reports, is that urbanization

can push emissions up by more than 25 percent, particularly in developing countries, because "urbanization tends to increase economic growth." This trend is strong enough even to outweigh the energy-efficiency benefits of city living.

That's so striking that I wonder if there's going to be some push back from scholars on this. The other thing that I found odd about the paper is this sentence:

For example, change in U.S. population growth has a pronounced effect on emissions, despite its small contribution to global differences in population outcomes, because of the relatively high per capita emissions implied in the B2 scenario.

I take this to mean that it's not the overall spike in world population that matters, it's the carbon footprint, of which we know that the U.S. has the biggest. So about that population problem... Seriously, am I detecting a weird contradiction here, or am I over-analyzing the study's findings? The paper is freely accessible at PNAS, so if this sort of debate floats your boat, go have a look and then come back and set me straight.

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