World Population Day: The Climate vs The Population

Frances Hobbs
July 11, 2021

There is no doubt that climate change is going to affect us all. No one will escape it’s jaws which is why it is so important that we take actions to dampen the effects of the climate and ecological crisis. A proposed action that has risen in popularity over the past few years is more and more people deciding to have less or no kids at all to help tackle the climate crisis. Whilst having less kids may help deal with this crisis as less people on earth means less consumer consumption which leads to less pollutants in our atmosphere and oceans, right? Well that is not entirely true. To truly understand this argument, we need to take a look at the action itself and why it is wrong to put the blame of climate change on ‘overpopulation’.

People all over the world are having fewer or no children so that the earth does not crumble under the pressure of having such an increased population. There are dedicated campaigns to spread awareness and get people to choose smaller families, and even celebrities are taking part to try and stop the changing climate. The idea that we need to have less children to slow down climate change has been around for a few decades now but only recently has grappled people to take action. Now this could help as there will be less people on the planet to suffer the consequences of the climate crisis but as to whether or not it actually helps in terms of combating climate change is highly debatable.

Having more people on planet earth does not necessarily mean greater emissions, in fact the richest one percent of people on this planet are producing double the amount of carbon than the poorest 50 percent. Even better, 52 percent of carbon emitted between 1990 and 2015 was produced by the richest 10 percent! This evidently shows that a person’s lifestyle can make or break the climate crisis. If the world’s wealthiest actually took the planet into consideration and led a more sustainable lifestyle, not just for themselves but also for their employees, then carbon emissions would greatly reduce. 

Another thing is the overpopulation argument itself, yes there are almost 8 billion of us and estimated to be over 10 billion humans on planet earth by 2060. However, science is showing us that birth rates are decreasing which means that the earth’s population will slowly plateau. A study published by The Lancet in 2020 predicts that the population will peak at 9.7 billion people before declining to 8.8 billion in 2100. This is backed up by the fact that birth rates are declining across the globe. Birth giving people across the globe are having less children than people from previous generations. This trend can be seen in the USA where 56 births were happening per 1,000 people which is half the amount of babies being born in the 1960’s. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the fact there could be 10 billion people on this planet does not scare me, it is a hard concept to grasp. However, we can accommodate these people if we encourage businesses and individuals to act sustainably. According to a UN global report, 900 million tons of food is thrown away every year, I’m not saying that we can get this number down to zero, but if we only buy what we need and don’t leave anything to waste that is already a pretty big way to help no only the planet, but others as well.

When it comes to taking action for the climate, it is better to start living a more sustainable and eco conscious lifestyle so that we know exactly what we are consuming and wasting. Through this article I am not saying that we should all have huge families as having fewer kids is not a proven effective action against climate change, I am stating that we need to stop guilt tripping people out of something that is their choice. Instead we should be holding the top one percent accountable for their crimes against the planet, not scrutinising people for adding to the population.