This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Climate Change is Only Making Things Worse

It has been a tough week for anyone who still believes that climate change is just something made up by some wrong-headed scientists. An important step was an analysis of data by a UC Berkeley professor who previously had been one of those nay-sayers:
Richard Muller, a respected physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, used to dismiss alarmist climate research as being “polluted by political and activist frenzy.” Frustrated at what he considered shoddy science, Muller launched his own comprehensive study to set the record straight. Instead, the record set him straight.“Global warming is real,” Muller wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal.
At the same time, the United Nations Development Program issued a report warning that:

...if drastic measures are not taken to prepare nations for the impacts of climate change, the economic progress of the world’s developing countries could stall or even be reversed by 2050.
This year’s annual report, approaches the issue of climate change and environmental degradation from the standpoint of economic development and the eradication of poverty,. “Even if someone’s a climate skeptic, this report says, ‘Put that aside for a second,’ ” said William Orme, a spokesman for the United Nations agency. “If you believe in something like a moral commitment to the global community and in getting people out of poverty, we must address these environmental problems.”
And a group of British and Americans scientists published a paper in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society suggesting that we could easily be in for a global temperature rise of four degrees centigrade by the year 2100, and offering up thoughts about the possible consequences of such a change (not good, as you might imagine):

An interesting dynamic emerges between the potential impacts of climate
change and the rate at which climate change occurs. First, many population
scenarios project that world population will peak at about nine billion in the
2050s, with the largest increases between now and then concentrated in emerging economies. Demand for food and water will rise (and possibly peak) in parallel with this. If climate warms rapidly—as might occur with a steep rise in emissions, with a high peak emissions rate, perhaps exacerbated by a post-peak reduction that fails to keep to a 1 TtC budget—a temperature of anywhere between 2C and 4C might be reached by the 2050s or 2060s, precisely at the time when vulnerability as a result of population demands for food and water is highest.

Because cities now host the majority of the world’s population, and may somewhere between 30 and 75 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, they have the potential to make a substantial contribution to reducing the risks of climate change—both in terms of emission reductions and as keysites for adaptation to a warmer world.
Sadly, beyond these few comments about the interaction of population growth and emissions there is little discussion in these reports of climate change about the potential value of pushing down the pace of population growth. A growing population is simply taken for granted, and the policy prescriptions are related entirely to reducing emissions.

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