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 13th (it will be out in January 2020), 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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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Air That I Breathe

The 1970s hit song of that name by the English group, The Hollies, was not actually about polluting the air and thereby inducing climate change, but the world was worried about the air we were breathing. The UN had already convened the first world summit on the environment in 1972, held in Stockholm, Sweden. As you know, things have only gotten worse since then, despite genuine efforts to minimize the damage of an increasingly rich world using resources at a rate that it is much faster than population growth. The latest in the series of UN meetings on the environment and climate change will open tomorrow in Durban, South Africa. The Associated Press notes that delegates "hope to break deadlocks on how to curb emissions of carbon dioxide and other pollutants," but the conference begins amidst generally bad climate news:

In the weeks preceding the conference delegates have been bombarded by new research and scientific reports predicting grim consequences for failing to act.
The U.N. weather agency reported last week that greenhouse gases have reached record-level concentrations in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial era in 1750. New figures for 2010 from the World Meteorological Organization show that carbon dioxide levels are now at 389 parts per million, up from about 280 ppm 250 years ago.
This week the weather agency is due to report on global temperatures for 2011, which are expected to show a continuing long-term trend of global warming. The Geneva-based agency said last year that 2010 was the hottest year in the books.
The Nobel prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said "unprecedented extreme weather" caused by global warming will become increasingly frequent and make some places unlivable.
Among the rich countries, the United States has been the most obstructionist with respect to reaching an agreement with other countries on how to curb emissions. It is not yet clear that anything will change with this meeting in Durban. 

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