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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Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Demographics of Global Climate Change

I'm sure that you've seen the report that came out this week from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projecting that the negative impacts of emissions on global climate change are likely to come about even sooner than previously thought. The NYTimes summarizes the report and reactions to it.
The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty. Previous work had focused on estimating the damage if average temperatures were to rise by a larger number, 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius), because that was the threshold scientists previously considered for the most severe effects of climate change.
“This report makes it clear: There is no way to mitigate climate change without getting rid of coal,” said Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at Duke University and an author of the report.
Burning coal was, of course, a huge asset to the economic development that has brought us the current global prosperity. The same is true of petroleum. Population and prosperity have grown together over the past two centuries as a consequence not just of the spread of the potato, but because of human ability to harness energy sources. The problem is that both have the potentially disastrous side-effects of putting us on the path to unsustainability with respect to growing food, and putting people on the path--literally--to another home because rising sea levels are swamping the land they live on. As the NYTimes notes we can either act now and try to avoid those disasters, or decide to wait and see how bad the disaster is and act then. We know what to do--switch to sustainable energy sources like solar and wind power, and we need to do it sooner rather than later.

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