PTI, London: The world’s surging population is a big driver of environmental woes but the issue is complex and solutions are few, experts at a major conference here say.
Answers lie with educating women in poorer countries and widening access to contraception but also with reforming consumption patterns in rich economies, they say.
The four-day meeting on Earth’s health, Planet Under Pressure, is unfolding ahead of the Rio+20 Summit in June.
Scientists taking part have pinpointed population growth as a major if indirect contributor to global warming, depletion of resources, pollution and species loss.
But they also mark it as an issue that has disappeared almost completely off political radar screens.
This is partly because of religious sensitivities but also because of traumatic memories of coercive fertility controls in poorer countries in the 1970s that no-one wants to repeat.
Diana Liverman, a professor at the University of Arizona, said the link between population growth and environmental damage arose in the mid-20th century.
“The 50 years from 1950 to 2000 were a period of dramatic and unprecedented change in human history,” she said.
During that time, the planet’s human tally doubled from three billion to six billion. It now stands at seven billion, and by some estimates could reach around nine billion by 2050.
Such changes can have a “surprisingly fast” effect on reducing birthrates, said Stephen Tyler, who works with group called the Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network (ACCCRN). He gave the fast-shrinking families in India as an example.
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