Urgent IPCC Climate Report Falls Short on the Population Issue

Urgent IPCC Climate Report Falls Short on the Population Issue

The IPCC fails to call for a strong investment in women’s education and empowerment or for the promotion of small families.

In early October, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its highly anticipated report, which stated that the world is not only experiencing the effects of climate change, but is in fact headed for a 1.5°C warmer planet as early as 2040. This will have lasting and profoundenvironmental and economic implications.

The situation is so dire that, in the opinion of the IPCC, the next few years are probably the most important in humanity’s history as government action (or inaction) based on these findings will determine whether large scale catastrophe can be averted.

While it’s important to note that the report recognizes that population growth is among the most significant variables in reaching climate goals, PIC is disappointed that the IPCC fails to call on governments to commit to slowing and reversing population growth by encouraging smaller families through family planning and the education of women.

In Canada, the findings were taken seriously enough to spur emergency debate for one night in the House of Commons. But no one mentioned the role of population in the climate change crisis.

It’s a commonly held assumption that population growth will stabilize within a few decades, but as PIC’s UK sister organization Population Matters has noted, the UN’s World Population Prospects 2017 report’s 95% certainty range shows no plateauing of human population growth by the end of this century, except at the lowest end of the range. Additional projections within the report show that with changes of just half a child on average more or less per family than its central projection, population in 2050 could be as low as 8.8 billion and as high as 10.8 billion and in 2100, as low as 7.3 billion and as high as 16.5 billion.

Neglecting to call on governments to ensure women are educated and empowered through family planning is a consequential missed opportunity because taken together, educating girls and family planning are among the most effective solutions to reduce global CO2 emissions.

The report maintains that “all options need to be exercised,” that “the idea that you can leave anything out [now] is impossible.” PIC would agree, and believes the best way forward is for governments to create policies that will encourage smaller families through education and by empowering women to control their fertility in the way they choose. Population solutions are climate solutions. Leaving population out of the equation is a serious misstep.

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