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Nederland Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Sep-22-09 10:24 AM
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Reducing (tiny) carbon footprints

The highest population growth rates in the world are currently found in the countries that have the least resources to sustain larger populations: Niger, Kenya, Afghanistan. More people means more consumption of limited resources and more emission of carbon dioxide. Helping people who want smaller families to prevent unwanted births would mean less emission of carbon dioxide. Last week, the Optimum Population Trust published a paper it had commissioned from the London School of Economics estimating the effect on carbon emissions of providing birth control to women who want to use it, but currently lack access. It found that spending on birth control is six times as effective, as a means of reducing carbon emissions, as spending on renewable energy.

That kind of broad, overarching conclusion sounds suspect: the devil is clearly in the details. But the report is built on a detailed country-by-country analysis of how many women in different places have an "unmet need" for contraception. And the population reductions it estimates through 2050 in many of these countries seem not at all unreasonable. For example, Afghanistan currently has an annual population growth rate of 3.25%. This obviously cannot go on forever in a country that can barely feed itself, and UNFPA envisions the growth rate falling steadily to 1.63% by 2050. Nonetheless, without intervention, that would mean the country's population will grow from 28m to a staggering 74m. Providing voluntary birth control to all Afghan women who want it would, the report estimates, slow that population growth to 63m by 2050. Similar results are estimated for Kenya, where population is currently expected to go from 40m to 85m without intervention, or to 76m with intervention. On the basis of slower population growth, the report estimates that 34 billion tons of CO2 emissions could be saved through 2050, somewhat over 2% of the global total, at a cost of $220 billion.

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