The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) claims that climate change could become “much more extreme and conceivably catastrophic” as population growth “outpaces the Earth’s capacity to adjust.” However, several experts say the claim is alarmist and lacks clear proof.
“We have now reached a point where humanity is approaching the brink of disaster,” UNFPA executive director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid told a Wednesday news conference.
The UNFPA said it had no proof of the effect that population has on climate change, explaining that the connections are “in most cases complex and indirect.”
Saying there is no doubt that people cause “climate change,” it also added that the developing world is responsible for a smaller share of global greenhouse gas emissions than industrialized nations, the Associated Press reports.
According to the AP, policy analyst Caroline Boin of the London-based International Policy Network, said the UNFPA comments were alarmist and unhelpful.
“It requires a major leap of imagination to believe that free condoms will cool down the climate,” she commented.
Two experts in the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “Bulletin” also have criticized linking fertility to climate change.
"Using the need to reduce climate change as a justification for curbing the fertility of individual women at best provokes controversy and at worst provides a mandate to suppress individual freedoms," wrote WHO's Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum and Manjula Lusti-Narasimhan.
In a Friday e-mail to CNA, Colin Mason, Director of Media Production for the Population Research Institute (PRI), said the claims about population growth affecting the climate were “completely unfounded.”
“I find it ironic that, on the one hand, the UNFPA admits that it has no proof of the effect that population control would have on climate change but yet it still has no doubt that ‘people cause climate change.’ Which is it? Is this science, or baseless conjecture? The evidence points toward the latter.”
According to Mason, in 1987 the UNFPA had predicted disaster if the global population reached five billion, but the population is now approaching seven billion.
“Why are we being asked to support something that even they cannot prove?” Mason said. “We believe that it is nothing more than an attempt to attach the obsolete idea of overpopulation to the currently trendy issue of climate change, which is currently the focus of international obsession.”
He said that human ingenuity and attention to justice, not “a forceful lowering of fertility,” would address humanity’s ills. He said his PRI colleague Steven Mosher has said poverty, rather than people, is the environment’s primary enemy.
“Poverty forces people to degrade their surroundings just to survive. Wealth, on the other hand, brings with it the resources to clean up and protect the environment,” Mason argued. “Economic and population growth is not destroying the Earth, it is making it possible to restore much of it to its pristine state.”