Summary of Global Warming Policy: Is Population Left Out in the Cold?

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Global Warming Policy: Is Population Left Out in the Cold? summary
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Population growth has a significant impact on the climate. Yet population policy is a sensitive topic, tinged with bad press and mixed feelings about enforcement, especially with regard to family planning programs. This has led to the neglect of population control as a means to help with the worldwide effort to combat climate change. In this article, John Bongaarts from the Population Council and Brian C. O’Neill from the National Center for Atmospheric Research do away with some popular misconceptions around population policy and make a strong case for putting it back on the agenda of the climate change community.

About the Authors

John Bongaarts is a demographer and Vice-President and Distinguished Scholar at the Population Council. Brian C. O’Neill is an earth system scientist and professor at the University of Denver. He also serves as director of research at the Korbel School’s Pardee Center for International Futures.



Population policies are an effective means of controlling climate change.

Scientific studies show that population size has a significant impact on the world’s climate. It affects both emissions and land use. Voluntary family planning and education programs can help people mitigate and adapt to climate change. They contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), improve human well-being and protect the natural environment.

Support for population policies started to decline in the 1990s.

Before the 1990s, slowing population growth was high on the agenda of global development. This changed for several reasons. People expected birth rates to decline...

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