Although we talk incessantly about fossil fuel emissions and to a lesser extent than we should about deforestation, black soot and other human causes of climate change, the big one is population. More poor people consume more energy (cutting down trees for fuel), need more land (cutting down trees for building materials and space to build) and food (cutting down more trees for farmland). More rich people fly more, jet ski more, snowmobile more and burn more wood pellets in their stoves. They probably drive more, too.
About 10 years ago the UN expected population to peak at about 9.2 billion. They now expect population to reach 11.3 billion by the end of the century and to continue growing afterwards.
So when the UN released its revisions to global population predictions for the rest of the century, I would have expected the climate change community to take notice.
So far I haven’t seen a word.
Nigeria may well have 450 million people by the end of the century–it may have many more. That will have an impact on the environment of Africa. The USA may also have a population of 450 million by that time–and depending on the decisions we are making today, that may have 10 times the impact on the environment that Nigeria’s population growth will have. Put simply, Nigeria’s population rise may devastate Nigeria’s environment. America’s growth may impact the whole world.
China and India are set to remain the most populous countries in the world, with Indonesia, Nigeria and Pakistan climbing up the rankings.
From a strictly climatic (not anti-climatic) point of view, what needs to happen is for America to innovate for energy efficiency and non-emissivity and to pass that technology on to developing countries as quickly as possible.
I don’t really see a good Plan B.