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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Population and Adaptation

The latest issue of the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation contains an article discussing the role of family planning in addressing the implications of climate change in the least developed nations, as reflected in the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs):

"While the concerns of the different NAPA reports regarding rapid population growth and climate change are diverse, three key themes emerge: (i) reducing supply – rapid population growth and climate change act cumulatively to degrade the source of key natural resources, for example through soil erosion and deforestation; (ii) increasing demand – rapid population growth is projected to escalate the demand for resources that are diminished by climate change, including fresh water and food; and (iii) vulnerability to natural disaster – rapid population growth heightens human vulnerability to natural disasters caused by climate change, such as by forcing more people to migrate and settle in areas at risk of floods, storms, drought and infectious disease."

The study finds that most NAPAs acknowledge the role of population as a factor contributing to vulnerability, yet few directly raise the issue of population control and family planning as a means of addressing that vulnerability. The same can be said of the developed world, where there continues to be concern about climate change and its potential impacts, but continued population growth, patterns of development and resource consumption are frequently taken as a given. At some point, if we are to get serious about addressing climate risk we have to acknowledge and address the role of demographic change in enhancing human exposure to climate. While the topic of population control will likely remain taboo among developed nations, there are substantial opportunities for rethinking where people are located on the landscape. Otherwise, net vulnerability to climate variability and change will continue to rise even as adaptation helps to reduce risk at the margin.

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