Report: population growth to 8 billion sees 19 billion tonne CO2 spike


The doubling of the world’s population to eight billion over the last 50 years has been a “critical driver” of climate change emissions equivalent to the combined total of China, the US and the EU, according to a report by Population Matters.

In its report, “Crisis Point: The World at Eight Billion People”, the charity Population Matters identifies population growth as one of the largest factors driving this increase.

Population Matters says that CO2 emissions have more than doubled from 17 billion tonnes per year in 1974 to 36 billion tonnes per year in 2021.

The UK charity says this is affirmed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which states that population growth and GDP growth have been the two biggest drivers of emissions.

The report says that in less than 50 years, humankind’s population increase and demand for resources have put a “significant strain” on the world’s natural ecosystems and habitats – with 60% of the world’s species populations declining in size in the last 50 years.

More than half of all forest-dwelling wildlife has declined since the world population reached four billion in 1974, according to the report.

The diversity of life on Earth is essential to the health of our planet and our wellbeing as human beings.

It also cites that the global population is estimated to require 1.8 times the Earth’s renewable natural resources. Population Matters contends this is set to increase to three times the Earth’s capacity if the human population reaches 9.7bn by 2050 as projected by the UN.

The report predicts the world could lose more than a quarter of its forests for food production alone by 2050 to feed the growing global population. Population Matters says this amounts to some one billion hectares some 1.5 times the size of the Amazon rainforest. This would have a devastating effect on the world’s flora and fauna, the report warns.

The report also maintains that one of the most effective things a person in a high-income country can do to protect the planet is to choose a smaller family.

Commentating on the report, Population Matters Director Robin Maynard, said: “The diversity of life on Earth is essential to the health of our planet and our wellbeing as human beings. But with eight billion of us and growing, our one and only habitable planet is under pressure as never before.

“Population Matters is calling for a different, better world. One in which we can live within our planet’s limits, provide space for other species, and ensure a decent quality of life for future generations. This is a world that enables everyone to have the right and means to make positive choices.

“Choosing a smaller family is the single, most effective thing an individual person can do to take the heat off our planet and its collapsing ecosystems. This is especially the case for those of us in high-consuming societies like the UK, where our personal, environmental footprint is equivalent to that of a 10-tonne King Kong stomping about.”

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