If we assume that green solutions will help address the climate crisis, we must bear in mind that if the level of demand for the solutions is as present or higher, then the solutions will become stressed, stretched, unsustainable and a source of concern for the environment and the climate. Just like what happened and is still happening with fossil fuels. Let us also recall what happened after it was realized that a diesel engine gained more kilometers than a petrol engine: the demand for diesel cars increased, the cost of diesel fuel increased and the pollution from diesel engines has increased significantly.
Thus, it seems that we are missing an important factor in the supposed climate change “equation”. When climate change has been attributed to human activities, the fundamental starting point for managing the impact of human activities on the climate is to control the human population. Reducing the global human population will reduce demand and enable sustainable resource management.
According to Worldometers (a global statistics website run by an international team of developers, researchers and volunteers), the world’s population has increased dramatically over the past 2,000 years: it reached 1 billion in 1804 and doubled in 1930. It doubled again in less than 50 years to about four billion in 1970. Between 1970 and 2020, a period of 50 years, the population doubled, and this is the cause of the growing DEMAND for resources.
Our species today extracts 60 billion tons of resources each year, almost double the amount in 1980, although the world’s population has only increased by 70% during this period. The discharges exceed the capacity of the Earth to absorb them. More than 80% of wastewater is pumped into rivers, lakes and oceans without treatment, along with 300 to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other industrial discharges. Plastic waste has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting 86% of sea turtles, 44% of seabirds and 43% of marine mammals. Fertilizer runoff has created 400 “dead zones”, affecting an area the size of the UK. The human footprint is so large that it leaves little room for anything else.
According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the world’s population has grown at a rate of about 83 million people each year, and the trend is expected to continue, even as fertility rates have fallen in almost all countries. regions of the world. . The overall fertility rate in the world still exceeds zero population growth rate. While the neutral fertility rate for the population is estimated at 2.1 births per woman, the poorest countries in the world have a fertility rate of 4.3 births per woman. In contrast, the fertility rate in many developed countries is below replacement because more people are lost than people born to replace them.
The increase in population has been a source of concern for many professionals, as it is difficult to understand and predict what will happen on a global scale when the world population reaches 10 or 15 billion. The problem is not so much space as resources like food and water. According to author and population scientist David Satterthwaite, the concern is “the number of consumers and the scale and nature of their consumption that certain lifestyles and cultures currently support”. When you have a population growth rate of around three percent, that means less food on the table for many (and outright malnutrition for some), disease, poverty, and overcrowded urban areas (with face- me-I-face-you type of accommodation) with its trail of delinquency, pollution and epidemics.
There is a direct proportionality between human demand/activities and human population. At the rate the world is going, if left unchecked, the world’s population could reach over 11 billion by 2060, the year India and some countries have pledged to reach net zero emissions. Just PROMISES. Will these commitments be redeemed in full? Time will tell us.
On the other hand, a more achievable and measurable global goal will be to use the next 40 years (2021-2060) to return the world’s population ― neither by genocide nor by any other unacceptable means ― to 1980 levels. Then, in conjunction with the proposed green solutions, we will reach net zero emissions more quickly. In other words, reduce the population, and there will be a consequent reduction in human demands/activities, plunder and destruction of the land, and therefore, also, a reduction in emissions that contribute to climate change.
World leaders should seek to reduce human population (and therefore human demands) by requiring countries to commit to population control until they reduce their populations to sustainable levels. For example, a country like Nigeria, whose current population is around 200 million, should aim to get down to 50 million. It will not cost much to achieve and is easily adoptable and achievable by all countries. Reducing the population will not cost taxpayers money.
A large population has nothing to do with a nation’s wealth and well-being. Although some cultures still believe that having many children is better than silver and gold. So teach and guide the poorest countries on how to manage their people. Global and local quotas can be introduced, with couples or individuals having to obtain a permit before having a child. A one-child policy can also be considered for the next 20 to 40 years. While this may seem drastic or draconian, it will deliver tangible results faster than promises of x and y percent emission reductions in 2030, 2050 and 2060.
A managed local and global population along with the proposed green solutions will help limit and hopefully reverse the damage already done to planet Earth, as well as manage available resources responsibly and leave something for generations future.
Dr Okoroafor wrote from Lagos.