PS 15-4 - Solutions and challenges to addressing human population growth and global climate change

Tuesday, August 9, 2011
Exhibit Hall 3, Austin Convention Center
Christopher A. Lepczyk1, Rafael Bergstrom2, Mark W. Chynoweth3, Lisa M. Ellsworth4, Sarah Henly-Shepard2, Darcey K. Iwashita1, Kara Miller2 and Randi Rhodes5, (1)Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, (2)Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, (3)Natural Resources and Environmental Managment, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, HI, (4)Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, (5)Department of Zoology, University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Honolulu, HI

The world’s population is nearing 7 billion and is predicted to reach 9.1 billion by 2050.  Continued population growth will result in increased resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing the effects of climate change.  Synergisms between population growth and climate change will therefore have substantial negative impacts on environmental resources.  However, solutions to population growth are often absent within the context of climate change solutions.  Climate change policy often focuses on consumption and economic development instead of including methods to slow population growth.  The lack of attention to directly address population growth solutions is likely due to the sensitive and controversial nature associated with them.  Our objective was to examine the topics and solutions that address both population growth and climate change.  Specifically, we were interested if actionable solutions are being offered to address population growth.  Using ISI Web of Knowledge, we conducted a systematic search in February 2011 of peer-reviewed literature published between 1980 and 2011.  Search results were reviewed and categorized by key attributes to analyze how the synergy of climate change and population growth is being addressed in peer-reviewed literature. 


Of 1,438 papers addressing population growth and climate change, only 144 (11%) included solutions.  Papers were published in a wide array of journals, with Science having the highest number of articles.  Among these 144 papers, the most frequent topics and solutions addressed the societal aspects of population growth and climate change.  Land use/land cover change and greenhouse gas emissions were also frequently discussed, while changes in policy, economics, and land use/land cover were the most frequently offered solutions to population growth and climate change.  Education was the topic least discussed and, along with energy and health, least mentioned as a solution.  Importantly, the number of papers offering solutions increased significantly over time, with 48% of them published since 2008.  Fifty-five percent of the solutions offered are considered actionable, which suggested a very clear solution and often gave examples.  These results suggest that while solutions to human population growth have seldom been discussed as climate change solutions, they are beginning to be considered in the literature.  However, unless these solutions are enacted soon, environmental degradation will continue to increase with population growth.

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