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Is Population Policy Part of the Answer to Climate Change?

A Survey among Demographers

Close up of senior hands giving small planet earth to a child over defocused green background with copy space

Source: Nastco

Climate change is the dominant long-run policy issue among citizens and policy makers. However, it has been noted by some leading demographers that family planning is left out of the range of policy tools by such a leading climate change institute as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This is a puzzling state of affairs as population size is said to be part of the problem and given the extreme sense urgency, one wonders why population policy is not given its full consideration. In a new paper by Van Dalen and Henkens (both Netherlands Interdisciplinary Demographic Institute), the relationship between population and climate change as well as the prospect of using population policy is considered by asking the community of European demographers and population scientists what they think. In a survey conducted between February and April 2020, they asked European demographers to state their views on the relationship between climate change and population developments, and asked them to rate their concern for their country of residence about climate change and other socio-demographic issues.

Climate change is at the top of the list of demographers’ concerns. Other survey questions reveal that there is a strong consensus about the cause – human action – and urgency. However, their sense of urgency with respect to taking action to reduce the global population size and to redress global warming is not matched by their belief that population policy can make a crucial difference in reducing CO2 emissions: demographers are highly divided on the question whether the global population size should be reduced to lower CO2 emissions, as well as on the question whether family planning is an effective policy instrument.


Author(s) of the original publication
Hendrik P. van Dalen & Kène Henkens