More people, more pollution, right?

More people, more pollution, right?

Summary: Population growth not necessarily bad for environment or global warming.

SHARE:
TOPICS: China
7

It's long been a truism of environmental thinking that human population increase is going to have negative environmental consequences. But a survey of current demographic thinking and analysis has some surprising ideas.

SAN DIEGO OR TOKYO? Which of these cities has the largest carbon footprint: Tokyo with a population of almost 13 million, or San Diego with a population of 3 million in a milder climate? If you're a student of American culture, you must know that San Diego has a far greater carbon footprint. Not just per capita, but cumulative. All those cars, all that air conditioning, all that cement, all that irrigated lawn.

OTHER DEMOGRAPHIC "DISCOVERIES"

Apparently it is not writ in stone that more developed countries will have continuously lowering birth rates. That only poor countries will reproduce. This has been known in population studies as "the demopraphic divide." Some develoed countries are now seeing a rise in the birthrate, not simply growth by immigration.

In some wealthier cultures it now seems that well-off couples may decide to opt for children rather than another car or more expensive vacations. Imagine that.

In temperate climates, say some political demographers, it may be beneficial to have increasing population so you don't end up with a tiny working age segment trying to support a larger number of aged retirees. They also note that most political schemes to pump up the national birth rate in places like France and Italy have not worked. China's negative birthrate pressure does have an effect there.

A couple interesting references: Developed nations and population decline.

Population growth, urbanization and global warming.

Topic: China

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

7 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Population Control

    What is it now, the big 'O' is going to sterilize the peasants so they don't reproduce?

    Use_More_OIL_NOW
  • Illogical blog

    It is not a truism, it is a logical deduction that if people in developing countries that currently have a tiny environmental impact per capita obtain the same lifestyle as a typical US citizen, then consumption of natural resources will explode.

    The US represents less than 5% of the world's population yet consumes 25% of its resources. Of course there are people in places like Japan that consume far fewer resources, but US citizens seem to think that they have a right to consume as much as they possibly can without regard for anyone else - even their fellow Americans.

    If that attitude spreads to the rest of the world, we're doomed to war and famine very soon. Of course, most developing nations are actually more thoughtfull and are trying to develop as efficiently as possible. But consumption of resources will increase, and the US must become more efficient or it will drive itself into poverty and become a bit player on the global stage.

    The GFC is the start, the saga isn't done yet.
    Fred Fredrickson
    • The question citizens of SAN DIEGO need to ask thenselves...

      is do they wish to live like those in Tokyo?

      I've been to Tokyo, a lovely place, but I prefer my high energy Australian lifestyle thanks very much. I suspect those of San Diego might be the same.

      "...US citizens seem to think that they have a right to consume as much as they possibly can without regard for anyone else - even their fellow Americans."

      It use to be citizens had the right to consume what they choose and could pay for.

      "If that attitude spreads to the rest of the world, we're doomed to war and famine very soon."

      Based on what? It's not like inequality is a new situation. The same rules apply.

      "Of course, most developing nations are actually more thoughtfull and are trying to develop as efficiently as possible."

      Right;-) Perhaps you can name these developing countries espousing the "development with maximum energy efficiency" mantra.

      "But consumption of resources will increase, and the US must become more efficient or it will drive itself into poverty and become a bit player on the global stage."

      You've reduced the future success of the USA to improvements in energy efficiency?

      I'd be more concerned about the falling standards in education, fewer technically trained professionals, the massive (insurmountable?) level of both consumer and in particular government debt, blame everyone else mentality, breakdown in morality highlighted by your business and political leaders, cost competitiveness of remaining industry with wave upon wave of new government regulation and restrictions, and the growing dependence on the welfare State. But I could be wrong;-)
      Richard Flude
    • Well . . .

      Well . . .

      What do you think most technological progress
      is all about?

      Maximizing use of resources. Make us work more
      efficiently, accomplish things more
      efficiently.

      "The US represents less than 5% of the world's
      population yet consumes 25% of its resources."

      To be more precise - 25% of the resources
      produced. It's not as if other nations can't
      pick up their own technologies and consume
      large amounts of resources themselves.

      We're not in the business of preventing other
      nations from using their own resources. It's
      largely that they don't want to or are unable
      to consume as many resources.

      "If that attitude spreads to the rest of the
      world, we're doomed to war and famine very
      soon."

      Right, all of the war and famine that's
      sweeping across the USA . . .

      Actually, war and famine generally happen when
      resources are [b]not[/b] being produced and
      consumed.

      If you can't move food to people (which uses
      resources), they can't eat, and you get a
      famine.

      If people can't eat, they will increasingly go
      to greater lengths to get food, and you get a
      war.

      Some of the most violent, hungry nations are
      nations that can't use their resources
      efficiently.

      I don't know where you got your 25% estimate or
      what it's referring to. Which resources? Where?
      Does that include recyclables and renewables?
      Sounds kinda invented if you ask me.
      CobraA1
  • *yawn*

    *yawn* - yeah, okay, heard all that before. If you want
    to propose a solution (other than resorting to communism
    and severe forms of population control), great.

    If not, then I'm really not interested.
    CobraA1
  • What's wrong with a big carbon footprint?

    The more CO2 in the air, the less water plants use to produce food. The real problem is finding enough fresh water to grow the food we need for everyone.
    LarryPTL
    • What's wrong with a big carbon footprint?

      I thought CO2 was required for plants to "breathe" not feed on and in response they give off oxygen?
      Creeping Critter