Copenhagen – the unspoken issue

It’s getting crowded down here!

For those readers who are not regular BBC television viewers, the Beeb has for many years run an excellent factual/science & nature series under the name of Horizon.  Just recently there was a programme with the title of How Many People Can Live on Planet Earth?

Sir David Attenborough

It was presented by that familiar face on the BBC in terms of the natural world, Sir David Attenborough.  It was an appropriate and worthy person to present the information.

But before getting into some of the details underpinning the programme, there seems to been an enormous and unspoken omission at Copenhagen – why no debate about global population trends?

Luckily the media noticed the rather obvious exclusion.  Here’s the UK Daily Telegraph newspaper (online version) of the 8th December, 2009. An extract:

Population growth is the one issue accused of causing driving climate change that no one at the Copenhagen climate summit dares to talk about.

The argument is that more people consume more resources, therefore producing more greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

The global population is currently at 6 billion and could rise to 11 billion by 2050 if fertility rates continue, not only threatening the climate, but food shortages and conflict as well.

Organisations like the Optimum Population Trust, that is backed by Sir Jonathan Porritt, Dame Jane Goodall and Sir David Attenborough, advocate birth control as a way of slowing climate change.

As Sir David has said: “I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people, or harder, and ultimately impossible, with more.”

A study by the London School of Economics found contraception is almost five times cheaper as a means of preventing climate change than conventional green solutions such as investing in green technology.


To put population growth into some form of accessible number, the number of people alive on the planet is growing at about 2 new persons every second!  That’s over 7,000 an hour or, if you prefer, just under 173,000 every day!

More than 63,000,000 every year!

Here’s a graph from the UN.

We all know deep in our hearts that changing the way we live, especially for those in the over-consuming countries, is incredibly difficult.  While we might tinker at the edges, more to make us feel a little righteous possibly, substantially changing the way we consume the earth’s resources is very, very hard.

But there is a much easier way.  Slow down the fertility rate at a much quicker pace than at present.  Not having more than 2 children per set of parents is easy.  It’s unbelievably easy.  Those of us in the wealthy countries would love to help!  And would much prefer that to more and more ‘environmental’ taxation that gets spent by bureaucratic and inefficient governments.

Why did that get missed out from the Copenhagen agenda?  We really need to know.

Back to the Horizon programme.  I see that it has already made its way on to You Tube.  Watch it!

Part One –

Part Two –

Part Three –

Part Four –

Part Five –

Part Six –

By Paul Handover

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