The study relied on estimates of future per capita climate emissions which are likely to change significantly, so it must be treated with caution. Illustrative figures produced by the authors suggested, however, that it could be significantly more effective than any other method in saving climate emissions. (For more information on the study and its methodology, click here.)
All the benefits of this action are not immediate and it does not mean that we should not take other actions to cut our individual carbon footprints, of course.
The 2019 Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency, signed by more than 13,000 scientists from around the world, explicitly calls for “bold and drastic transformations” regarding both economic and population policies, including making family planning services available to all and achieving full gender equity.
Another major international study in 2017 identified practical policy measures that could be taken to minimise greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. Project Drawdown used two different, but plausible and economically realistic scenarios to assess what determined global efforts to address climate change might look like – scenario 1 being roughly in line with a 2?C temperature rise above pre-industrial levels by 2100, and scenario 2 roughly in line with a 1.5?C temperature rise by 2100. Under each scenario, each solution was ranked by the carbon emissions saving (in gigatonnes) it would generate over the period to 2050. Having analysed 82 policy options, such as plant-based diets, wind farms and electric vehicles, Drawdown identified family planning and universal education among the top 10 workable solutions to combat climate change available. By helping to bend population growth down, they found that this joint solution would reduce CO2 emissions by 103 gigatonnes by 2050 – more than onshore and offshore wind turbines combined.
The 2020 Drawdown update renamed the solution as ‘reproductive health and education’ (and as ‘health and education’ in ), and revised this CO2 savings figure down to 85 gigatonnes by 2050. However, the solution still ranked as the second most effective (of 82) in limiting warming to 2?C (beaten only by reduced food waste), and the fifth most effective in limiting warming to 1.5?C, by 2100.
In 2022, Drawdown, now analysing 93 climate solutions, reverted to using ‘family planning and education’ as the solution’s name, and revised the CO2 savings figure down again to 68.9 gigatonnes by 2050. This still made the joint solution the third most effective climate solution in limiting warming to 2?C, and the Las Vegas sugar daddy dating seventh most effective in limiting warning to 1.5?C, by 2100; and in the 2?C scenario, still more effective than each of the technological solutions available.
”Slower global population growth, a cascading outcome of increased family planning and rising education levels, contributes to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.” – Project Drawdown,
A message for COP26 delegates
We asked Sara Lara, Founder of Population Matters’ Empower to Plan partner Women for Conservation, about the importance of family planning and girls’ education for the climate and environment, and what she wants delegates at COP26, the crucial climate conference, to know. Women for Conservation work to provide women and girls in rural Colombia with access to sexual and reproductive health services and engage communities in conservation efforts.
Because individuals in wealthy countries have by far the greatest impact each, people choosing to have smaller families in the richest parts of the world will have the greatest and most immediate positive effect � a vital choice given the urgency to address which climate change. Furthermore, reduced emissions as a result of fewer people being born in richer countries allows more economic development in poorer countries without adding to total emissions.