Birth control and new technologies — not lifestyle change alone — may be needed to head off a combined climate, food and energy crunch later this century, said the head of Britain’s science academy Martin Rees.
The world’s population is expected to rise by one third to more than 9 billion people by 2050, and may keep growing, fuelling concern about food and energy shortages and a more difficult task to curb greenhouse gases heating the planet.
But analysts and environment and development groups rarely mention population control, which smacks of totalitarianism, in U.N.-led climate talks meant to agree in December a broader, more ambitious pact to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
“There should not be any stigma in providing women with ways of getting out of ignorance, poverty and getting access to contraceptives,” said Rees, president of the Royal Society, at the Reuters Global Climate and Alternative Energy Summit.
“I think population issues need to be higher up the agenda because population beyond 2050 is very uncertain. There should not be any stigma against stronger efforts to give women in Africa more empowerment.”
There will be more than 1 billion extra people in Africa than now by 2050 said Rees, who added the continent by then would have three times the population of Europe — which had triple Africa’s population in 1950.
Rees gave two priorities for policymakers now to maintain food, energy and low-carbon air supplies later this century:
“Substituting as quickly as possible fossil fuels and doing all we can to ensure the global population doesn’t continue rising after 2050,” he told Reuters in London.
“There are going to be pressures on the environment, not just climate change but food and water.”