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Observations Border crossing

The hitch hiker's guide to population growth and climate change

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 23 August 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:374
  1. Tessa Richards, assistant editor, BMJ
  1. trichards{at}

    Educating and empowering young girls in poor countries is part of the solution

    At next month's United Nations meeting on climate change the impact of this year's record breaking floods, storms, and heat waves will no doubt add to the contentious and geopolitically charged debate on a successor to the Kyoto protocol.

    Among the many facets of this complex debate is a growing controversy about population growth. The world's population is currently around 6.2 billion, and the UN's Population Division estimates that it will reach 9.2 billion by 2050. The growth will be greatest in Asia and Africa, particularly in already impoverished urban areas.

    The advocacy groups Population Connection in the United States and the Optimum Population Trust in the United Kingdom claim that overpopulation is the cause of many, if not all, of the world's problems, including climate change. Limiting population growth is essential, they argue, and it should be regarded as a cost effective strategy to offset carbon emissions.

    Others refute the idea that population growth is a threat and question whether curbing it is an effective way to tackle global warming. As observed by Robin Stott, who …

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