Exploring Climate and Population Linkages

(December 2015) As the world turns its attention to Paris and the global climate talks, decisionmakers are increasingly making the connection between population and climate change. Research is expanding on the contribution of population size, growth, and composition to climate change.

Experts are also showing the connection between these population dynamics and vulnerability and resilience to the impacts of climate change. The topic, however, remains challenging and at times controversial for many policy advocates. Some argue that linking population growth, particularly family planning, to climate change is the same as blaming parents of large families in developing countries for the climate changes that are caused by smaller high-consuming families in developed countries.

The relationships are far more complex. Over the last two years, the Population Reference Bureau (PRB) has worked with scientists and policy experts to explore these connections and create spaces for thoughtful discussion of policy opportunities. We have found innovative ways to communicate the complexity of the connections through interactive graphics, policy briefs, and reports, interviews with the media, and events with policymakers and climate negotiators. Through this careful and evidence-based work, we have learned that we can make the link, remove the controversy, and constructively contribute the word “population” to climate talks.