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Climate meetings: no one appears to have spoken about reducing population growth

By NS Venkataraman* 

The Glasgow Climate Meet (COP 26) took place in 2021 with much fanfare with leaders of almost all countries pledging to reduce and eliminate global emission as early as possible , to prevent global warming and prevent climate crisis. The Glasgow Meet ended with high hopes that the world climate crisis would be overcome sooner or later and hopefully sooner than later.
Now, Egypt Climate Meet (COP 27) is in progress with the concerns about global climate being not less than what was there in Glasgow Climate Meet. The ground reality is that practically nothing has been done in significant way to improve the global climate scenario in the last one year and on the other hand, it has only further deteriorated due to various man made reasons and conflicts.
The world is already feeling the global climate crisis, as global warming continues to take place with unpredictable climate changes and monsoon conditions. There is huge anxiety in the world today, as no one is able to predict the monsoon conditions and heat level in the different months with any reasonable level of accuracy.
The situation is so desperate now that U N Secretary General at the COP 27 summit in Egypt said that the planet is fast approaching tipping points and the climate crisis is approaching irreversible level. He went on to say with a sense of helplessness that the world is facing stark choices and all countries now have to work together and he 1declared that the world has to choose between “survive or perish” conditions.
So far, globally, the highlight of the discussion on the climate crisis is that the use of fossil fuels like crude oil, coal should be drastically reduced and completely eliminated in the course of time. Further, the goal should be to replace fossil fuels like coal, crude oil for the use as energy source or as feedstock by eco-friendly sources such as renewable energy (wind and solar), use of hydrogen and so on. While scientists are feverishly working to develop eco friendly technologies to substitute fossil fuel, it appears that the world still has a long way to go.
In such circumstances, the statement of the UAE President that his country will keep producing fossil fuel as long as there is a market for it in the world is very significant. The UAE President has been honest enough to confess that he has no plans to reduce the production of fossil fuel and the ball is clearly in the court of consumers of fossil fuel rather than that of the producers. What is particularly curious is that next year’s edition of the climate summit is scheduled to be hosted by the UAE.
Obviously, the demand reduction for fossil fuel is the sure way of reducing the consumption of fossil fuel in the world, that will improve the climate conditions.
One way of reducing the consumption of fossil fuel is to develop alternative eco friendly energy sources, on which development work is under way.
However, one should not ignore the fact that the higher demand for fossil fuel and energy sources are happening due to the steady growth in the world population. With more mouths to feed and more people demanding greater share in the world resource, obviously the demand for fossil fuel as an energy source cannot come down.
It is surprising that in all the climate meetings that have taken place around the world in the past, no one appears to have spoken about reducing the population growth, particularly in developing and under developed countries, to solve the climate issue . While the developed countries like USA, EU, Japan are keeping the population under check, in countries like India, population growth still remains high with India likely to emerge as the most populated country in the world soon.
While the developed countries have a nearly stable population, the industries and production centres in developed countries which have high technology strength are producing more and more to meet the increasing demand in developing countries , where demand is growing due to population growth and at the same time economic development.
In several of the climate meets in the past, steps have been taken to provide financial support and incentives to work towards ozone depletion etc. In the same way, perhaps, it would be appropriate to give some incentives to developing and under developed countries to reduce the population growth.
It is high time to recognize that countries with high population growth are also significant contributors to the global climate crisis.
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*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, Chennai

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