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Impact of population growth on climate change

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Climatic change is one of the humanity’s most critical challenges, and it refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, but since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climatic change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil and gas), which produces heat-trapping gases. Given that humans use fossil fuels to power their increasingly mechanized lifestyles.

Causes of Climatic change

 As determined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body of scientists, the observed increase in temperature is most likely due to:

Fossil fuel: Gases such as carbon dioxide and methane trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere. They are mostly created by humans burning fossil fuels coal, oil, wood and natural gas. Climate change activists say humans must stop burning these energy sources, and countries and companies need to pledge zero-emission targets.

Deforestation: Since about 1960, forests, soil and oceans have steadily absorbed 56 per cent of all the carbon dioxide humanity has put into the atmosphere, despite the 50 per cent rise in emissions. But trees are being cut down at an alarming rate, in particular in the Amazon rain-forest. It was traditionally viewed as the lungs of the planet, absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen. But figures released in June showed deforestation approached record levels last year.

 Fertilizers containing nitrogen: Intensive farming quickly exhausts the naturally occurring nutrients in the soil, farmers therefore use fertilizers to boost their agricultural output. But fertilizers containing nitrogen produce nitrous oxide emissions, which increases the warming effect on the Earth’s atmosphere. Other fertilizers, such as green manure and compost, blood meal, bone meal and seaweed extracts are available. Crop rotation can increase the nutrients in the soil naturally.

Waste disposal: Humans create more waste now than ever before, because of the amount of packaging used and the short life cycle of products. A lot of items, waste and packaging isn’t recyclable, which means it ends up in landfills. When the waste in landfills begins to decompose/break down it releases harmful gases into the atmosphere which contribute to global warming.

Over-consumption: Due to the innovations in technology and manufacturing customers are able to purchase any product at any time. This means we are producing more and more products every year, and over producing them. Most items we purchase aren’t very sustainable, and because of the reduced lifetime of electronics and clothing items, we are creating more waste than ever.

 Impact of population on the climate

  1. Urbanization: The proportion of people in developing countries who live in cities has almost doubled since 1960 (from less than 22 per cent to more than 40 per cent), while in more developed regions the urban share has grown from 61 per cent to 76 per cent. Urbanization is projected to continue well into the next century. By 2030, it is expected that nearly 5 billion (61 per cent) of the world’s 8.1 billion people will live in cities.
  2. Deforestation: In the human production and life, over-grazing, deforestation makes the soil erosion, land degradation; super-exploitation of resources has led to depletion of a lot of natural resources; a variety of waste emissions cause serious environmental pollution and damage, which cause a series of global environmental issues.
  3. Industrialization: Industrialization is harmful in a variety of ways. The waste this industry produces all ends up in landfills, or in our surrounding environment. The chemicals and materials used within industrialization can not only pollute the atmosphere but also the soil underneath it.
  4. Agricultural Technology: Technological innovations in agriculture and increase in area under cultivation have ensured that so far, food production has kept pace with the population growth. Evolution of global and national food security systems have improved access to food. It is estimated that the global population will grow to 9 billion by 2050 and the food production will double; improvement in purchasing power and changing dietary habits (shift to animal products) may further add to the requirement of food grains. Thus, in the next five decades, the food and nutrition security could become critical in many parts of the world especially in the developing countries and pockets of poverty in the developed countries
  5. Farming: it takes up a lot of green space meaning local environments can be destroyed to create space for farming. These animals produce a lot of greenhouse gases for example methane, as well as this they also produce an extreme amount of waste. Factory farming is responsible for even more climate issues because of the extra pollution it produces and the more animals it can hold.
  6. Consumerism: Due to the innovations in technology and manufacturing customers are able to purchase any product at any time. This means we are producing more and more products every year, and over producing them. Most items we purchase aren’t very sustainable, and because of the reduced lifetime of electronics and clothing items, we are creating more waste than ever
  7. Transportation systems: The large amount of transportation is done through cars, planes, boats and trains, almost all of which rely on fossil fuels to run. Burning fossil fuels releases carbon and other types of pollutants into the atmosphere. This makes transportation partly responsible for the greenhouse gases. This effect could be reduced with the introduction of electric vehicles.
  8. Oil drilling: it is responsible for 30% of the methane population and around 8% carbon dioxide pollution. Oil drilling is used to collect petroleum oil hydrocarbons in this process other gases are released into the atmosphere, which contribute to climate change, it is also toxic to the wildlife and environment it surrounds.
  9. Waste Disposal: Humans create more waste now than ever before, because of the amount of packaging used and the short life cycle of products. A lot of items, waste and packaging isn’t recyclable, which means it ends up in landfills. When the waste in landfills begins to decompose/break down it releases harmful gases into the atmosphere which contribute to global warming.
  10. Oil and Gas: this is used all the time in almost every industry. It is used the most in vehicles, buildings, production and to produce electricity. When we burn coal, oil and gases it largely adds to the climate problem. The use of fossil fuels is also a threat to wildlife and the surrounding environments, because of the toxicity it kills off plant life and leaves areas uninhabitable.
  11. Environmental pollution: it is one of the most serious social problems facing mankind, such as: air pollution, water pollution, traffic congestion, noise nuisance, accumulation of garbage and so on. Population growth will increase carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulphur oxides in the atmosphere due to respiration, combustion and industrial development, which may cause acid rain and photo-chemical smog events. More serious is to cause the earth’s average temperature increase to affect climate due to the greenhouse effect caused by the increase in carbon dioxide, resulting in serious damage to the planet’s ecosystems (Smith, 2008).

Recommendations

Social scientists as well as Natural scientists have always been eager to proffer solutions to any problem bedevilling humans or their societies.

Firstly, there must be an international policies to be put in place & enforced regarding Climatic change. But we shall list some solutions already put in place by scientists to stop or mitigate Climatic change:

  1. Birth rate control:  this is known to everyone, some developed counties have strict regulation on the control of birth so as to reduce overpopulation which contributes immensely to Climatic change.
  2. Save energy at home: Much of our electricity and heat is powered by coal, oil and gas. Use less energy by lowering your heating and cooling, switching to LED light bulbs and energy-efficient electric appliances, washing your laundry with cold water or hanging things to dry instead of using a dryer.
  3. Walk, cycle or take public transport:  The world’s roads are clogged with vehicles, most of them burning diesel or petrol. Walking or riding a bike instead of driving will reduce greenhouse gas emissions – and help your health and fitness. For longer distances, consider taking a train or bus.
  4. Reduce, reuse, repair & recycle Electronics, clothes and other: items we buy because carbon emissions at each point in production, from the extraction of raw materials to manufacturing and transporting goods to market. To protect our climate, buy fewer things, shop second-hand, repair what you can and recycle.

Reference

Adger, W. N., J. Paavola, S. Huq, and M. J. Mace, eds. (2006). Fairness in Adaptation to Climate Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Alley, W. M. (1984). The Palmer Drought Severity Index—Limitations and assumptions. Journal of Climate and Applied Meteorology 23:1100-1109.

Pulwarty, B. Smit, and K. Takahashi. (2007). Assessment of adaptation practices, options, constraints and capacity. In Climate Change.

John Bongaarts (2009), Human Population Growth and the Demographic Transition, Philosophical Transaction of the Rough Society

UNFPA (2011), Population Dynamic and Climatic Change, United Nations Population Found.

Alvarie, Marcos, Claudi, Nicola, and Lewis (2021), the Determinant of Population Growth, European Commission

Velerie, Ponmao, Annapirani, Sarah, Clotilde (2021), Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis, Intergovernmental Penal on Climate Change.

Donald Gunn Macrae (2018), Thomas Robert Malthus, Britannica. (https://www.britannica.com/ biography /Thomas-malthus.

Public Health Institutes (2016), Climate Change 101, Climate Science Basics.

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