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Socially just population policies can mitigate climate change while advancing global equity

Socially just population policies can mitigate climate change while advancing global equity

CORVALLIS, Ore. April 28, 2021– Socially just policies aimed at limiting the Earth’s human population hold tremendous potential for advancing equity while simultaneously helping to mitigate the effects of climate change, Oregon State University researchers say.

In a paper published this week in Sustainability Science, William Ripple and Christopher Wolf of the OSU College of Forestry also note that fertility rates are a dramatically understudied and overlooked aspect of the climate emergency. That’s especially true relative to the attention devoted to other climate-related topics including energy, short-lived pollutants and nature-based solutions, they say.

“More than 11,000 scientists from 153 countries have come together to warn that if we continue with business as usual, the result will be untold human suffering from climate change,” Ripple said. “We have listed six areas, including curbing population growth in the context of social justice, as a framework for action.

“Since 1997, there have been more than 200 articles published in Nature and Science on climate mitigation, but just four of those discussed social justice, and only two considered population,” he added. “Clearly social justice and population policy are not getting the attention they deserve in the struggle against the climate emergency.”

The Earth’s 7.7 billion people contribute to climate change in a variety of ways, primarily through the consumption of natural resources, including non-renewable energy sources, and the greenhouse gas emissions that result from industrial processes and transportation. The more people there are on the planet, the more potential they have for affecting climate.

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