Knowledge for better food systems

Links Between Consumption and Climate Change

This review article, Population, development, and climate change: links and effects on human health, discusses the results from a University College London & Leverhulme Trust Population Footprints Symposium on the linkages between population, development, climate change and health. The review, published in The Lancet, shows that while population growth is an important factor, consumers rather than people per se, drive climate change, and therefore reducing consumption represents the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions. It says that family planning (when implemented with other social and economic improvements) is one of the most effective ways of managing increases in population growth and of delivering extensive health benefits in both high and low-income countries. However when it comes to addressing climate change, demographic trends with respect to ageing, urbanisation and consumption are more significant than total population numbers. The authors conclude that reducing consumption and creating sustainable lifestyles in rich countries represent the most effective way of reducing carbon emissions and ultimately delivering health benefits.

This review article, Population, development, and climate change: links and effects on human health, discusses the results from a University College London & Leverhulme Trust Population Footprints Symposium on the linkages between population, development, climate change and health. The review, published in The Lancet, shows that while population growth is an important factor, consumers rather than people per se, drive climate change, and therefore reducing consumption represents the most effective way to reduce carbon emissions. It says that family planning (when implemented with other social and economic improvements) is one of the most effective ways of managing increases in population growth and of delivering extensive health benefits in both high and low-income countries. However when it comes to addressing climate change, demographic trends with respect to ageing, urbanisation and consumption are more significant than total population numbers. The authors conclude that reducing consumption and creating sustainable lifestyles in rich countries represent the most effective way of reducing carbon emissions and ultimately delivering health benefits.

Abstract

Global health, population growth, economic development, environmental degradation, and climate change are the main challenges we face in the 21st century. However, because the academics, non-governmental organisations, and policy makers in these specialities work within separate communities, our understanding of the associations between them is restricted. We organised an international symposium in May, 2011 in London, UK, for academics and technical experts from population, developmental, and environmental science to encourage debate and collaboration between these disciplines. The conference provided the impetus for this Review, which describes, in historical context, key events and fundamental intercommunity debates from the perspectives of population, development, and climate change communities. We consider the interconnections between population, development, and climate change and their effects on health, including new analysis of long-standing debates, and identify opportunities for effective collaboration on shared goals.

Citation

Stephenson J, Crane SF, Levy C, Maslin M, 2013, Population, development, and climate change: links and effects on human health,The Lancet

A report from the symposium can also be downloaded here. The report includes an executive summary, an outline of it's aims and some emerging messages as well as summaries from the presentations during the two day event.

You can download the article here (note that you will need journal subscription to do so). Science Daily has covered the review here. If you are interested in issues concerning consumption and sustainability click here and for more reports and studies related to population-growth click here.

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While some of the food system challenges facing humanity are local, in an interconnected world, adopting a global perspective is essential. Many environmental issues, such as climate change, need supranational commitments and action to be addressed effectively. Due to ever increasing global trade flows, prices of commodities are connected through space; a drought in Romania may thus increase the price of wheat in Zimbabwe.

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