Concern about the pace of climate change is increasing, and so is concern about the role of population growth in driving it, reigniting or reinvigorating (depending on the viewpoint) calls for increased investment in family planning services for couples in poorer countries.
Right now, the most important factor in climate change is the high rate of individual consumption in both high and middle-income countries and in densely population countries like China and India of fossil fuels and of other activities producing green house gases. Ultimately, however, to raise living standards everywhere, we need to reduce both excessive consumption and the rate of global population growth.
Which brings in family planning.
Despite earlier progress in increasing access to basic reproductive health services, of which family planning is a core aspect, the "unmet need for family planning" remains high in many countries. (Unmet need is estimated based on the difference between the number of children women or couples say they desire versus the number they actually have. The need is "unmet" when couples are having more children then they desire but do not have access to or are not using contraception.)
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Today, one in six women in the world
Today, 63% of women in developing
countries use a method of family
planning. In 1960,
that number was just 10%.Despite this dramatic increase,
about one in six married women still has an
unmet need for family planning: that
is, she wants to postpone her next
pregnancy or stop having children altogether
but, for whatever reason, is not using
contraception. As a
consequence, 76 million women in developing countries still
experience unintended pregnancies each year, and 19 million resort to unsafe abortions.
The need to increase access for couples to the range of reproductive and sexual health services including basic family planning services was reflected in a commentary in the journal The Lancet last week by Leo Bryant, a lead
researcher on a World Health Organisation study on population growth
and climate change.
Bryant said that the stigma attached to birth control in both
developing and developed countries was hindering vital progress.
"We are certainly not advocating that governments should start telling
people how many children they can have," said Bryant, an advocacy
manager at the family planning group Marie Stopes International, who
wrote a commentary in the Lancet medical journal on Friday.
In an interview with Reuters, Bryant also underscored the fact that:
"The ability to choose your family size…is a fundamental human right.
But lack of access to family planning means millions of people in
developing countries don’t have that right."
Bryant’s study of climate change adaptation plans by governments in the
world’s 40 poorest countries showed that almost all of them link rapid
population growth to environmental impact, but only six had proposed
steps to tackle it. "Acknowledgement of the problem is widespread, but resolve to address seems to be very much a minority sport," he said.
Bryant said 200 million women across the world want contraceptives, but
cannot get them. Addressing this need would slow population growth and
reduce demographic pressure on the environment.
countries with good access to birth control, average family sizes
shrink dramatically within a generation, he said. But policymakers in
rich donor nations are wary of talking about contraception for fear of
being accused of advocating draconian ideas like sterilisation or
The world’s population is forecast to
rise by one third to more than 9 billion people by 2050, with 95
percent of this growth in developing countries.
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