I Helped Put World Population Over 3 Billion. How About You? Plus Powerful Video of Women, Families and Climate Change

Population Action International asks “What’s Your Number?”

Climate Progress hasn’t focused on population, for reasons explained here: “Consumption dwarfs population as main global warming threat.”  But now that it seems that population growth trends are not stabilizing as quickly as had been widely projected just a few years ago, we’ve been covering it a little more.

Population Action International has this clever calculator to draw attention to the issue.  And here’s an excellent video they put together last month, “Weathering Change:  Stories about climate and family from women around the world,” which “takes us to Ethiopia, Nepal and Peru to hear the stories of four women as they struggle to care for their families, while enduring crop failures and water scarcity”:


It’s too easy to think about climate change in abstract terms.  It’s hurting real people now, and we’ve only warmed some 1.5°F globally in the last half century.  We are on track to warm more than 5 times that on our current emissions path (business as usual).

“A woman’s life is hard, and climate change is making it harder,” says Aregash Ayele, an Ethiopian woman featured in the film. Aregash is 32 years old and lives with her six children in a small farming community in the Gedeo Zone of Ethiopia.

“Because of changing rainfall patterns, crop yields are suffering, and the family doesn’t have enough food for everybody. My father used to get 500 to 600 kilos per harvest, but now we can barely get 100. Even though the land is green, it’s not fruitful. It has never been like this.”

As a result, Aregash’s husband is forced to work other land hours away from home. Aregash is left to manage the house, look after the children, and farm the existing land on her own. “The only way we can raise our kids is from the land. If the land fails to produce, there isn’t enough to feed them,” she says….

Women and Climate Change

Aregash’s story is not unusual. Women living in poverty bear a disproportionate burden of climate change consequences. In many countries, disparities resulting from women’s roles within family and community structures are aggravated by the effects of climate change. Unequal access to education, economic opportunities, land ownership, and health care can undermine women’s well-being and the prospects for a better future for their children and communities.

The time to act is now on both emissions mitigation and misery mitigation (aka “adaptation”).

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13 Responses to I Helped Put World Population Over 3 Billion. How About You? Plus Powerful Video of Women, Families and Climate Change

  1. Paul Magnus says:

    Climate Change aka GW is going to affect women even in the developed nations disproportionately and hugely.

    Why it is already. And it will accelerate, unless we can adapt to the changes in a reasonably civilized manner. 1st world women and their daughters will see a lot of their hard earn rights and standard of living fall of a cliff.

    Time for them to recognize this and speak up now!

  2. Paul Magnus says:

    spectacular 16sec in to clip!

  3. prokaryotes says:

    Vulnerability and Resilience

    The relative severity of climate change impacts will be moderated by sources of vulnerability and resilience: The same processes that position some people to be in harm’s way (i.e., living in marginal, low-lying areas and having precarious, resource-based livelihoods) also limit their options for mitigation and adaptation (Brklacich et al., 2007). Alternatively, adaptive capacities such as economic development, uniform levels of mental health and functioning, the reduction of risk and resource inequities, and engagement of local stakeholders in disaster mitigation activities are important to community resilience and the potential to adapt successfully in the aftermath of disasters (Ebi & Semenza, 2008; Norris et al., 2008). A proximity to the biophysical impacts of climate change, such as extreme weather events or a rise in sea level, will interact with other sources of social vulnerability (i.e., urban density, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic status) to influence severity of disaster impacts (Brouwer, Akter, Brander, & Haque, 2007; Cutter & Finch, 2008; Few, 2007). Disaster intervention research has identified groups likely to be at greater psychosocial risk, including women, children, the elderly, the rural and urban poor, racial and ethnic minorities, those with a previous history of emotional disability, inhabitants of developing rather than developed countries, and in general, those with a marginalized predisaster existence (Haskett, Scott, Nears, & Grimmett, 2008; Norris, Friedman, Watson, Byrne, et al., 2002). In terms of climate change, individuals with mental illness are particularly vulnerable to heat-related injury and mortality due to risk factors such as the use of psychotropic medication, preexisting respiratory and cardiovascular disease, substance misuse, and poor quality housing (Page & Howard, 2010).

  4. Robert Tindall says:

    Not strictly true that you helped push past 3 billion. That was your parents decision. Prospective parents today have the choice of whether we push on towards 15 billion or start being sensible.

  5. Lou Grinzo says:

    I’ve never quite understood this tug-of-war between “it’s the population, stupid” and “it’s the consumption, stupid”. It’s both.

    I’m sure we’ve all seen the “IPAT” equation:

    I = P * A * T

    (Impact equals population times activity times technology.)

    While we can all quibble with exactly how that’s specified — what are the units for technology, and is a higher level of it (e.g. a fusion reactor) always worse than a lower level (early 20th century style coal plant with no emission controls)? — population and consumption (A * T, roughly) are both multipliers producing our environmental impacts.

    Right now, we have just about the worst of all possible situations. A couple of centuries of high-impact activity in the EU, the US, Japan, et al. have brought us to the brink. On top of that, we have two immense countries, China and India, with a combined population of 2.4 billion people, many of whom are making a dash from poverty towards a more US-like level of consumption. In effect, the world built up a huge population of people with very low per capita impacts, and now they’re dramatically increasing their A*T factor. It’s as if the world is suddenly undergoing a huge population explosion in the “developed” countries.

    As I’ve said before online, the West loaded the gun and pointed it at our head, and the two big countries from the East are suddenly in a race to see who can pull the trigger first. Arguing over who’s “really” at fault for our impending train wreck is just as pointless as arguing over whether population or consumption is the bigger evil; the environment neither knows nor cares about such human details. It simply obeys the laws of physics.

  6. Davos says:

    I can’t get that link to work…perhaps it’s been suspended because you broke the server sending curious traffic there ;)

  7. M Tucker says:

    “But now that it seems that population growth trends are not stabilizing as quickly as had been widely projected just a few years ago.”

    Oh, I don’t know, it looks like the demographers prediction of 10 billion by 2100 still seems to be holding strong. Now at 7 billion it only took 12 years to add a billion people to the planet. The UN population experts say it will take 13 years to get to 8 billion and 18 years to pack on the 9th billion. Then sometime after 2042 the growth will slow and it will take about 40 years to inch up to the 10 billion mark. So it looks like population is still predicted to reach the 10 billion mark and it is still predicted to slow. The majority of the growth in world population is still in Africa and the best method of dealing with high fertility rates is still the eradication of poverty and educating females. But, being Africa, we can expect consumption to be dwarfed by a single nation like the US.

    And what of US population? It isn’t still growing right? US population is like that of Japan or the UK where growth is well below the replacement rate, right? Nope, over the past year US growth is more like that of Panama or Pakistan. But the US is strongly in favor of family planning, right?…But education in the US is not failing her citizens, right? The US doesn’t have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the entire industrialized world does it?…The United States of America: 3rd world social standards but 1st world food production and the highest per capita energy consumption of any nation ever in existence. What a country!

    Population Action International seems to be having issues today but the Guardian has a nice piece with graphics at

  8. prokaryotes says:

    Climate change will stall and reverse population growth.

    James Lovelock – Population Reduction “max 1 billion”

  9. Chris Lock says:

    I’m 45, and the world’s population has doubled in my lifetime. Will the population double again in another 45 years? Will the world’s population ever reach 14 billion?

    We’re a population of bacteria in a Petri dish, living in our own filth, and either trying to make more agar or fighting over the remaining agar.

  10. M Tucker says:

    Lovelock may be correct but he seems very confused to me. The nations of Earth will experience catastrophic population decline of something like 86% to 90% between now and the end of the century BUT Lovelock expects Britain to be in such good shape that they must prepare for the arrival of many millions of “climate” refugees. Seriously Lovelock, if that kind of never-seen-before level of mass death is true, no nation can expect to be a haven for refugees. It actually sounds more like unexamined fear based prognostication. I am sympathetic to the fear but I am unimpressed by his analysis.