How Urbanization, Growth and Aging Affect Climate Change


Global demographic trends and future carbon emissions (6 page pdf, Proceedings National Academy of Sciences, Oct. 11, 2010)

Also discussed here: Population Bomb: new study discusses population impacts upon global warming emissions (Watts Up With That?, Oct. 12, 2010)

The article reviewed today looks at the net impact on greenhouse gases and climate change between the additional emissions resulting from the flow of people from rural to urban areas (and population and economic  growth in general) with the reduced emissions that result from lower population growth in an aging society.  This analysis is both useful and timely coming at a time when global population growth seems to have stabilized or even begun to reverse, along with a trend toward continued economic growth, urbanization and aging.  Such secondary factors as household size (which would be smaller as population contracts) and delaying retirement by a few years are seen as important influences on the rate of greenhouse gas emissions.

Key Quotes:

“slowing population growth could provide 16–29% of the emissions reductions suggested to be necessary by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change”

“We also find that aging and urbanization can substantially influence emissions in particular world regions.”

“the appropriateness of policies that encourage even lower fertility in countries where it is already low is debatable and would require consideration of the trade offs associated with increased aging, in other regions”

Aging reduces emissions as elderly people contribute less to economic growth. Urbanization has the opposite effect: The migration of people from the countryside to large cities boosts the supply of labour and so fuels economic growth and the demand for energy, the study finds”

“greater attention should be given in emissions scenarios to the implications of urbanization and aging, particularly in key regions of the world, including China, India, the United States, and the EU”

“if retirement is postponed, labor supply at older ages will increase, and the emissions-reducing effect of aging that we find here will be lessened”

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