University of Cambridge > > Seminars on Adaptation to Climate Change > THE POPULATION FACTOR- HOW DOES IT RELATE TO CLIMATE CHANGE?


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  • UserProfessor Malcolm Potts, Bixby Professor, Community Health and Human Development, Berkeley, University of California
  • ClockTuesday 10 March 2009, 17:00-18:00
  • HouseSt Edmund’s College, Garden Room.

If you have a question about this talk, please contact Sir Brian Heap rbh22.

Any genuine effort to slow global warming will depend on a number of complementary efforts. The human contribution to climate change is driven primarily by high per capita consumption in the North. Ninety-nine per cent of the projected one to four billion increase in global population that will occur between now and 2050 will take place in the least developed countries with the smallest carbon footprints. The unmet need for family planning is large and growing, but the individual desire to consume less is limited. Generating renewable energy and sequestering carbon are necessary but expensive technologies with a single goal of reducing greenhouse gases. Family planning is a well understood, low cost endeavor, with multiple benefits. There is an increasing body of evidence that family size falls, even in poor and illiterate societies, when the numerous barriers to contraception and safe abortion are removed. Policy makers need to understand that birth rates can and should be slowed only by improving access to voluntary family planning. Climate scientists need to understand that preventing unintended pregnancies in both rich and poor countries benefits women, their families and the global environment. However, emphasizing family planning in order “to slow global warming” would be inappropriate. When the right of women to choose if and when to have a child is respected, then a welcome side effect of preventing unintended pregnancies will be a modest but useful contribution to slowing global warming. There is an urgent need for DfID and other donors to renew support for international family planning.

Malcolm Potts, MB, BChir, PhD, FRCOG

Malcolm Potts is a British obstetrician with a PhD in embryology from Cambridge University. He is the Bixby Professor at UC Berkeley and Director of the Fred H. Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability. Potts has worked internationally since the late 1960s, when he became the first medical director of the International Planned Parenthood Federation. In this capacity he conceptualized the community based distribution of contraceptives and he introduced manual vacuum aspiration for abortion in Europe and many developing countries. As the President and CEO of Family Health International (1978-1990), Potts initiated the first population based studies of maternal mortality in poor countries, and he oversaw collaborative research in family planning, contraceptive development, and HIV prevention in 40 countries. Since coming to UC Berkeley in 1992, Potts has continued his work on population and family planning in many countries. He is interested in cost-effectiveness, the private as well as the public sector and in community involvement to bring family planning and health interventions to a large scale in low-resource settings. He is the principal investigator in a Fogarty supported program in Northern Nigeria. The most recent of his 12 books is ‘Sex and War: How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safe World’.

This talk is part of the Seminars on Adaptation to Climate Change series.

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