Thursday, 26 April 2012

Royal Society Report: People and the Planet

Must read this report.  An interesting balance emphasizing excess consumption, population growth, and global inequality.  Get the full report here.

Rapid and widespread changes in the world’s human population, coupled with unprecedented levels of consumption present profound challenges to human health and wellbeing, and the natural environment. This report gives an overview of how global population and consumption are linked, and the implications for a finite planet.

Key recommendations
Key recommendations include:
  1. The international community must bring the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25 per day out of absolute poverty, and reduce the inequality that persists in the world today. This will require focused efforts in key policy areas including economic development, education, family planning and health.
  2. The most developed and the emerging economies must stabilise and then reduce material consumption levels through: dramatic improvements in resource use efficiency, including: reducing waste; investment in sustainable resources, technologies and infrastructures; and systematically decoupling economic activity from environmental impact.
  3. Reproductive health and voluntary family planning programmes urgently require political leadership and financial commitment, both nationally and internationally. This is needed to continue the downward trajectory of fertility rates, especially in countries where the unmet need for contraception is high.
  4. Population and the environment should not be considered as two separate issues. Demographic changes, and the influences on them, should be factored into economic and environmental debate and planning at international meetings, such as the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and subsequent meetings.
Other recommendations made in the report focus on:
  • the potential for urbanisation to reduce material consumption
  • removing barriers to achieve high-quality primary and secondary education for all
  • undertaking more research into the interactions between consumption, demographic change and environmental impact
  • implementing comprehensive wealth measures
  • developing new socio-economic systems.

1 comment:

  1. It's hard to see much new within this report; indeed, the Royal Society seems to be coming quite late to the game where the UN Development Programme (and many others) have been quite active.

    Their criticism (on page 70) of the Ecological Footprint is quite well founded, but they neglect some important criticisms and appear to be working from a very old version of the Ecological Footprint (nuclear energy has been excluded for quite a while).

    Specifically, they haven't addressed the points that the Ecological Footprint assumes that carbon dioxide transfer into the oceans places zero burden on the planet (contrary to box 4.2 on page 67 of this report). Furthermore, the Ecological Footprint has no predictive power over how long "overconsumption" can be continued (whether that is years, or millenia).