Speak on population at your peril

Last week’s UCL conference, Population Footprints, was a brave attempt to locate the correct niche for the P-word within the big picture of global equity and sustainability.

Curiously, it was UCL’s own Professor Chris Rapley who stole the show in the closing ten minutes of the event.

He questioned whether international action on carbon dioxide emissions could learn anything from population policies.Does it make any more sense to set an arbitrary 450ppm target than to limit the number of people?

We’re up against the same unstoppable tide of human behaviour. Running out of time, Rapley blurted out the thought that, as our 7 billion population has defied successive Malthusian calamity thresholds, “maybe we’ll find at 650ppm the wheels don’t fall off the planet.”

With BBC’s Roger Harrabin in the audience, Rapley had to rephrase his thoughts during questions.

I feel sure the subtext here is the old problem of the professional silence of scientists – there’s so many reasons for them not to voice their real opinions about climate change that the occasional snippets come out in a muddle.


this post was first published by OneWorld UK