We screw in the curly-cue lightbulbs, get fuel-efficient vehicles, buy carbon credits when we fly, grow our own vegetables and ride our bikes. But there’s another aspect of reducing our carbon footprint that doesn’t get as much ink or lip service: Making fewer people and bettering the lives of women worldwide, while we’re at it.
Giving women better access to birth control could slow global warming, says the Worldwatch Institute in a new report. If the world’s population leveled off at 8 billion instead of the projected 9 billion, CO2 emissions would be reduced 5.1 billion tons—more than if we ended global deforestation.
“Population is associated with sensitive issues like sexuality, contraception, abortion, migration and religion,” said report author Robert Engelman. “But increasing women’s reproductive rights should be at the heart of the climate discussion, in the same basket as strategies like increasing energy efficiency and researching new technologies.”
The group reported that family size and population growth rates have fallen as the use of contraception has grown. It also notes that the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change identifies global population growth as a consistent contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.