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Contraception an Important Part of Climate Control


According to the United Nations 2006 revision of the world population prospects, the world population is likely to increase from the current 6·7 billion to 9·2 billion in 2050. Most of this increase will be in less developed regions of the world while the population in developed countries is expected to remain nearly unchanged.

Population growth is linked to changes in food and water supply and housing. Rapid increases in population growth is most likely to have negative effects – increasing food and water scarcity, environmental degradation, and human displacement.

There are more than 200 million women throughout the world who want, but lack access to modern contraceptives. This lack of contraceptive availability results in an estimated 76 million unintended pregnancies each year. This increase puts strain on regional environmental resources (water, food, housing) with increased disease if those resources aren’t sufficient.

Drought and desertification influencing population migration. Both have a tendency to affect migration into cities, increasing urbanization. This in turn stresses the socioeconomic conditions already exacerbated by high population growth. Urban slums often have poor drainage facilities in developing countries. This can increase health problems due to poor sanitation.

The Lancet editorial discusses the need for better contraception available to women around the world. “It is disappointing to see that there are still tensions between the population and some of the sexual and reproductive health and rights community.”

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The editorial points out a case study from Ethiopia that trained people in sustainable land management practices, while increasing availability of family planning. The area saw an immediate improvement to the environment with better agricultural practices, which in the long term will be sustained and not eroded by a rapidly increasing population.

Thomas Wire, a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics, makes an economic case, Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost, in discussing family planning and the environment. He points out that family planning is five times cheaper than conventional green technologies to combat climate change.

Wire calculated that if present trends continue, the planet is on track to have 338 billion “people-years” lived between 2020 and 2050. But if contraception were available to every woman who wanted it then enough pregnancies would be averted that the number of people-years would fall to 326 billion.

The reduction of 12 billion people-years would save 34 gigatons of carbon dioxide that would otherwise cost at least $220 billion to produce. In other words, each $7 invested in contraception would buy more than 1 ton of carbon dioxide emissions.

Contraception is important to population control which is important to the health of our planet and global warming. It’s all linked.


  • Sexual and reproductive health and climate change; The Lancet, Volume 374, Issue 9694, Page 949, 19 September 2009 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61643-3
  • Managing the health effects of climate change; The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9676, Pages 1693 - 1733, 16 May 2009 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60935-1

Written by Ramona Bates, MD
Exclusive to eMaxHealth