In the News, June 2022

Written by Marian Starkey | Published: June 21, 2022

New IPCC Report Glosses Over Role of Population Stabilization in Climate Change Mitigation

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is in the process of publishing its Sixth Assessment Report (assessments have come out every six to eight years since 1990). The assessment is being conducted by three separate working groups that focus on different aspects of climate change: the physical science basis (Working Group I); impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability (Working Group II); and mitigation of climate change (Working Group III). Another group of authors will write a non-technical synthesis report, integrating the three working group reports and three special reports in a “style suitable for policymakers.”

In early April, Working Group III released its report. The charge of this group was to assess progress in emissions reductions and mitigation options going forward. The report’s 239 authors covered much over the course of 2,913 pages, including copious references to different population projections and how they change future emissions scenarios. But despite the frequent acknowledgment of the role population size plays in humanity’s consumption of greenhouse gases (GHG), family planning was only mentioned once, and only in reference to its ability to minimize the number of people at future risk of hunger. Contraception and birth control weren’t mentioned at all.

For a report meant to illuminate the potential effectiveness of our options for reducing future GHG emissions, the omission is disappointing and even dangerous. In order to keep warming to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, the report states that global emissions must peak by 2025, which will “involve rapid and deep and in most cases immediate GHG emission reductions in all sectors.” The population and reproductive health sector should be identified clearly and by name.

Male Birth Control Methods Near Human Trials

There are several different male birth control methods currently undergoing testing, but none yet ready for the health care market. (This, despite research to discover a hormonal method for men beginning in the 1970s.)

One method that will enter human trials in Melbourne, Australia, soon is ADAM, a non-hormonal gel injected into each vas deferens, the tubes that carry sperm from the testicles to the urethra. The gel is intended to block sperm for at least a year, and the method is meant to be reversible.

Another method expected to begin human trials later this year is a non-hormonal pill that blocks sperm production by inhibiting a particular Vitamin A receptor. In mice, the pill has been 99 percent effective at preventing pregnancy, and researchers observed no side effects. Within four to six weeks of discontinuing the pill, male mice were able to impregnate female mice again.

China’s Population Peaking Soon

China’s population could peak this year, according to Cai Fang, a member of the People’s Bank of China’s monetary policy committee. The Chinese government’s 2021 population estimate for mainland China was 1.41 billion, with births the lowest they’ve been since at least 1950. The rate of population growth was the lowest it had been since 1960. Several provinces are already reporting negative population growth.

Major U.S. Cities Lost Population in 2021

The U.S. Census Bureau released new data in March on metro area and county population change from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021.

Most (57 percent) U.S. counties experienced population growth during 2020-2021, but counties that are home to some of the nation’s largest cities declined in size. More than two-thirds of metro areas (251 of 384) experienced population growth during 2020-2021. Due to higher deaths than births and domestic migration to smaller metro areas, however, the country’s largest metro areas experienced population decline:

  • New York-Newark-Jersey City: -327,955
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim: -175,913
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley: -116,385
  • Chicago-Naperville-Elgin: -91,671

The pandemic has elevated deaths above what would be expected otherwise; births are at their lowest levels in decades; and many people are being priced out of major cities (and many of them can now work remotely) and are moving to smaller cities and towns.

State Abortion Law Updates

This year is shaping up to be the worst in recent history for abortion rights in the U.S. In preparation for an end to national protections for abortion access, legislatures across the country are passing bills that will make it more difficult or even impossible for residents to get abortions in their states. Here’s a rundown of state bans that have been passed this year:

Arizona: Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed SB 1164 into law in March, banning abortion at 15 weeks—medical emergency is the only exception. Physicians who violate the law will be faced with felony charges and loss of their medical license. The law, if unchallenged, will likely go into effect this summer.

Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed HB 5 into law in April, which bans abortion after 15 weeks. Exceptions exist only to save the life or protect the physical health of the pregnant person or in the case of a fatal fetal diagnosis. The law is scheduled to take effect in July.

Idaho: Gov. Brad Little (R) signed SB 1309 into law in March, banning abortion at six weeks, with exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the life or health of the pregnant person. The law allows the “father, grandfather, sibling, aunt or uncle of the fetus” to bring legal action against the abortion provider, with a potential payout of at least $20,000 if their claim is successful. The law was scheduled to go into effect in April but was temporarily blocked by the Idaho Supreme Court after a legal challenge was brought by Planned Parenthood.

Indiana: Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed HB 1217 into law in March. The bill requires patients to undergo counseling 18 hours before a procedure that informs them that medication abortions may be reversed, that “human physical life begins when a human ovum is fertilized by a human sperm,” and that “objective scientific information shows that a fetus can feel pain at or before twenty (20) weeks of postfertilization age.” None of these statements are backed by science.

Kentucky: The legislature overrode Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) veto of HB 3 in April, and the law went into effect immediately. The 72-page bill places such onerous requirements on providers that the 15-week ban included in the legislation is moot—the two remaining abortion clinics in Kentucky stopped providing abortions immediately, until a federal judge temporarily blocked the law a week later and the clinics were able to resume abortion provision.

Oklahoma: Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) signed SB 612 into law in April, saying, “We want Oklahoma to be the most pro-life state in the country. We want to outlaw abortion in the state of Oklahoma.” The bill does just that, with one exception: to “save the life of a pregnant woman in a medical emergency.” Providers who violate the law could be fined up to $100,000 and face up to 10 years in jail. The law is scheduled to go into effect in August. Gov. Stitt signed another bill (SB 1503) into law in May that mimics SB 8 in Texas, allowing private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone who aids a patient in getting an abortion. It went into effect immediately.

South Dakota: Gov. Kristi Noem (R) signed HB 1318 into law in March, banning medication abortion via telemedicine. This will result in patients having to visit the clinic four times: to receive counseling, to take the first pill 72 hours later, to take the second pill 24 hours after that, and to have a follow-up appointment a couple weeks later. The bill is slated to go into effect in July.

West Virginia: Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed SB 468 into law in March, banning abortion when a fetus has a genetic anomaly. The law is scheduled to go into effect in June.

Wyoming: Gov. Mark Gordon (R) signed a “trigger ban” (HB 92) into law in March that would ban abortion at six weeks if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The bill contains exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the life or health of the pregnant person. The bill also redefines what viability means, “to a detected heartbeat standard.”