President's Note, March 2022

Written by John Seager, President and CEO | Published: March 21, 2022

At Population Connection, we believe that all women—indeed all people—have the inalienable right to reproductive autonomy—and that this includes the right to safe and legal abortion.

Soon, the Supreme Court seems likely to slash away at Roe v. Wade, which has enabled millions of women to make their own pregnancy decisions over the past half-century. I’ve spoken with several Population Connection members who, when they were young medical residents, worked in hospitals filled with women and girls suffering from the horrific effects of back alley abortions. They recall how those wards emptied in the aftermath of the Roe decision in 1973.

The right to abortion is critical. And we know the best way to reduce the need for abortion is to ensure universal access to all forms of modern contraception. Smashing barriers to reproductive health care also results in smaller families. And fewer people leads to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The climate fight should put the sexual and reproductive rights of women front-and-center.

So it pains me to note that most leading voices on climate adamantly refuse even to mention the vital connections between population growth and climate change. They fail to acknowledge that one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is by promoting family planning and unfettered access to reproductive health care. These impacts are especially pronounced here in the U.S., where per capita consumption is unsustainably high. But they are also present in low-emitting nations with high rates of population growth. Keep in mind that most people in less developed countries unsurprisingly want much in the way of what we in more developed countries have, and that emissions are on a sharp upward curve in many nations as living standards rightfully rise.

Peer-reviewed research finds that we can get between 37 and 41 percent of needed emissions reductions by moving toward population stabilization. Many of those most at risk around the world as the climate crisis deepens are women and girls in less developed nations. While climate advocates support mitigation measures to avert impacts such as those resulting from severe weather, most flatly refuse to acknowledge that population growth plays a major role in the climate crisis.

It’s time to end this glaring omission about the links between population growth and climate-altering emissions. It’s time to stop ignoring the fact that reproductive autonomy leads to smaller families and that smaller families are key to meeting the climate challenge.

Women deserve better. Future generations deserve better. Our natural world deserves better. Let’s end the silence about the overpopulation/climate connection.

GAIA Initiative for Earth-Human Balance Grant Opportunity

Does your nonprofit have an idea for an innovative project in education, public policy, media, and/or family planning services that addresses human population’s impact on climate change?

Population Connection member Dan Carrigan is President of the GAIA Initiative for Earth-Human Balance, which awards grants of up to $10,000 for proposals addressing a specific population issue. Grant guidelines encourage applicants to focus on an economic development project. GAIA is especially interested in expanding women’s decision-making about their reproductive health choices. See for details, the application, and deadlines.