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Climate change and contraception
  1. John Bongaarts,
  2. Regine Sitruk-Ware
  1. Population Council, New York City, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr John Bongaarts, Population Council, New York, NY 10017, USA; jbongaarts{at}

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Global climate change represents a grave threat to the future of human welfare and our natural environment.1 The contentious ongoing policy debate about potential interventions focuses on switching to renewable energy sources and increasing energy use efficiency. But given the urgency of the problem and the lack of political will, other approaches to limit greenhouse gas emissions should be given higher priority. Improving access to effective contraception is one such policy that has thus far been largely ignored by the international climate community.2 This recommendation is based on three simple facts: (1) population growth is a key driver of climate change, (2) higher and more effective use of contraception reduces unplanned pregnancies and hence population growth, and (3) many more women and men would freely choose to use contraception if only it were available and acceptable. The authors’ recommended policy is about improving universal access to reproductive technologies, not about coercion.

In 2100, our planet is expected to be home to 10.9 billion people, up from today’s 7.7 billion.3 This expansion of humanity will take place mostly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.3 Rapid population growth has pervasive adverse effects on societies, economies and the natural environment. In particular, with an additional 3 billion people producing greenhouse gases, the global warming problem will become even more intractable in the coming decades.

Slower future population growth could reduce emissions globally by an estimated 40% or more in the long term.4 …

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  • Contributors JB wrote the first part of the commentary, and RSW wrote the second part.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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