Population and climate change paper published by World Health Organisation

September 18, 2009


An article co-authored by PSNs Louise Carver has been published by the World Health Organisation, calling for increased support for rights-based family planning services as part of climate change adaptation programmes in developing countries.

Credit: UN Photo/John Isaac 


Least-developed countries define the agenda

The article, entitled Climate change and family planning: least-developed countries define the agenda was published in the recent edition of the Bulletin of the World Health Organisation.

The article seeks to address both the neglect to date of the links between rapid population growth and concerns regarding climate change, as well as the lack of attention to the concerns of developing countries themselves.

While some commentators have argued that slowing population growth is necessary to reduce further rises in carbon emissions, others have objected that this would give rise to dehumanizing “population control” programmes in developing countries. Yet the perspective of the developing countries that will be worst affected by climate change has been almost completely ignored by the scientific literature.

Findings from countries affected by climate change

Addressing this deficit, the paper analyses the first 40 National Adaptation Programmes of Action reports submitted by governments of least-developed countries to the Global Environment Facility for funding.

The paper finds that of these documents, 93% identified at least one of three ways in which demographic trends interact with the effects of climate change:

  • faster degradation of the sources of natural resources;
  • increased demand for scarce resources;
  • heightened human vulnerability to extreme weather events.


The findings of the paper suggest that voluntary access to family planning services should be made more available to poor communities in least-developed countries.

The authors are keen to stress the distinction between this approach, which prioritizes the welfare of poor communities affected by climate change, and the argument that population growth should be slowed to limit increases in global carbon emissions.

The paper concludes by calling for increased support for rights-based family planning services, including those integrated with HIV/AIDS services, as an important complementary measure to climate change adaptation programmes in developing countries.

Read the article

The article was a collaborative project, written by Leo Bryan of MSI, PSN’s Louise Carver, Colin Butler of Australian National University and Ababu Anage of Population, Health and Environment Network, Ethiopia.

The article is also available online from the World Health Organisation.