In "Let's Get Small," Judith Lewis writes that "global greenhouse gas emissions have increased 70 percent since 1970, and our energy-squandering ways are to blame" (HCN, 6/22 & 7/6/09). Note that since 1970, world population has increased from around 3.8 to 6.7 billion people, while the United States has gone from 200 to over 300 million — both increases in the 70 percent range. Just a coincidence?
Sure, there have been changes in the per capita energy use — more electric appliances and computers, more fuel efficient vehicles — but the net per capita carbon footprint is, apparently, roughly the same as it was 40 years ago. This would lead one to conclude that the growth in carbon emissions is basically due to population growth.
Anyone who looks at this problem seriously knows that at least a good part of the global-warming solution has to be a strict population policy — perhaps one similar to that already in effect in China. To be sure, certain politicians and religions will lambaste any such plan, but if we refuse to address the population problem, it makes little sense to worry about matters such as the size of our power plants.