World Population Awareness

News Digest

January 13, 2017

The First Steps Toward Over-the-counter Birth Control in the US Are Finally Underway

A French pharmaceutical company will apply for FDA approval to make a progestin contraceptive pill available over the counter in the US. It's about time.
December 30, 2016, VOX Media   By: Emily Crockett

In most states, hormonal contraception requires a prescription. Getting that prescription takes time and money for doctor visits that some women just don't have. Oral contraceptive pills are well-studied, and The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Medical Association, and the American Academy of Family Physicians agree that they are safe for over-the-counter use. The idea even has bipartisan support in Congress, except on issues like whether insurance companies should have to pay the bills. The next step was to find a pharmaceutical company willing to go through the long and costly process of seeking FDA approval. That too has now been done. HRA Pharma in Paris is partnering with advocates and experts from Ibis Reproductive Health to start the process, which may take several years to complete.

There are two major types of oral contraceptives, progestin-only and pills that contain both progestin and estrogen. Ibis and HRA plan to seek FDA approval for a progestin-only pill similar to others already approved for emergency contraception. Progestin-only pills present the fewest barriers for the broadest population, Ibis president Kelly Blanchard said. Both types of pills are equally effective, but combined pills with estrogen can cause potential problems for women who smoke or have high blood pressure. Blanchard said that after the first OTC pill is approved, it shouldn't be difficult to get other forms of birth control approved, too. That would allow women more than one over-the-counter option, since not every pill or every birth control method is right for every woman.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires health insurance to cover contraception at no added cost. Not making women pay extra on top of their insurance premiums makes birth control much more accessible. But repeal of the ACA may eliminate that benefit. Republicans proposed legislation in 2015 to speed up the FDA's over-the-counter approval process for contraception - but Democrats and women's health advocates called that bill a ploy to undermine the ACA while only appearing to support birth control and women's health. That bill would also have imposed an 18-and-over age restriction, which Blanchard says is completely unnecessary. As for whether Trump's appointees could cause political problems for approving over-the-counter contraception, Blanchard said she hopes that the FDA "will follow their process and judge it on its merits. And we think the merits are strong." doclink

Illegal Logging Shows Little Sign of Slowing

A recent report finds regulation loopholes, an uptick in organized crime, and lax land rights are allowing illegal logging to thrive.
December 30, 2016, Mongabay.com   By: Morgan Erickson-davis

About 30% of the world's timber is harvested illegally, due largely to regulation loopholes and organized criminal networks, and often as part of land clearing for palm oil, beef, and soy production. These findings come from a recent report titled "Illegal Logging and Related Timber Trade - Dimensions, Drivers, Impacts and Responses" - the most comprehensive scientific analysis published on the topic. It was produced with help from more than 40 scientists around the world coordinated by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) in association with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.

Crimes related to illegal deforestation "account for up to $152 billion every year, more than all official development aid combined," said Erik Solheim, Head of UN Environment. Trade agreements, such as the European Union's Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade Action Plan, require that timber products imported to the EU be legally harvested. This has prompted illegal-wood sellers to shift to markets which have less stringent regulations, such as India and China, which are now the biggest importers of both legal and illegal tropical wood. Organized crime and insecure land rights are big contributors to illegal logging activities around the world. The sale of Illegally extracted timber helps fund weapons for wars and conflicts in western Africa - namely the DRC, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

While illegal logging occurs in most tropical nations, it is especially prevalent in Brazil, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Indonesia tops the list, generating around 65 million cubic meters of wood-based products in 2013, around 60% of which are estimated to have been harvested illegally. More than 90% of wood produced in Cambodia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is harvested illegally. Bolivia, Peru, and Laos come in at around 80% each. Russia is the main source of boreal and temperate wood. About 20% of Russia's timber products come from illegal logging. China uses that wood to make flooring, furniture, and other products that it sells domestically and to markets in Europe, Japan, and the U.S.

Land tenure issues are "profound drivers" of illegal logging. Previous analyses found that land held and managed by local and indigenous communities is less affected by deforestation than government-managed areas. About 86% of the world's forests are publicly owned, but only around 60% are managed by communities that reside in them, and less than 20% have officially recognized land rights. Reducing illegal logging could benefit the communities that live within the forests, as well as to those affected by organized crime.

"In addition to bilateral efforts, stronger international cooperation is needed globally to successfully fight illegal logging and related timber trade and prevent it from shifting to less regulated markets," Alexander Buck, IUFRO Executive Director, said in a statement. "Illegal logging is not merely a forest-related problem to be resolved by the ministries dealing with the forest and environment sectors alone. Illegal conversion of forests to agricultural land is an example that clearly shows the need for a broader cooperation, in this case between forestry and agriculture." doclink

Growing Mega-Cities Will Displace Vast Tracts of Farmland by 2030, Study Says

Cropland losses will have consequences especially for Asia and Africa, which will experience growing food insecurity as cities expand
December 27, 2016, Guardian   By: Emma Bryce

It's estimated that urban areas will triple in size by 2030, expanding into cropland and undermining the productivity of agricultural systems that are already stressed by rising populations and climate change.

Roughly 60% of the world's cropland lies on the outskirts of cities. This is particularly worrying because this peripheral land is, on average, twice as productive as land elsewhere on the globe "because mankind tends to settle where crops can be produced," says Felix Creutzig from the Mercator Research Institute on Global Commons and Climate Change in Berlin, and principal author on the paper.

In Africa and Asia especially-which together bear 80% of the projected loss due to rising urbanisation in these regions-urban expansion will consign farmers to an even tougher agricultural reality.

The projections reveal hotspots of loss in countries like Egypt, Nigeria, the countries that flank Lake Victoria in East Africa, and in Eastern China. (China alone is expected to experience one-quarter of the global cropland loss.)

A major worry surrounding the disappearance of this productive land is the impact it will have on staple crops such as maize, rice, soya beans, and wheat, which are cornerstones of global food security. Many of these crops occur in areas that will be consumed by urban spread in years to come. "Due to urbanisation in Nigeria, 17% of rice production and 12% of maize production will be hampered," Creutzig says. "Egypt will lose more than 40% of its rice, and more than 60% of its maize." In Africa, there will a 26% continental loss of wheat. Rice is forecast to suffer the most, with a 9% global decline, occurring predominantly in Asia where the bulk of this crop grows.

Creutzig notes that some of this loss can be compensated for by agricultural expansion and intensification. But again, this isn't possible everywhere on the planet: many regions are already limited by their inability to adapt to urban encroachment.

In South Asia there is no room for expansion farmland, because fertile land is already running out. In India, agricultural expansion would force crops into habitats like wetlands that act as important buffers against flooding and sea-level rise. And in North Africa, worsening conditions driven by climate change will make the land that is available less suitable for farming.

Countries worst affected by urban expansion experiencing rising dependence on imports, leaving them vulnerable to global fluctuations in food supply, pricing crops out of reach of poorer populations.

Creutzig says: "As peri-urban land is converted, smallholders will lose their land," he says. "The emerging mega-cities will rely increasingly on industrial-scale agricultural and supermarket chains, crowding out local food chains."

"In cases where farmers have no formal land rights, such as in Africa, governments may expel farmers from their land,” commented Anton Van Rompaey, a geographer from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium, who was not part of the study but has has done research on urban spread and its agricultural impacts in China. "In the past this has led to social instability and deadly conflicts between farmers and government.”

Creutzig predicts that growing food within the city's margins-urban farming-could be part of the solution, but would be "utterly insufficient to feed the urban population. However, regulations on expansion, to keep urbanisation as compact as possible, will be the bigger prerogative of cities, he says. doclink

Our Origins Are Our Destiny

December 20, 2016, You Tube

Bob Walker of Population Institute discusses the origins of population growth and its implications for the future, covering social change, scarcity, and environmentalism along the way. doclink

How Clean is Solar Power?

A new paper may have the answer
December 10, 2016, Economist

To make solar panels the silicon that goes into these panels require melting and purifying whch takes a lot of energy in the form of electricity. Most electricity is produced by burning fossil f, which do emit carbon dioxide. So, when a new solar panel is put to work it starts with a "carbon debt" that, from a greenhouse-gas-saving point of view, has to be paid back before that panel becomes part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

Wilfried van Sark, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, and his colleagues have calculated the energy required to make all of the solar panels installed around the world between 1975 and 2015, and the carbon-dioxide emissions associated with producing that energy. They also looked at the energy these panels have produced since their installation and the corresponding amount of carbon dioxide they have prevented from being spewed into the atmosphere.

Data was taken from the International Energy Agency, an autonomous intergovernmental body. Exactly how much carbon dioxide was emitted during the manufacture of a panel will depend on where it was made, as well as when. How much emitted gas it has saved will depend on where it is installed. A panel made in China, for example, costs nearly double the greenhouse-gas emissions of one made in Europe. That is because China relies more on fossil fuels for generating power. Conversely, the environmental benefits of installing solar panels will be greater in China than in Europe, as the clean power they produce replaces electricity that would otherwise be generated largely by burning coal or gas.

The found that solar panels made today are responsible, on average, for around 20 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour of energy they produce over their lifetime (estimated as 30 years, regardless of when a panel was manufactured). That is down from 400-500 grams in 1975. In addition, the amount of time needed for a solar panel to produce as much energy as was involved in its creation has fallen from about 20 years to two years or less. As more panels are made, the manufacturing process becomes more efficient. The team found that for every doubling of the world's solar capacity, the energy required to make a panel fell by around 12% and associated carbon-dioxide emissions by 17-24%.

Depending on the numbers fed into the model, global break-even could have come as early as 1997 or as late as 2018. doclink

Karen Gaia says: I will be convinced when they start making solar panels with energy from solar panels.

Climate Change Escalating So Fast it is 'Beyond Point of No Return'

New study rewrites two decades of research and author says we are 'beyond point of no return'
December 1, 2016, Independent UK   By: Peter Walker

A report by a long list of researchers and published in the Nature journal, assembled data from 49 field experiments over the last 20 years in North America, Europe and Asia, has declared that global warming is beyond the "point of no return".

The full impact of climate change has been underestimated because scientists haven't taken into account a major source of carbon in the environment.

Dr Thomas Crowther, lead author of the report said that carbon emitted from soil was speeding up global warming.

The United Nations is already adopting the findings, which say temperatures will increase by 1C by 2050.

Dr Crowther has branded Donald Trump's sceptical stance on climate change as "catastrophic for humanity".

"It's fair to say we have passed the point of no return on global warming and we can't reverse the effects, but certainly we can dampen them," said the biodiversity expert.

The study found that the majority of the Earth's terrestrial store of carbon was in soil, and, as the atmosphere warms, increasing amounts are emitted in what is a vicious cycle of "positive feedbacks”.

55 billion tons of carbon, not previously noted by scientists, will be emitted into the atmosphere by 2050.

Organisms become more active as the earth warms up, and "the more active they become, the more the soil respires - exactly the same as human beings," said Dr Crowther.

Dr Crowther predicts climate change will lead to widespread migrations and antagonism among communities. "These effects of climate change will certainly be felt disproportionately by poorer people, particularly the billions of people whose livelihoods are intrinsically linked to the land,” he added.

Mr Trump's threat to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate deal still lingers.

"Uncertainty is nothing like a reason enough to suggest climate change isn't happening. There's a nice analogy; if you step in front of an oncoming bus, no doctor in the world can tell you how damaging the impact is going to be. "But we do know the damage is going to be huge. This alone should be enough information to persuade us to avoid the bus.”

The last two decades of the 20th century were the hottest in 400 years.

He added: "I would just like to stress that I could get a hell of a lot more money than academia offers me if I were to do a study that suggests that climate change is not real."

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established by the UN and World Meteorological Organisation, is incorporating the study's data.

Prof Janssens, of the University of Antwerp said, "I'm an optimist and still believe that it is not too late, but we urgently need to develop a global economy driven by sustainable energy sources and start using CO2, as a substrate, instead of a waste product. "If this happens by 2050, then we can avoid warming above 2C. If not, we will reach a point of no return and will probably exceed 5C.” doclink

The Key to Sustainable Development: Investing in Urban Reproductive Health

December 15, 2016, You Tube

This video features key experts in the family planning field, including Melinda Gates, Ellen Starbird, Anju Malhotra, Latif Dramani, and Jason Bremner, making the case for investing in family planning in urban areas and explaining how this can impact the environment and economy of countries, as well as add to women's empowerment. doclink

Displaced and Disrupted: Closing the Gaps in Maternal Health in Conflicts and Crises

December 21, 2016, New Security Beat   By: Nancy Chong

The UN Refugee Agency estimates that the health services normally available to 65.3 million people have been disrupted by conflict. Several UN protocols note the special need for quality maternal health services in these places, including the International Conference on Population and Development Program of Action, adopted by 179 countries in 1994. Yet, according to a study by the Inter-Agency Working Group on Reproductive Health in Crises, between 2002 and 2011 conflict-affected developing countries received about 60% less official development assistance for reproductive health," even though most indicators suggest that their needs exceeded those of places not affected by conflicts.

Syria is the largest source of displaced people. According to Massimo Diana of the UN's Population Fund, 30% of health facilities have been damaged, close to 50% of primary health care facilities are not working properly, life expectancy has dropped by 20 years, and maternal and child mortality rates have increased by one third. Diana said that while women and young girls are more likely to face sexual and gender-based violence in conflict settings, no set of clinical guidelines explain how health workers should care for survivors of sexual assaults from child marriage to rape, and program donors give low priority to family planning. Young girls have less control over whether they become pregnant in crisis settings, said Diana. "Adolescents who are married have both the lowest use of contraception in the highest levels of unmet needs."

Conflict environments pose problems for randomized controlled peer reviewed studies. In acute and protracted conflict environments like Syria, Diana called for "fast data," that can keep pace with on-going changes and more clearly show what is needed. Mobile technology can help collect data and encourage community support for mothers and their newborns. Diana also noted that the private sector provides most services in conflict-affected settings. "We need to partner and establish a shared understanding of policies, procedures, recording, and management of pre-natal, post-natal care."

Joy Marini of Johnson & Johnson agreed that the private sector can play a role in plugging some of the gaps. Private sector funding in conflict-affected states has increased in recent years, she said. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) encourage businesses to get involved in the global development agenda, and it's important to encourage this shift to help offset the constrained resources of humanitarian organizations. But when making this case, Marini said she often faces resistance. "I am less of an expert in conflict and crises and more of an expert in being told no." She suggested appealing to businesses by noting opportunity and development, rather than risks and crises. When the Ebola epidemic broke out in West Africa in 2014, companies dropped everything they were working on to find a vaccine, said Marini. However, in conflict settings, companies have been weary of stepping in because of the perceived risk of failure and loss. Marini said that businesses should also view maternal and child health in conflict and crises as opportunities. Businesses can bring additional expertise on health service provision and a higher propensity for risk taking that may encourage innovation. "Our businesses can bring real value to these conflicts, in terms of creative ways of thinking and analyzing what can happen,” she said.

Johnson & Johnson has already joined the Safe Birth Even Here Campaign, working to provide a full range of health services that protect women's health and rights in crisis settings. It has also worked with UNFPA to invest in emergency obstetric care and health system strengthening in Haiti and Liberia. And in Syria, it is working with Save the Children to support children's access to health care in resettlement settings. doclink

Egypt's Population Growth Cause for Concern

Abu Bakr al-Guindi says population growth needs to be reduced - 'otherwise, Egypt will not be able to feed its people in future.'
December 18, 2016, The Arab Weekly   By: Hassan Abdel Zaher

Abu Bakr al-Guindi, who has headed Egypt's statistics agency, CAPMAS, for 11 years, is most concerned about the population growth rate. He worries that, with the nation's limited resources, if population growth remains at its current 2.4% annual rate (i.e., over two million more people each year) Egypt will have problems feeding its people. The population now stands at 94 million, making Egypt the most populous country in the Middle East, and it is expected to reach 125 million in 2030.

Guindi said, "population growth is a blessing only when countries have enough money to offer services, but it is a curse when they do not." He said that Egypt's population growth is five times that of China and eight times that of South Korea. "For our country to feed all these people, its economy must grow three times as much as it does now." Guindi advocates several incentives to encourage smaller families.

Despite government efforts to form new agricultural communities in the desert, due largely to limited water resources, people inhabit only one million sq. kilometres, or 7.8% of the nation's land. The vast majority of people live in the urban centers, especially Cairo and the coastal city of Alexandria. The effect of growth on living space and educational, health and housing services is tremendous.

The population growth rate has long been a major challenge for Egypt's governments. Former president Hosni Mubarak also warned that overpopulation would dwarf resources and keep the country struggling to feed itself. Although Egypt now spends hundreds of millions of dollars to rein in population growth, the program have met with little success. Atef al-Shitany, the head of the Health Ministry's family planning section blames early marriages, poverty and rampant illiteracy. He said that "Egypt needs to enforce positive and negative incentives to curb its population growth. We also need to convince Egyptians that small families mean better living standards."

Egypt's economic growth shrank to less than 2% annually after the 2011 revolution that ended Mubarak's 30-year rule as deteriorating security caused an industrial slump and tourists stayed away. Although the economy is now growing 4% a year, experts say Egypt needs to add one million jobs to close its unemployment gap.

On December 11th Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the government does not have enough money to provide the services people need. Egypt's hospitals and schools are crowded. Millions of citizens live in slums and thousands of villages and districts lack sewage, electricity and drinking water. Some believe that population growth is not the only problem. Mismanagement of human resources and a failure to make the best use of what is available also contribute to the nation's problems. doclink

Exxonmobil's Energy Outlook Projects Population, Economic Growth to Drive Energy Demand

December 16, 2016, Yahoo Finance

An expected global population growth of 2 billion, a doubling of worldwide economic output and rapid expansion of the middle class in emerging economies will contribute to energy demand growth of about 25% from 2015 to 2040, according to ExxonMobil's 2017 Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040.

The growth of demand will be limited by efficiency gains. Energy demand in member nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is likely to be flat to 2040, while demand in non-OECD nations is expected to increase 40% as prosperity expands and access to modern energy increases.

55% of the energy demand growth over the next quarter century will be tied to power generation needed to support the increasingly digital and plugged-in lives of society.

Average electricity use per household will rise about 30% between 2015 and 2040.

The share of the world's electricity generated by coal is expected to fall to about 30% from approximately 40% in 2015 as the use of lower-emission energy sources including natural gas, nuclear and renewables increases.

"As economies expand around the world, energy demand will increase as more people seek higher standards of living," said William Colton, vice president of corporate strategic planning of Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM). "Humanity's dual challenge is to meet growing energy demand while managing the risk of climate change. Our Outlook for Energy can help people understand factors influencing future energy supply and demand and inform industries and governments as they consider future energy policy."

The global middle class is expected to double to about 5 billion, while the number of cars, sport-utility vehicles and pickups are expected to increase about 80% by 2040. Car fuel economy for new cars will improve from about 30 miles per gallon to nearly 50 miles per gallon.

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are expected to peak during the 2030s and then gradually decline.

Note: WOA disagrees with the conclusions in this article. See the comment below for our remarks

In 2040, oil and natural gas are expected to make up nearly 60% of global supplies, while nuclear and renewables will be approaching 25%.

Natural gas demand will expand significantly, accounting for about 40% of the projected growth in global energy demand.

Nuclear and renewable energy sources - including bio-energy, hydro, geothermal, wind, and solar - are also likely to account for 40% of the growth in global energy demand to 2040.

Oil will provide about one third of the world's energy in 2040, remaining the No. 1 source of fuel.

Carbon intensity of the global economy is likely to be reduced by 45% through 2040, reflecting significant gains in the energy efficiency of economies worldwide and a gradual transition to lower carbon-intensive energy types.

Global energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are likely to peak during the 2030s and begin to decline, even as global economic output doubles from 2015 to 2040.

North America, which for decades had been an oil importer, is likely to become a significant net exporter by 2025. doclink

Karen Gaia says: No mention of the decreasing Energy-Return Over Invested (EROI) of oil and other fossil fuels. This makes our current economy and lifestyle more expensive because the expense of producing energy cuts into areas of our economy such as the arts and entertainment, education, health, and,eventually, the food supply.

This decline in EROI has already lead, in part, to the near disappearance of the middle class in the USA.

In addition, there is no sign that everyone will improve their lifestyle. 2 billion live on less than $2 a day. When we add another 2 billion, a large percentage of the already in poor countries, we have to reason to think that they will achieve a good life better than the 2 billion already in poverty. How is this going to grow the economy?

Contrary to what the article implies, non-fossil fuel energy has been at around 24% for 20 years. I would hope it would have improved by 2040.

Energy efficiency: If the percentage of non-fossil fuels has remained unchanged by 2040, how can there be improved energy efficiency? There may be improvements in the way we use energy, such as energy efficient appliances, and electric cars, but there has been a diminishing of returns when it comes to energy-efficient appliances, especially when appliances don't last as long as they used to, and think of the energy it takes to make new ones.