A review of solutions and challenges to addressing human population growth and global climate change

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses






Common Ground Research Networks

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



The world's population recently surpassed 7 billion and is predicted to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. Continued population growth will result in increased resource consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing the effects of climate change. Synergisms between population growth and climate change will therefore have substantial negative impacts on the environment. However, solutions to population growth are often absent within the context of climate change. To address this absence, we conducted a review of the primary scientific literature published between 1980 and 2011 using ISI Web of Knowledge to determine the major topics that have been discussed, the geographic scale at which these topics were addressed, what types of solutions were proposed, and whether or not these solutions were tractable. In particular, we quantified the portion of the literature that addressed population growth and climate change as synergistic issues. Of 1,438 papers addressing population growth and climate change, only 139 (∼10%) included solutions. Among these 139 papers, the most frequent topics and solutions addressed the societal aspects of population growth and climate change. Land use/land cover change and greenhouse gas emissions were also frequently discussed, while changes in policy, economics, and science and technology were the most frequently offered solutions to population growth and climate change. Education, energy, and health, were the least discussed topics and the least mentioned as solutions. In addition, while topics were discussed on a global scale, actionable solutions were often regionally dependent and tailored to address either population growth or climate change as separate, unrelated topics. Importantly, the number of papers offering solutions increased significantly over time, with 46% published since 2008. These results suggest that while solutions to human population growth have seldom been discussed in the context of climate change, they are beginning to be considered in the literature, perhaps indicating an increased awareness of the interrelatedness of these issues.

This document is currently not available here.