Cairo and climate change: A win-win opportunity

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The landmark Program of Action agreed to at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo calls for a wide range of population-related policies motivated primarily by the improvement of individual well being. Currently, a funding shortfall threatens continued progress toward the Cairo goals. This shortfall risks missing an opportunity not only to improve the lives of individuals around the world, but also to reduce the environmental consequences of population growth. Recent estimates of environmental externalities to childbearing associated with global climate change indicate that climate-related returns to investments in such policies could be of the same order of magnitude as the investments themselves. Thus, continued support of the Cairo program is clearly a “win–win” strategy.

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... An important prior literature has explored whether human development policies that reduce population size could lead to large benefits through avoided climate mitigation costs (1,2,5,7,(9)(10)(11). ...
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Future population growth is uncertain and matters for climate policy: higher growth entails more emissions and means more people will be vulnerable to climate-related impacts. We show that how future population is valued importantly determines mitigation decisions. Using the Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy model, we explore two approaches to valuing population: a discounted version of total utilitarianism (TU), which considers total wellbeing and is standard in social cost of carbon dioxide (SCC) models, and of average utilitarianism (AU), which ignores population size and sums only each time period's discounted average wellbeing. Under both approaches, as population increases the SCC increases, but optimal peak temperature decreases. The effect is larger under TU, because it responds to the fact that a larger population means climate change hurts more people: for example, in 2025, assuming the United Nations (UN)-high rather than UN-low population scenario entails an increase in the SCC of 85% under TU vs. 5% under AU. The difference in the SCC between the two population scenarios under TU is comparable to commonly debated decisions regarding time discounting. Additionally, we estimate the avoided mitigation costs implied by plausible reductions in population growth, finding that large near-term savings ($billions annually) occur under TU; savings under AU emerge in the more distant future. These savings are larger than spending shortfalls for human development policies that may lower fertility. Finally, we show that whether lowering population growth entails overall improvements in wellbeing-rather than merely cost savings-again depends on the ethical approach to valuing population.
... Securing women's reproductive rights and furthering their economic and social opportunities are the right things to do. Population wedges thus provide "win/win" scenarios with the potential to aid women and their families directly, increasing their happiness and freedom, while helping to meet the grave danger of climate change (O'Neill, 2000;Sandler, In Press). Some of the very same aims writt en into the UN's Millennium Development Goals, such as improving maternal health and increasing the percentage of children receiving a full primary school education, turn out to be among the most eff ective means to reduce birth rates in poor countries (Butler, 2007). ...
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Global climate change is among the world’s most significant and pressing ecological challenges. On some scenarios it could bring about hundreds of millions of refugees, cause a quarter of the world’s plant and animal species to go extinct, and result in trillions of dollars in economic costs. How bad global climate change is going to be will depend upon its magnitude, which in turn depends upon how much more greenhouse gases we emit. In this chapter, Philip Cafaro presents and evaluates a wide range of emission reduction strategies, both technological and behavioral. He argues that both types are necessary, and advocates for several particular behavioral strategies, including eating less meat, flying less frequently, having fewer children, and slowing economic growth.
... Securing women's rights and furthering women's opportunities can effectively help stabilize human populations. There are plausible win/win scenarios which could aid women and their families directly, increasing human happiness and freedom, while helping meet the grave danger of GCC (O'Neill 2000, O'Neill et al. 2005. In addition, a recent study from the London School of Economics argues that reducing population growth is also much cheaper than many other mitigation alternatives under consideration (Wire 2009). ...
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Voluntary family planning is a key mainstay of demographic work and population policies. The 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) signalled a decisive shift away from fertility reduction and target-setting to an emphasis on voluntary family planning as intrinsic to reproductive health and women’s empowerment. Yet, criticisms of voluntary family planning programmes persist, interrogating how ‘voluntariness’ is understood and wielded or questioning the instrumentalization of women’s fertilities in the service of economic and developmental goals. In this paper, I reflect on these debates with the aim of troubling the notion of voluntary family planning as an unambiguous good that enables equitable empowerment and development for all. Drawing on literature from cognate disciplines, I highlight how voluntariness is linked to social and structural conditions, and I challenge the instrumentalization of voluntary family planning as a ‘common agenda’ to solve ‘development’ problems. Engaging with this work can contribute to key concepts (e.g. ‘voluntary’) and measurements (e.g. autonomy), strengthening the collective commitment to achieving the ICPD and contributing to reproductive empowerment and autonomy. Through this intervention, I aim to help demographers see why some critics call for a reconsideration of voluntary family planning and encourage a decoupling of interventions from fertility reduction aims, instead centring human rights, autonomy, and reproductive empowerment.
It is often claimed that reducing population size would be advantageous for climate change mitigation, on the grounds that lower population would naturally correspond to lower emissions. This apparently obvious claim is in fact seriously misleading. Reducing population size would indeed, other suitable things being equal, reduce the emissions rate. But it is well recognised that the primary determinant of the eventual amount of climate change is not the emissions rate, but rather cumulative emissions. It is far less clear whether reducing population size would reduce cumulative emissions, or would in any other way prove an advantage for reasons related to climate change. This paper identifies and briefly discusses the issues relevant to assessing that less clear question.
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According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, human population growth is one of the two primary causes of increased greenhouse gas emissions and accelerating global climate change. Slowing or ending population growth could be a cost effective, environmentally advantageous means to mitigate climate change, providing important benefits to both human and natural communities. Yet population policy has attracted relatively little attention from ethicists, policy analysts, or policy makers dealing with this issue. In part, this is because addressing population matters means wading into a host of contentious ethical issues, including family planning, abortion, and immigration. This article reviews the scientific literature regarding voluntary population control's potential contribution to climate change mitigation. It considers possible reasons for the failure of climate ethicists, analysts, and policy makers to adequately assess that contribution or implement policies that take advantage of it, with particular reference to the resistance to accepting limits to growth. It explores some of the ethical issues at stake, considering arguments for and against noncoercive population control and asking whether coercive population policies are ever morally justified. It also argues that three consensus positions in the climate ethics literature regarding acceptable levels of risk, unacceptable harms, and a putative right to economic development, necessarily imply support for voluntary population control. WIREs Clim Change 2012, 3:45–61. doi: 10.1002/wcc.153 For further resources related to this article, please visit the WIREs website.
Government-financed family planning programs that assist individual couples to attain their desired number of children are easily justified. But government policies that coerce or use financial incentives to influence couples to alter their desired number of children require stronger justification. Such justification may reside in the externalities to childbearing—the costs and benefits of children that are passed on by parents to society. Externalities to childbearing might include public costs of education, health, and pensions, as well as taxes to be paid by children in the future; cost sharing for public goods and social infrastructure over an enlarged tax base; the dilution of per capita value of various forms of collective wealth; and the reduction of wages and per capita incomes in the future. We estimated these externalities for a number of developing countries. Although the net total estimated externality was typically negative, it dominated measurement error only when public holdings of natural resources were important. Public expenditures on health, education, and pensions, financed by proportional taxes, led to negative externalities in most developing countries. There are many sources of positive and negative externalities, and each estimate is uncertain, so the total externality is itself highly uncertain and often does not provide a clear case for policies going beyond family planning. Inclusion of environmental effects might alter this conclusion.
Women's access to education has been recognized as a fundamental right. At the national level, educating women results in improved productivity, income, and economic development, as well as a better quality of life, notably a healthier and better nourished population. It is important for all kinds of demographic behaviour, affecting mortality, health, fertility, and contraception, The personal benefits that women attach to education vary widely according to region, culture, and level of devlopment, but it is clear that educaiton empowers women, providing them with increased autonomy and resulting in almost every context in fewer children. Beyond these few general assertions, however, there is little consensus on such issues as how much education is required before changes in autonomy or reproductive behaviour occur; whether the education-autonomy relationship exists in all cultural contexts, at all times, and at all levels of development; and which aspects of autonomy are important in the relationship between education and fertility. It is in the need to address these fundamental issues that this book took shape. The author reviews the considerable evidence about education and fertility in the developing world that has emerged over the last twenty years, and then passes beyond the limits of previous studies to address three major questions: BL Does increased education always lead to a decrease in the number of children, or is there a threshold level of education that a woman must achieve before this inverse relationship becomes apparent? BL What are the critical pathways influencing the relationship of women's education to fertility? Is fertility affected because education leads to changes in the duration of breast-feeding? Because it raises the age at marriage? Because it increases the practice of contraception? Or because education reduces women's preferences for large numbers of children? BL Do improvements in education empower women in other areas of life, such as their improving exposure to information, decision-making, control of resources, or confidence in dealing with family and the outside world? Supported by full documentation of the available survey data, this study concludes that such contextual factors as the overall level of socio-economic development and the situation of women in traditional kinship structures complicate the general assumptions about the interrelationships between education, fertility, and female autonomy. It lays out the policy implications of these findings and fruitful directions for future research.
The study estimates an empirical model of return intentions using a dataset compiled from an internet survey of Turkish professionals residing abroad. In the migration literature, wage differentials are often cited as an important factor explaining skilled migration. The findings of our study suggest, however, that non-pecuniary factors, such as the importance of family and social considerations, are also influential in the return or non-return decision of the highly educated. In addition, economic instability in Turkey, prior intensions to stay abroad and work experience in Turkey also increase non-return. Female respondents also appear less likely to return indicating a more selective migration process for females.
Current debates on how to reduce the high U.S. abortion rate often fail to take into account the role of unintended pregnancy, an important determinant of abortion. Data from the 1982, 1988 and 1995 cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth, supplemented by data from other sources, are used to estimate 1994 rates and percentages of unintended birth and pregnancy and the proportion of women who have experienced an unintended birth, an abortion or both. In addition, estimates are made of the proportion of women who will have had an abortion by age 45. Excluding miscarriages, 49% of the pregnancies concluding in 1994 were unintended; 54% of these ended in abortion. Forty-eight percent of women aged 15-44 in 1994 had had at least one unplanned pregnancy sometime in their lives; 28% had had one or more unplanned births, 30% had had one or more abortions and 11% had had both. At 1994 rates, women can expect to have 1.42 unintended pregnancies by the time they are 45, and at 1992 rates, 43% of women will have had an abortion. Between 1987 and 1994, the unintended pregnancy rate declined by 16%, from 54 to 45 per 1,000 women of reproductive age. The proportion of unplanned pregnancies that ended in abortion increased among women aged 20 and older, but decreased among teenagers, who are now more likely than older women to continue their unplanned pregnancies. The unintended pregnancy rate was highest among women who were aged 18-24, unmarried, low-income, black or Hispanic. Rates of unintended pregnancy have declined, probably as a result of higher contraceptive prevalence and use of more effective methods. Efforts to achieve further decreases should focus on reducing risky behavior, promoting the use of effective contraceptive methods and improving the effectiveness with which all methods are used.
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