imgPopIcon Population Growth

Assume higher or lower population growth. Population is a key driver of increased greenhouse gases; however, this is also tied heavily to consumption habits. Women’s education and access to family planning could accelerate shifts to smaller families worldwide.


  • Different assumptions for future fertility rates and demographics.
  • Greater empowerment of women and girls, resulting in lower fertility rates.
  • Increased education on and access to reproductive health services.

Big Message

  • Contrary to some people’s beliefs, population growth is not a silver bullet for addressing climate change.
  • Decisions around population and family choice are very personal decisions and efforts to shift these decisions have ethical implications in many cultures.

Key Dynamics

  • Watch all the sources of energy change as you change population growth.

Potential Co-Benefits of Lower Growth

  • Lower population growth reduces global consumption of resources.
  • Ensuring safe access to family planning, reproductive health services, and women’s education enhances quality of life and income for women.

Equity Considerations

  • Policies around population should be voluntary and empower women to make the choices that are best for them.
  • A higher percentage of women of color live in countries with severe gender inequities in access to education, full economic and political participation, and adequate family planning. Reducing population growth necessitates a large investment in that particular group.
  • There is a history of women of color in both high- and low-income countries being forcibly sterilized to prevent giving birth; this should never be encouraged. [1] [2] [3] [4]

Slider Settings

The slider reflects the 95% probability range of population deviating from the United Nation’s medium population growth path. This input is indexed across the UN’s scenarios, where -1 is the low end of the UN’s growth range, 0 is the medium growth scenario, and 1 is the high end of the range.

lowest growth low growth status quo high growth highest growth
UN Scenario low end of UN’s 95% range   middle of the UN’s 95% range   high end of the UN’s 95% range
Units -1 to -0.8 -0.8 to -0.2 -0.2 to 0.2 0.2 to 0.8 0.8 to 1
Population in 2050 9.3 to 9.4 billion 9.4 to 9.7 billion 9.7 to 9.8 billion 9.8 to 10.1 billion 10.1 to 10.2 billion

Model Structure

Population gets multiplied with economic growth (GDP per capita) to equal total global GDP, or Gross World Product.

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[1]Bi, S. (2015). Forced Sterilizations of HIV-Positive Women: A Global Ethics and Policy Failure. AMA Journal of Ethics, 17(10), 952–957. doi: 10.1001/journalofethics.2015.17.10.pfor2-1510
[2]White, H. (2014, May 28). African women fight back against forced, coerced sterilizations.
[3]Nittle, N. K. (2020, January 9). U.S. Government’s Role in Sterilizing Women of Color.
[4]Blakemore, E. (2016, August 25). The Little-Known History of the Forced Sterilization of Native American Women. JSTOR Daily.