How are rising CO2 emissions linked to a rising world population?

Many discussions on sustainability rarely mention the world’s growing population and whether current or projected future levels are – or can be made – compatible with living within the limits set by the Earth’s regenerative capacity. As far as fossil fuel emissions are concerned, however, the growing population is not incompatible with lower levels of energy use but, as the paper below shows, the rising levels of consumption in rich countries and “emerging” ones like Brazil, India and China certainly are.


Feb 14 2013 note: This paper has been updated and is now available at

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4 Replies to “How are rising CO2 emissions linked to a rising world population?”

  1. Although I disagree with your anthropogenic carbon emissions causing us problems, IMO they do not, will not.
    I too have looked at population figures and noticed –

    Date..Population….CO2 ppm
    1800..1 billion.
    1927..2 billion.

    So for each billion increase in population the CO2 goes up by about 20ppm.
    The numbers appear to be lock-step together. Given that the majority are in poorer countries this is strange, you’ve made some very good points.

    Population approximation from
    UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund estimate 31.10.2011

    CO2 trends from NOAA

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