Likely effects of overpopulation on climate change downplayed

Peter Makwanya

ALL the climate impacts are said to be anthropogenic in nature, meaning that they are human-induced.

Guest column: Peter Makwanya

Human-caused in the sense that, they are directly related to human activities that disregard the sanctity of the environment.

Natural phenomena like flooding, violent winds, drought, hunger and famine may be described as off-shoots related to global warming activities emanating from human misbehaviour on the environment.

The events highlighted above have been roundly condemned for destroying the environment, but nothing much has been attributed to overpopulation.

The more these climatic conditions affect human livelihoods, the more the number of people competing for scarce resources, resulting in small to large-scale conflicts and wars.

When we say overpopulation directly affects environmental stability, thereby contributing to large-scale degradation, through agricultural and mining activities, we are not advocating for the culling of people or ethnic cleansing.

The central idea is to manage or reduce population explosion footprints in line with the earth’s sustainable carrying capacity.

In this regard, people always blame other factors, but not themselves.

The more we increase the numbers, the more resources get depleted and become scarce, resulting in unnecessary conflicts, leading to full-scale wars.

One major factor that we forget is that as people increase in density, the earth will not be expanding. Rather, it remains static.

People also become happy to keep large heads of cattle and other livestock, but they seem to ignore where these animals will graze.

This includes wherever they will farm, build homes and various forms of infrastructure.

People’s natural and divine role as environmental stewards is quickly diminishing and is also being eclipsed by their increase in numbers.

An introspection into the period from the 1980s to 1990s would reveal that the discourse of birth control was lively and proactive.

Right now, the discourse has been somewhat subdued or seemingly overtaken by complex aliments like cancer, HIV and Aids and heart diseases.

Normally, overpopulation is not always in line with the available natural, economic resources, or infrastructural development.

In this regard, issues of survival come into play, as people will need food, water, pastures, land for agricultural production, schools, hospitals and transport.

These amenities will become overstretched and will be seen as inadequate, leading to tensions and disgruntlement.

Usually, there has never been a striking balance among population density, environmental sustainability and means of production.

It is also evident that many countries around the globe, because of large numbers as their citizens, can hardly feed themselves.

Some less-populated countries, with well-managed economies, are becoming popular destinations from climate immigrants running away from biting poverty and scarce natural resources.

In this background, a large number of overpopulated and vulnerable countries still use forest resources as forms of energy.

Many countries are still busy exploring resources such as oil, gas, coal and others to boost their economic growth.

But when these resources are burnt, they churn out large quantities of unwanted gases, which eventually change the complexion of the atmosphere, including the air that we breathe.

This has also resulted in extreme weather patterns and temperatures, some of which contribute negatively to the health and well-being of the people.

Although issues of education, awareness and information have reached the people and are being well understood, the effects of population explosion are still prevalent.

These increase the people’s vulnerabilities and expose them to effects of climate change.

As such, issues of resilience and adaptation are always very difficult to be realised.

All in all, as nations struggle with large numbers, they need to think of the kind of safety nets and adaptation strategies that will increase their resilience and reduce stress on their countries’ carrying capacities.


  1. This is a very pertinent topic that has to be taken seriously. It calls for a re-look at the Malthusian Theory regarding the relationship between population and resources. A quiet revolution is taking place in China where there is an imbalance between population and local resources. The Chinese are fanning across the globe to acquire needed resources as well as get rid of excess population. They are quietly colonising the world in the name of “investment”. Their loans are not cheap. Poor countries (poor in terms of corporate governance but rich in natural resources) will work up one day to find that the Chinese own everything, which will be a source of conflict. let us take heed.

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