Seminar on ‘Climate change, demographic pressure, global sustainability’

Seminar on ‘Climate change, demographic pressure, global sustainability’

Seminar on ‘Climate change, demographic pressure, global sustainability’

Reductions in global population growth for maintaining living standards and for preventing environmental degradation: Prof Alok Bhargava

MSSRF Chennai, March 19, 2019:United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals fail to recognize inter-dependence between the goals and the role of population growth” said Prof Alok Bhargava, an Indian econ ometrician and one of the pioneers in econometric methods for longitudinal (“panel”) data.

Prof Bhargava is a professor in the School of Public Policy at University of Maryland in College Park, USA. He presented a seminar on a research article ‘Climate change, demographic pressures and global sustainability’ at MSSRF today. The research article emphasised on the reductions in global population growth for maintaining living standards and for preventing environmental degradation.  

The important points that he specified as background issues are that United Nations 17 Sustainable Develop me nt Goals have fa iled to recognize inter-dependence between the goals and the role of population growth. Sub-goals such as “Ending hunger and food insecurity”, “Improving education quality” and “Providing adequ ate san itation” are adversely affected by population growth. He al so pinpointed that skilled labor is critical for rapid eco nomic gr owth afforded by globalization, and formulation of evidence-bas ed policies is critical in the wake of cli mate change. Some of the important conceptual aspects from Prof Bhargava’s research article are that role of emissions of methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture is not well studied despite availability of FAOSTAT data base and the contradictio n of voluntary decline in fertility in poor countries with access to high quality healthcare and family planning ser vices.

The conceptual framework that he presented says reducing “un wanted fertility” especially in remote areas of developing coun tries should be of highest priority. Prof Bhargava specified about enhancing the agricultural pro ductivity using information from GRACE satellites on terrestrial water storage anomalies and using data on well depths–evidence of population pressures on groun dwater depths in India, and said that getting information thr ough GRACE satellites does not work properly and is much more approximate when compared with traditional meth ods and smap satellite which is much more precise. Lastly, he stressed on the role of fertility rates and educ ation in increasing emigration to OECD countries and the need to harmonize international migration patterns.

The evidence on total and unwanted fertility from India state that unwanted births are detrimental for maternal nutritional status, chil dren’s nutritional status and education inappropriate to claim “population dividend”. The effects of population growth for water depths in India can be marked from the increase of population to 77% between 1980 and 2010.

Agricultural decision making and remote sensing data from the presentation indicated the importance to grow nutritious crops such as iron-dense rice and beans, and orange flesh sweet potato containing higher β–carotene. It stated that it is important to take into account transpiration efficiency of crops for minimizing groundwater us e and pinpo in ted that Lancet Commission (2019) unrealistically claims that over 10 billion people can consume nutritious die ts, when data shows that 2 to 30 billion people around the world are anaemic. The data also show ed that drip technologies can reduce groundwater use but hinder aquifer recharge, and that it is important to compare gro undwater availability using data on well depths and via GRACE satellites.

The conclusions that were made from the research article are that it is essential to compile and analyze longitud inal data for formula ting evidence-based mitigation and adaptation policies for climate change. Simulations and projections based on limited data are unli kely to capture important events and turning points. It is importan t   to emphasize the benefits of small family size in developing cou ntries for enhancing sustainable economic develop ment and well-being.

Currently available remote sensing technologies for assessing terrestrial water storage anomalies have low res olutions and future improvements will facilitate agricultural decision making. It is important to reduce agricu ltu ral subsidies in developed countries that are distorting food prices, encouraging over-consumption of refined fo ods, and fueling the obesity epidem. Renewable energy generation should be subsidized. International migr atio n patterns will benefit from higher education of migrants given the fertility differentials between developing an d developed countries. Current levels of greenhouse gas emissions may limit the scope of mitigation and ada pt ation policies. Climate and agriculture policies will benefit from analyses of the elaborate FAOSTAT database. The reductions in global population growth are essential for maintaining living standards and for preventing environmental degradation.

Dr N Anil Kumar, the Executive Director of MSSRF and Prof MS Swaminathan, the founder of MSSRF were also present during the seminar.