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Can condoms combat climate change?

September 17, 2009 |  3:30 pm

Yes, and they should, argues an editorial in the new issue of the medical journal the Lancet.

In addition to boosting the health, standard of living and human rights of women, encouraging the use of contraception also will help save the planet, the journal argues. The calculus is simple: preventing unwanted pregnancies -- especially in the developing world -- translates into reduced demand for increasingly scarce and energy-intensive resources like food, water and shelter.

Condom More than 200 million women around the world would like access to modern contraception, and their lack of it leads to 76 million unintended pregnancies each year, according to Lancet.

Thomas Wire, a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics, came to essentially the same conclusion last week. In a report titled “Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost,” Wire calculated that if present trends continue, the planet is on track to have 338 billion “people-years” lived between 2020 and 2050. But if contraception were available to every woman who wanted it, so many pregnancies would be averted that the number of people-years would fall to 326 billion.

That reduction of 12 billion people-years would save 34 gigatons of carbon dioxide that would otherwise cost at least $220 billion to produce. In other words, each $7 invested in contraception would buy more than 1 ton of carbon dioxide emissions.

Among the first 40 developing countries to submit global warming adaptation plans to the U.N.  Framework Convention on Climate Change, 37 linked population growth to global warming. But only six of those countries incorporated contraception into their plans, according to Lancet. That should change, the editorial says.

“It is time for the sexual and reproductive health community to use the climate change agenda to gain the traction women’s health deserves,” Lancet says.

-- Karen Kaplan

Photo: A powerful weapon in the fight against global warming. Credit: Bryan Chan / Los Angeles Times

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Comments (8)

Only a 3.6% drop in people years?

Good, I'm glad to hear the scientific community bringing this topic to the forefront. Unfortunately there are a lot of uneducated, and/or devoutly religious people who will never stop breeding, but anything helps.

All the more reason to add birth control to the water!

Yeah, that's what I thought. The statistics that are released on the percentage of pregnancies that are unplanned would lead you to believe that number would be much higher.

Yes, perhaps we should cite climate change as a rationale for access to birth control, because clearly women's well-being doesn't matter.

As a research scientist and author of several books on health, I subscribe to the hypothesis that the current human population far exceeds the planet’s carrying capacity, perhaps by double. Feeding the population is only part of the problem. We seem to be running out of safe places to dump the toxic wastes we generate, and may well drown in our own effluent.

GM Frankenfoods might just solve the world hunger, population, and climate problems over the next few generations, but not in the way you would expect.

From research on the effects of GM foods on animals (illness and failure to reproduce), it could be just a matter of time until humans will feel the same effects of eating this junk- susceptibility to illnesses (such as pandemics and epidemics) for which there are no cures (perhaps already happening), and low sperm count in men and infertility in women (perhaps already happening). The resulting increase in death rate and decrease in birth rate will speed up the process used by nature to deal with other species that exceed the carrying capacity of their environment – a path toward sustainability - or extinction.

I see nothing in the climate change proposals that deals with the population issue, so nature will do it for us.

In "The Wellness Project," I explore ways to increase the chances of being one of those still standing, based on paying close attention to clues from Nature.

Roy Mankovitz, Director

Kevin suggests that the 3.6% represented by 12 billion people-years is too small. The reason it may seem that way is that the change is effected mainly through women in "developing countries". Elsewhere, most women already have, and can afford, condoms. Another limitation is that in many "developing" cultures, men do and will refuse to use condoms.

What idiocy. The usual latimes gang of suspects, their mentally deprived editorial board, is again seeping out of the woodwork and various dark corners sensing some social aberrance to foist off on the unsuspecting masses, when along comes the usually unhinged Lancet, just in time to save their bacon.

Big birdcage is suffering the shakes now that the libmedia is going electronic. Their main source of lining is drying up.


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