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Comments on: An analysis of ‘Three decades of increasing carbon emissions The weight of the P factor[1]

[Authors: Lucia Tamburino, Philip Cafaro and Giangiacomo Bravo]

The paper [1] suggests that population growth should be an important consideration, along with per capita consumption and technological innovation, in devising strategies for limiting and mitigating climate change. In particular the authors find that “Depending on the group, the main causes and rate of population growth vary but, regardless of the causes, this growth affects total emissions and preliminary analyses indicate that its contribution is not negligible.”

The authors also conclude that “While our analysis confirms some of the current narratives about the relation between population growth and climate change e.g., the negligible contribution to climate change of the poorest countries it does not support the widespread belief that increased affluence is the main driver of increased carbon emissions at the global level.”

The following abstract is a summary of the paper:

“A dominant narrative in the climate change debate is that addressing population is not relevant for mitigation because population is only growing in the poorest countries, whose contribution to global carbon emissions is negligible, while the largest contribution comes from rich countries where the population no longer grows. We conducted an analysis of 30 years of emission data for all world countries showing that this narrative is misleading. Splitting the countries into four income groups according to the World Bank’s standard classification [2], we found that: (i) population is growing in all four groups; (ii) low-income countries’ contribution to emissions increase is indeed limited; (iii) the largest contribution to global carbon emissions comes from the upper middle group; (iv) population growth is the main driver of emissions increase in all income groups except the upper middle one; (v) the successful reduction in per capita emissions that occurred in the high income countries was nullified by the parallel increase in population in the same group. Our analysis suggests that climate change mitigation strategies should address population along with per capita consumption and technological innovation, in a comprehensive approach to the problem.”

  1. Source: Tamburino, L.; Cafaro, P.; Bravo, G. An Analysis of Three Decades of Increasing Carbon Emissions: The Weight of the P Factor. Sustainability 2023, 15, 3245.

  2. Income distributions: World Bank. The World by Income and Region. Available online:

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