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Assignment 1: Social Impact of Population Growth

The  United Nations has hired you to be a consultant on global issues. One  of the challenges is assessing the impact of population growth. There is  no question that the world population will grow dramatically in the  next decade throughout many countries of the world. The members of the  UN are working to understand the impact that population growth has on  society, specifically in developing countries. Your first project with  the UN is to develop a whitepaper on three issues related to the  population growth faced by one of these countries. Read the Case Study  and provide an assessment based on the questions below. 

(For a brief list of resources for this assignment, please see the end of the course guide.)

II. Overview

Our obsession with continual economic growth deters us from studying the role that an expanding population plays in global warming.[1]

About  3 billion years ago, the Earth suffered through a mass extinction  caused by catastrophic volcanic activity in Siberia and wildfires that  covered the entire planet. Since then, four more extinctions have  eradicated up to 80% of all species each time. The world’s  climatologists and scientists overwhelmingly agree that we are now on  the verge of a sixth mass event that, over the next few tens of  thousands of years, will wipe out nearly all living species on Earth —  including humankind. 

This  is not the stuff of science fiction or speculation, but rather the  studied view of the people who are most qualified to make this kind of  assessment. As anthropologist Richard Leaky, author of The Sixth Extinction,[2] wrote in 1995, “ Homo sapiensmight not only be the agent of the sixth extinction, but also risks being one of its victims.”

This brings us to two issues worthy of reflection:  

Does the rate at which people are reproducing need to be controlled to save the environment?  

To what extent does human population growth impact global warming... and what can be done about it?[3] 

The  answer to the first is quite simply “yes,” but the solution to the  second is more problematic. The damage humans are doing to their climate  is ruining the atmosphere surrounding their planet. At the rate this  damage is increasing, at some point in the future there will be no  atmosphere left to protect life on Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet  radiation. Compared to other planets in our solar system, Earth has mild  temperatures, thanks largely to the protective gases of its atmosphere.  

However,  since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution (around 1775), those  gases have become stuck in the atmosphere, causing heat radiating from  the sun to reflect back to Earth (rather than exiting to space). The  result is that oceans have become warmer and glaciers are melting,  including parts of Antarctica. If we think of that continent as the  stopper in a bottle, its melting away will release all the water it is  holding back. This will raise sea levels to uncontrollable levels and  flood coastal regions for miles inland. 

The two main culprits for this warming trend are carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. These gases, called greenhouse gases,  are trapped by the Earth’s atmosphere and, in turn, heat up the entire  planet. It is worth noting that warming oceans are killing off kelp beds  throughout the Earth's oceans and coastlines at a prodigious rate. Not  only do hundreds of millions of people depend on the fish that thrive on  this ecosystem, but kelp is a natural absorbent of CO2. It purifies both the water around the kelp and the air we breathe.

Population  growth that consumes natural resources is partially to blame for the  release of greenhouse gases, as are deforestation, soil erosion, and  farming (overturned dirt releases CO2). The real issue, however, is the burning of fossil fuels (hydrocarbons) such as coal  oil and natural gas, which have been produced by the organic remains of  prehistoric organisms. The release of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) such  as refrigerants (used to cool the air in air conditioners and  refrigerators), propellants in aerosol sprays, and solvents also  contribute heavily to the depletion of the ozone layer in the Earth’s  stratosphere. The stratosphere is responsible for filtering out much of  the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, preventing humans from burning to  death. 

Continuing  to release these gases and CFCs into the atmosphere at these rates will  have catastrophic effects on the Earth’s ecosystems and its level of  biodiversity. Temperatures will warm by about two degrees Fahrenheit,  changing weather patterns for the worse across the globe. In December  2017, the World Bank stated, “Climate  change is an acute threat to global development and efforts to end  poverty. Without urgent action, climate impacts could push an additional  100 million people into poverty by 2030."[4]

II. Case Assessment

The  world’s population is expanding at such a rate that some natural  resources are being stripped from the environment. This case study deals  with how global institutions are working to prevent the loss of these  resources. It also deals with, in effect, the consequences of not having  access to these resources.

As the first section of your whitepaper for the UN, research the impact of population growth on society. Write a minimum of four pages assessing the impact, citing at least five credible sources in your  research. As you compose the whitepaper, review the United Nations list  of developing countries (available on the United Nations website).  Select one country from the UN developing countries list to use as an  example throughout your assessment. Please include: 

  • A cover page with your name, title of course, date, and the name of your instructor
  • A one-half page introduction
  • A  middle section that is numbered and divided into three one-page  sections. Each of these sections should answer one of the following  questions: 
  1. What are greenhouse gases? How do they contribute to global warming?
  2. What  kinds of economic, security, political, and other challenges do these  emissions pose to the people of the developing world, and who are the  biggest offenders? 
  3. Is there any way to control the growth of population on a global level?
  • A one-half page conclusion
  • Cite at least five credible sources, excluding Wikipedia, dictionaries and encyclopedias for your assessment.
  • For a brief list of resources for this assignment, please see the end of the course guide.

This course requires use of new Strayer Writing Standards (SWS).  The format is different than other Strayer University courses. Please  take a moment to review the SWS documentation for details. ( Note:You will be prompted to enter your Blackboard login credentials to view these standards.)

The specific course learning outcomes associated with this assignment are:

  • Evaluate the impacts of population growth and its negative impacts on global societies while considering multiple perspectives.


[1] George Gitlitz, ‘The Climate Problem – But Don’t Mention Population,’ Berkeleyside, June 19, 2018.

[2] Discover Magazine, July/August 2018, p. 55

[3] Larry LeDoux, ‘Does Population Growth Impact Climate Change,’ Scientific American, September 2018.

[4] Bill McKibben, ‘A Very Grim Forecast,’ Review Article of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Global Warming of 1.5°C: An IPCC Special Report, in The New York Review of Books, Vol. LXV, No. 18, November 22, 2018, p. 4.

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