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David Attenborough and Jonathon Porritt challenged on population growth

Third World population booms will have a negligible effect on global emissions and climate change, a new study claims

The population explosion in poor countries will contribute little to climate change and is a dangerous distraction from the main problem of over-consumption in rich nations, a study has found.

It challenges claims by leading environmentalists, including Sir David Attenborough and Jonathon Porritt, that strict birth control is needed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The study concludes that spending billions of pounds of aid on contraception in the developing world will not benefit the climate because poor countries have such low emissions. It says that Britain and other Western countries should instead focus on reducing consumption of goods, services and energy among their own populations.

David Satterthwaite, of the International Institute for Environment and Development, a think-tank based in London, analysed changes in population and greenhouse gas emissions for all countries between 1980 and 2005.

He found that sub-Saharan Africa had 18.5 per cent of the world

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