Despite the pivotal role human factors (anthropogenic drivers) are presumed to play in global environmental change, substantial uncertainties and contradictory conclusions about them continue. We attempt to further discipline the human factors issue by estimating the effects of two anthropogenic drivers, population and affluence, on a wide variety of global environmental impacts, including greenhouse gas emissions, emissions of ozone depleting substances, and the ecological footprint. Population proportionately increases all types of impacts examined. Affluence typically increases impacts, but the specific effect depends on the type of impact. These findings refocus attention on population and material affluence as principal threats to sustainability and challenge predictions of an ameliorating effect of rising affluence on impacts.
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Vol. 33 • No. 8