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UMPI grad makes international headlines with economics study

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Thomas Wire, a 2008 University of Maine at Presque Isle graduate, recently made international headlines for a study he completed this summer which concluded that spending money on family planning, as opposed to more conventional green technologies, would be more cost effective in the global effort to reduce carbon emissions.

Wire completed the study - which was commissioned by the Optimum Population Trust, a UK think tank concerned with the impact of population on the environment - in August 2009 as a postgraduate student at the London School of Economics. His study was mentioned in The Lancet, one of the world's leading medical journals, and the story was then picked up by media outlets such as The Economist, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post.

According to Wire, his study Fewer Emitters, Lower Emissions, Less Cost is essentially a cost-benefit analysis that looks at the potential of reducing future carbon emissions by investing in family planning. Wire took already existing projections of population growth and global carbon emissions between now and 2050, and calculated that spending about $7 on family planning would reduce carbon emissions by 1 metric ton. He calculated that it would take about $32 in spending on green technologies to achieve the same carbon emission reduction.

"The idea being that if access to family planning improves now and continues to improve there will be fewer unwanted births and fewer people will emit fewer metric tons of carbon dioxide," Wire said.

While Wire is pleased that he was able to complete the study as accurately as possible, he is quick to note that his research is based on projections that look up to 40 years into the future and this study should be looked at as an illustration of possibilities rather than as a guarantee of what's going to happen in the future.

"I've come to realize that this is an important issue that people should be talking about and I think it's important that different avenues for climate change are explored," Wire said. "Hopefully, this study will have an impact on the way people think about family planning and climate change."

Wire hails from Watford, UK, but came to UMPI in the Fall of 2003 to earn his Bachelor's degree in Mathematics, with a minor in Business Management. He graduated in 2008 and went on to complete a 12-month Master's degree program at the London School of Economics. Wire just received his Master's degree in Operations Research from the institution.

Looking to the near future, Wire will discuss his study on Nov. 19 as a panelist at a practicum in Uganda organized by AfriComNet. The practicum is titled Family Planning Communication and Advocacy Responses in Africa. Wire's study also may be in the news again in December. It was mentioned recently on the website for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, which will take place this December in Copenhagen. Wire has been told that the Optimum Population Trust plans to distribute copies of the study to all the delegates at the conference.