There are currently 7.8 billion people on Earth, and they are increasing every year. A new study estimates that growth will cease by the year 2064 and that the ten billion mark will just not be reached. The calculation is somewhat lower than current UN forecasts, which assume that the world population will continue to grow for the entire century.
The new study was conducted by a team of 25 researchers from the University of Washington and published in the authoritative medical journal The Lancet. They think that global population growth is more likely to weaken. The main inhibiting factors are education for girls and women and improved access to contraceptives.
According to the new research, the peak will be around 9.7 billion people, and the world population will slowly decline to 8.8 billion by the year 2100.
That is slightly lower than the ‘median’ UN calculation, which assumes a continuing rise to 10.9 billion people in 2100. The UN also has a low and high scenario, which vary widely at the end of the century: from 7.3 to 15.6 billion people. This indicates that the uncertainty is relatively high.
“If women worldwide were allowed to decide how many children they want, the world population would stabilize by itself.”
Dennis Meadows, auteur The Limits to Growth
Fastest population growth in Africa
The geographical differences are very large. The new study projects faster declines in the birth rate in Africa, but still expects the total population on that continent to triple this century. The southern part of Asia also has relatively high birth rates, while in many countries in Europe and East Asia a slight population decline is expected.
The editor in chief of The Lancet Richard Horton responds to the study: “This important study marks a future that we need to prepare for as soon as possible. It provides a vision of radical shifts in geopolitical power and underlines the importance of protecting and enhancing women’s sexual rights. ”
He emphasizes the major geographical differences in population growth: “The 21st century will see a revolution in the story of human civilization. Africa and the Arab world will shape the future, where Europe and Asia are losing influence.”
Is population growth a (climate) problem?
Opinions quickly differ widely about population growth. Some see the greatest sustainability problem in human overpopulation, while others say that the Earth is large enough to house and feed ten billion people, and that problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss stem from unfair distribution. After all, population growth mainly takes place in poor countries, where consumption is relatively low.
American scientist Dennis Meadows, who put the subject on the map in 1972 with his influential book The Limits to Growth, sees the truth in the middle. Climate change is the result of the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases, which Meadows says is increasing due to four factors: average consumption, energy use, energy type and the total number of people.
Climate policy focuses only on two of the four factors through energy conservation and the replacement of fossil fuels by sustainable energy. “We completely ignore population growth and material consumption,” said Meadows. “It is too uncomfortable politically.”
“As a result, we are still living in the collective fantasy of resolving climate change without sacrificing material prosperity, especially without attempting to have the politically incorrect conversation about birth rates.”
Meadows shares the new research’s conclusion on the major inhibitory factors. If women worldwide were allowed to decide how many children they want, the world population would stabilize by itself.