New study predicts a more crowded Earth than ever before

A new analysis by the United Nations and University of Washington has blown all previous world population estimates out of the water. If the claims made by the report come to fruition, we could be facing a global population of up to 13 billion within the next 100 years. At a current population of around 7 billion, humans are already facing a struggle for equitable provision of resources; these new figures are deeply concerning.

Lagos, Nigeria - the most populous city in the most populous country (National Geographic)

Lagos, Nigeria – the most populous city in the most populous country (National Geographic)

Previous estimates of projected population growth by the UN put the forecast at 9.3 billion by 2050, and suggested a possibility of surpassing the 10 billion mark by 2100. Shifting trends from rural to urban living and increasing demand for animal products, caused by rising per capita incomes in developing countries intensified the suggested pressures from this “conservative” estimate.

The new calculations now predict that world population will reach 11 billion by 2100. To be precise, the authors state that there is an 80% chance that the human population will number between 9 billion and 12.3 billion by the end of this century. The new formula differs from previous analyses in that it uses modern statistical methods, replacing expert opinions on key factors such as birth rates.

It has previously been assumed that the high birth rates in areas such as Africa was fall as women became better educated and had more access to birth control. However, for reasons yet unclear, this has not happened.

P. GERLAND ET AL., SCIENCE (ONLINE) The United Nations’ population projections for each continent now include a range of numbers (darker shades are the most probable forecasts), rather than a single line.

P. GERLAND ET AL., SCIENCE (ONLINE)
The United Nations’ population projections for each continent now include a range of numbers (darker shades are the most probable forecasts), rather than a single line.

Another worrying possibility that arises from this study is that the graphs indicate that, rather than the population growth stabilising this century, it may very well continue to rise. At this point in time, these numbers are just predictions, based on current and past trends, without unforeseeable factors such as war, famine and disease factored in. However, it seems that we probably would be wise to refocus some attention to the issue of world population growth; it appears in assuming that the previous figures and stablisation were correct, we have taken our eye off the ball.

 

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