It took two- to three-hundred thousand years for humans to break the 7 billion mark, which it is scheduled to do sometime late this year or early in 2012. But in just 88 short years after that, breeding will hit the afterburners and the world’s population will more than double. It will increase by a whopping, gee-willikers 214% to 15 billion. Golly!
Or so says the United Nations, an organization not usually given to making silly mistakes that align with its political agenda. Or so says The Guardian, a newspaper of noble intent and purpose. That paper reports it got a sneak preview of the still unavailable The State of World Population 2011 , a report which claims that, this time, this is it:
That figure is likely to shock many experts as it is far higher than many current estimates. A previous UN estimate had expected the world to have more than 10 billion people by 2100…
Some experts reacted with shock to the figure. Roger Martin, chairman of Population Matters, which campaigns on population control, said that the Earth was entering a dangerous new phase. “Our planet is approaching a perfect storm of population growth, climate change and peak oil,” he said. “The planet is not actually sustaining 7 billion people.” [link mine]
It is easy to make asinine, logically false statements. The hope is that is difficult to have a reporter (Paul Harris) reprint them as worthy of notice. No, I don’t mean the “perfect storm” or peak oil bluster. I mean that last sentence which is so monumentally stupid it is equivalent to Martin saying to Harris, “I am not now talking to you” (and having Harris reporting it in wonder). If the Earth is not “actually sustaining” the population that now exists, then the population that now exists does not exist.
It is also pointless to surmise what Martin might have meant. It is what was reported that of interest. Martin’s absurdity should have been caught.
But what about the 15 billion? The far upper range of all previous forecasts had been around 10 billion by this century’s close.
Professor Jack Goldstone of George Mason University, author of The Population Bomb, said that he thought world leaders would act to ensure the Earth’s population would start to plateau below that higher level. “The means and the desire to reduce the number of children people have is spreading around the world,” he said, adding that he thought a level of 10-12 billion would be more likely by 2100.
Incidentally, I was unable to discover Goldstone’s book, though we all recall one of the same name by Paul “The End Is Near—And This Time I Mean It” Ehrlich. Goldstone, whose specialty is in discovering reasons for revolution—via the magic of statistics and p-values—did write an article in Foreign Affairs (Jan/Feb, pp. 31-43) called “The New Population Bomb: Four Population Megatrends that will Shape the Global Future.”
Anyway, all prior evidence is that the rate of increase of population is and will continue to shrink. Take a look at this picture of year-on-year change in world population (data source):
The shaded area indicates what is forecast. Up until present, the change in the world population is still positive, but the rate of change has been decreasing fairly rapidly. In the UN’s new figures are to be believed, this rate of change must do an abrupt about-face and jump to the level indicated by the flat portion of the graph.
Follow that flat line and by 2100 the world’s population will be at 15 billion. Of course, other lines than flat are possible. I don’t know the assumptions the UN is using, but once I get my hands on the report, I’ll redo this graph. Something like it must be true, though, else it impossible for the population to increase to 15 billion.
Update What’s that hollow around the 1960s? That rapid decrease in population was a gift of international socialism, a.k.a. communism.
Where are these new folks coming from? It won’t be, for example, Japan. Here’s the same picture for that country:
Japan is already losing people and is projected to lose more over the next decade. Italy is in the same boat, as are several other well-to-do countries, “well-to-do” being relative, of course.
There isn’t a shred of evidence that any first or second-world country will suddenly boost its birth rate, so if new people are to be added, they’ll have to largely come from the third-world. But that assumes—again, contradictory to current evidence—that these places will decline in prosperity and return to the old ways of having very large families.
Of course, there will be a temporary bump or stasis in the population caused by people living longer. As third-world counties begin to prosper, they’ll have fewer kids, but they’ll also have better health, so the population change will bounce around some number, but it won’t decline or increase. Much as what happened in Japan after World War II, as is shown in the picture. Population change started declining at the same time their “economic miracle” hit (remember when Japan was going to take over the world’s economy?).
We’ll have to wait for the UN report to say more. Prediction: the report will call for increased spending (euphemism: resources) for some program or programs; these will be seconded by Big Green.
Update Another relevant post: India Aborting Girls At Full Speed: Sex Selection And Demographics (a lower percentage of women mean lower future populations, of course).