ITLAY: The long-dreaded “population bomb” may not go off, says the authors of a new report that predicts that human populations will peak lower and sooner than formerly anticipated.
Club of Rome unveils new predictions on global population
The study, which was commissioned by the Club of Rome, predicts that the population of the world will reach its zenith of 8.8 billion people before the middle of the century and then begin a rapid decline. The peak could happen even sooner if governments take proactive steps to raise typical incomes and educational standards.
The updated forecasts are good news for the global environment. Pressure on the environment and nature should start to lessen, along with any associated social and political problems, once the demographic bulge has been overcome.
The authors do, however, caution that declining birthrates alone won’t resolve the planet’s environmental issues, which are already serious at the 8 billion-person mark and are primarily brought on by an affluent minority’s excessive consumption.
As countries like South Korea and Japan are discovering, declining populations can also lead to new issues, such as a decreasing workforce and increased strain on healthcare due to an ageing society.
One of the report’s authors, Ben Callegari, said the outcomes were upbeat but with a proviso. “This offers us hope that the population bomb won’t detonate, but it also means that we still face significant environmental challenges,” he added.
“The overproduction and overconsumption that characterise today’s development paradigm require significant effort to address since they are more serious issues than population growth,” he continued.
Previous research has painted a more grim picture. Last year, the UN predicted that the world’s population would reach 9.7 billion by the middle of the century, and that number would keep growing for several decades after that.
The new prediction was released on Monday and carried out by the Earth4All collective of top environmental science and economic institutions, including the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the BI Norwegian Business School, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. As a follow-up to its groundbreaking Limits to Growth report from more than 50 years ago, they were commissioned by the Club of Rome.
The report is based on a new methodology that takes into account social and economic variables, such as raising education levels, especially for women, and increasing income, that have been shown to have an effect on the birthrate. It sketches out two possible scenarios, depending upon the extent to which these policies are carried out.
In the “business as usual” scenario, it predicts existing policies will be sufficient to keep world population growth to under 9 billion in 2046 and then to 7.3 billion in 2100.
They warn, “It’s too little, too late. The chance of regional societal collapses increases throughout the decades leading up to 2050, despite the fact that the scenario does not produce an overt ecological or total climate collapse. This is because social differences within and between civilizations continue to widen.”
In the second scenario, which is more optimistic, governments around the world would increase taxes on the wealthy to fund investments in social services, equality, and education, and it is estimated that the number of people could reach a high of 8.5 billion as early as 2040 before dropping by about a third to around 6 billion in 2100. By the middle of the century, they project that the natural environment and human civilization will have made significant progress.
“By 2050, greenhouse gas emissions will be about 90% lower than they were in 2020 and will still be falling,” says the report.
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