(ORDO NEWS) — The global population is likely to peak in the next few decades and decline significantly by the end of the century, to an estimated 6 billion people, according to a new study.
If the conclusions of scientists are correct, then this will be the first time that the world‘s population has significantly decreased since the time of the plague in the middle of the 14th century.
The world population recently passed 8 billion, and now researchers have come up with two hypothetical scenarios that explain how global demographic change will play out.
Under the first scenario, with significant improvements in economic development, education and health, the population will peak at 8.5 billion around 2040 and then decline to around 6 billion by 2100.
Alternatively, scientists propose another scenario in which global economic development continues similarly to the last 50 years, with the result that the world’s population will peak at 8.6 in 2050 and then decline to 7 billion in 2100.
The report was prepared by experts from the Club of Rome, known for their controversial 1972 publication called The Limits to Growth.
Using computer models, they suggested that human civilization would be in danger of collapse if it continued to experience exponential economic and population growth with a limited supply of resources.
The researchers’ new estimate, called the Earth4All model, is significantly lower than other population estimates, including estimates from the UN and another article published in The Lancet in 2020.
The results ultimately depend on how many people get out of poverty, which they see as a vital factor in global demographic change.
Some parts of the world, especially some countries in Africa and Asia, are currently experiencing rapid population growth.
When and how it will shrink, they argue, depends on how they manage economic development. If welfare is disrupted and economic growth continues, then we can expect the population to peak earlier.
“We know that rapid economic development in low-income countries has a huge impact on fertility rates.
Fertility rates are declining as girls gain access to education and women gain economic opportunities and have access to better health care,” said Per Espen Stoknes, Earth4All Project Manager and Director of the Norwegian Business School’s Center for Sustainability.
In addition to considering factors such as women’s education and access to contraception, they also take into account the destruction of natural resources, food production, and environmental use/abuse.
Scientists are keen to emphasize that global prosperity is not constrained by the number of people on the planet, and the problem is not overpopulation at all.
Instead, sky-high material impact among the world’s richest 10 percent threatens to destabilize the planet.
“The main problem of mankind is the consumption of carbon and the biosphere, not the population.
Places where population is growing the fastest have very little environmental impact on humans compared to places where population peaked many decades ago,” added Earth4All lead modeller and study co-author Jørgen Randers.
“A good life for all is only possible if the overuse of resources by the wealthy elite is reduced,” Randers concludes.
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