World population statistics are often used to motivate people to conserve. We have learned about world population exceeding 9 billion by 2050 and many
people use this statistic and hope we draw the conclusion by 2100 the world population will be even higher. However, today there is evidence pointing to
2050 being the peak or close to the peak of population and we will see a gradual decline after 2050. This concept was first presented to me by Anup Jacob at the BlueTech Valley Water Summit a
few months ago and the idea of a reduced world population in the future actually provides more motivation to conserve.
The population problem
During the last 65 years, world population multiplied more rapidly than ever before, and certainly more rapidly than we will experience in the future.
In 1950, the world had 2.5 billion people and today world population is estimated at 7.3 billion.
The increase in population puts a huge demand on water and food. According to The Economist magazine in the next 40 years, humans will need to produce more food than they did in the previous 10,000 put together.
There is a fear we will not be able to supply enough food and water to keep pace with world population.
Fertility rate (as defined by Ourworldindata.org) is the average number of children born to a
woman over her lifetime if she was to survive from birth through the end of her reproductive life if she were to experience the exact current age-specific
fertility rates through her lifetime. Today the average global fertility rate is 2.5. In 1950 the average was 4.97. Fertility rates are declining and have
been on the decline since 1950.
Why the decrease in fertility rates
The two key reasons why fertility rates are decreasing:
- Mortality rates for children are decreasing. As children live longer parents need for more children decreases and parents are able to provide more
attention to the children they have.
- As people earn more money they have less children. Today the wealthiest nations (measured by GDP per capita) have lower fertility rates. We also know
within countries the regions with more wealth have lower fertility rates.
Where is this already happening
Japan is the first example of a major population decrease. In 2013 Japan lost over 244,000 people due to a plunging fertility rate and high mortality
rate. In the next 35 years we could see Japan’s population off 25%. Population growth has been in decline in many European countries as well. Moldova,
Bulgaria, Ukraine, Latvia, Serbia, Romania, Slovenia and Hungary all saw declines in population 2013 – 2014. By 2050 it is expected the following countries
will experience a population decrease of over 20% – Bulgaria, Georgia, Ukraine and Japan
Hope for the future
Anup Jacab expects world population to be down to around 7 billion again by 2100. It is good to know in the future the population shift may be in our
favor and we have a chance in this battle to conserve. It is also encouraging to see the future world as a place where wealth grows and people have more
time to enjoy their children and their lives.