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New United Nations population predictions alarm the West

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In the last couple of weeks you have probably read numerous alarmist articles discussing the United Nation’s new population predictions – headlines like “Climate change isn’t the problem. A population bomb is killing us”. “World population to hit 11bn in 2100 – with 70% chance of continuous rise” and “As World’s Population Booms, Will Its Resources Be Enough for Us?”.  It’s all sounding very much like the constant warnings of a population bomb back in the 90’s and early 2000’s – warnings that have since almost completely quietly faded away.

The reason behind the headlines is the new United Nations and University of Washington study published in the journal Science which finds that it is highly likely there will be 9.6 billion people on Earth by 2050, and up to 11 billion or more by 2100. The research used a new “probabalistic” statistical method, and is a reversal from United Nations estimates done five years ago which projected that by 2045 world population would reach about 9 billion and begin to level off soon after.  Just to confuse things further, another recent study in the journal Global Environmental Change now projects that the global population will peak at 9.4 billion later this century and fall below 9 billion by 2100, based on a survey of population experts.

What, then, is right? Population projections are in actual fact never more than estimates based on a whole lot of uncertain assumptions – so it is all the assumptions that one must examine to get an idea about how realistic they really are.  Meanwhile, to get your heart rate down, you may like to read a blog post I wrote earlier this year discussing why you shouldn’t take alarmist population predictions and doom and gloom about resources too seriously anyway.  I also point you to this article published this week in the Wall Street Journal.  It insightfully observes of the United Nation’s new projections:

The key question: Does this probabilistic approach increase the accuracy of our long-term perspective on population? The short answer: no. The basic trouble with all long-range population projections is that they are driven by assumptions about birth levels—and there is still no reliable method for predicting fertility levels a generation from now, to say nothing of a century hence. Demographers are even hard-pressed to explain historical fertility patterns.

Half a century ago, in the early 1960s, East Asia’s overall fertility level was about 5.5 births per woman; today, according to the U.N. Population Division, it is about 1.6 per woman—70% lower. In scope, scale and speed, nothing like this decline had happened in human history. Bayesian projections would never have regarded that outcome as likely, just as they would have most likely missed the startling 70% drop in fertility in Iran between the early 1980s and early 2000s.

The main reason behind the newly reported higher world population projections is unexpected continuing higher fertility in sub-Saharan Africa. The median number of children per woman is 4.6, above the replacement level of 2.1 which would result in population stabilisation.  Since 1970, a global decline in fertility has occurred across most of the world. In the United States, and much of the West, fertility is now actually below replacement level.  So will Africa’s fertility remain high in the future despite trends in the West?  The Wall Street Journal considers the following variables:

In 2000 a third of Africa’s women of childbearing age (15-49) had a high-school education or better; researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna anticipate that by 2050 the figure will be 70%. Also around 2050, the U.N. Population Division projects that life expectancy at birth will average nearly 70 for the sub-Saharan region, up almost a decade and a half from today.

If such changes come to pass—changes that have corresponded with lower birth rates elsewhere in the world—would Africa still remain resistant to fertility decline? Some would reply that cultural tradition and related factors will continue to support high fertility rates, and those voices may ultimately be right. But that same argument was [wrongly] made about the greater Middle East not so long ago.

Finally, as always the West forgets that they are the main consumers of the Earth’s resources – not the African people who consume far, far less per person.  So perhaps we should look at our own consumption before we turn to the African people to tell them they shouldn’t have the choice to have 4 children (and research has shown that this is indeed a choice for many African women, rather than a lack of contraception which is so often assumed).  The West is spending more and more on air travel, more powerful cars, multiple household appliances which are replaced rather than fixed, electronic devices that are practically made to break after a couple of years when they will surely be obsolete anyway and touchscreens which require rare earth minerals mined from the earth or the ocean floor. People also waste a huge amount of food. You may like to re-visit Mercatornet’s Top 10 Eco-villians.

The bottom line is to remember to look beyond the headlines to the assumptions and biases which lie beneath.

24 Comments on "New United Nations population predictions alarm the West"

  1. Makati1 on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 8:03 am 

    “… Finally, as always the West forgets that they are the main consumers of the Earth’s resources …” (1/20th of the population consuming 1/4 of the resources) But they blame others because the resources are about gone. It’s those pesky Africans/Arabs/Ruskies that have our oil under their homes. They want a safe, healthy, happy life at our expense. Oops!

  2. Davy on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 8:12 am 

    This guy is right to question these growth assumptions. We have solid scientific and financial evidence showing systematic risk as well as blatant predicaments of limits of growth in food and liquid fuels. There is no way in hell a population can grow if these go in decline. The decline of these two vitals are a two edge sword of doom. We will see less food productivity, less distribution ability, and less economic activity supporting food processing and production. The world is a hugely dysfunctional place in regards to food with vast monocultures as the norm. These monocultures must be distributed to be economical and effective food sources. We have vast areas of low food production potential with high populations. These locations are mega cities and also rural locations in low food producing areas. Even the mega cities near food producing areas are going to have their hands full. Food shortages are the quickest vector to a failed state. Liquid fuel shortages are the quickest vector to food shortages. If the predicament with these to vitals were not enough a flock of black swans is circling. We have the potential for a significant descent phase in human history from the smallest of problems with our society so far overextended in so many ways. Contagions can spread quickly with little warning in a hyper complex interconnected world. We are kidding ourselves in academia and the NGO’s that these conditions are not here now. This guy is also right to point out over consumption is an issues but he should not downplay over procreation. They both are dangerous at this point and probably neither is manageable until a crisis. This fella also fails to mention that the point of falling consumption is the beginning of the end of BAU. This BAU end will initiate the dark period. Our growth based economy cannot survive any significant drop in economic activity. The velocity of money and productive activity just seize up like an engine without oil.

  3. JuanP on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 8:59 am 

    I have tried to talk to people about population, contraception, family planning, and women’s education and career opportunities since I was a child, and received nothing but insults, all knowing snorts, disrespect, and desdain from other people. I admit that the antisocial misanthropic side of me feels vindicated by the current human situation, though I wish I had been wrong.
    Sorry, guys, it is decades too late for this fight now. It would take nothing short of sterilizing all humans against their will to stop all births now to fix this now. It is not going to happen, nothing even close to a solution is possible any longer. What we face is a predicament, not a problem any longer. There are no viable solutions. We have chosen deprivation, violence, hunger, disease, and endless wars.
    Prepare yourselves for a very rough ride. It will be kill or be killed at some point, IMO. I believe we were always doomed to end like this, it was only a matter of time.

  4. Davy on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 9:48 am 

    Juan correct, like yeast we are not smarter than nature. Like yeast we follow nature’s laws. Our thoughts of exceptionalism are fine at the bottom through family, tribe, and small community. At a global overshoot level all bets are off. Prepare for the dark period just ahead.

  5. noobtube on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 9:49 am 

    So, the Americans are angry because Africans can afford to have kids and Americans can’t.

    As was stated, Americans believe that African (or world) resources belong to Americans. So, Americans want to murder Africans to steal their resources (just like Americans did to the native peoples of the Western Hemisphere).

    Americans being Americans… mass-murdering, genocidal, homicidal fantasies of getting rich at the expense of the innocent.

    The population problem is an American problem. The destruction of Americans would end the population problem on the planet.

    Since Americans stole the land, stole the labor, stole the resources, they have no natural place in the Western Hemisphere.

    Unlike the real world, where people respect the land, because their ancestors and generations survived on it, Americans brutalized the land from the moment the United States was created. Thomas Jefferson mentioned how it was easier to exhaust the soil and move to another green field, than it was to plant responsibly, because there was so much (stolen from the millions who Americans murdered).

    There are no more green fields for the Americans to steal. Nowhere else for Americans to move. So, now they whine about too many people.

    Well, Americans, now its your turn to be destroyed. It was richly earned by your behavior.

  6. Davy on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 10:19 am 

    LOOK at the Noob!!! Quoting Jefferson!! Bravo

    Noob, if you are in Africa Noobster which it sounds like you are, start prepping. You’re going to need it. Whining is a dangerous waste of time in your situation and not going to save you. Though you are not worth saving so I welcome your comments.

  7. Plantagenet on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 10:44 am 

    Africans are nice people, but the world really doesn’t need an additional 3 billion Africans anymore then it needs 3 billion more Americans or 3 billion more Italians or 3 billion more Chinese.

  8. noobtube on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 10:46 am 

    Maybe you should take your own advice and quit whining about other places and clean up your own backyard.

    I know whining is an American past-time, which is why Americans do it so well.

    It’s the turrurists.
    It’s the Arabs.
    It’s the drug dealers.
    It’s the immigrants.
    It’s the Chinese.
    It’s the Russians.
    They hate us for our freedoms.

    Americans cannot exist without someone to either blame or hate or murder.

    Americans are an ANTI-group.

    Americans are not defined by who they are, but by who they hate.

    It is a self-destructive definition, leading to the obvious conclusion, total destruction (let’s say by 2020).

    In the meantime, the world will marvel how such a worthless group could ever have existed. Americans will be remembered as a HUGE mistake, a failed experiment, and the worst example of what was seen on the Earth.

    Who knows?

    Once Americans are gone, the world will enter a golden age of peace and prosperity, unknown in human history.

    Until the next generations forget the American disaster, and try to re-create that failure all over again.

  9. Davy on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 10:57 am 

    Damn, noob, growing some balls and actually trying to man-up and engage in a big person conversation to defend yourself. There is hope for your cowardly behavior yet.

  10. Northwest Resident on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 10:58 am 

    Why do the owners of this website provide a forum for insane ranting lunatics like noobtube to spew their manure on? Why!!

    Dear owners of — can you please block that idiot. He adds NOTHING to any discussion. He pollutes this forum with his insane remarks. If you need a web developer to show/tell you how to do it, I volunteer.

  11. JuanP on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 11:52 am 

    Noob “Once Americans are gone, the world will enter a golden age of peace and prosperity, unknown in human history.”
    Thanks again for making me laugh until it hurts. You are completely delusional. I always put my coffee down before reading your comments after having spilled it a couple of times when I burst laughing while reading your delusions. LOL.

  12. JuanP on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 11:57 am 

    I suspect Noob has been to the USA, and maybe even lives here. He knows an awful lot about this country for never having been here.

  13. Apneaman on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 12:15 pm 

    “Americans are an ANTI-group.

    Americans are not defined by who they are, but by who they hate.”

    Sorry Noob haters, this has been noted by some very smart people for awhile now. It is also know as “reverse identity”. This phenomena is not exclusive to America nor does it apply to every American who ever lived. It has been manipulated to full effect by TPTB (They even have you doing it with each other). It should not come as a surprise since America is the most successfully propagandized country in the history of the world.

  14. Kenz300 on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 1:02 pm 

    Wrap it up …… get it snipped……….

    Children are not free…… if you can not provide for yourself you can not provide for a child.


    Birth Control Permanent Methods: Learn About Effectiveness

  15. kervennic on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 7:14 pm 

    Fuck yu with the west.

    China is now emitting more CO2 than europe both glooballt and per person.

    How long will they blame the west for racing blindly towards the same standards, while we race the other way now ?

  16. Davy on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 8:39 pm 

    Apnea, I don’t hate Noob. I just wish he would grow some nuts and engage with others like a mature adult. An adult is not afraid to say who they are and where they are from. Noob is a, using the technical term, a pussy. I refrained from using the “C” word so not to offend others. The “C” word actually fits Noob better.

  17. Makati1 on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 8:47 pm 

    kervennic, the US is not ‘racing’ anywhere except toward 3rd world living standards. Any drop in pollution or fuel use is due to the inability to pay for it with the shrinking paychecks. Not any changes in conservation.

    The 47+ million on food stamps are not rushing out to buy a new SUV or McMansion. Most cannot even afford to run the vehicles they may own now, or rent from their bank. Ditto maintenance on their bank owned homes. The happy motoring days in America are coming to a close. As is the electric waste, as their appliances burn out and are not replaced because they have no money.

    Slow collapse is already underway in the West but it is picking up speed. Meanwhile, Asia is still growing. The West has no reason to complain because they have enjoyed the ‘good life’ and now it is the rest of the world’s turn.

  18. Davy on Wed, 24th Sep 2014 9:22 pm 

    The US will leap frog Asia in the mitigation of the coming descent. The US can feed itself and has a declining population. Asia is in severe overshoot and unable to feed itself. It is growing like cancer with no respect for its people or environment. It is truly the scourge of the earth.

  19. dashster on Thu, 25th Sep 2014 3:15 am 

    ” The US can feed itself and has a declining population. ”

    The US has an increasing population, all from immigration and the compound impact of immigration (future births of the immigrants). Rather than a decline in population, the United States government predicts a population increase of 100 million people in the next 50 years. The US is embracing population growth via the sacred cow of immigration. It will be decades before anyone can even raises the possibility of stopping immigration and have a chance of not being compared to Hitler.

  20. Davy on Thu, 25th Sep 2014 5:54 am 

    Dash, immigration can be halted quickly. the 100MIL increase is fantasy considering the coming descent. The US will struggle to feed itself but that is a much better position then Asia facing famine. Being compared to Hitler will not matter when people are hungry, cold, and scared.

  21. Ralph on Thu, 25th Sep 2014 6:26 am 

    Nature will take care of our population overshoot. I strongly suspect that Nature has already pulled the trigger and the bullet is spelled ebola.

    At the very best millions of West Africans are going to die sooner than expected, causing a small local population decline.

    At worst, it will spread to all major cities in the world, all health systems will be overwhelmed, almost all economic activity will stop as people will be too frightened to leave their homes, and industrial civilisation will go into fast collapse, triggering global starvation and population collapse.

    My recommendation is stock up on basic long life food reserves, bleach and face masks/disposable gloves and gowns.

  22. JuanP on Thu, 25th Sep 2014 8:38 am 

    Ralph, Ebola would have to kill 80 million a year just to stop global population growth. Let’s say it spreads globally and manages to do that. It would be pointless, in a few years all the survivors would have developed immunity or resistance to the virus. I don’t think it will help much, but I hope I am wrong.
    I am all for letting Ebola loose worldwide, the sooner population growth slows down the better for all life on this planet. I don’t believe that a planned population contraction is possible. Being the antisocial misanthrope that I am, I am hoping for a horrendous epidemic that kills at least three billion people, preferably seven billion.

  23. Ralph on Thu, 25th Sep 2014 9:57 am 


    I’m not talking steady state (after the population has been either killed or gained immunity) but as a system shock. Ebola (probably) won’t kill billions directly, but the shock to just in time delivery and highly brittle critical infrastructure from sudden neglect could be enough to cause sudden collapse of global finance and trade, and the whole energy and food distribution system in the developed world. This could easily happen in the months that it will take for ebola to go through the global population.

    Health care has collapsed in the affect countries, and has caused a surge of deaths from malaria, etc., and panic verging on lawlessness. In developed world the panic and consequential death rate will be far higher than those killed by the disease it self.

    I cannot give a probability figure, but is significantly higher than 1% that this ebola outbreak could trigger global collapse.

  24. JuanP on Thu, 25th Sep 2014 11:13 am 

    Ralph, I agree 100%. Ebola could be what gets things going.

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