June 14th, 2013 by James Ayre
11 billion people in the world by the year 2100? That’s what a new report from the United Nations is predicting. According to the report, that figure is about 8% higher than was previously predicted (in 2011), with the higher prediction being the result of fertility rates in Africa declining more slowly than was previously predicted.
“The fertility decline in Africa has slowed down or stalled to a larger extent than we previously predicted, and as a result the African population will go up,” said Adrian Raftery, a University of Washington professor of statistics and of sociology.
Currently, the total population of the African continent is around 1.1 billion people. the report predicts that that number may raise to as high as 4.2 billion by the year 2100…
Does that truly sound believable though? Does the UN report ignore some fundamental realities about the nature of the world as it currently is? There are only so many resources available, so much arable land available, so much fresh water, etc. And many of the most densely populated regions of the world are expected to face significant declines in agricultural production, freshwater resources, and political stability, in the coming years as a result of climate change.
What will happen to the people in these regions? Most of South Asia, much of Africa, much of Australia, much of Central America, most of the Middle East, etc, will likely face these problems — will the majority of the populations in these regions simply emigrate? Go to war for resources perhaps? Can such large numbers of immigrants truly be absorbed by other countries? By countries which will be facing agricultural problems, weather-related problems, water problems, and economic problems, of their own.
And that is all while still completely ignoring the reality that political instability, eroding social structures, increasing rates of disease, and increasing crime, almost inevitably accompany resource scarcity and collapsing economies. Will the world’s population truly increase to the degree predicted in such conditions? Will it decrease? Will it plummet? Will it simply shift towards the polar latitudes? The UN report doesn’t answer any of these questions, or even take them into account to any degree.
Back to the new report — among the other interesting predictions: Europe is likely see a small decline in population as a result of fertility rates staying below replacement levels, and many countries around the world will likely see some increase in population as a result of people living to older ages/increasing quality of medical care.
It’s worth noting that populations which have a larger proportion of their population living to older ages, and also a larger proportion of their population surviving for longer while in a diseased state, are qualitatively different from populations dominated by young males — as is the case in much of the currently poorer regions of the globe, such as the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, etc.
A final note — there were an estimated 7 billion people in the world in 2011, as compared to the 6 billion in the world in 1999.
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