How many people can our planet really support?

How many people can our planet really support?

Overpopulation. It is a word that makes politicians wince, and is often described as the “elephant in the room” in discussions about the future of the planet.

You often hear people citing overpopulation as the single biggest threat to the Earth. But can we really single out population growth in this way? Are there really too many people on our planet?

It is clear to all of us that the planet is not expanding. There is only so much space on Earth, not to mention only so many resources – food, water and energy – that can support a human population. So a growing human population must pose some kind of a threat to the wellbeing of planet Earth, mustn’t it?

Not necessarily.

It is not the number of people on the planet that is the issue – but the number of consumers and the scale and nature of their consumption,” says David Satterthwaite, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London. He quotes Gandhi: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”

The number of “modern human beings” (Homo sapiens) on Earth has been comparatively small until very recently. Just 10,000 years ago there might have been no more than a few million people on the planet. The one billion mark was not passed until the early 1800s; the two billion mark not until the 1920s.

As it stands now, though, the world’s population is over 7.3 billion. According to United Nations predictions it could reach 9.7 billion people by 2050, and over 11 billion by 2100.

Population growth has been so rapid that there is no real precedent we can turn to for clues about the possible consequences. In other words, while the planet might hold over 11 billion people by the end of the century, our current level of knowledge does not allow us to predict whether such a large population is sustainable, simply because it has never happened before.

Source: BBC

Date: March 2016

Read the article


Tags assigned to this article:
environmentimpacts

Related Articles

Why China’s new coal mine moratorium matters

Right at the end of 2015, the head of China’s National Energy Agency made a hugely significant announcement: China will

Opec says electric cars will remain irrelevant through 2040

Increased electric-car adoption could dramatically decrease global demand for fossil fuels, but the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries –

Behind Energy survey: “Italians’ attitudes to energy”

Italians increasingly concerned about energy issues and environment: majority of italians say oil is expensive and the cause of war