Global population will likely start reducing by 2070

The alarmist meme of a global population explosion leading to catastrophic depletion of resources and mass famines was already obsolete 20 years ago. The alarmism reached its peak in the 1970s and 1980s  (peak oil, peak food, peak water, peak resources ….). At least the panicky stridency of the alarmism about a population explosion has long gone (though it has now shifted to become panicky stridency about catastrophic global warming).

The 2017 Revision of the UN World Population Prospects is now available.

  • the world’s population reached nearly 7.6 billion in mid-2017. The world has added one billion people since 2005 and two billion since 1993. In 2017, an estimated 50.4 per cent of the world’s population was male and 49.6 per cent female.
  • the global population is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to the medium-variant projection

However the projections are very sensitive to fertility rates and their development – especially in Africa. Actual fertility rates have always tended to be below UN projections of fertility.

In the 2017 review, the sensitivity to fertility rate is highlighted;

  • Future population growth is highly dependent on the path that future fertility will take, as relatively small changes in the frequency of childbearing, when projected over several decades, can generate large differences in total population.
  • In the medium-variant projection, it is assumed that the global fertility level will decline from 2.5 births per woman in 2010-2015 to 2.2 in 2045-2050, and then fall to 2.0 by 2095-2100.
  • fertility levels consistently half a child below the assumption used for the medium variant would lead to a global population of 8.8 billion at mid-century, declining to 7.3 billion in 2100.
  • fertility has declined in virtually all regions of the world. In Africa, where fertility levels are the highest of any region, total fertility has fallen from 5.1 births per woman in 2000-2005 to 4.7 in 2010-2015. Over the same period, fertility levels also fell in Asia (from 2.4 to 2.2), Latin America and the Caribbean (from 2.5 to 2.1), and Northern America (from 2.0 to 1.85). Europe has been an exception to this trend in recent years, with total fertility increasing from 1.4 births per woman in 2000-2005 to 1.6 in 2010-2015. Total fertility in Oceania has changed little since 2000, at roughly 2.4 births per woman in both 2000-2005 and 2010-2015.

As with Asia, I expect that the decline of fertility in Africa will accelerate with development and GDP growth. If global fertility turns out to be as much as 0.5 children/woman less than the medium assumption, global population will start declining already by 2050. It may not happen quite that fast but it is now very likely that the decline will have begun by 2070. By the end of this century global population may not be much more than it is today.

It is only a matter of time before the alarmists start getting panicky and strident about the impending population implosion.


 

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