Posts Tagged ‘World population’

By 2100, 8 million could be over 100 years old

November 13, 2013

The 2012 review of the UN’s World Population Prospects was released in August this year.

World Population Prospects 2012 (pdf – 3.53Mb)

Charts are still – presumably – being prepared since the interactive charts from the 2010 review are no longer available on the UN site and have not yet been replaced by new charts.

The basic picture is still of fertility rates decreasing steadily with the medium scenario giving a world population stabilising at about 10.8 billion around 2100. Chinese population is just about at its peak and will now be reducing till 2100. Indian population will reach its peak around 2060 and then start declining. African population will reach its peak only around 2100.

WPP12 Fertlity

WPP12 Fertlity

There is a massive amount of data and projections, and the interesting thing about demographic forecasts done on this scale is that the “inertia” is high. Consequently much of the “forecast” is inevitable and the key parameter is the fertility rate. In 1953, 99.9% of the world population exhibited a fertility rate greater than 2.1 children per woman (the static population replenishment rate). Now in 2013, 49% of the world’s population have a fertility rate lower than 2.1. Half the world’s population is already shrinking. By 2100 this will be 81% and the world population as a whole will be shrinking.

A significant proportion of those under ten years old today will still be around in 2100. Today about 20% of the world population is under 10 years old ( approximately 1,400 million). In 2100 around 8% of 10.8 billion will be over 80 years old. Assuming that say 3% are older than 87 years, it would mean that 320 million (or 23% of those under 10 or about 5% of everybody) living today will still be around in 2100. Today about 14% of the world’s population is over 60 and about 2% are over 80. By 2100, 35% will be over 60 and about 8% over 80 years old. The 950 million over 60 today will become 3,800 million by 2100.

More than 800 million people will be over 80 and I would estimate that around 1% of these  – or 8 million – could be over 100 years old!

Bloomberg (2012)Unicharm Corp.’s sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies for the first time last year.

Just the demographics is changing the make up of the world and its genetic mix.

WPP12 population mix

WPP12 population mix

The human genetic pool in 2100 will be geographically placed 40% in Africa, 40% in Asia with the remaining 20% spread between The Americas, Oceania and Europe. And while there will be some migration and genetic mixing, this basic distribution will be maintained. Moreover, fertility rates will be stable and close to (even if just under) 2.1 in all regions. Median age is also on the way up world-wide.

WPP12 median age

WPP12 median age

Life expectancy is rising across the world:

The twentieth century witnessed the most rapid decline in mortality in human history. In 1950-1955, life expectancy at the world level was 47 years and it had reached 69 years by 2005-2010. Over the next 40 years, life expectancy at birth at the global level is expected to reach 76 years in 2045-2050 and 82 years in 2095-2100 (table III.1 and figure III.1). The more developed regions already had a high expectation of life in 1950-1955 (64.7 years) and have since experienced further gains in longevity. By 2005-2010 their life expectancy stood at 76.9 years, 10 years higher than in the less developed regions where the expectation of life at birth was 67.0 years. Although the gap between the two groups is expected to narrow between 2005 and mid-century, in 2045-2050 the more developed regions are still expected to have considerably higher life expectancy at birth than the less developed regions (82.8 years versus 74.8 years). Throughout 2010-2100, systematic progress against mortality is further expected to increase life expectancy at birth up to 88.9 years in the more developed regions and 80.8 years in the less developed regions thereby further reducing the gap in mortality between the two groups.

What occurs to me also is that famine, disease, war and the effects of natural catastrophes are becoming less and less relevant demographically. But I shall return to that subject in another post.

What food crisis?

July 16, 2013

In 1961 the world population was just over 3 billion. Now it is 7 billion. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s 2013 Statistical Year Book is now out and shows that during this period:

Agricultural production has increased  

  • Global crop production has expanded threefold over the past 50 years, largely through higher yields per unit of land and crop intensification.
  • Global per capita food supply rose from about 2 200 kcal/day in the early 1960s to over 2 800 kcal/day by 2009
  • Buoyed by high commodity prices, agriculture has demonstrated astonishing resilience during global economic turmoil. In 2010, agricultural value-added at the world level rose by 4 percent, in contrast to a 1 percent increase in overall GDP.


So while population has increased by a factor of 2.3, the food available per person has increased by about 30%. Of course there are many millions who still suffer from malnutrition but this is primarily due to poverty and a failing of distribution systems. It is not the availability of food which has failed. The proportion of the population which is under-nourished continues to steadily decline.


The youth of the world in 2100

June 8, 2013

In China the youth (age 15 – 24) population is already declining. In India it will keep increasing till about 2050 and then decline. In Africa it will be growing until about 2100. Most of the youth of today will not be around in 2100 but the youth of that time who will see the world through to 2200 will be 500 million each in Africa and Asia and less than 300 million in the rest of the world – subject of course to any geographical population shifts that might take place. In the period till 2100 such migrations will probably not be so significant.

From the UN’s World Population Prospects (2012 Revision):

Population age 15-24

youth of the world 2100

By 2100 a world population decline and a shortage of a “productive population” will be the problem

November 3, 2012

There are still alarmists and Malthusians who believe that the world will face catastrophe due to overpopulation. They believe that the carrying capacity of the earth has been exceeded, that there will be food shortages, energy shortages and resource shortages in every field; that – in short – the population will not be able to sustain itself let alone to maintain growth.

But like so many alarmist theories (be it global warming or peak oil or peak gas or GM crops) the overpopulation meme builds on beliefs and ignores evidence. The environmentalists are increasingly taking faith-based and anti-science positions. Alarmism invokes political correctness and “consensus beliefs” rather than evidence to silence criticism . Even hard-core environmentalists are beginning to question this myopic adhesion to ideology (Environment360).

Just taking the overpopulation myth as an example, the data and projections in the United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2011): World Population Prospects: The 2010 Revision. New York (Updated: 15 April 2011) are pretty unambiguous and revealing. Within 100 years world population will be declining. The majority of children being born today in the developed world will live to be over 100 years old. There will begin to be a shortage of  the required “productive population” relative to the “supported populations of the young and the retired” – a problem already evident in Japan and other developed countries. In Sweden (and some other European countries) for example, this proportion is being maintained only by means of immigration and the slight consequent increase in average fertility rates. The “productive population” in Germany would be below the required level were it not for the “guest workers”. The 11 million or so “illegal immigrants” who are nearly all part of the “productive population” in the US  are a vital part of maintaining this balance.

The challenge in 2100 will be to maintain the balance between those “producing” to those “supported” in a declining and aging population. Perhaps immigration or population migrations or  productivity increases by the use of robots and an increase in the age one joins the “supported” population will be parts of the solution. I have no doubt that solutions will be found, but the “overpopulation problem” would have left the stage.


120 years on and Chekhov’s depressive alarmism has not changed

October 13, 2012

I was listening to BBC radio this morning where somebody was talking about a new production of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya. The play was written in 1896 and the speaker quoted this line from the play:

“There are fewer and fewer forests, rivers are drying up, wildlife has become extinct, the climate is ruined, and the earth is becoming ever poorer and uglier.”

“Prescient” commented the speaker.

Prescient? I wondered. There is no shortage of forests, climate continues its normal cycles, some species have died and new ones found and the world has become richer and cleaner. No, just a depressed Russian of the 1890’s, and one without hope or any belief in the ingenuity of humans. Not prescient, just another alarmist now proven wrong.  And his kind of Malthusianism is alive and well even today – and is just as wrong.

In 1897 the world population was 1.5 billion with about 60% living in poverty. Life expectancy was about 32 years (average). At that time some 600 million people were being fed clothed and supported in a reasonably satisfactory way. In 2012 the world population has grown to 7 billion with about 25% still living in poverty (and the threshold for poverty has changed drastically). Average life expectancy is now 67 years. Today some 5 billion people are fed and clothed and supported in a reasonably satisfactory way. Almost 10 times as many as in 1896.

In another 120 years the current sayings of the Malthusians, the climate alarmists, the energy alarmists, the food alarmists, the resource alarmists and the bio-diversity alarmists will seem equally ridiculous. World population will probably stabilise at about 10 billion (at the current rate at which fertility rates are reducing) in the next 50 years or so. The challenges then will be the complete eradication of poverty and the biggest barrier may then be a shortage of “working” population.

By 2140 we will be close to 2.1 children per woman, studying longer (say till 27), working  for 45 years (till say 72) and living much longer – say 85 years (on average). Maybe less than 5% of 10 billion people will be living in poverty. Hunger and malnourishment will have almost disappeared. It may well be that it is the proportion of “working population”  which becomes the limiting factor in satisfactorily maintaining the young and the elderly.

But there will  still be no Malthusian resource crunch.


World population by latitude >>the world of unusual map projections

September 13, 2012

With both landmass and population concentrated in the Northern hemisphere, a northern-centric view of the world in most things is inevitable.

I was looking for some information on population distribution by latitude and came across this graph on Chris Blattman’s site. However he was not the source of the diagram but had obtained the image from Paul Kedrosky’s page which still exists but no longer has the image. He in turn referred to a Bill Rankin whose page no longer exists. The diagram is said to be from 2000 data but I have not been able to find the source or anything more recent. An excellent diagram.

UPDATE: The original seems to be here:

Bill Rankin, 2008 

More fun with numbers! Roughly 88% of the world’s population lives in the northern hemisphere, and about half the world’s population lives north of 27°N.

Taking the northern and southern hemispheres together, on average the world’s population lives 24 degrees from the equator.

World population by latitude and longitude: source unknown (via chrisblattman)

Trying to trace some of the data on which this diagram is based I came across the fascinating work of Waldo Tobler. Professor Emeritus. Geography Department. University of California. In his presentation from 1999 on Unusual Map Projections I found two diagrams which – I think – must be the source (perhaps updated) for the diagram above. Unusual Map Projections Tobler 1999


Malthusian doomsday postponed – indefinitely

September 21, 2011

In August I wrote:

Sometime soon the world’s population will exceed 7 billion. No one knows exactly when. According to the UN Population Reference Bureau, this will happen on 31st October in India or in China. The world’s 6 billionth living person was “suppposedly” born just 11 years ago in Bosnia, and world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. …

But I am no Malthusian and have a strong belief that the catastrophe theories are fundamentally misguided. Peak gas will never happen. Peak oil is a long way away and will be mitigated by new ways of creating oil substitutes as oil price increases. All the dismal forecasts of food production not being able to cope with population have not transpired. …..

Today Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist, has an excellent piece on his blog which is also published in the Ottawa Citizen:

Room for all

…… Clearly it is possible at least for a while to escape the fate forecast by Robert Malthus, the pessimistic mathematical cleric, in 1798. We’ve been proving Malthus wrong for more than 200 years. And now the population explosion is fading. Fertility rates are falling all over the world: in Bangladesh down from 6.8 children per woman in 1955 to 2.7 today; China – 5.6 to 1.7; Iran – 7 to 1.7; Nigeria – 6.5 to 5.2; Brazil 6.1 to 1.8; Yemen – 8.3 to 5.1. 

The rate of growth of world population has halved since the 1960s; the absolute number added to the population each year has been falling for more than 20 years. According to the United Nations, population will probably cease growing altogether by 2070. This miraculous collapse of fertility has not been caused by Malthusian misery, or coercion (except in China), but by the very opposite: enrichment, urbanization, female emancipation, education and above all the defeat of child mortality – which means that women start to plan families rather than continue breeding. ……

Already huge swaths of the world are being released from farming and reforested. New England is now 80 per cent woodland, where it was once 70 per cent farm land. Italy and England have more woodland than for many centuries. Moose, coyotes, beavers and bears are back in places where they have not been for centuries. France has a wolf problem; Scotland a deer problem. It is the poor countries, not the affluent ones, that are losing forest. Haiti, with its near total dependence on renewable power (wood), is 98-percent deforested and counting.

Read the entire article.

7 billion people from October 31st by UN decree – but it is an opportunity not a problem

August 30, 2011

Sometime soon the world’s population will exceed 7 billion. No one knows exactly when. According to the UN Population Reference Bureau, this will happen on 31st October in India or in China. The world’s 6 billionth living person was “suppposedly” born just 11 years ago in Bosnia, and world population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050.


The billion mark was reached only after 1800. As many as a billion have been added in the eleven years of the 21st century alone, and predictions on future population growth are now treated with the same caution and scepticism as long-range weather forecasts. David Bloom of the Harvard School of Public Health says that the multitude of unpredictable factors means that taking a global view is problematic. ‘Among them are infectious diseases, war, scientific progress, political change and our capacity for global cooperation,’ he says.

The general expectation is, however, that population growth will tail off, with UN predictions for 2050 ranging from 8.0 to 10.5 billion.

Interactive UN map is here

source: UN (via Time)

The annual rate of increase seems to have peaked around 1988 and is decreasing slowly. The UN medium scenario seems to be close to the actual development.

Annual increase of world population: Source United Nations, World Population Prospects: The 2004 Revision, 2005.

But I am no Malthusian and have a strong belief that the catastrophe theories are fundamentally misguided. Peak gas will never happen. Peak oil is a long way away and will be mitigated by new ways of creating oil substitutes as oil price increases. All the dismal forecasts of food production not being able to cope with population have not transpired. In my own lifetime I have only seen human ingenuity increase. Every doomsday scenario has had to give way before human ingenuity responding to human needs. I also believe that our children and our grandchildren will be considerably “smarter” than we are and will have (or will develop) technologies and tools that we cannot even dream of. I am not very convinced or impressed by those who would ban things today “for the sake of our children and our grandchildren”.

Even by the wildest stretch of his imagination my grandfather – who died around 1918 – would not have been able to imagine the technologies available today. Even my father – an engineer – who died in 1988 would not have been able to forecast the technologies we have at our command today.

With the definition below I would have no problem to be labelled a cornucopian.

cornucopian is a futurist who believes that continued progress and provision of material items for mankind can be met by similarly continued advances in technology, and the abundance of matter and energy in space would appear to give humanity almost unlimited room for growth.

What population problem? More brains and hands could well cater for the extra mouths to feed


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