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Population Growth Steady in Recent Years

Robert Engelman, Worldwatch Institute
The world’s population surpassed 6.8 billion in early 2009, with no significant slowing in the pace of growth in recent years.1 (See Figure 1.) Estimates by the United Nations Population Division indicate that humanity has been consistently gaining more than 79 million people-a population almost the size of Germany’s-each year since 1999.2 During the 1990s, annual additions fell from nearly 90 million people to less than 80 million, feeding optimism that world population might peak not long after the middle of this century.3 But the recent stability of annual population increments adds to the uncertainty and when-and how-world population growth will end.4 (See Figure 2.)

U.N. demographers currently offer eight variant projections for the future, with the median and most cited one placing world population slightly above 9.1 billion in 2050.5 Non-demographers often misinterpret this number, however, as an expert prediction or forecast of what population will be. Rather, all projections are conditional assessments based on current numbers, age structure, and trends and reasonable assumptions about the future.6 Thus the projections the United Nations offers produce a range of 2050 world population from slightly less than 8 billion to slightly more than 11 billion.7 The Washington-based Population Reference Bureau (PRB) recently released its own projections, suggesting a population at mid-century of slightly more than 9.4 billion.8

The recent leveling out of annual population growth increments, which no demographer had predicted, helps illustrate that there is no way to be sure that population is “likely” or “expected” to peak at roughly 9 billion people at mid-century, or indeed at any particular time in the future…
(17 Sept 2009)

Stop blaming the poor. It’s the wally yachters who are burning the planet

George Monbiot, The Guardian
It’s no coincidence that most of those who are obsessed with population growth are post-reproductive wealthy white men: it’s about the only environmental issue for which they can’t be blamed. The brilliant Earth systems scientist James Lovelock, for instance, claimed last month that “those who fail to see that population growth and climate change are two sides of the same coin are either ignorant or hiding from the truth. These two huge environmental problems are inseparable and to discuss one while ignoring the other is irrational.” But it’s Lovelock who is being ignorant and irrational.

A paper published yesterday in the journal Environment and Urbanization shows that the places where population has been growing fastest are those in which carbon dioxide has been growing most slowly, and vice versa. Between 1980 and 2005, for instance, sub-Saharan Africa produced 18.5% of the world’s population growth and just 2.4% of the growth in CO2. North America turned out only 4% of the extra people, but 14% of the extra emissions. Sixty-three percent of the world’s population growth happened in places with very low emissions.

Even this does not capture it. The paper points out that about one sixth of the world’s population is so poor that it produces no significant emissions at all. This is also the group whose growth rate is likely to be highest. Households in India earning less than 3,000 rupees (£40) a month use a fifth of the electricity per head and one seventh of the transport fuel of households earning 30,000 rupees or more. Street sleepers use almost nothing. Those who live by processing waste (a large part of the urban underclass) often save more greenhouse gases than they produce…
(28 Sept 2009)
The report that Monbiot refers to can be accessed here.

The coming Population Wars: a 12-bomb equation

Paul B. Farrell, Marketwatch
So what’s the biggest time-bomb for Obama, America, capitalism, the world? No, not global warming. Not poverty. Not even peak oil. What is the absolute biggest, one like the trigger mechanism on a nuclear bomb, one that’ll throw a wrench in global economic growth, ending capitalism, even destroying modern civilization?

The one that — if not solved soon — renders all efforts to solve all the other problems in the world, irrelevant, futile and virtually impossible?

Michael Casey of Dow Jones Newswires wraps up an eventful Group of 20 meeting in Pittsburgh, including an unprecedented shift of priorities and power to developing countries.

News flash: the “Billionaires Club” knows: Bill Gates called billionaire philanthropists to a super-secret meeting in Manhattan last May. Included: Buffett, Rockefeller, Soros, Bloomberg, Turner, Oprah and others meeting at the “home of Sir Paul Nurse, a British Nobel prize biochemist and president of the private Rockefeller University, in Manhattan,” reports John Harlow in the London TimesOnline. During an afternoon session each was “given 15 minutes to present their favorite cause. Over dinner they discussed how they might settle on an ‘umbrella cause’ that could harness their interests.”

The world’s biggest time-bomb? Overpopulation, say the billionaires.

…1. Overpopulation Multiplier

…2. Population Impact Multiplier

…3. Food

…4. Water

…5. Farmland

…6. Forests

…7. Toxic chemicals

…8. Energy resources: oil, natural gas and coal

…9. Solar energy

…10. Ozone layer

…11. Diversity

…12. Alien species…
(29 Sept 2009)