The 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay passing through Shenzen, China. Steve Jurvetson. Creative Commons. Via Wikimedia Commons,_Shenzen.jpg
The 2008 Summer Olympics torch relay passing through Shenzen, China. Steve Jurvetson. Creative Commons. Via Wikimedia Commons


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World population to hit 11bn in 2100 – with 70% chance of continuous rise 
Damian Carrington, The Guardian
The world’s population is now odds-on to swell ever-higher for the rest of the century, posing grave challenges for food supplies, healthcare and social cohesion. A ground-breaking analysis released on Thursday shows there is a 70% chance that the number of people on the planet will rise continuously from 7bn today to 11bn in 2100.

The work overturns 20 years of consensus that global population, and the stresses it brings, will peak by 2050 at about 9bn people.

“The previous projections said this problem was going to go away so it took the focus off the population issue,” said Prof Adrian Raftery, at the University of Washington, who led the international research team. “There is now a strong argument that population should return to the top of the international agenda. Population is the driver of just about everything else and rapid population growth can exacerbate all kinds of challenges.”
(18 September 2014)


World population stabilization unlikely this century  
Gerland, Raftery et al, Science
The United Nations recently released population projections based on data until 2012 and a Bayesian probabilistic methodology. Analysis of these data reveals that, contrary to previous literature, world population is unlikely to stop growing this century. There is an 80% probability that world population, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion in 2100. This uncertainty is much smaller than the range from the traditional UN high and low variants. Much of the increase is expected to happen in Africa, in part due to higher fertility and a recent slowdown in the pace of fertility decline. Also, the ratio of working age people to older people is likely to decline substantially in all countries, even those that currently have young populations.
(10 September 2014)
The report described in the Guardian article above. The rest of the Science article is behind a paywall. -BA


On the Path Past 9 Billion, Little Crosstalk Between U.N. Sessions on Population and Global Warming  
Andrew C. Revkin, Dot Earth, New York Times
Largely missed in [discussions and demonstrations about climate change], as always seems the case with climate change discussions, is the role of population growth in contributing both to rising emissions of greenhouse gases and rising vulnerability to climate hazards in poor places with high fertility rates (think sub-Saharan Africa).

Obviously, rates of consumption of fossil energy and forests per person matter more than the rise in human numbers. As I’ve said before, 9 billion vegan monks would have a far different greenhouse-gas imprint than a similar number of people living high on the hog.

But family planning, for instance, should absolutely be seen as a climate resilience strategy in poor regions.

… For the moment, trajectories for fertility rates, particularly in Africa, are showing few signs of modulating, leading to this sobering title on the latest analysis of United Nations population data, published in the current edition of Science: “World population stabilization unlikely this century.”


… I reached out to one of the authors of the Science paper, Adrian E. Raftery, a professor of statistics and sociology at the University of Washington, for a final thought on the many benefits of action:

"The projected rapid population increase in Africa may well exacerbate a range of challenges: environmental, health and social, including climate change. On the other hand, if fertility decline accelerates, Africa stands to gain many benefits. These include a demographic dividend, which happens when a country experiences a rapid reduction in fertility rates. This leads to a period of 30 years or so when there are relative few dependents (children or old people), and many more resources are available for infrastructure, education, environmental protection and so on. This dividend can be reaped even while population is increasing (albeit more slowly)."
(20 September 2014)


Climate Change and World Population: Still Avoiding Each Other  
Joseph Chamie and Barry Mirkin, PassBlue
Despite their intimate relationship, climate change and world population are still not talking to each other. The lack of meaningful dialogue has persisted for decades, with both seeming to deliberately ignore the significance, relevance and impact of the other.

With the simultaneous convening on Sept. 22 of a special session of the United Nations General Assembly marking the 20th anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development and the UN Climate Summit on Sept. 23, this estranged relationship is now more glaring. Both gatherings are taking place within shouting distance of one another at UN headquarters in New York.

With growing concerns and uncertainties about the extent of the detrimental consequences of rapid population growth and climate change, the international community of nations convened the first World Population Conference in 1974 and the first World Climate Conference in 1979. Growing at 2 percent annually, global population increases reached a record high, doubling the world population in just 38 years. At the same time, rising amounts of carbon dioxide spewing into the atmosphere pointed to a gradual warming of the earth, especially at higher latitudes. The recommendations for action emanating from these groundbreaking conferences, however, essentially ignored each other.
(16 September 2014)


What Happens When We All Live to 100?  
Greg Easterbrook, Atlantic
If life-expectancy trends continue, that future may be near, transforming society in surprising and far-reaching ways.

… Since 1840, life expectancy at birth has risen about three months with each passing year. In 1840, life expectancy at birth in Sweden, a much-studied nation owing to its record-keeping, was 45 years for women; today it’s 83 years. The United States displays roughly the same trend. When the 20th century began, life expectancy at birth in America was 47 years; now newborns are expected to live 79 years. If about three months continue to be added with each passing year, by the middle of this century, American life expectancy at birth will be 88 years. By the end of the century, it will be 100 years.

Viewed globally, the lengthening of life spans seems independent of any single, specific event. It didn’t accelerate much as antibiotics and vaccines became common. Nor did it retreat much during wars or disease outbreaks

… If anti-aging drugs or genetic therapies are found, the climb could accelerate. Centenarians may become the norm, rather than rarities who generate a headline in the local newspaper.

… The single best yardstick for measuring a person’s likely life span is education. John Rowe, a health-policy professor at Columbia University and a former CEO of Aetna, says, “If someone walked into my office and asked me to predict how long he would live, I would ask two things: What is your age, and how many years of education did you receive?”

…If health span can be improved, the costs of aging-related disability may be manageable. Not that long ago, vast sums were spent on iron lungs and sanitariums for treatment of polio: preventing the disease has proved much less expensive than treating it. If chronic ailments related to aging can be prevented or significantly delayed, big-ticket line items in Medicare might not go off the rails.

But if health span does not improve, longer life could make disability in aging an economic crisis.

In the wild, young animals outnumber the old; humanity is moving toward a society where the elderly outnumber the recently arrived. Such a world will differ from today’s in many outward aspects. Warm-weather locations are likely to grow even more popular, though with climate change, warm-weather locations may come to include Buffalo, New York. Ratings for football, which is loud and aggressive, may wane, while baseball and theatergoing enjoy a renaissance.
(17 September 2014)
Long, thoughtful article. Demographics is the invisible hand behind many of the social changes we see today. Also at the Atlantic Why I Hope to Die at 75 -BA