Today, Science Daily posted a press release by Spanish news service Plataforma SINC about a new population study with a surprising prediction: By 2100, the world will have about 800 million … fewer people than it does now. According to the researchers (at the Universidad Autonóma de Madrid), their model forecasts fit well with the UN’s lowest population projections, a scenario under which population rises to ~8 billion by 2050, then stops growing and gradually declines. Says co-author Félix F. Muñoz:
“Overpopulation was a spectre in the 1960s and 70s but historically the UN’s low fertility variant forecasts have been fulfilled”
What. WHAT?? What about everything everyone’s been telling us for decades — about how the population will keep on growing until we’re like sardines in a can (if sardines still exist)? What about Megacity One? What about Soylent Green? What about [insert dystopian future of choice here]? Monsanto’s main marketing argument’s been based on this for years: “we need to feed more people on less land,” etc. In the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, all four future scenarios were based on projections of population growth to at least 8 billion by 2050 — and the M(E)A’s outlook for ecosystems was quite grim because of this.
So what gives? Can we stop worrying now? Can we start dreaming again about a future that doesn’t suck?
I hate to dwell on the negative (okay, I love to dwell on the negative), but even the UN doesn’t think its lowball population scenario is likely. Their Population Division is betting on the “medium variant” scenario, where we have 9.3 billion people by 2050, and level off around 10 billion by the end of the century. Their “high projection variant” predicts 15.3 billion people by 2100. So let’s not get cocky, kids. With even the medium scenario, we’re getting another 3 billion people on the planet in the next few decades. You might want to buy real estate before all the good cans are gone.
On the other hand, don’t give up hope.