Is population growth cause for hope or concern?

“The 360” shows you different perspectives on the main stories and debates of the day.

What is up

The world’s population has reached an estimate 8 billion people last month, according to estimates from the United Nations.

It took only 12 years for the global population to increase from 7 billion to 8 billion, a period of unprecedented growth made possible by advances in public health, nutrition and economic development that increased survival rates for children and allow older generations to live longer. in the past.

“The milestone is an opportunity to celebrate diversity and advancements considering humanity’s shared responsibility for the planet,” UN Secretary General António Guterres he said.

The boom was not evenly distributed around the world. Countries throughout Asia they counted most of the world’s growth since 2011. India alone has added 180 million people and is projected to surpass China as the most populous nation in the next year. Growth rates in most of Europe and North America have stagnated, with some countries also seeing their populations decline.

Despite the speed with which the world has added another billion people, demographers say that the rate of population growth is actually slowing down. The UN projects that we will reach 9 billion people in 15 years and that the global population will finally peak at about 10.4 billion in the 2080s.

Why there is debate

The question of how many people the Earth can support has been a source of heated debates for centuries. But our growing understanding of human-caused climate change has shifted the stakes of that debate in just a few years.

In the eyes of many experts, it reaches what the UN calls for “8 billion day” should be cause for major concern. They argue that a rapidly expanding population will only make it harder to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the level needed to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. More people will also put extra effort into critical resources like food and water, which are poised to become scarcer amid extreme droughts and severe weather — especially in parts of the world that are expected to to grow more rapidly in the coming years. Some would add that the most effective steps to reduce population growth, namely increased economic stability and improved reproductive autonomy for women, are worthy goals in themselves.

But others say those concerns are unfounded. They argue that the focus on population size obscures the real causes, and potential solutions, for climate change. The biggest driver of global emissions, they say, is the rate of consumption in rich countries — not the fact that low-income nations are adding more people. Some demographers also believe that an expanding population should be celebrated because it will help developing nations prosper economically and create more opportunities for innovation, collaboration and prosperity.



There cannot be enough resources to support so many people

“Rapid population growth means even more people struggling for scarce water resources and leaves more families facing hunger as climate change has an increasing impact on crop production in many parts of the world.” – Dan Ikpoyi and Chinedu Asadu, Associated Press

Billions of additional people will put enormous strain on the climate

“The hard fact is that in an era of climate disruption, human numbers matter. And the ecological impact of another 2-3 billion humans will be immense.” – John Vidal, guardian

A prosperous future is impossible without a sustainable population

“Because if our stated goals of protecting the environment and leaving a better society for our children are truly sincere, then we must summon the courage to openly and unapologetically call out the greatest threats to both— human overpopulation and overconsumption.” – Robert P. Johnson, Santa Barbara Independent

We can curb population growth and promote women’s rights at the same time

“What if we could see our population peak earlier than projected and avoid ever having to know whether the planet can support 10 billion, 11 billion or 12 billion people? Achieving this would not require inventing a new technology or making massive monetary investments (relatively speaking). We just need to make modern contraception available to everyone who wants it, so that people are able to decide for themselves if and when they should get pregnant and give birth.” – Nicole Martin, San Diego Union-Tribune

The world is not enough to prepare for all these extra people

“No matter who wins the debate on growth, we clearly haven’t planned for that growth particularly well.” – Howard V. Hendrix, San Francisco Chronicle

The most vulnerable places are also the least equipped to care for growing populations

“Often, the most vulnerable people in these countries face the greatest damage from climate change without having the resources to protect their health and the environment. Population growth can deepen these inequities.” – Maureen Lichtveld, Conversation Market Watch


Climate change is the result of overconsumption in rich nations, not a growing population

“The consumption of resources that lead to carbon emissions matters more to climate change than population growth on its own, and those resources are primarily consumed by a relatively small number of wealthy people in the world. Change these consumption patterns – through a mix of better efficiency and new technologies that don’t emit carbon – and there’s enough room to continue population growth without cooking the planet. – Bryan Walsh, Vox

We already have the tools we need to support billions more people

“The decrease in biodiversity with the increase in human numbers should not be a foregone conclusion. There are sustainable solutions for energy, agriculture, and how we build things. It’s just a matter of changing perspectives, attitudes and politics.” -Lauren Leffer, Gizmodo

The rate of population growth matters as much as the size itself

“When economists think about it, a large population is great for many different outcomes, but do you get that large population in 10 years or 100 years or 1,000 years? The longer it takes to get there, the better you can put in place the right structures in the system that will support that population.” – Alex Ezeh, global health expert, at BBC

More people equals more opportunities

“Every new human being comes into the world not only with an empty stomach, but also a pair of hands, and, most importantly, a brain capable of intelligent thinking and the creation of new knowledge. In the process of economic development, the “humans cause a lot of environmental damage, but the new wealth and knowledge we create during this process also allow us to become better stewards of the planet”. – Marian Tupy, The hill

Prosperity is always worth celebrating

“No one goes through life without pain, struggle and disappointment, but it is indisputably true that life on earth continues to get better and better. In general, human beings have never been healthier, richer, safer, better fed, or better educated than now.” – Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe

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Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Getty Images

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