A good life for all is only possible if the extreme resource use of the wealthy elite is reduced, says expert
The human population is long been predicted to explode, and the impact of the same frightened governments across the world. But the long-anticipated ‘population bomb’ may not burst sooner than previously thought, according to a new study.
Considering the current trends, the global population is expected to peak at 8.8 billion by the middle of the century and may encounter a swift plunge following it, said the research commissioned by the Club of Rome.
The forecast from the Earth4All initiative for the Global Challenges Foundation, published in the working paper People and Planet, 21st Century Sustainable Population Scenarios and Possible Living Standards Within Planetary Boundaries, arrives after the global population crosses the eight billion mark in November 2022.
The report, released March 27, 2023, suggested that UN forecasts last year, projecting the world population to reach 9.7 billion by the mid-century and continue to climb for decades after that, may have been significantly overestimated.
Following the UN projections, experts raised concerns regarding the scenario’s mark on global greenhouse gas projections and future environmental repercussions. The researchers claimed other notable population projections often downplay the significance of rapid economic development.
“We know rapid economic development in low-income countries has a huge impact on fertility rates. Fertility rates fall as girls get access to education and women are economically empowered and have access to better healthcare,” said Per Espen Stoknes, Earth4All project lead and director of the Centre for Sustainability at Norwegian Business School, in a press release.
The scientists also investigated the relationship between population growth and breaching planetary boundaries, which is related to the Earth’s carrying capacity.
Contrary to common belief, the researchers observed that population growth is not the primary factor pushing planetary boundaries such as climate change. The Earth is destabilised by exceptionally high carbon footprint levels left by the world’s most affluent 10 per cent population, it noted.
“Humanity’s main problem is luxury carbon and biosphere consumption, not population. The places where population is rising fastest have extremely small environmental footprints per person compared with the places that reached peak population many decades ago,” said Jorgen Randers, co-author of the paper.
The researchers also noted that, in the current population scenario, everyone could escape extreme poverty and achieve a basic standard of living that includes food, housing, energy, and other resources. However, this necessitates a (much more) equitable resource allocation.
“A good life for all is only possible if the extreme resource use of the wealthy elite is reduced,” concluded Randers.
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