Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween's Scariest Number: 76,000,000

It was one year ago today, perversely on Halloween, that it was officially announced that World Population had broken the 7 billion barrier for the first time. So today I thought I would check back exactly one year later to see how many more people have been added since then. According to, which calculates population growth based upon world wide census data, the total annual increase in population since last Halloween is around 76 million.

We keep hearing in the media that population growth rates are gradually dropping around the world and that the total numbers will cap off at around 9 billion by midcentury. This seems unlikely, for even if the growth rate does continue to incrementally decline enough to keep the increase in raw numbers fairly stable (around 75 million per year) over the next few decades, the world would see its 8 billionth living human in the year 2026 and its 9 billionth by around 2040. By 2050, we would be closing in on the 10 billion mark. If the growth rate itself stabilizes and stops declining at any point in the next few years, 10 billion by midcentury is virtually assured. Sometimes, mathematics can really be a bitch.

Of course, this hypothetical game of playing with the numbers assumes that there will be sufficient energy, water and food resources to sustain several billion additional people. Given that the signs are already there that we are approaching the limits of the total resources the world can produce on an annual basis, and that furthermore the amount of resources produced annually is very likely to go into decline as soon as this current decade, at some point continued population growth is going to slam headlong into the brick wall of natural limits.

I gather that none of this is likely to be news to anyone who reads this blog regularly. It is just something to contemplate the next time some optimistic media report claims that human population growth is going to be curtailed at a sustainable level at some point in the coming decades.

Bonus: "Cause everyday is's everyday"


  1. I've been curious about that, too. The population has done nothing but exponentially grow, and it's been growing far faster than most predicted. And yet the predictions for 2050 and 2100 are that somehow it will slow and even level off.

    The only way that happens is if: 1) the entire world reaches the same level of affluence that the West currently enjoys, or 2) we simply can't feed and give good health care to everyone. The predictions never mention either of those two scenarios, so I wonder if it's just hope-based prediction, as if they know it's a problem and they're just working the numbers to make it less ominous.

  2. Don't worry about population growth. Not that it isn't bad-of course it is bad--it's just that nobody is going to do anything about it.

    As it happens, though, the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (Disease, Famine, War, and Death) are fully capable of taking care of the problem.

    And they will.


  3. If one accepts Guy MacPherson's theory, no one will be alive here in 2050. I've pretty much stopped paying attention to population number scenarios because those who make them do not take into consideration all those possibilities that factor against their scenarios. There will be far more conditions working against population growth in the near future than working for it, as Gaianne mentions above.

    Glad to have you back. Thanks for writing!

  4. In the seventies I kept tabs on a large nest box that had started with two rats with access to a metered amount of food that never changed. It was too much at first, but as the population grew exponentially it became too little. What was the most interesting, as the population began to fight over the food, and disease weighed in, was that the food again became too much because the males lost interest in procreation and the population died out. It was haunting. But humans have viagra now so no such luck.

  5. The worlds current population is not sustainable now without affordable fossil fuels. Food production and transport is oil based.