Will the earth be able to support around 9.7 billion people in 2050?

I was reading an article on the Telegraph about how the population may increase to 9.7 billion in 2050. And I was thinking there that some people say that we may have to reduce consumption but I hardly think that the US and Europe are willing to cut back on resources just to save the planet.


But then I thought that few will accept population control as a means of keeping population low so what is going to happen?

Are there other methods of dealing with this (better technology) or do you think its just blown out of proportion?

What method would you suggest?

There’s no real secret. The super-populated countries, namely China and India, need to reduce their populations. One out of every 6 people on Earth lives in China, and another one of those 6 lives in India.

Yes, assuming no large-scale catastrophes.
The physical cost to the ecosystem will be increasingly high as the need to provide food and energy replace the natural environment with human alterations target at providing those needs.

There is no chance consumption will be cut voluntarily for the good of all. Disparities will be as universal as they are today. The less competent will not suddenly find themselves competing successfully. Moreover, to some extent there is a maximum amount of food and energy that can be produced due to the need for infrastructure to provide it, so at some level total production is a zero-sum game.

Sure, the Earth can support that many people. Of course, that means that there will be a further degradation of many wilderness habitats and further extinction of species as well as a general degradation of the environment in general.

The biggest problem isn’t producing all of the food and stuff the people would want/need, it’s really a matter of logistics. How do you get the food, water and goods to people when there are few roads or other infrastructure and through the various warlords and other predators that exist in many 3rd world areas? And that problem will most likely only get worse as the population gets higher and resources, especially local ones become more strained.

The only real issue I see outside of the logistics issue is potable water, but I think there are some technological solutions we could use for that in some cases.

At this point, only a few countries have any real use for birth control–mainly India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.

Most Western countries are at or below replacement rates. The populations of Russia and Japan are actually shrinking.

There’s always a time lag between when people begin living longer, and when the birth rate starts dropping. What we’re seeing now, in most countries, is the demographic momentum created by that lag. However, we are on the downward side of that.

World population reached 5 billion in 1987. It took 12 years to reach 6 billion in 1999. It took another 12 years to reach 7 billion in 2011. The 8 billion mark is projected to take 13 years, in 2024.

The only real issue is energy. As long as we have sufficiently cheap energy, we can create enough fertilizer, pump and treat enough water, etc., to sustain whatever population increase might occur.

Yes, this. Of course we can support that many people, but we’re getting closer to the natural capacity of the planet and eventually we’ll need more technology to keep increasing population. We’ve done plenty of that already but at some point you run out of new wilderness and we’ll have to put the land and sea we use now to more efficient use.

We won’t have any real problem supporting that many people. Outside of a few environmental problems (notably AGW) human society has greatly improved since the publication of The Population Bomb in 1968, which predicted wide-scale suffering due to a growing population.

How so?

I’m not certain “natural capacity” has any real meaning here. What defines natural? Without even the most basic of tools, the global population of H. sap. would be much smaller. Fire, clothing, agriculture, husbandry…all of those allowed more humans to live and breed, and have long since distorted any notion of the planet’s “natural” capacity for supporting humans.

What Deeg said, It will be a problem if we do not plan ahead, but I do think we are making constant efforts to prevent that, some planned and some unplanned. One thing to take into account is to look at what people like Buckminster Fuller said, he noted a long time ago how we can and do things better and with less materials.

A key point was that this means that there is not a good reason why we can not offer a good quality of life for more people with less materials and resources than we used to, reducing the stresses to our environment. Another guy that should be consulted is Hans Rosling (medical doctor, academic, statistician focused on international health issues), his main point is that poverty and lack of education (of specially women) is one of the main reasons why the population is increasing, but even religion is not powerful enough to discourage family planning once education and efforts to curb poverty show up. The evidence shows that the population then (with education and reduction of poverty) does decrease in many of the developing nations.

Why didn’t you just read the rest of my post? At some point we’ll run out of readily arable land and have to make wholesale changes to find the room for more crops, or find ways to make our use of land more efficient. There’s not much controversy there.

In the words of the eminent philosopher in 1985 on David Letterman:

Now, joking aside, moving people from un-inhabitable areas to areas where the food is would create another problem, of course. The real answer as stated above is population control. That will come only when cultural and religious taboos on birth control start to subside in countries where the population issue is most acute (India and China).

Or perhaps you meant to ask why I didn’t *reply *to the rest of the post.

The answer is that I do not disagree with the rest of your post.

Of course there isn’t. It’s what we’ve been doing constantly since the beginnings of civilization, and we continue to do so.

I just have no idea what you mean by the planet’s “natural” capacity.

As much fun as it is to hand-wring about those oversexed superstitious foreigners, they aren’t actually idiots. They are responding to incentives just like everyone else. The incentives to have a lot of kids include:

  • Being a farmer. Even in the US, family farms are excerpt from some child labor laws. Small farms need small, free farmhands. This is why your great-great-grandparents probably had quite a few kids. Also, it’s cheaper to have a lot of kids on a farm then in a city.
  • A reliance on one’s grown children, rather than a public safety net or private savings, for survival in old age.
  • High infant and child mortality, such that you can expect that a good number of your kids won’t survive into adulthood (see the last point- losing all your kids can lead to destitution).
  • Few jobs for educated people. It’s a lot cheaper to have kids when you don’t have to educate them, and people don’t educate kids when there are no jobs to make it a worthwhile investment.
  • Early marriage and limited prospects for women (and really for everyone.) Village life is boring. Kids are a pain-in-the-butt, but bring a lot of joy.

Incentives not to have a lot kids include:

  • Knowing your kids will most likely not die in childhood.
  • High need for education, which is expensive and time-consuming.
  • Participation in the modern industrialized economy, which doesn’t leave a lot of time or space for raising kids.

Luckily, the world’s standard of living is on a solid upward trajectory. We are within spitting distance of the end of the most extreme types of poverty, and more and more people are joining in to the modern economy and enjoying things like lower infant mortality and better access to education and jobs.

What on earth are you talking about? In China, birth control is about as stigmatized as Tylenol, and…religious taboos? Having just emerged from decades of enforced atheism, there isn’t a lot of religious tabooing going on these days.

China has had a population bulge, which is a common phenomena anywhere that experiences sudden access to health care and the resulting rise in life expetectancy. With or without the one-child policy, China’s birth rate is not particularly high.

Maybe in China, but don’t be so sure about that in India: Modern Birth Control Methods still Taboo.

I don’t have to mention Catholic countries in Latin America, which are struggling to contain the zika virus, are wrestling with the idea that people are going to have to use (gasp) artificial birth control for a couple of years.

Nothing all that specific, just that we can use the land and sea without tremendous modification to support some certain number of people. Eventually we’ll need to become even more efficient in production per acre, or start leveling mountains or something like that to get more land. It’s the kind of stuff we’ve done for a long time on a greater scale.

ETA: I guess I could say that there’s a limit to the amount of food that can be grown from currently arable land without new technology or creating new land or cutting into other resources such as lumber.

It won’t be for a long time. The US government pays farmers to NOT plant crops on more than 23 million acres.

From your own article, legally there’s nothing to stop women from using contraceptive in India. In fact, most women would like to stop at two kids, but it’s their husbands/family members that are stopping them. Since female employment/education/empowerment seem to correspond with lower birthrates, an easy way to reduce population seem to be educate women, give them money and jobs.

Even in Catholic countries, i.e. Brazil, birthrate is falling. cite: http://www.npr.org/2012/01/15/145133220/brazils-falling-birth-rate-a-new-way-of-thinking

Again, once women start to earn/keep their own money, birthrate tends to drop.

We will not manage it, and there will be wars of extermination.

Complex question, simple answer. Sweet dreams.


It seems unavoidable, most do not hope for mass deaths to save us.
Various types of people will either welcome ( particularly as a means of punishing peoples they disapprove of ) or deplore the following ineluctable changes, but we are continuously assured by those who benefit from change, that change is both inevitable and always good, and that only stupid wicked cowards fear change.
These changes will not apply to those most valuable to society, whose worth is proven by their present consumption.

People will live in smaller and smaller quarters, perhaps having to share space with other persons. Spaciousness will be denounced as much as individuality as being greedy self-assertion.

Personal possessions will be limited to ever smaller effects: people will be assured that the life of the mind is of more importance and that they should find all they want in imaginary worlds in computer simulation.

Spirituality ---- as dictated by mass religion and one’s mass community ---- will become paramount,

Personal travel and transport will be of the past: there won’t be room for 90 million cars with drivers in, say Italy or Britain. Work, such as there is will be done at home or in factories/offices with dormitories attached as with many of China’s present-day factories ( hopefully of higher standards ).

War, even local war, will be practically unthinkable. Most people just will not have possessions others want ( although they will just take them if they need them for survival ).

Mass entertainment will be as vital as religion. Not only to assuage the masses but to mould them and provide firm moral values. America has an advantage here since it is based on entertainment.

Education will be fostered and lauded to it’s furthest extent ( as much as it empowers those in charge ). Art in the traditional sense, and History will be denigrated as arrogant and divisive, and therefore lost down the memory-hole.

All forms of sexual experimentation will be encouraged to satisfy and quiet the masses; traditional moralities will disappear to be replaced by community expectations. Hate speech and discrimination will become things of the past since no-one wants to rock the boat. Justice and punishment will be local and community based according to local moralities.

Democracy, in it’s most vital local sense will become paramount: big government and the help afforded by big government will vanish, seen only through it’s policing and paramilitary functions, replaced by local initiative and complete control by the local people in group. They will be led by those who can argue best in local council; those who are strongest and forceful; and those to whom most people owe most.