An eye-opening new study that raises estimates of global population growth sharply upward — to as high as 12.3 billion people by 2100 — is no cause for panic, and is likely to collide with the hard-to-predict realities of human behavior, a think-tank scholar writes in The Wall Street Journal.
Nicholas Eberstadt of the American Enterprise Institute argues in the Journal that "some skepticism is in order" because the study projects far-off population growth based on fertility trends in existence today.
"The basic trouble with all long-range population projections is that they are driven by assumptions about birth levels — and there is still no reliable method for predicting fertility levels a generation from now, to say nothing of a century hence," writes Eberstadt.
"Demographers are even hard-pressed to explain [past] historical fertility patterns."
The world's population today is 7.2 billion.
The study, published last week in the journal "Science,"
concludes that Earth could be home to between 9.6 billion and 12.3 billion people in 2100 — far more than previous consensus estimates that said population growth would continue to level off in the 21st Century.
The study identified Africa, with a current population of 1 billion, as a driver of the coming boom. Africa will see its see population at least triple by 2100, reaching at least 3.5 billion and as much as 5.1 billion, according to projections from the authors.
A group of 14 academics, many affiliated with the United Nations, authored the peer-reviewed paper.
The study "is all but certain to reignite Malthusian debates about the race between mouths and food … and to re-energize the international population-planning activists," Eberstadt writes.
"No doubt the study will also color the climate-change debate — after all, billions more consumers will mean even greater greenhouse-gas emissions. Count on the Science study to figure prominently at this week's climate-change summit during the U.N. General Assembly."
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