World Population

updated October 2016

The optimum strategy for stabilising the world’s population is to achieve universal coverage of reproductive health services and to respect the broader agenda of women’s rights, especially in education. These longstanding objectives are now articulated in the Sustainable Development Goals approved by world leaders for the period 2016-2030.

An approach to population goals based on women’s rights is however no substitute for tackling the excessive and unequal consumption of modern lifestyles. Fears for the long term security of the three essential needs of humanity – water, food and energy – signal that our world population can be sustained only if rich and poor alike can be persuaded to embed the principles of sustainability in their aspirations for consumption.

Water, food and energy security are all undermined by climate change, the threat that best illustrates the injustice embedded within the human footprint on the environment. Oxfam research finds that the richest 10% of the world’s population are responsible for half of all emissions attributed to individuals, while the poorest 50% contribute only 10% of emissions.

The principle of equity in distribution of carbon and other natural resources is a necessary but insufficient condition for sustainable development. There is no denying the awesome pressures of scarcity that future population growth will impose. However, deploying it as a smokescreen for our incompetence in the equitable management of finite resources will not improve our chances.


Overpopulation is a Myth: Q&A with Misconception Filmmaker Jessica Yu
from Reason TV

World Population History – From 1 to 2050 AD
An animated timeline of the growth in world population. Stay with it to the final seconds

from Into the Science

more Population briefings
World Population Projections
Demographic Transition
Demographic Dividend
Population and Development
Opposition to Family Planning
Overpopulation or Overconsumption?
Source material and useful links