The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050. There is no shared international vision for fulfilling the lifestyle expectations of such numbers within the limits of planetary resources.
Almost the whole of this growth in population will be located in the world’s developing regions. Any attempt to steer these projections towards a lower trajectory will require leadership of global institutions, as well as national governments.
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 further 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.
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.
more Population briefings (updated March 2018)
World Population Projections
Opposition to Family Planning
Overpopulation or Overconsumption?
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