World Population Might Go to 40 Billion by 2150 But We Can Already Feed All Those People

I see several parts to the problem where many people believe the doomer overpopulation myths.

The fear story resonates with deep caveman fears of starvation. Any individual person can experience hunger. This reinforces and validates the fear of potential starvation.

The small scale and valid fears and issues for individuals and small groups do not match up to real global risk. There are counter-intuitive aspects.

Is an objection – technical or some other subject relevant? I disregarded areas that I do not impact the core question of whether overpopulation is a true risk.

Scale of overpopulation issue for the world. 30% increase by 2050, 60%-200% increase by 2100. 100%-400% by 2150.

Nations and the world have far more margin for keeping people fed than people realize. We are NOT barely getting by. The avg person in the US eats 222 lbs of meat. USDA recommends that adults eat 5-6 ounces of protein daily, avg person will eat 10 ounces of meat and poultry each day in 2018. 30-40% of food is wasted in the US.

UK rationing during WW2 was 4-8 ounces of meat per week.

This means 20-30% underproduction would barely be noticed. Prices would go up on certain items which would shave demand. Eventually, this would trigger simple policies to reduce food waste. 10-20% gains from food waste reductions are relatively easy. This is so unimportant that most places do not bother. With a bit more time, an adaptation to 50-60% less food could be handled without people feeling like they are sacrificing. 90% reductions would be more like UK rationing.

Food production is increasing by a lot. The productivity of agricultural land will triple by 2030-2040. This not magic. Dozens of hectares with higher productivity are being grown now. China and other nations will scale them up.

This is all before going to building a lot of greenhouses which can boost productivity by 10-30 times. This is before the possible success of factory grown meat. Factory grown meat is now sold in restaurants. People pay more for the meat at high-end restaurants. It can be made to taste better. What if did not taste as good? Is it unnatural? People did not ask those questions about chicken nuggets. People love those things.

Factory grown meat can boost food productivity by 10X in terms of energy and water.

So we already have 2 to 3 times the food than we really need. The world can drop by 10 times and get by. Food production will go up 3 times within 20 years using business as usual agriculture. There is an option to use greenhouses on a larger scale for 30 times more food. Dedicated skyscrapers for greenhouses can boost food produced in a spot by 100X beyond greenhouses.

Factory produced meat can increase food production efficiency in terms of energy and water by 10X or even 100X.

Overpopulation was at most 3X by 2100 and 5X by 2150.

I will not bother to go into more complicated to explain solutions. I will just briefly mention that farmed fish takes about 1.5 times the weight in feed to produce the meat. Chicken also has low feed to meat ratios. This is compared to 8 to 10 times the feed to produce beef. There are other substitutions that could made to produce meat with less cost in water, land and energy.

There are proven methods in food science. If you do not have enough cocoa you mix a small amount with hazelnut and you get chocolate flavored nutella.

84 thoughts on “World Population Might Go to 40 Billion by 2150 But We Can Already Feed All Those People”

  1. CO2 doesn’t spike before solar minimums. They spike before ice ages. Volcanic activity spikes right before that also.

    There are various theories posited as to why. But there is hard data that this is what happens pretty much each time.

  2. Jeezez F. Christ, Brian! I dont even know where to start whats wrong with this.

    Biodiversity loss and global warming are direct results of too many people consuming too much.

    Push your head further up where it is and we will have a singularity.

  3. Brian: yes, the planet can certainly feed 40 billion, even with current technology, amount of arable land, and without resorting to factory grown meat. If you like I can get into the details on how it’s achievable (e.g., reducing India’s food spoilage).

    However, it is extremely unlikely Earth will see 40 billion in the next 130 years. The current demographics just don’t support this. Not even close. Everything around future population boils down to fertility rates. The UN’s extreme scenario – “constant fertility rate” projects a 27 billion population by 2100. This scenario is CURRENTLY not happening, ie fertility rates are dropping, ergo they are not constant. For the “medium” scenario Earth is looking at about 11-12 billion by 2100. It’s a reasonable assumption. Beyond 2100 will then see a DECLINING global population. Significantly increasing fertility rates is very unlikely. Even so, feeding 10-20-30 billion is not an issue. That is just a function of efficient production and distribution.

    The challenge is whether people of the future can afford to eat what they want, and that cultures that have for centuries been vegetarian – like India (will by far be the most populous) completely change their diets.

  4. Reality is always a bit more complicated. It would be nice is the do-gooders would local source their food but that is hard to do. There usually isn’t a system for that. Also during political strife the political party will interfere with the distribution of food to hurt their rivals.

  5. I will agree that there hasn’t been large scale famine for a while. But just because no one is giving a concert doesn’t mean people aren’t hungry. Right now a number of states are going to experiment with work requirement for food stamps. Sounds benign to some. Somehow a number of families will end up without food and starve. Some bureaucrat will blame them for not filling out the proper paper works or for not understanding the requirements. But in the end the programs have one simple goal and that is to deign hungry people food. And because this is their goal they will accomplish it.

  6. Large scale maybe but small scale people starve because of famine, because of drought, because they can’t afford food. Just because it isn’t on TV doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

  7. Starving and stunting same difference. There are people going hungry even here. Some places they keep the schools open over the holidays so poor children would have something to eat. When I was a child I remember the people who use to come to my grandparents home to beg for food. I remember some of the children were just skin and bones. We weren’t rich. We didn’t eat meat every day. But we had more than most. The press might cover it once in a while but people need to eat all of the time and they can go hungry any time. We empty out the cupboards once a year and take the older cans goods to the food pantry. Often there is a line. My village is not poor but no matter where you live there will always be poor people and some of them will go hungry on occasion.

  8. 5.We need to regulate away planned obsolescence. planned obsolescence generates a lot of waste. Everything manufactured in volume should pass high quality standards to be sold in the US, even if manufactured in the US.
    Where my brother works, there is a 55 gallon drum full of dead cordless drills. That is ridiculous. These things should work for decades. LED light bulbs used to say 50,000 hours. Now they say 15,000 hours. They got rid of all the fins and such to remove the heat and reduced the life dramatically. Clothing often gets holes after the first wash. That is terrible. There needs to be standards for fabric and thread. Clothing should last 1,000 uses without getting a hole, ripping or even fading very much. Shoe stitching should almost never be the point of failure. Neither should the sole separate. Even the soles should not wear through with what we know about rubber. If a car can go 120,000 on a tire, a sole should last almost indefinably. The leather? It is what it is.
    Computer components? 10 years is a reasonable expectation. They are always getting faster and better. But if that ceases to be true or relevant then longer seems reasonable.

  9. 4.We need to process human waste and turn it into safe quality fertilizer. We must stop using medications and artificial food additives that do not break down after being excreted and can be taken up by plants or become concentrated in the soil.
    Whether we grow food in greenhouses, or tissue vats, or on traditional farms, we need to have the nutrients that they are made of available to them. And the best way to do that is to recycle it. Same with animal waste.
    Perhaps heat it or irradiate it to kill any bacteria, viruses, and other nasties, then process it into proper fertilizer.

  10. 3.We need to have good regulations on GMOs. We need GMOs and we need people to be able to trust in their quality and nutrition. If the organic movement has taught anything, it is that people want better quality food than they have been getting. But going all organic would be a disaster. We have to review all GMOs. Introduce a new standard where the particular changes do not introduce or elevate any natural toxins regardless as to whether they are thought to harm humans or not. Modifications must be limited to taste, increasing nutrition, damage resistance, shelf life (but only if it does not harm nutrition), appearance (but only if that appearance does not deceive), decreasing growing time, and increasing yield. We need to get most of the countries on board with this. We need different labeling or just ban the deleterious modifications.

  11. 2.We need to cure several strains of adenovirus. These cause obesity…not all obesity but a lot. It is what was behind the correctly named “obesity epidemic”.
    The obvious symptoms of the cold-like condition when you get it subsides but the virus does not die and it acts directly in fat. If we want to reduce excessive food consumption, we need to eradicate these pathogens.

  12. 1.We have to reduce fossil fuel use. Even if you don’t believe in global warming, there is ocean acidification, air quality, and the need for even cheaper electric power. It is going to require energy to grow tissue cultures for food. Coal must go. It causes black lung even in the US:
    Masks don’t work; they clog up easily. Maybe you could do automated coal mining or put people in sophisticated space suit like devises, but none of that technology is developed sufficiently, and it will cost big dollars likely making coal uncompetitive anyway. Coal releases mercury when it is burned. That isn’t really removed and ends up in the ocean where it contaminates fish…fish that we eat. There are massive amounts of coal ash produced…about 100,000,000 tons just in the U.S. That stuff has all kinds of concentrated toxins. Some even has a lot of radiation…but the EPA is not permitted to check the levels. The old ostrich maneuver. Acid rain, air quality, nothing good from coal. It is an antiquated energy from the past we need to move beyond.
    If we multiply the amount of coal use as we multiply population, the effects could be quite dreadful.
    We must out compete coal to get rid of it. We need massive nuclear power plants. There are great economies of scale with nuclear. You don’t get that with solar or wind.

  13. A 5 second search on Google showed that net forest growth is positive in a lot of countries, including the USA.
    Not a surprise really, any comment that combines random accusations of racism and praise for Cuba is almost certainly going to just be fantasy.

  14. To rephrase J.Os comment in a fashion that will be more resistant to mischievous misinterpretation:
    What is the mechanism that results in a CO2 spike just prior to a solar minimum?

  15. Yes, but the increased CO2 is an added bonus that increases growth rates by a few 10% at most. As Olivecoffee was saying.

    The MAIN effect of greenhouses is control of temperature, water and pests, which is where the factor of 10 -30 comes in.

  16. Stalin killed millions of Russians, therefore he wouldn’t have killed millions of Ukrainians.

    The logic is inarguable.

  17. If neither I nor any cook or chef I’ve encountered in nearly 50 years is able to cook the horrid things properly then they are hardly worth dealing with.

  18. I read about a researcher looking at cardiac health in Norway after WW2. The Germans grabbed all the meat, dairy, etc – and the Norwegians’ hearts became clean as a whistle, no plaques. Then he got to look at the hearts of American servicemen killed in Korea, and later Vietnam. Kids of eighteen and twenty were already, and increasingly, getting clogged coronary arteries. Now it’s obesity, diabetes… Do we need conflict to stay in shape ?

  19. That depends.

    Brussels Sprouts are a classic example of genetically determined food preferences. Either you can taste glucosinolates or you can’t. If you can, (They’re very bitter.) Brussels sprouts taste terrible. If you can’t, you’re likely to find them delicious.

    It’s such a reliably inherited trait that at one time it was even used as a paternity test…

  20. There is so much wrong with that. Nothing of what you say is at all real.

    Not my prob you live in an alternate reality.

    We send food…

    Ah yes. An do-gooder who can’t fess up to what he’s done and still does. Explains everything.

  21. The author does not even address how farming the oceans (most of which are essentially barren of life) would multiply all these numbers hundreds of times over, or how we could make use of underground caverns for inexpensive, multi-layered space thanks to emerging technologies. A bigger issue than food production will be restoring a great deal of farms to the wild in order to preserve and maximize biological diversity and to provide recreation areas for people.

    That said, now is the time to look at the pessimistic view, too. Although we have at least two hundred years to find a sustainable pathway to the future, we probably do NOT have two thousand. Geometric growth reaches large numbers very quickly. If the population doubled every generation, we would have filled up the observable universe before all that long. That means that this is the time, right at the beginning when the effects of our choices will make the most difference, to consider how to create worlds that future generations will want to live in – not just two or three generations hence, but two or three thousand generations hence. Of course we cannot be expected to solve every problem they will encounter, but now is the time to seek efficiencies and a wise course to preserve such options as future generations may need.

  22. “Do-gooder orgs in the West keep insisting upon sending ‘free food’ to parts of Africa, which destroys the local farming economy. ”

    The dirty little secret about this, is that the governments there WANT this to happen. Destroying the local agricultural economy, and replacing the locally grown food with charity from the West that is routed through the local government, secures the government in power.

    You’ve maybe heard of “hydraulic empires”? The modern version is the “food aid empire”.

  23. “People will adapt” is pretty cold comfort being how they have spent the past 40 years refusing to so much as decarbonize the electric grid and electrify the auto fleet let alone the massive technological overhaul of the entire industrial backbone necessary for this planet to sustain 5 billion people let alone 7 billion or more. The only adaptations humans have done is new kinds of anti-science propaganda, new ways to pay off unscrupulous scientists, new ways of funding the campaigns of anti-science politicians, and coming up with new ways to be racist, ie “dur hur the chinese and indians won’t decarb it so we won’t either I don’t care if they signed a treaty to do so and we are literally the only ones who didn’t I don’t trust foreigners yeehaw.”

    I mean none of that decarbonization or electrification or industrial overhaul will mean anything if you look at the agricultural CO2/CH4 emissions when trying to feed 40 billion people. And if your geoengineering to procrastinate dealing with climate change involves blotting out the sun then that lowers the effectiveness of your farms.

    There’s a total of 1 country that has positive forest growth (Cuba). China gets honorable mention for planting hundreds of millions of trees to fight the expanding Gobi Desert. Humans are using resources faster than they can be replenished, which is causing massive desertification. And you want us to trust that humans will do a better job at “adapting” when there are 40 billion of them?

  24. There is so much wrong with that. Nothing of what you say is at all real.

    Widespread hunger is in areas of war. Occasionally a severe drought, often a drought is the tipping point leading to open war.

    We send food to places where hunger is already strongly established, local farmers can’t keep up and likely haven’t for years. Usually they’ve been importing food for years, but the war disrupts the economy and people can’t afford to buy food. Yemen for instance has been in turmoil since 2011 which has blocked food imports and increased the already-high unemployment. The water infrastructure has been damaged leading to less irrigation in an arid country heavily dependent on it.

    The UN, WHO, etc typically ends up not sending enough food to feed everybody for one reason or another, but hopefully enough to keep masses of people from dying until local sources are again producing food or people can buy imports, then they leave as soon as they can.

    Learn the facts before you blather nonsense, please.

  25. yes they did…totally unnecessary too. But they had the London School of Economics (LSE) idiots telling Parliament it was ‘necessary’ when Ludwig Erhardt in West Germany proved otherwise.

    Erhardt snuck in a regulation that instantly repealed ALL rationing to the Allied occupation authorities on a weekend or something. It still got ‘caught’ and the Allied general said to him, “You know that all my economic advisors tell me not to sign off on this.” Too which good old Ludwig replied, “Yeah, mine did too.”

    But it was implemented. And despite the fact that Western Germany was a bombed out mess under occupation, food ‘magically’ showed up in the shelves at the market in short order. This was considered the start of the Wirtshaftswunder (Economic Miracle) that Germany became famous for.

    Meanwhile, the UK and France nationalized health care and most industries in this great socialist wave that descended upon post-war non-occupied Europe. And as you pointed out, kept rationing well into the ’50s. They economically underperformed compared to the Germans all through that period. The LSE idiots were in denial of why the West German economy was booming the entire time.

    And the UK developed a black market…especially after the war ended.

    The public will tolerate quite a lot of hardships during times of TOTAL war that they won’t in peace time. This has well been empirically well proven by economic historians.

  26. Actually, Britain sustained food rationing for years after the war ended.
    Look at the wikipedia Rationing_in_the_United_Kingdom#Timeline

    Formal rationing ended in 1954. But wikipedia went on to claim lingering effects until the 1990s.

    There is a reason that 1984 was set in England. Even today they need ID to buy a knife or TV. That place is messed up.

  27. Yes, we should switch to mandating butanol. Existing ethanol plants can be cheaply and quickly converted into butanol plants and it has 90% of energy per amount that gasoline has, it is pipelineable and it can be made from switchgrass and other non-food crop sources.

    …of course, that latter quality is what makes it politicly unacceptable in several states in the US.

  28. Wow! Bring back Prohibition? Are you serious?

    1) That didn’t work at all anymore than the drug war has.
    2) When we did it, there was still famines all other the world at that time. So much for that.

  29. This is a problem in the real world. Many, especially younger people, seem to believe this rubbish.
    And they are allowed to vote.

  30. Hahahah.

    Global Warming is a complete fraud.

    Just wait a few years. We’ll be in a mini ice age and it will ALL be caused by huge drops in solar activity that we know is coming. Furthermore, every time this happens CO2 levels spike beforehand.

    Mankind has NOTHING to do with the climate coming in our future. Nothing.

  31. 1) Populations only tolerate such food rationing regimes like happened in WWII during times of total war. Ditto with extremely high war levels of taxation.

    And even then only for a while before it breaks down due to the rise of black marketeering.

    2) Do-gooder orgs in the West keep insisting upon sending ‘free food’ to parts of Africa, which destroys the local farming economy. So when the ‘free food’ supply is disrupted/discontinued guess what happens? Yeahh… No civil war is required for that. Just Western Do-Gooder stupidity.

  32. They are starving because of man-made reasons.

    One of which is stupid do-gooders in the west that keep on sending free food to parts of Africa, putting the local farmers such as they were out of business. So now the locals don’t produce their own food at all and are dependent upon the ‘feelings’ of the do-gooders. And such feelings are fickle and throughly driven by self-absorbtion.

  33. It’s true. The programming they get from the Watermelon controlled education system is profound.

    Look at the ones that have been made into films. Hunger Games, The Divergent series, Mazerunner series, etc.

  34. This serves as a kind of mental vaccination for me, and I suspect many people of my generation. Whenever anyone tries to tell me that all is doomed and we are spiralling down into collapse, I muse that I’ve seen this all before.

    But Millennials don’t have this experiential background. So they have fallen prey to Watermelon cult doom & gloom programming.

  35. UK rationing during WW2 was 4-8 ounces of meat per week.

    Americans got 28 oz of meat per week. 4 oz of cheese.

    And even then it wasn’t accepted by the civilian population. Not really. Or rather, only by the suckers who played ball. All kinds of scams and black market activities emerged.

    Think of the scene from Moscow On The Hudsen where they were buying black market gasoline under the Moscow freeway overpasses. That was what was happening in America within three months after rationing was imposed in WW2 (minus the overpasses as we didn’t have freeways then).

    My great grandparents (who owned a bar/restaurant in SF at that time) were in the thick of it, too. Only way they could keep their business going. They sold booze to underage sailors/soldiers too. “If they were old enough to fight/die in the War, then they were old enough to drink!” my great-grandmother told me decades later. I grew up hearing the stories. Too bad I’ve forgotten half of them already.

    Eventually, this would trigger simple policies to reduce food waste. 10-20% gains from food waste reductions are relatively easy. 

    How does that translate into more food for, say people in Africa from less food waste in the US? They still can’t afford it or they would have bought more from the US anyway.

    And Americans won’t stand for it. Not in peace time, that’s for sure.

  36. There’s one bit of truth and a lot of wrong in that post.

    Most famines are caused by war.

    A good part of the U.S. corn production goes into ethanol, which is not a good source of ethanol, and is probably about break-even for energy production, so it doesn’t save on CO2 emissions either, but it does keep MTBE (the alternative for octane boosting) out of our groundwater, so it’s good for that at least.
    Given that it’s about 1/2 of our corn production, and much less of our overall crop production, let alone global production, there’s absolutely no way you can say it would “feed the world several times over”. It might be enough to feed Mexico, that would be about it.

  37. Most famines are caused by governments. If we stop growing food for fuel, we can feed everyone. The amount of crops grown for alcohol can feed the world several times over.

  38. Mine, too: The Irish potato famine. Not widely known, but there wasn’t at any time during the famine a point where Ireland wasn’t producing enough food to feed everybody; The British landlords were shipping the food out for sale even as their tenant farmers, reliant on small patches of potatoes, (Because they weren’t allowed enough garden space to grow anything less space efficient!) were starving.

  39. People would have to embrace GMO’s. Right now many people have a knee-jerk reaction against that, not realizing that things like insulin are GMO and have been around for decades. Improvements in yields and resistance to drought is a no-brainer. But some kinds, especially those that produce insecticides, would need to be carefully vetted before widespread use. It all depends on what the purpose of the GMO is. It’s kind of like banning all tools because you don’t like Bowie knives.

    We should also look into fish farms on the open ocean. Most of the ocean is effectively a food desert because there are no nutrients there. We bring out large submerged platforms, spew out some agriculture run-off/effluent that would be a problem when concentrated on land (like in pig or chicken farms), and let the krill eat and go up the food chain to tilapia and tuna. Lots of room in the ocean to do this, and hopefully let our over-fished areas close to land recover a bit.

  40. Mormons are intelligent and productive, on average. What were the average IQs of sub Saharan African countries again? Hmmm. Besides raw materials and agriculture, what does sub Saharan Africa produce?
    Some cultures are better than others…

  41. That happened to my ancestors in Russia. They were part of a large German population in Crimea/Ukraine/South Volga, and Stalin “invented” a famine which resulted in the deaths of millions of non-ethnic Russians. Meanwhile, he sold grain overseas to finance the fabulous subway system in Moscow.

  42. Mark, your statements are both true, but the conclusion is not. Starvation is actually decreasing … because people are able to migrate or otherwise lift themselves out of poverty.
    Also, most people who are in poverty are unemployed or forced off of their farms because of civil war. Often that comes about because of unrest from poverty. in a big spiral. Sometimes it is triggered by drought or religious expansion, but in any case, when the war eventually ends, the starvation does too.

  43. “This is all before going to building a lot of greenhouses which can boost productivity by 10-30 times.”

    Utter B.S.
    First, there’s no way it would boost it 10x to 30x. Maybe you meant percent?
    Second, greenhouse gases can improve yields in the right conditions, but you still need all the other elements – water, fertilizer, sunlight. Quite often CO2 is not the limiting factor at all, and increasing greenhouse gases will not improve yields at all.

    For instance, see:

  44. So, you’re saying the planet can sustain 38.5B people in better than famine conditions. Math is easy, reality is a little more complicated.
    Quality of life is a thing, the ~10.x% of the pop that represent undernourished people number >800M. If that distribution holds as the pop scales to 38B, 800M undernourished people climbs to +4Billion.

    It doesn’t matter how much stuff is produced in the world if a large chunk of the population cant afford it, for them, it might as well not exists. Reality is under no obligation to conform itself to anyone’s back-of-envelope calculations.

  45. What makes you think we’ll make the right decisions? Anybody starving to death in Venezuela? Will democracy still exist? Global warming will be very expensive to stop and will change the Earth.

  46. This is only a problem for those who have issues separating the make believe world from reality.

    Dont let your current reality get you down just read a fantasy book from the 80s.

  47. Common for other contemporary books (e.g. the Gateway/Heechee franchise) . The 70s outlook of the future was very pessimistic, mostly without reason.

    Curiously similar to what we see today, with all the AGW fear mongering and up to recently, peak oil fretting.

    I sometimes believe we humans require some amount of external threats to keep the “flee or fight” part of the nervous system busy, otherwise it starts misfiring and creating enemies out of nowhere. Akin to pareidolia and hallucinations due to sensory deprivation.

    If that’s true, we humans will never be happy for long, regardless of our situation.

  48. In Africa and the Middle East, starvation is a tactic for dealing with political enemies, it’s not a consequence of agricultural problems. “Famine” is just a explainable way of pulling off a genocide.

  49. A lot of the buzz in University during the 70’s was inspired by the “Club of Rome” group’s trend of thought, their report “The Limits to Growth.”

  50. Which country and which groups are starving? Any starving to death that I see happens at the same time as a war or civil war in Africa or the middle east. There may is stunting which is people not getting enough micronutrients. There is hunger and food insecurity. India has a lot of stunting. 40% of population .They also allow nearly 2 million tons of food to rot with open storage and 25 million tons of their subsidized food gets diverted to regular markets because of corruption. The UK had non-corrupt food rationing for years in WW2 and they had full war mobilization while they did it (aka they were also fighting Germans).

  51. Hopefully we’ll at least manage to avoid adding our own gray slime (gray goo, as it was originally called). Luckily, that scenario doesn’t seem likely with more recent understanding.

  52. I have a feeling that GreenSeahorse would still want to blockade Africa, just because Africans.

    There are changes occurring in Africa where rural populations are moving to cities and the birthrate is diminishing. So the hope is that their populations will stabilize.

  53. People are starving today because they can’t afford to buy food. That is just going to get worse because population growth is greatest among the poorest people.

  54. Life will evolve and adapt. The problem is that humans have done something never tried on this planet before. We started to use science and technology to harvest resources in artificial ways. The ecosystem is not adapted to this and the rate of change is too fast for evolutionary mechanisms in higher form of life. They need millennia or more to adapt but human expansion outpaces everything by a big margin. Only simpler forms of life like insects and micro organisms can evolve to survive. Higher species die out.

    Thus, the mass extinction has been going on for a while and the trend is not pretty. It’s hard to estimate the number of species that go extinct every year but the number seems to be three or four digits. We don’t even know the amount of species on Earth. We don’t know the effects of removing all these species from the ecosystem. Changing things much slower should be safer because these species will never come back.

    One of the hypothesis on what the world will look like with the current trend is named “rise of the slime”, meaning mostly bacteria will cover the planet when everything has played out.

  55. Happened about the time the literary types took over from the engineers, I think. For some reason they seem to teach in liberal arts that only depressing stories are legitimate literature.

  56. Just for comparison, what if population growth is cut to 1% per year:
    2050: ~1.4 multiply, ~10 billion
    2100: ~2.2 multiply, ~17 billion
    2150: ~3.6 multiply, ~28 billion
    2200: ~6.0 multiply, ~46 billion

    Much more manageable, though we can probably handle the first group of numbers too. Current growth rate is 18.5 – 7.8 = 10.7 per 1000 per year, which is 1.07%. So it can drop to 1% pretty easily, just not by 2020. Maybe by 2050?

    At the current growth rate, we should have ~10.7 billion by 2050, so if it’s 1% from there, we’ll be pretty close to these numbers.

  57. One can still make a worst-case projection to get an idea of where the boundaries are. Current birth rate is ~18.5 per 1000, and death rate is ~7.8 per 1000 per year. We can consider a case of perfect anti-aging and perfect medicine, but delayed space development. So zero deaths and zero off-Earth emigration.

    Under these conditions, birth rates may very well drop, but let’s round it up to 20 per 1000, or 2% per year. And let’s say this starts on 1/1/2020 00:00 (not going to happen). Then:
    2050: 1.02^30 = 1.8 multiply. 1.8 * 7.7 = ~14 billion
    2100: 1.02^80 = 4.9 multiply, ~38 billion
    2150: 1.02^130 = 13.1 multiply, ~100 billion

    What if the birth rate doubles to 4%? (not likely):
    2050: 1.04^30 = 3.2 multiply, ~25 billion
    2100: 23 multiply, ~180 billion
    2150: 164 multiply, ~1.25 trillion people

    Those are the upper limits. In reality, zero deaths isn’t going to happen anytime soon, and global birth rate will likely drop further from today’s level. So it’ll likely be well below the first group of numbers.

    Zero emigration is unlikely, but there may be little emigration, which would be close. But if you think there will be significant off-world emigration by 2100 and beyond, then you can treat these as the total human population upper limits.

  58. Africa is not a country.

    Africa is a whole lot of different countries, often with no shared political or cultural beliefs. And many of those countries already have birthrates at what we now consider “sustainable” levels.

    Birth rates in africa

    So now what?

  59. We need to tell Africa to get their numbers in check or blockade them and let them starve down to sustainable numbers.

  60. I remember reading SF in the 1980s, and this was very normal at the time. Most projections of the future in the 1970s and early 1980s, especially from England but even from the USA, have as a basic, commonly understood background view of the future, that everything would grind to a halt and collapse into poverty and economic and ecological collapse.

    This serves as a kind of mental vaccination for me, and I suspect many people of my generation. Whenever anyone tries to tell me that all is doomed and we are spiralling down into collapse, I muse that I’ve seen this all before.

    Sooner or later we get another 1980s. With Reagan and Thatcher and Personal Computers and optic fibers and before you know it the popular culture has switched away from Death Wish and Dirty Harry and towards Back to the Future and Ghost Busters and everything is optimistic again.

  61. Over the weekend I started reading – In The Ocean Of Night by Greg Benford.
    This book was written in 1970, by someone considered to be a hard-science, very realistic author who knows technology very well (also works for NASA and various other US Gov. science/tech agencies).

    And it is (at least in the early chapters) somewhere between bizarre and ridiculous how pessimistic the “standard science fiction outlook” was in 1970.

    A chapter set in 2001 has (as a relevant but not major point) that India was undergoing mass famines with 10s of millions of deaths. This wasn’t as the result of any fictional event or anything, it was just presented as what would happen by 2001.

    The next chapter in 2014 had a character (an analyst as the Jet Propulsion Labs, so upper middle class American) who

    1. Saves money by not flushing the toilet every time. It was said to cost $0.34 per flush in water, though given this was before the inflation of later years make that $3.40.
    2. Makes a comment about driving, which was “like in his youth, before personal cars were banned, but when fuel was nearly impossible to get”. So that is assuming that fuel runs out in… 1980s? 1990s? And that personal cars would be banned by 2014.
    3. Mention is made of various international events of social, political and trade breakdown.

    Once again, there is no fictional driver of these things. This is just “what the future would be like” as setting the scene for when the fictional aspects (alien contact) actually happens.

  62. Projecting the population of the planet to 2050 is futile. There may be a booming off planet labor market by then, or even a bounty for moving off planet by then. Maybe there will indeterminate lifespan by then, no more dying of old age. Likely, there will be events that affect population, that we can’t even imagine.

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