Monthly Archives: November 2013

Preposterous Population Forecasts For Africa by Gwynne Dyer

23 men and 1 bovine in the back of a mini-truck in Northern Nigeria.

23 men and 1 bovine in the back of a mini-truck in Northern Nigeria.

LONDON – The news on the population front sounds bad: birthrates are not dropping as fast as expected, and we are likely to end up with an even bigger world population by the end of the century. The last revision of the United Nations’ World Population Prospects, two years ago, predicted just over 10 billion people by 2100. The latest revision, just out, predicts almost 11 billion. That’s a truly alarming number, because it’s hard to see how the world can sustain another 4 billion people. (The current global population is 7+ billion.) The headline number is deceptive, and conceals another, grimmer reality. Three-quarters of that growth will come in Africa.

The African continent currently has 1.1 billion people. By the year 2100, it will have 4.1 billion—more than a third of the world’s total population. Or rather, that is what it will have if there has not already been a huge population dieback in the region. At some point, however, systems will break down under the strain of trying to feed such rapidly growing populations, and people will start to die in large numbers.

It has happened before—to Ireland in the 1840s, for example—and it can happen again. In fact, it probably will. When you look more carefully at the numbers, you can even identify which regions will be hardest hit, because even in Africa there are large areas where population growth is low and dropping.

None of the Arabic-speaking countries of northern Africa will increase its population by more than one-third by 2100, and some will even be declining. South Africa, at the other end of the continent, will only add another 10 million people by the century’s end. It’s in the middle belt of Africa that things will get very ugly. Between now and 2100, six countries are expected to account for half of the world’s projected population increase: India, Nigeria, the United States, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tanzania and Uganda. Four of the six are in central Africa. In this area, where fertility is still high, the numbers are quite astonishing. Most countries will at least triple in population; some, like Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia, are predicted to grow fivefold. That is on top of populations that have already tripled, quadrupled or quintupled in the past half-century. Uganda had 5 million people at independence in 1962; it is projected to have 205 million in 2100.

The numbers are simply preposterous. Niger, a desert country whose limited agricultural land might feed 10 million people with good management, a lot of investment, and good luck with the weather, already has twice as many as that. By the end of the century it will have 20 times as many: 204 million people. All these numbers are based on assumptions about declining birthrates: If we all just carried on with the birthrates of today, there would be 25 billion people on this planet by the end of the century.

The key question is: how fast fertility is declining. All the numbers in this article so far are from the U.N.’s “medium estimates”—the moderately optimistic ones. The “high estimate” for Niger gives it 270 million people by 2100: an extra 70 million.

It makes no practical difference. Even the “low estimate” of 150 million people in Niger by 2100 is never actually going to happen. That is 15 times too many people for the available land, and Niger certainly cannot afford to import large amounts of food. Even without reckoning in the huge negative impact of climate change, large numbers of people in Niger (and quite a few other African countries) will begin starving long before that.

So the real picture that emerges from the U.N.’s data is rather different. It is a world where two-thirds of the world’s countries will have declining populations by 2100. China and Russia will each be down by a third, and only the United States among the major developed countries will still have a growing population: up from 320 million at present to 460 million. (By the way, that means there will only be twice as many Chinese as Americans by then.)

In terms of climate change, the huge but ultimately self-limiting population growth in Africa will have little impact, for these are not industrialized countries with high rates of consumption and show no signs of becoming so. The high economic growth rates of African countries in recent years are driven mostly by high commodity prices, and will probably not be sustained.

It is the developed and rapidly developing countries whose activities put huge pressure on the global environment, not only by their greenhouse gas emissions but also by their destructive styles of farming and fishing. Their populations are relatively stable but their actual numbers are already very large, and each individual consumes five or 10 times as much as the average African.

These frightening population predictions are mostly of concern to Africa—but those troubles cannot be completely contained. For example, already hundreds of boatloads of West Africans are arriving illegally on Italian shores.  Thousands of ‘refugees’ and this is only the beginning. What to do?  The world is in deep, deep trouble on many fronts.

Source: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/author/int-gwynne_dyer/

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United Nations Greatly Raises its World Population Forecast – Population Division of the UN Department of Economic & Social Affairs

Most of the population growth will occur in developing regions, which are projected to increase from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050.

Most of the population growth will occur in developing regions, which are projected to increase from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050.

World population now projected to reach 9.6 or 11 billion by 2050. India expected to become world’s largest country, passing China around 2028, while Nigeria could surpass the United States by 2050.

The current world population of 7.2 billion is projected to increase by almost one billion people within the next twelve years, reaching 8.1 billion in 2025 and 9.6 billion in 2050, according to a new United Nations report, World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision. This is a much larger increase than the 9 billion in 2050 that was previously predicted.

At the country level, much of the overall increase between now and 2050 is projected to take place in high-fertility countries, mainly in Africa, as well as countries with large populations such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States.

Most of the population growth will occur in developing regions, which are projected to increase from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050. Growth is expected to be most rapid in the 49 least developed countries, which are projected to double in size from around 900 million inhabitants in 2013 to 1.8 billion in 2050. “Although population growth has slowed for the world as a whole, this report reminds us that some developing countries, especially in Africa, are still growing rapidly,” said Wu Hongbo, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs.

Fertility higher than expected

Compared to the UN’s previous assessment of world population trends, the new projected total population is higher, particularly after 2075. Part of the reason is that current fertility levels have been adjusted upward in a number of countries as new information has become available. In 15 high-fertility countries of sub-Saharan Africa, the estimated average number of children per woman has been adjusted upwards by more than 5%. “In some cases, the actual level of fertility appears to have risen in recent years; in other cases, the previous estimate was too low,” said John Wilmoth, Director of the Population Division in the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

Another contributing factor is a more rapid increase in life expectancy anticipated for several countries: longer life, like higher fertility, generates larger populations. Advances in methodology have also contributed to changes in projected population trends.

Give or take a BILLION

Most results presented are based on the UN’s “medium-variant” projection, which assumes a substantial reduction in the fertility levels of intermediate- and high-fertility countries in the coming years. For these countries, it is assumed that the pace of future fertility decline will be similar to that observed for other countries, mostly in Asia and Latin America, when they underwent similar declines during the second half of the 20 century. So far, that pace of fertility decline has not come to be. “The actual pace of fertility decline in many African countries could be faster or slower than suggested by this historical experience,” Mr. Wilmoth said. “Small differences in the trajectory of fertility over the next few decades could have major consequences for population size, structure and distribution in the long run.”

The “high-variant” projection, for example, which assumes an extra half of a child per woman (on average) than the medium variant, implies a world population of 10.9 billion in 2050. The “low-variant” projection, where women, on average, have half a child less than under the medium variant, would produce a population of 8.3 billion in 2050. Thus, a constant difference of only half a child above or below the medium variant would result in a global population of around 1.3 billion more or less in 2050 compared to the medium-variant forecast.

More and more large countries

The new projections include some notable findings at the country level. For example, the population of India is expected to surpass that of China around 2028, when both countries will have populations of around 1.45 billion. Thereafter, India’s population will continue to grow for several decades to around 1.6 billion and then decline slowly to 1.5 billion in 2100. The population of China, on the other hand, is expected to start decreasing after 2030, possibly reaching 1.1 billion in 2100.

Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the United States before the middle of the century. By the end of the century, Nigeria could start to rival India as the second most populous country in the world. By 2100 there could be several other countries with populations over 200 million, namely Indonesia, Tanzania, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Uganda and Niger.

Large variations in fertility levels

Based on the information in the report, countries of the world can be classified into three groups depending on their current levels of fertility. In recent decades many countries have experienced major reductions in average family size. Fertility level does not necessarily mean ‘growth’ or ‘no growth’ since immigration and emigration also influence the number of people in any given country.

It is now estimated that 48% of the world’s population lives in “low-fertility” countries, where women have fewer than 2.1 children on average over their lifetimes. Low-fertility countries now include all of Europe except Iceland, plus 19 countries of Asia, 17 in the Americas, two in Africa and one in Oceania. The largest low-fertility countries are China, the United States, Brazil, the Russian Federation, Japan and Viet Nam.

Another 43% live in “intermediate-fertility” countries, where women have on average between 2.1 and 5 children. Intermediate-fertility countries are found in many regions, with the largest being India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Mexico and the Philippines.

The remaining 9% of the world live in “high-fertility” countries, where the average woman has 5 or more children. Of the 31 high-fertility countries, 29 are in Africa and two are in Asia (Afghanistan and Timor-Leste). More than half of global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa. According to the UN’s medium-variant projection, the population of Africa could more than double by mid-century, increasing from 1.1 billion today to 2.4 billion in 2050, and potentially reaching 4.2 billion by 2100. Rapid population increase in Africa is anticipated even if there is a substantial reduction of fertility levels in the near future. The medium-variant projection assumes that fertility will fall from 4.9 children per women in 2005-2010 to 3.1 in 2045-2050, reaching 2.1 by 2095-2100. The gap for Africa between the high and low variants of the new projections, corresponding to half a child more or less per woman compared to the medium variant, amounts to roughly 600 million people by 2050 (2.7 vs. 2.1 billion) and potentially 3.2 billion people by 2100 (6.0 vs. 2.8 billion).

Regardless of the uncertainty surrounding the future population of Africa, the region will play a central role in shaping the size and distribution of world population during this century.

Beyond Africa, the population of the rest of the world is expected to grow by just over 10% between 2013 and 2100, with Europe’s population projected to decline by 14%. Fertility in almost all European countries is now below the level required for full replacement of the population in the long run (around 2.1 children per woman on average). Fertility for Europe, as a whole, is projected to increase from 1.5 children per woman in 2005-2010 to 1.8 in 2045-2050, and to 1.9 by 2095-2100. Despite this increase, childbearing in low-fertility countries is expected to remain below the replacement level, leading to a likely contraction of total population size (unless there is an increase in numbers of immigrants).

Longer lives around the world

Life expectancy is projected to increase in developed and developing countries in future years, according to the report. The last 100 years has seen the most rapid decline of mortality in human history. For the world as a whole, life expectancy at 
birth rose from 47 years in 1950-1955 to 69 years in 2005-2010. Over the next 40 years, life expectancy at birth is expected to continue on a similar path. At the global level, it is projected to reach 76 years in 2045-2050 and 82 years in 2095-2100. By the end of the century, people in developed countries could live on average around 89 years, compared to about 81 years in developing regions.

Even in the world’s least developed countries, which include many countries highly affected by HIV/AIDS, life expectancy is projected to increase. Life expectancy at birth in the LDCs was estimated to be 58 years in 2005-2010 but is expected to increase to about 70 years in 2045-2050, and 78 years by 2095-2100.

As fertility declines and life expectancy rises, the proportion of the population above a certain age rises. This phenomenon, known as population ageing, is occurring throughout the world. Overall, the more developed regions have been leading this process, and their experience provides a point of comparison for the expected ageing of the populations of less developed regions. In 1950, the number of children (persons under age 15) in the more developed world was more than twice the number of older persons (those aged 60 years or over), with children accounting for 27% of the total population and older persons for only 12%. By 2013, the proportion of older persons in the more developed regions had surpassed that of children (23% versus 16%), and in 2050, the proportion of older persons is expected to be about double that of children (32% versus 16%).

Population ageing is not advanced in developing regions, especially in countries where fertility remains high. For China, where fertility has been below the replacement level for several years, the report points out that population ageing is more advanced and is progressing more rapidly than in other parts of the developing world.

The report’s figures are based on a comprehensive review of available demographic data from around the world, including the 2010 round of population censuses, and on projections of possible behaviors.

For the entire World Population Prospects: The 2012 Revision, visit http://www.unpopulation.org or contact the Office of the Director, Population Division, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, tel.: +1 (212) 963-3179, email: population@un.org. Editors’ note: UNDESA Population Division publications can be found at <http://esa.un.org/wpp/Documentation/publications.htm>

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Ocean Damage ‘Is Worse Than Thought’ by Alex Kirby

Are we willing to give up fossil fuels to ensure live coral?

Are we willing to give up fossil fuels to ensure live coral?

A new report says the world’s oceans are changing faster than previously thought, which could have dire consequences for both human and marine life.

Marine scientists say the state of the world’s oceans is deteriorating more rapidly than anyone had realized, and is worse than that described in last month’s UN climate report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They say the rate, speed and impacts of ocean change are greater, faster and more imminent than previously thought—and they expect summertime Arctic sea ice cover will have disappeared in around 25 years.

Their review, produced by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, agrees with the IPCC that the oceans are absorbing much of the warming caused by carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases caused by human activity. But it says the impact of this warming, when combined with other stresses, is far graver than previous estimates. The stresses include decreasing oxygen levels caused by climate change and nitrogen run-off, other forms of chemical pollution, and serious overfishing.

Professor Alex Rogers of the University of Oxford, IPSO’s scientific director, says: “The health of the ocean is spiraling downwards far more rapidly than we had thought. We are seeing greater change, happening faster, and the effects are more imminent than previously anticipated.”

The IUCN’s Professor Dan Laffoley says: “What these latest reports make absolutely clear is that deferring action will increase costs in the future and lead to even greater, perhaps irreversible, losses.”

Or do we want only dead corals?

Or do we want only dead corals?

Damaged Mollusks Found

The review says there is growing evidence that the oceans are losing oxygen. Predictions for ocean oxygen content suggest a decline of between 1% and 7% by 2100. The loss is occurring in two ways: through the broad trend of decreasing oxygen levels in tropical oceans and areas of the North Pacific over the last 50 years, and because of the “dramatic” increase in coastal hypoxia (low oxygen) associated with eutrophication, when excessive nutrient levels cause blooms of algae and plankton. The first is caused by global warming, the second by increased nutrient runoff from agriculture and sewage. Both are a direct result of human numbers and activities.

The authors are also concerned about the growing acidity of the oceans, which means “extremely serious consequences for ocean life, and in turn for food and coastal protection”. The Global Ocean Commission reported recently that acidification would make up to half of the Arctic Ocean uninhabitable for shelled animals by 2050.

Professor Rogers told the Climate News Network: “At high latitudes pH levels are decreasing faster than anywhere else because water temperatures are lower, and the water is becoming more acidic. Last year, for the first time, molluscs called sea butterflies were caught with corroded shells.”

When atmospheric CO2 concentrations reach 450-500 parts per million (ppm) coral reefs will be eroded faster than they can grow, and some species will become extinct. Projections are for concentrations to reach that level by 2030-2050: in May they passed 400 ppm for the first time since measurements began in 1958.

Methane A Concern

With the ocean bearing the brunt of warming in the climate system, the review says, the impacts of continued warming until 2050 include reduced seasonal ice zones and increasing stratification of ocean layers, leading to oxygen depletion. It also expects increased releases from the Arctic seabed of methane, a greenhouse gas at least 20 times more effective than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere (the releases were not considered by the IPCC); and more low oxygen problems.

Another stress identified is overfishing. Contrary to claims, the review says, and despite some improvements, fisheries management is still failing to halt the decline of key species and damage to ecosystems. In 2012 the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said 70% of world fish populations were unsustainably exploited.

The scientists say world governments must urgently reduce global CO2 emissions to limit temperature rise to under 2°C—something which would mean limiting all greenhouse gas emissions to 450 ppm. They say current targets for carbon emission reductions are not enough to ensure coral reef survival and to counter other biological effects of acidification, especially as there is a time lag of several decades between atmospheric CO2 emissions and the detection of dissolved oceanic CO2.

Potential knock-on effects of climate change, such as methane release from melting permafrost, and coral dieback, mean the consequences for human and ocean life could be even worse than presently calculated. The scientists also urge better fisheries management and an effective global infrastructure for high seas governance

Source: Climate News Network: http://www.climatenewsnetwork.net/2013/10/ocean-damage-is-worse-than-thought/

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