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Lies, Damned Lies, Statistics ... and Population Graphs

In the run up to its ominously entitled “Day of Seven Billion,” the United Nations Population Fund has released a preview of its State of World Population Report 2011.

The preview opens with a graph of population over time that seems to show the world’s population climbing ever higher in the decades to come. In fact, the scaling suggests to the eye that the number of people will more than double by century’s end.

UNFPA graph from State of World Population Report 2011

The trouble with this graph is that it is, to put it bluntly, an absolute fabrication. It is designed, I believe, to create the impression that human numbers are spinning out of control. It is a population bomb graph, if you will.

No demographer that I know of believes that our numbers will ever double again.

In fact, not even the demographers at the UNFPA’s sister agency, the U.N. Population Division, believe it. Their favored graph looks like this:

UN Population Division Medium Variant Projection

This projection shows the world’s population peaking at 10 billion by the last decades of the 21st century, not steadily climbing to 13 billion and beyond.

While this is an improvement over the UNFPA’s population bomb graph, even this graph significantly overstates future numbers. It does so because the people counters at the UN Population Division assume that fertility rates in dying countries will somehow surge to 2.1 children per woman.

Now why would aging and dying populations (e.g., the Russians, the Italians, the Japanese, etc.) suddenly start having exactly the number of children necessary to replace themselves. The UN Population Division does not say.

Perhaps — I can only speculate — its demographers assume that governments will put in place generous child allowances. But many countries already have such allowances, and these have had only a modest effect on fertility. Russia’s $13,500 baby bonus, for example, has only increased the birth rate by 8 percent, too small a percentage to offset Russia’s population decline.

In all probability, the future of humanity looks more like the UN Population Division’s “low variant” projection.

UN Population Division Low Variant Projection

This shows population peaking around 2040 at 8 and a half billion or so, and then beginning to decline. It assumes that birthrates, which have been steadily falling for a century now, will continue to fall. What could be more reasonable?

The UNFPA can draw all the scary graphs it wants, but our long-term problem is not going to be too many people, it is going to be too few people: Too few people to start businesses and families, too few people to drive the economy forward, too few people to provide for the future.

Our current economic chill is just the beginning of a long demographic winter that will soon have much of the world in its deadly grip.

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Response to nonsense

Unconstrained growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

There is a finite space on the planet, just as Easter Island was a finite space that eventually became horrendously overpopulated and clear-cut, etc., and died out.
Earth is just a bigger "island". But there is nowhere else to go.
Anyone who believes we can continually and forever continue to expand indefinitely, on a fixed space (upon which we continue to pave over the arable land, ever reducing our ability to grow food, even as the number of mouths to feed spirals upward), is an idiot, a victim of the same mental illness that springs from religious orthodoxy and mindless fundamentalism.
Believing one can grow infinitely on a fixed space is insanity, defined.

Even the organs and cells within your body recognize that, as you grow, they must all also grow TO A CERTAIN POINT, and then stop. If your liver or heart continued indefinite growth while the rest of your body remained its adult size, you would be in big trouble!
Likewise, when ANY group of cells begins to grow immensely out of proportion and out of harmony with the other cells around it, it becomes what we call cancer.

Unless we stay within a working and habitable limit of population, we become the "cancer" on the thin, living surface of this planet. And, like an untreated cancer, we will eventually kill our host.

Let's hope this population can collectively grow itself a brain (awareness) that there ARE limits to growth, and failure to respect them, will lead to harm.

Population bomb must discriminate to be accurate

I believe you have inverted the very same assumption here and taken no stated consideration toward the variation between biological groups of people. That meaning where you have flipped the axis and stated the problem will be too few people, you have done so based on the limited projection of first world nations.

We have to take into consideration who is actually DOING the overpopulation, and who is making the overpopulation possible. First world technology extended from higher average intelligence biological groups toward lower average intelligence groups of the third and second world (sub-tropic and tropics) causes the population bomb (along with their migration into countries they can in no way productively assimilate).

They simply would not be able to survive to reproduce into the hundreds of millions to be able to outweigh all other biological groups if it wasn't for them poncing for the energy made available to them by the technology of more competent biological stock. Without modern globalisation, there would be no oil available for utilisation by the feckless birthrate of the least civilised, the least able to control their own demography or their own destiny. Educating them will not work because it requires intelligent people to teach it, who are ceasing to exist, who will cease to run the economy, who will in their absence force a population collapse with maximum collateral damage to the ecosystem.