9 billion people by 2050

I was born in the late 60’s and at that point, there were around 11 million people in Australia. Today, that figure is nearly 21 million and by 2050, it will be around 28 million. The place feels too crowded as it is, yet we’re one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world.

Let’s take a look at the USA. Back in the late 60’s, the population was around 200 million. Today it’s approaching 317 million and by 2050, there will be around 403 million.

I retrieved these figures from the UN’s World Population Prospects : The 2008 Revision Population database. It has projections for every country in the world, so if you’re curious about your own nation or others, you can check it out here.

According to UN projections, there will be around 9 billion people on planet Earth by 2050, up from just under 6.8 billion today.

It’s hard to grasp those numbers – trying to imagine 2.2 more billion people. All those people will need to be clothed, fed, sheltered and I guess some of them would like an iPod too; a car and a big screen TV – and it’s simply not going to happen.

Many of those people will be living in poverty; slaving in factories (if they are “lucky”) making these luxury products for us “rich” folks.

Aside from the human factor, those factories will likely be environmental disasters; spewing forth all sorts of toxins into an already overburdened environment. They may be still powered by coal. They may be still sourcing their raw materials from cleared rainforests. Or will they all be eco-friendly manufacturing facilities by then?

Regardless, the fact remains that while the majority will never enjoy luxuries such as we have, there will be more people wanting “stuff”. How is it going to happen given the problems we are already facing? I don’t think it can. What sorts of other issues will the have-nots vs. the haves generate?

I think it’s more likely that many of us in developed nations, who would usually be doing quite nicely materialistically-speaking, will be learning to live more like those people living in poverty – we may be forced by environmental conditions and the pressure of population to settle for less. That’s not a bad thing in itself; but wouldn’t it be better if it was done by choice before we got to that stage?

The EIA released a forecast yesterday that painted another grim picture. We’ll likely to see global carbon dioxide emissions increase by more than 39% unless strong binding emission reduction targets are enacted on a global scale. That’s a huge jump, especially considering that we need to reduce emissions by 80% of what they are now by 2050 in order to avoid massive temperature increases; increases that could create real havoc.

These sorts of issues are another reason to reconsider having children – it’s not just a case of doing your bit to reduce the load on the environment; but assuming those population projections are correct and the emissions forecasts are correct; Planet Earth of 2050 may not be the kind of place you’d want your kids living in anyway.