The coming global demographic imbalance

by Judith Curry

National security implications of the rapidly changing global population dynamic.

Earlier this week, Peter Webster made a presentation at the National Security Forum on The coming global demographic imbalance [link] to the ppt presentation.

Below is the summary text written by founder  Tyrus Cobb and Patty Evans:

In a most fascinating and timely presentation, Peter J. Webster outlined the demographic trends that are reshaping the global environment and have major implications for U.S. national security concerns in the near future. Webster’s key point is that the “doubling time” of the world’s population is now about 60 years, which was not a significant factor when the earth’s total population was in the hundreds of thousands. But today there are over 7.3 billion human beings on earth, and that number will reach 10-11 billion by the year 2100! This raises important questions regarding the capacity of the planet to sustain that many people, as well as the impact rapid population growth will have on the global environment, international political maneuvering, internal racial and religious conflicts, and wars over access to arable land and resources.

Webster speculated that we may be on the brink of “a new extinction”, with habitats being destroyed, migration routes closing, and increasing numbers of species unable to adapt to new population and climate norms.

Webster pointed out that “It is not just a matter of how many, it is a question of who and where”. In the less developed countries (LDCs), where per capita income is less than $11,905, population growth is rapid, with the poorest countries where income is less than $5,000 showing the fastest growth. The major developed countries of the world, including the U.S., will likely experience slow (U.S) or even negative growth (Europe, Russia), and whereas the less developed countries (LDCs) will likely continue to have rapid population expansion. That also means that the wealthier countries will have no or negative population increases, but the LDCs will grow rapidly. Webster also noted that many countries that already have large populations are those that will have the most significant population growth. And many of these rapidly growing nations have markedly different social, religious, and political norms than ours.

Webster noted that in many LDCs with rapidly increasing populations, large sectors of the population live on less than $2 a day. In these environments it is easy to understand how the young are radicalized, especially when jihadist entities like ISIS will pay recruits $50 a month.

Today, while mature Western nations (largely Christian) are experiencing slow or even decreasing birth rates, most of Africa and the Middle East are rapidly expanding in population. The higher the level of education of a nation’s population, the lower the growth rate; the higher the level of economic achievement, the lower the growth will be. Lower birth rates are also driven by increasing female literacy!

Webster also pointed out that population trends are uneven with respect to major religious groups. While Buddhist countries will experience negative growth, and Christian and Hindus modest growth, the Muslim populations are expected to grow much faster, at double the rate of the Christian and Hindu nations. This means that American interest in reigning in global population growth is now motivated by not just by environmental issues, but by concerns about the rapid population expansion of nations that advocate policies hostile to our interests.

In the discussion that followed, Webster responded to questions regarding the impact diseases have had in the past (Black Plague, Spanish Influenza, SARS, AIDS) and might have in the future. He said that our increased ability to control and counter the impact of communicable diseases means that this historic factor in limiting population growth will be absent. He also responded to questions on the morality of abortion as a population control instrument, why supporting UN and other educational programs to encourage smaller families is needed, the impact a world of robotics may have, and how advanced developed countries can assist and encourage the LDCs to adopt birth control measures. Webster said that aid for family planning “needs to be politically blind”.

 Peter J. Webster, Chief Scientist and Founder of Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN) and Professor Emeritus at Georgia Tech brings a wealth of experience in this area. He holds a PhD in meteorology from MIT, and has held faculty positions in the Universities of Washington, Colorado, and Penn State.

This was a fascinating presentation and discussion. We encourage you all to closely study Peter Webster’s comprehensive PowerPoint, which is attached.

JC reflections

The most interesting thing we have encountered in Reno is the National Security Forum.  Apparently loads of Generals and national security types are retiring to the Reno/Tahoe area.  Ty Cobb was special assistant to President Reagan for national security.  At the bottom of their web page, check out the speakers we have had in recent months.  Usually 1-2 meetings per month, with 150-400 people in attendance.  Very interesting group.

129 responses to “The coming global demographic imbalance

  1. America’s secret weapon — always under attack from within and without — is respect for individual liberty.

    Communism and environmentalism – we are talking about two ideologies that are structurally very similar. They are against individual freedom. They are in favor of centralist master-minding of our fates. They are both very similar in telling us what to do, how to live, how to behave, what to eat, how to travel, what we can do and what we cannot do. There is a huge similarity in this respect. ~Vaclav Klaus

    • So true, “Communism and environmentalism – we are talking about two ideologies that are structurally very similar.”

      It isn’t surprising when considering the philosophical underpinnings for communism and environmentalism came from German intellectuals sharing the same ideology in the 19th century.

      Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl, while developing his ecological nationalist thought in a 1853 essay by Field and Forest, ended with a nationalist call to fight for “the rights of wilderness.” He opposed the rise of Semitic industrialism and urbanization; glorifying antimodern rural peasant values which established him as the “founder of agrarian romanticism and anti-urbanism.” –Klaus Bergmann, Agrarromantik und Großstadtfeindschaft, Meisenheim, 1970

      No need to quote Marx.

      • It is sort of funny, especially knowing what we know. Consider the science underlying the ‘hockey stick’ graph: it was an exercise in predicting from past data a future the likes of which has never occurred in the past. From a federal climatist’s perspective, climate was flat until the end of the 20th century. Warming and cooling never occurred. To the followers of the ‘hockey stick’ the MWP and LIA never really happened. AGW theory in a nutshell was showcased on the world stage using the ‘hockey stick.’ What you have to realize is that the Western academic community stood silent in the face of a political movement that used nothing but a computer graph to show that there was no climate prior to the end of the 20th Century.

    • Thank God we drove the Communists out of Afghanistan, where at least one sustinence crop is thriving thanks to growing levels of The Gas of Life.

  2. whereas the less developed countries (LDCs)

    Not to be nit pickey but LDC stands for Least Developed Countries not less developed countries.

    • Webster pointed out that “It is not just a matter of how many, it is a question of who and where”. In the less developed countries (LDCs), where per capita income is less than $11,905, population growth is rapid, with the poorest countries where income is less than $5,000 showing the fastest growth.

      “More Than 82 Million Chinese Live on Less Than $1 a Day” ~WSJ

      • David Springer

        Does the dollar a day include the value of goods and services provided by governments?

      • “About 200 million Chinese, or 15% of the country’s population, would be considered poor by international poverty measures, set at $1.25 a day…

        “China’s poor are often beset by inadequate infrastructure and a lack of access to education, health care and loans, and are vulnerable to natural disasters…” (Ibid.)

  3. People of European background are global minorities.
    Yet we are supposed to yield our countries to the rest of the world else we are facists.
    The situation is intolerable and civil war is the obvious current trajectory.

    • Another possibility, if the debt markets crash then western civilization will collapse. Total global debt (including leveraged derivatives) is so big nobody know what the real number is but may be over 600 trillion US$. Everybody just assumes that it will never paid back but what if?…

      • The great majority of recent American debt qualifies as ‘onerous’ debt, in that it was created to serve wars for a foreign state (that illegally owns congress).
        The sooner it is written off, the better.
        The current trajectory is, as you point out, unsustainable. It’s just not clear what getting off this out of control horse is going to look like. The chances of sticking a graceful landing are probably not so good.

      • The biggest immediate threat is just having the budget for net debt service squeezing out other priorities. Between FY2017 and 2019, the net interest costs on the Debt Held by the Public (not total debt) increases from $270B to $370B. The total budget is $4T. This interest amount is with central banks holding interest rates at historic lows. When, not if, rates begin to normalize, the out years will climb even more. The net interest costs are also subdued a little because the Fed has such a large balance sheet and as they wind that down, even more payments will be made to outside holders of the debt.

        For a little perspective about the $370B, these are some agency budgets: EPA $6B; Commerce $10B; Interior $ $13B; NASA $19B; State $27B; Energy $28B.

        That giant sucking sound is the exploding debt.

      • ‘Odious Debt’ I mean.

        ^^ Absolutely, cerescokid. And every penny of that interest is given to the Fed for simply putting an entry in a ledger somewhere to create new money. All absolutely unnecessary if the government printed its own cash.

      • Ceresco, those numbers don’t even cover the full debt. In the US and Europe, the pension liability – including Social Security here – as well as the anticipated costs of baby boomer health care is essentially off the books and dwarfs the actual national debt.
        Spending on entitlements is going to be cut in the US and Europe. Big time.

      • I always think the US debt clock is very graphic as it is in real time

        You can get them for various countries and the world by googling’debt clock”

        The amount of debt, especially in western economies is frightening. I find QE completely baffling. The idea of creating magic money to buy bad debts and create a falsely inflated market in assets seems absurd.


      • Curious George

        A debt situation of the U.S. is very different from that of Greece. In the worst case we can always eliminate our debt with a couple of truckloads of banknote paper and ten barrels of a green ink. It would have far-reaching consequences, that’s why it is a worst-case proposal only.

      • nickels
        The last President to print US dollars from treasury to bypass the privately owned Federal Reserve was JFK.

      • Jeff

        Yes, those unfunded liabilities dwarf the Debt Held by the Public (DHP) and will affect generations to come. I’m afraid we, as a society, have assumed the growth for the 20th century will automatically continue. I’m not so sure. Robert Gordon has written a book “The Rise and Fall of American Growth” that chronicles our dwindling growth rate as we went up after 1870 but as we approached the 21st century we slowly lost those earlier rates. His major theme is asking the question, are all those achievements of the early to mid 20th century one off events? Can we replicate that same kind of growth in the 21st century? I know this, in the 15 years after WWII, the real growth in the Adjusted Gross Income was 60%. In the last 15 years it was 20%. During the same period after the War, the Debt (DHP) increased by 1%. During the last 15 years, the Debt (DHP) went up by over 300%. Everything has flipped. After the War we had a high growth period in income but very little growth in debt. Today we have very little growth in income but a high growth period in debt. That can’t be sustained. The unfunded liability and the Federal Debt, promised during optimistic times, all of a sudden become much more imposing with questions about our ability to repeat the economic miracles of the past.

      • Ceresco, the slower growth of the last fifty years has been a deliberate effort on the part of the federal reserve. The higher cost of energy which began under nixon sparked inflation (and ultimately the higher cost of doing business that has plagued us until this day). The response of the fed to this has been in reducing economic growth through higher interest rates. The reduced growth keeps demand inflation in check and they use this as a counter to inflation caused by higher energy prices. (as well, a low growth economy uses less energy thus keeping energy prices lower) This is no mystery. Al Greenspan has in fact dubbed this as “the era of economic moderation”. Interestingly enough, we may be on cusp of seeing the economic miracles of the past. Energy prices are lower thanks to diversification of energy sources. This has held inflation low and thus the fed has kept interest rates low. This should continue into the near future with the fed poised to bring the u.s. unemployment rate down to below 4% for the first time since the ’90s. (it now stands at 4.1%) Trumps pick for fed chair (powell) is about as far left as he can go with a relatively conservative congress. Powell is very skeptical of conservative low growth policies noting that the right’s gloom and doom inflation concerns have failed to materialize. If all goes well we should see an economy of the likes that we have not seen in well over half a century. (so keep your fingers crossed)…

      • Inflation certainly is front and center for the Fed and has been for a long time. William Martin, Fed Chair in the 50s and 60s, said their job was to take away the punch bowl just as the party was about to get started. Raising interest rates seems to have precipitated the majority of the last 11 recessions. Some see botched Fed actions as leading to the Depression and prolonging it (Recession of 37-38). Maybe they have been nervous Nellies ever since.

        The lack of inflation and the lack of real growth for such a long time certainly is a fascinating development, especially now with relatively low unemployment rates. It makes one wonder if the Phillips Curve is kaput and the traditional view by the Fed and their models have lost some relevance.

        The Gordon book pointed to all the inventions and innovations post 1900 as being responsible for the great growth and increased standard of living mid-century. Those things that we take for granted, like autos, tractors, aircraft, appliances, electricity, inter-state highways, TVs, on and on, in his view were the impetus for our great economic gains. They provided the basis for increased demand and increases in productivity. But now, he would say, what’s next?

        These are interesting times. I still can’t get my arms around negative interest rates in some countries.

      • “The amount of debt, especially in western economies is frightening. I find QE completely baffling. The idea of creating magic money to buy bad debts and create a falsely inflated market in assets seems absurd.”

        You find it frightening because you’re a sane person in an insane world. Meanwhile we dance every closer to the debt precipice. Much easier to get all upset about fake problems like trans bathrooms and statues of dead people, and yes global warming than to face the coming depression that will in all likelihood make the Great Depression of the 1930’s look like a mere warmup.


    • Ceresco,
      I’m more optimistic on growth. The spread of communism and the global acceptance of third world despots has limited growth immensely in the latter half of the 20th Century. The wall came down 28 years ago in Europe and much later in Asia. I don’t think China, Vietnam, India, Brazil will be at U.S. levels of income per capita anytime soon, but a 10-20% movement in that direction would be immense growth and is entirely possible. It could also be very big in the US and Europe. The lopsided trade deals have been, essentially, a Marshall Plan for the third world. As those countries gain wealth I think it’s entirely possible that the US will be selling goods made in the US to the elite of Asia, India and South America. The top 10% income bracket of those countries is a very big number. They will need passenger airliners, trucks, precision tooled parts. They’ll want to drive Mercedes and Lincoln cars, ride Harley and BMW motorcycles and wear Prada and Polo.

  4. “For hundreds of thousands of years,” Wise’s article continues, “in order for humanity to survive things like epidemics and wars and famine, birthrates had to be very high. Eventually, thanks to technology, death rates started to fall in Europe and in North America, and the population size soared. In time, though, birthrates fell as well, and the population leveled out.”

    Why might that be? “The reason,” Wise avers, “for the implacability of demographic transition can be expressed in one word: education. One of the first things that countries do when they start to develop is educate their young people, including girls. That dramatically improves the size and quality of the workforce. But it also introduces an opportunity cost for having babies.”

    And then there’s Hans Rosling’s 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes – The Joy of Stats

  5. “But today there are over 7.3 billion human beings on earth, and that number will reach 10-11 billion by the year 2100!”

    Subject to verification, of course.

    Obviously, population has a great bearing on a number of factors, including CO2 emissions. The global TFR (Total Fertility Rate) is declining near the low end UN scenario, though from a somewhat higher absolute level. There are forecasts of population peaks around 8 billion, in 2050, or sooner. One thing that accelerates depopulation is something observed by Polybius of the ancient Greeks, two millenia ago: civilization leads to lower fertility. Perversely, this lower fertility leads to the decline of civilization, and higher fertility leads to economic growth and the rise of other civilizations. This is observed in ‘The Lessons of History’ of 1968.

    What things are different now than from the ancient civilizations?

    1. Birth control is much more refined. Much of the global decline coincides with ‘the pill’.

    2. Also, the global average level of civilization has increased. In the agrarian past, children as young as 4 worked on ‘the farm’ and provided economic benefit. Today, a young person may not graduate until 26. By duration alone, children are more a liability than asset and the motivation to have them has, in the global mean, decreased.

    But the effect of decreasing population is adverse. Growth decelerates ( or even declines ) in depopulating countries, leading to their fall with the rise of others.

    • Yes, but Polybius was writing well before the industrial revolution, when bodies, mostly in the form of slaves, were needed to sustain an economy. This isn’t true anymore. Much of the world’s agriculture and manufacturing could be done with workforces that are minuscule compared with those employed even 100 years ago.

      And, of course, we now have a global communication and trading network so it become questionable whether any group of countries could decline in absolute terms.

      • Sure, some things are different.

        But there’s a problem.
        Robots don’t go shopping ( and related, robots don’t pay taxes ).

        Production = consumption, and for a nation, consumption is regulated by the number of consumers, consequently, the rate of change of production is largely determined by the rate of change of consumers.

        I believe both the tendency to have fewer children, and the economic consequences are largely the same for us as they were for the ancients.

      • TE
        Do you mean collapse or reduced population leading to higher standard of living in certain areas?

    • “Do you mean collapse or reduced population leading to higher standard of living in certain areas?”

      On a micro level, having one child instead of two means higher standard of living for the family ( fewer mouths to feed ).

      On the macro level, everyone having one child instead of two means lower standard of living ( because national wealth is determined by the number of producer/consumers ). This is probably also true on the global scale, though obviously, unlimited population is not sustainable.

      This can, in part, account for the rise and fall of civilizations ( and is documented in the Greek and Roman cases ).

      • Turbulent
        Are you not confusing GDP with individual wealth.
        In most developed countries a primary burden is unemployment benefits, health and other social costs. GDP is driven by social spending by government with the productive taxpayers contributing to the cost, in addition to government borrowing. Borrowing places even greater demands on the tax system. It is a spiral, hence nearly all economies run deficits. Most economies like Japan, and the USA are mature with a low employed tax base and high borrowing / interest costs. This will not improve unless real wages drop significantly.

        Japan is an interesting case where the population is expected to reduce 40 million by 2065. Will the remaining become wealthier ? Housing values must crash, and what of the cost of servicing the national debt.

        Most international trade is now through tax havens, a major shift from the post war era when income was taxed at source. Most major companies operate through tax havens and continue to explore better alternatives. And given the continued consolidation of industries, this is a compounding problem.

        The proposed tax breaks in front of USA congress will not stimulate the economy as anticipated. It may allow opportunity for the cash of major companies to be repatriated to the USA, but what assets will they purchase that they cant purchase from the tax havens already. Other countries will have to compete, so the spiral continues downward.

        We can look back all we like, but we have never been here before.

        A population increase does not guarantee increased employment, as most companies can easily step up productive output by 25% with existing resources. Most would welcome it

      • A population increase does not guarantee increased employment, as most companies can easily step up productive output by 25% with existing resources.

        Here are Japan(blue) and China(red) working age populations (Note Japan working age population peaked in 1995):

        Here is Japan GDP (Note the peak in 1995):

        Now, your point about productivity is apt.
        production = productivity * number of producers

        But production ( excluding exports/imports for the moment ) won’t deviate from consumption for very long. Take productivity to the extreme:
        One, or even zero workers ( AI ), creates all the production and everyone else is unemployed – with what do the masses purchase their consumables?

      • Also…

        It is tempting to think declining workforces can compensate with increased efficiency. Unfortunately, even with tech advancement to data, the estimates don’t support this:

        Does this argue, as some have, that even the free market along with government have created too many bLLsHt jobs?

      • Turbulent
        Most folks don’t grasp your last statement.
        The entire consumptive economy is based on individuals total income. For GDP to rise, consumption must play its part, this is the model, it is similar to a heroin addict. Economists fear negative inflation.

        Further, look at resource consumption imbalance. An example is, in developed countries females consume a greater proportion of product / service than males. I conservatively estimate at least 25% more given the entire product and service range. Dedicated retail outlet floor area is 75% to 25%. If the female population reduced spending to male levels the impact on GDP in Asia and other manufacturing regions, freight, retail rental space etc would be significant.

        Amazon is one of the most progressive enterprises, focusing on acquiring productive enterprises to supply the ever growing distribution arm. Google and Facebook are advertising companies. If they disappeared tomorrow the effect on the community is almost zero as folks would soon find a replacement with a few keystrokes. The complete close down of General Foods, or Duke Electrical would be significant.

        If you look at the evolution of the current model and separate out those companies that are essential to the survival of humanity, with those that exist purely from social extravagance or discretionary income, you start to see the fragility of the system. Post war growth was all about infrastructure and productive growth, coca cola, chewing gum, and then the hamburger were treats. The roads, bridges and other infrastructure in the USA is aged, this time there is no productive growth to rebuild it, just borrowing.

        The tax cuts before congress and CAGW ambitions have a lot in common.

    • Our destiny is in the stars – together with prosperous communities in a vibrant Earth ecology as the cradle of humanity.

  6. Population growth and the resultant depletion of resources and the impoverishment and reduction of the open spaces we enjoy, has long been a theme of mine, but one that tends to be unwelcome here and positively firebombed over at WUWT. It appears that some believe that the word Malthusian is akin to trying to summon up the devil.

    Those of us who live in crowded countries know the complications this brings, from very busy roads to cutting down of forests, to the relentless expansion of our towns and cities and the deterioration of services where population growth from immigration has been rapid .

    there is ample proof that the ‘global elite’ seek to make our countries home to the worlds poor and they do this by encouraging virtually unrestricted legal immigration and illegal immigration to which is turned a blind eye, in the expectation that an amnesty at some point will make it all acceptable.

    The most pernicious result of this has been multi-culturalism imposed on us without reference and which is changing the demographics of host countries. In particular this is coming from countries in Africa and Asia that tend to be growing fastest and are exporting their people the most rapidly.

    Unfortunately these countries tend to export people who have no intention to integrate and indeed are not expected to do so by the ruling elite in their new homes..

    The end result is the creation of parallel societies and fiefdoms where the norms of the indigenous communities do not run. These are getting ever larger and the people within them are becoming ever more self sufficient and immune to the culture that hosts them .

    for numerous factual references of how and why this is happening I would recommend the new book by Douglas Murray ‘The strange death of Europe’ in which this deliberate complicity by the ruling elite to change the nature of our society is depressingly outlined and expertly analysed.

    Yes, we need to encourage smaller families in many countries. Yes we need to ensure the societies of LDC’s are not run by despots for their benefit, but where economic progress is shared out, encouraging citizens to remain and not want to emigrate. Yes we need to curtail immigration Yes, we need to insist that those that come here should expect to conform to the norms of the indigenous community and not the other way round.

    Christianity is the floor on which western civilisation stands. We are rapidly eroding that floor and encouraging its replacement by faiths that do not always accept the western liberal values that have developed since the ancient Greeks and taken up by the Romans and Byzantines and indeed who actively seek to remove those values.


    • Here is the blurb for ‘The strange Death Of Europe’

      “The Strange Death of Europe is a highly personal account of a continent and culture caught in the act of suicide. Declining birth-rates, mass immigration and cultivated self-distrust and self-hatred have come together to make Europeans unable to argue for themselves and incapable of resisting their own comprehensive change as a society.

      This book is not only an analysis of demographic and political realities, but also an eyewitness account of a continent in self-destruct mode. It includes reporting from across the entire continent, from the places where migrants land to the places they end up, from the people who appear to welcome them in to the places which cannot accept them.

      Told from this first-hand perspective, and backed with impressive research and evidence, the book addresses the disappointing failure of multiculturalism, Angela Merkel’s U-turn on migration, the lack of repatriation and the Western fixation on guilt. Murray travels to Berlin, Paris, Scandinavia, Lampedusa and Greece to uncover the malaise at the very heart of the European culture, and to hear the stories of those who have arrived in Europe from far away.

      In each chapter he also takes a step back to look at the bigger issues which lie behind a continent’s death-wish, answering the question of why anyone, let alone an entire civilisation, would do this to themselves? He ends with two visions of Europe – one hopeful, one pessimistic – which paint a picture of Europe in crisis and offer a choice as to what, if anything, we can do next.”


    • So, there are other aspects to this. European fertility dropped to less than replacement, creating a need for immigrant labor and a need for continued economic growth by compensating with production/consumption of immigrants to supplant the fewer native born.

      Further, even in Saudi Arabia, a nation strictly Muslim, where women are subjugated, and polygamy is legal, fertility rates are now falling below replacement! So, population decline is larger than culture, or at least cultural ideologies, in this regard.

      • TE

        A motivation for encouraging migration has always been that people are needed to do jobs the indigenous population are too lazy or old to do.

        This needs fundamental rethinking in the light of the likely changes soon to be wrought by robotics and IE.

        The last thing we will need is to import vast numbers of unskilled people


      • It is easier and cheaper to replace white collar people with AI and robotics than it is blue collar. A computer can do your taxes, file your divorce, can compile and analyze climate data just as well as or better than a person.
        Now imagine designing a cost effective robot that will fix you air conditioning, change the breaks on your car, or install cabinets in your kitchen.
        Europe’s big immigration flaw is the assumption that immigrants will be willing to pay high tax rates to cover the pension costs for life for white Frenchmen who expect to “retire” at age 55.

      • Jeff

        Intriguing last paragraph of yours.

        I suppose the answer is yes they would have to, in the same way as white Frenchmen have to pay for the dependents of immigrants families . Whether they would want to and whether they could, as they may be in low paid jobs paying little taxes, is another matter.

        As for blue collar jobs, those in warehousing have already melted away, truck driving is expected to follow, farm labourers are readily replaced by machines that plant, nourish and harvest crops.

        The only safe species appears to be climate scientists…


      • tonyb
        Lots to do in the engineering world. I still have hope for fusion, advanced nuclear and appropriate solar. Not for you brits but in places with the resource like saudi, parts of africa and SW US. But economic development in lline with realistic tradeoffs can raise lots of poverty 3rd world humans towards a sustainable future. That can help save the lions, elephants and Rinos in Africa. Clean water, sewage treatment and electricity for light and heat can all help.

        When I was overseas we used to call the United Nations part of the develpment racket. That has only gotten worse. Nicky Haley, our UN ambassador is a star in exposing the PC and corruption. Make the world better there and they will want to stay home and develop the homelands.

        France and UK have challenges ahead but responding to the reality of Jihad may untimately force reassessments. Hungary, Poland and Austria seem to be already there. But no one is going to pay the 55 year old frenchman or Brit in the future.

      • Scott

        Unfortunately Austria is not already there. By 2050 it is estimated that 50% of those under 15 will be Muslims.

        As for solar, I am not against it per se, although tidal energy is a much better source of power in our circumstances.

        I have just today been made aware of a giant 850 acre solar farm proposal over here which is some five times larger than the biggest already here. I fear our leaders do not realise what a small country we are.

        If anyone reading this is capable of estimating how many acres that solar farm would use if placed in a sunny country like Spain I would be interested to hear. The power output is supposed to be 350mw and supply the needs of 110,000 houses. We get roughly 1700 hours of sun per year and Spain around 3600 hours but I appreciate that it’s light intensity as much as sun that matters at certain times of the year.


      • tonyb
        planning engineer should have a short cut estimater. I will look at some of my old reports and send something. But tidal power in the ocean tends to be way too expensive. I worked on Ocean Thermal OTEC a long time ago but the sea water corroded the hell out of the pipes and equipment. Corrosion resistent metals are very expensive and worsen the economics.

      • Thanks Scott


      • Hi Tony,
        It’s hard to argue much for a “they have to” in a country with elections. They could very well cut retirement benefits and spend the money on their own children. They’ll have the votes. I picked on France in particular because they’ve done such a lousy job of assimilating immigrants. In the not-too-distant future a majority of people who were cut out of access to plush government and industry positions will be asked to pay a whole lot of money to keep comfortable those who weren’t cut out in.

        There are some blue collar jobs that will certainly be automated. But the fact is that it’s now cheaper and easier to do it to many jobs we consider white collar. The warehouse worker is going away, but so is the entire payroll department. You mentioned self-driving trucks- it’s going to be faster, easier and cheaper to entirely automate the departments that handle sales, processing, shipping scheduling, invoicing and payment than it is to replace the driver. Advertising sales, planning, ordering, buying, display, billing and payment is now automated (for the most part, I’m in the business). That’s replacing a lot of people in suits and ties.

      • TE, we’ve got plenty of people here in this country ready, willing and able to work, but the only reason they don’t have jobs is the monetary policy being advocated for by the woman in your link. The fed deliberately keeps the unemployment rate high and as a consequence the worker participation rate stays relatively low as well. If the fed was in the habit of pursuing full employment, then we wouldn’t need the immigration to prop us up…

  7. David Merkel ( an actuarial ) has been writing about this for a while and concludes:

    “At this rate, the world will be at replacement rate (2.1), somewhere between 2035 and 2040. That’s a lot earlier than most expect, and it makes me suggest that global population will top out somewhat below 9 Billion in 2050, lower and earlier than most expect.”

    • Curious George

      The only serious attempt to address the population explosion had been China’s One Child Policy. Increasing female literacy is a new one for me; let’s see if anybody attempts it that way. An interesting anecdote: Many years ago a Peruvian President Fujimori visited extremely poor people of floating islands of Lake Titicaca. He donated them a TV set. The next year the fertility rate dropped by 50%.

  8. Polybius on the Greek experience:

    In our time all Greece was visited by a dearth of children and generally a decay of population, owing to which the cities were denuded of inhabitants, and a failure of productiveness resulted, though there were no long-continued wars or serious pestilences among us. If, then, any one had advised our sending to ask the gods in regard to this, what we were to do or say in order to become more numerous and better fill our cities,—would he not have seemed a futile person, when the cause was manifest and the cure in our own hands? For this evil grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting attention, by our men becoming perverted to a passion for show and money and the pleasures of an idle life, and accordingly either not marrying at all, or, if they did marry, refusing to rear the children that were born, or at most one or two out of a great number, for the sake of leaving them well off or bringing them up in extravagant luxury. For when there are only one or two sons, it is evident that, if war or pestilence carries off one, the houses must be left heirless: and, like swarms of bees, little by little the cities become sparsely inhabited and weak. On this subject there is no need to ask the gods how we are to be relieved from such a curse: for any one in the world will tell you that it is by the men themselves if possible changing their objects of ambition; or, if that cannot be done, by passing laws for the preservation of infants.”

    As evidenced by the laws passed in Rome promoting marriage and children ( somewhat similar to laws in developed nations today, with economic incentives for couples to marry and have children ), the ancient Romans had a similar experience.

  9. Interesting, but the assumptions in this presentation need some deep exploration.

    Most long term population and other forecasts have been consistently wrong, because they assume extrapolation from the past….

    ….or assume “everyone wants to be like us” in the future.

    I’ve been traveling the world researching – on the ground – large complex systems like energy, food, transportation, mobile communications, water, etc. – for decades.

    I can tell you right away one of the core assumptions of this presentation is way off base.

    We keep hearing that “X percent of the world only gets $2 per day”.

    The “everyone wants to be like us” assumption is that they need to make $43,000 US before they can come out of poverty. (That is literally what the economic models norm.)

    Here’s a fact. 65% of the people who “make $2 per day” have a mobile phone. They also have deep and productive BARTERING networks. (Barter is effectively illegal in the USA).

    And most of those $2 a day people are learning tech skills on those mobile devices faster than most folks in the US understand.

    In the mid 1990′ there were more than 200,000 “poor” people in India coding Linux/Unix. They became one of the main ingredients in India’s now massive global computer/technology services giants.

    See the now large electronic labor contractors like Mechanical Turk who are contracting with literally more than 1 Billion “poor” people for online tasks for electronic money transfer.

    See that Mechanical Turk is small compared to the electronic labor markets of the emerging Asian technology services giants.

    See the largest electronic technology platforms in the world rapidly deployed in India and China. 2.5 billion people online, versus puny 0.3 billion in the US.

    India just passed out the electronic, biometric Aadhar to more than 1.2 billion people, and began practicing distributing digital currency to the poorest people on Earth (who only need pennies to have big marginal increase in well-being).

    See Garuda grid – for the basic strategies of new Indian science and technology platforms.

    Etc. Etc.

    The bottom line?

    The future global economy is now being pioneered by 3 billion of the lowest income people on Earth, who do NOT need 3 cars, 2 houses, tons of plastic Christmas toys, 10s of kilos of wasted food per month…..etc….all the things the US economists say are necessary for “purchasing power parity”.

    That means the marginal resource productivity of 2-3 billion new technology enabled “low income” citizens is radically different from the extravagantly resource-intensive US, EU lifestyles – and far more efficient.

    Powerpoint mashup of alarmist graphics like this presentation are easy to do.

    But understanding the emerging real world requires getting off the duff, first hand observation, and abandoning theoretic models calibrated on Americans and Europeans.

    Science is so good it proves itself 70% wrong every day….else doctors would still be treating VD by feeding people mercury.

    Economics has an even worse long term forecasting record.

    • M Anderson

      I agree with much of what you say. Comparing like for like is difficult when one ‘like’ thinks the other ‘like’ needs the same things that they do.

      However, we in europe can testify to the tens of thousands of people endangering their lives in coming to Europe by numerous means, many clinging to the underside of trucks to do so, who clearly want what we have got. The ‘we’ meaning the developed west.

      Hopefully they and we will not continually aspire to mass consumption of everything from cars to houses and the plastic Christmas junk that finds its way to landfill and will probably be wondered over by our descendants hundreds of years from now.

      So aspiration and conspicuous consumption will still be exhibited by the currently poor, but hopefully the ‘conspicuous’ bit can be ratcheted back.


    • M Anderson
      A very articulate first hand report = facts. From my own experience I completely agree.

      The newly arrived folks that you refer to are such a small percentage that you need a lot zero’s after the decimal point to account for them.
      Do they want the trinkets of your society, or are they escaping their home countries that are infected and destroyed by western power-plays. I suspect the later may be a key issue. For their very existence they must leave home.

  10. I took a long careful look at population, water, food, and energy in Gaia’s Limits. Water is not a problem for two reasons. First, available water is a misconception, as 80% of crops are not irrigated. Second is the possibility of virtual water. However, based on changes in arable land, productivity improvement by crop (right down to taro and pulses), and projected population growth, food calories become a problem by 2050 even if one assumes changes in diet (more farmed fish and poultry, less pork and beef, less per capita calories given the obesity epidemic). Even with GMO crops like maize and soybean, the food calorie sustainable global population looks to be 9.1-9.3 billion. Malthus was right conceptually even if his calculations were wrong.

    • ristvan
      China through its population and industrial growth has largely depleted its underground fresh water resources.

      The global population has increased to its current level with ocean based fish stock significantly reduced, and as the developing countries attain increased income their consumption of same is increasing.

      Population growth is faster than the alternative resources of supplement that you speak of are being initiated. Humans generally respond when the existing has run out.

  11. The way ahead is easy to see. Develop the cheapest and most reliable energy in LDCs to bring them out of poverty. World population would then stabilize.

  12. We can’t help it, as we behave as other biological entities. We will expand to the fullest we can and when narrower limits are imposed to us by nature, we will enter overshoot with horrific consequences.

    If part of our species decides to stop growing they will be replaced by the part that continues growing.

  13. I’m sorry, Judith, but this is just more Malthusian nonsense. I fear that nothing has been learned since the famous bet with Julian Simon …

    If I want population hysteria, I’ll go to the king, Paul Ehrlich … and David should pay close attention to the past ‘successes’ of Ehrlich’s Malthusian nonsense.

    Color me disappointed.


    • Willis, on point!

      There is no reason for climate catastrophism, and there is also no reason for Ehrlichian ‘population bombism’. That was 1968, in 2017 we know much more.

      There are, however, massive regional problems. Population growth will peter out in the Americas, Europe, Oceania and most parts of Asia. Africa as well as the Middle East are the problem zones with persisting poverty and, consequently, high fertility rates. Sub-Saharan Africa will get into increasing trouble to feed itself in the 21st century, as potential cropland is already very scarce in the more densely populated areas.

      But the world as a whole will not overflow unless we through reason and progress through economic growth out of the window.

      • You are right, population growth projections should be segmented, and modulated by observed feedbacks. For example, Nigeria is projected to have a population exceeding 500 million, but this needs to be tested factoring in their declining oil production, the corrupt and inefficient government they have, etc. I believe they’ll take care of their excess population problem having civil wars, epidemics, and starvation.

        Nigeria has relied on oil exports to prop up its economy for decades, but it’s experiencing a decline that’s not reversible because they are simply running out.

        I suspect Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations will suffer from the same problem, they’ll gradually lose production capacity as population grows, and eventually they’ll hit a brick wall, have internal wars, and decimate the population. The key issue is whether the Europeans will continue on their suicidal path and allow a mass invasion of starving Arabs who will repeat the same phenomenom in the future.

  14. “Policy on population has to be an international policy (UN) where, with the exception of the World Health Organization, it is rarely mentioned. US has played an important, critical and leading role in the last 50 years in
    the developing world. This needs to continue especially:
    • Alleviation of poverty
    • Promote female education and emancipation
    • Increase access to birth control and family planning
    • Natural disaster preparedness (not just reaction) through “strategic adaptation” whether environmental change is natural or forced.
    • Aid needs to be politically blind.”

    I have seen so many population projections that I disbelieve all of them. What can be done is bottom up development -including focused aid – but that is largely economic.

    The Copenhagen Consensus suggests that ratification of the long stalled DOHA round of trade talks on agricultural products would be worth $11 trillion to the world economy by 2030. It is one of the 19 smart development goals of the Copenhagen Consensus Center – which is a vast improvement on Peter Webster’s little list above.

    I think western aid needs to favor democracy and capitalism. The global economy is worth about $100 trillion a year. To put aid and philanthropy into perspective – the total is 0.025% of the global economy. If spent on Copenhagen Consensus smart development goals such expenditure can generate a benefit to cost ratio of more than 15. If spent on the UN Sustainable Development Goals you may as well piss it up against a wall. Either way – it is nowhere near the major path to universal prosperity. Some 3.5 billion people make less than $2 a day. Changing that can only be done by doubling and tripling global production – and doing it as quickly as possible.

    Optimal economic growth is essential and that requires an understanding and implementation of explicit principles for effective democratic and economic governance of free markets. So what are these laws of capitalism?

    The global trade system has worked in recent decades to reduce poverty and increase civil peace.

    In robust democracies we may argue for laws and tax regimes as we see fit – but not everything is up for grabs if we are holding out for economic stability and growth. Economic stability is best served with government at about 25% of GDP, price stability through management of interest rates and money supply, balanced government budgets, effective prudential oversight, effective and uncorrupted enforcement of fair law and a commitment to free and open trade. One of the other smart goals is to increase agricultural productivity by 40% by 2030. Increasing productivity and opening access to markets build local economies and global wealth.

    Economic growth provides resources for solving problems – conserving and restoring ecosystems, better sanitation and safer water, better health and education, updating the diesel fleet and other productive assets to emit less black carbon, developing better and cheaper ways of producing electricity, replacing cooking with wood and dung with better ways of preparing food thus avoiding respiratory disease and again reducing black carbon emissions. The warming from black carbon – by the way – is equal to that of carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production and it is for the most part a problem of lack of development.

    A global program of agricultural soils – and ecosystem – restoration is the foundation for economic development and for balancing the human ecology. Increased agricultural productivity and better use of water enables the building of a brighter future. In the 2015 international year of soils – France committed to increasing soil carbon by 0.4% per year. Many countries have since signed up to this initiative that was announced at the Paris COP.

    As a global objective and given the highest priority it is a solution to critical problems of biodiversity loss, much needed development, food security, resilience to drought and flood and greenhouse gas emissions. Increasing the soil organic content enhances water holding capacity and creates a more drought tolerant agriculture – with less downstream flooding.

    There is a critical level of soil carbon that is essential to maximising the effectiveness of water and nutrient inputs. Global food security, especially for countries with fragile soils and harsh climate such as in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, cannot be achieved without improving soil quality through an increase in soil organic content.

    It ca be done – but it is expensive. I am a hydrologist by training, profession and (much more) through a deep fascination with water in all its power and beauty. I went on to study Environmental Science – one of the more fun things I have ever done. I combined the two in biogeochemical cycling – the movement of nutrients and pollutants through biota, soils and water. I have spent decades reducing the impact of cities, farms and mines on waterways and the life it contains.

    As a relatively young environmental scientist – it was apparent that only rich economies can afford environments. Data compiled by the World Wildlife Fund seems to confirm that we in the west are at least holding the line on the abundance of key populations.

    The future I believe is both global and cyberpunk. The singularity occurs on January 26th 2065 when an automated IKEA factory becomes self-aware and commences converting all global resources to flat pack furniture. Until then – endless innovation on information technology and cybernetics will accelerate and continue to push the limits of what it is to be human and to challenge the adaptability of social structures. New movements, fads, music, designer drugs, cat videos and dance moves will sweep the planet like Mexican waves in the zeitgeist.

    Materials will be stronger and lighter. Life will be cluttered with holographic TV’s, waterless washing machines, ultrasonic blenders, quantum computers, hover cars and artificially intelligent phones. Annoying phones that cry when you don’t charge them – taking on that role from cars that beep when you don’t put a seat belt on. Space capable flying cars will have seat belts that lock and tension without any intervention of your part. All this will use vastly more energy and materials this century as populations grow and wealth increases.

    We may do this and balance the human ecology this century.

  15. “Lower birth rates are also driven by increasing female literacy!”

    There in lies the miracle: educated women as a productive workforce member. The barriers for population control are not in overcoming male or religious obstructionism, rather, women learning to read, and then, having access to reading material. This no longer means physical books. Electronically available reading material already exists. Just improve distribution and variety. Most women won’t take up the sword as unemployed young men may, it is more than likely they will give up the hearth and consort duo for a chance to self express their desires which will include, smaller families.

    The miracle has already begun, we only need to keep it going.

    • Healthier children as well give a mother more confidence than children will survive. Women are stronger and healthier and better able to care for what children they have.

      Health and education more generally going along with lower fertility. Health and education are not cheap.

      So what happens after this mythical 8-9 billion peak sometime in the middle of this century?

      I suspect that with economic development this century African and Asian fertility will converge with western rates. Just as economies will inevitably and naturally.

  16. More people can solve more problems than less people. The human population has been growing for quite some time now. If what is being said, more people more problems, then we should be pretty bad off compared to the 8th century. But, we are not. We are better off. I believe also we are better off (world wide) than in 1970, my college graduation year.

    During college we were being told that if the world population doubles from the then current 3.5B to 7.0B we are all doomed. And oil would run out 25 years before that.

    What is missing is what is the point at which life on this planet will begin to revert back to the 8th century. My answer is, that point will be too quickly reached, if we humans try to guess the future, like back in 1966, and mess up the natural flow. Thankfully it was not messed-with, as we all know.

    We humans want to believe that we know what is best in our futures and we like tinkering with our future; but fewer people – that can’t be a solution, that flies in the face of our known beginnings and even our more recent history.

    But, yes, its easy to fear the future. We should stop doing that.

  17. Instead of the meek inheriting the Earth, alas it will be the uneducated and inept, along with mealy-mouthed politicians eager to exploit them. Thanks to left-wing utopian schemes, third-world standards will become the new normal even in developed countries.

  18. Just what we need. Another plea for the corrupt and inept U.N. to save the world from itself.

    Somehow I’ve come to expect more from Judith and Peter.

    • The UN has shown itself to be pointless and useless. Money – other than for operational expenses – isn’t usually put into UN control. Withhold US funds – as happened It is usually country to country. But money does flow. To put aid and philanthropy into perspective – the total is 0.025% of the global economy. If spent on Copenhagen Consensus Center ‘smart development goals’ such expenditure can generate a benefit to cost ratio of more than 15. If spent on the 169 photo ops for UN Sustainable Development Goals – you may as well piss it up against a wall. Either way – it is nowhere near the major path to universal prosperity. To repeat myself a little from earlier.

  19. The same thing happens between classes within “nations”. Even in the US, the birth rate is higher among the underprivilaged. Nationalism is a fairly recent development. The feudal legacy was classes that crossed national boundaries, with norms that prohibited vertical intermarriage. The result was a pitiful inbred worldwide oligarchy.

  20. I’ve seen a number of articles that show that as countries get out of poverty, join a western lifestyle, then stewardship of the natural world improves and populations growth peaks then declines. Here is an example. population

    • That is the natural cycle.
      Some countries that great military might for global influence retain indefinite funding to ensure a reasonable stability ongoing. Usually the bottom half of that society gradually falls away to poverty.

  21. This is an example of articles etc that I’ve seen that suggest that bringing countries out of poverty and towards a western lifestyle results in lower population growth. Also that this can result in better stewardship of nature.

  22. Relevant quote from The Lessons of History:

    Nature has no use for organisms, variations, or groups that cannot reproduce abundantly. She has a passion for quantity as prerequisite to the selection of quality; she likes large litters, and relishes the struggle that picks the surviving few; doubtless she looks on approvingly at the upstream race of a thousand sperms to fertilize one ovum. She is more interested in the species than in the individual, and makes little difference between civilization and barbarism. She does not care that a high birth rate has usually accompanied a culturally low civilization, and a low birth rate a civilization culturally high; and she (here meaning Nature as the process of birth, variation, competition, selection, and survival) sees to it that a nation with a low birth rate shall be periodically chastened by some more virile and fertile group. … If the human brood is too numerous for the food supply, Nature has three agents for restoring the balance: famine, pestilence, and war.”

  23. TE
    Too bleak. The educated and reduced populations in the US are bringing back the buffalo, wolves and elk in natural preserves.

    Need to be aware and use economic persurasion to nudge other populations to a more sustainable future, but be careful to not pretend wind and intermittant energy is the answer. Lots of problems convincing hungry fishermen in the 3rd world to leave any fish to breed but marine reserves and negotiations save some in local areas. We did save the whales and can move one by one to recover natural resilience.

    Nature is not an autopilot but rationale negotiations can nudge self interest in an environmental sustainable direction. But they must have heat and light and food. There is a place for solar and wind but not blindly ignoring economics. This is all difficult but optimistic energy accomplished a lot.

  24. Berényi Péter

    Webster’s key point is that the “doubling time” of the world’s population is now about 60 years, which was not a significant factor when the earth’s total population was in the hundreds of thousands. But today there are over 7.3 billion human beings on earth, and that number will reach 10-11 billion by the year 2100! This raises important questions regarding the capacity of the planet to sustain that many people, as well as the impact rapid population growth will have on the global environment, international political maneuvering, internal racial and religious conflicts, and wars over access to arable land and resources.

    What Webster fails to mention is that population explosion was over 25 years ago. World population under 15 is pretty stable since then, somewhat under 2 billion. Of course, population is still increasing, but not because there are too many kids, but because life expectancy keeps going up. Which is wrong how?

    A say it is not an explosion, because no one can produce more than one old fart by getting old, while upper limit to number of kids is much higher.

    Now, that fact nailed down, we can start discussing the issue.

    • Berényi Péter

      In fact world population under 15 is still growing. But its doubling time is 283 years in the last quarter century, way more than 60 years for the entire population.

      Even this population growth is concentrated in sub Saharan Africa (except South Africa) and in the Middle East.

      In fact, to decrease fertility rate, two things are needed (only one is mentioned by Webster).

      1. Give proper education to girls &. equal rights to women (educating boys alone has no effect).
      2. Decrease infant mortality.

      Both conditions should be met, but any other measure is unnecessary.

      This is why Saudi Arabia, a rich country, has high population growth, in spite of low infant mortality. But girls are poorly educated and women have no rights. Therefore it will not remain rich for long.

      By the way, most of the region have civil war, and either no rights for women or high infant mortality due to dysfunctional societies. Or both.

      • Curious George

        I hope that these estimates are more reliable than Al Gore’s estimates.

      • Berényi Péter: “This is why Saudi Arabia, a rich country, has high population growth, in spite of low infant mortality. ”

        Your claim is factually incorrect. Since the 1950’s the number of live births per woman in Saudi has fallen from 7.18 (UN stats from Wikipedia ‘Demographics of Saudi Arabia’ page) to an estimated 2.09 in 2017 (CIA World Factbook).

        i.e. Saudi Arabia is following the trajectory of EVERY other country: birth rate falls NOT with changes in education, social policy, health policy, law, politics, women’s emancipation or ANYTHING else, but with economic development.

        Falling birth rates do not cause reduced poverty – reduced poverty cause falling birth rates. Even a casual consideration of why people have children should make this obvious, let alone the overwhelming evidence. Poor people have lots of kids because that is the most rational choice in their circumstances – not for society as a whole, but for them at an individual and family level. Most academics, supposed intellectuals and ‘experts’, NGOs, governments, and organisations like the WHO and UN, with all of their massive resources understand the world far less well than an illiterate peasant who does not even have the benefit of a primary school education. The reason being that it matters not a jot to the former, but everything to the latter, and that is a world of difference.

    • Now, that fact nailed down, we can start discussing the issue.

      The other side of the coin in the global fertility issue is that the population of Europe and North America is not reproducing itself lately. What growth there is in the USA comes largely from illegal immigrants.

  25. Given that atmospheric CO2 is the global food supply, now is not the time to curtail its growth.

    • Global food supplies ideally come from living soils on grazing and cropping lands.

      • All life is carbon based and the carbon in all terrestrial life comes from atmospheric CO2, including in humans. Watching a child grow is watching plant processed CO2 be reprocessed. It is now pretty clear that global plant productivity has increased thanks to increasing atmospheric CO2. The last thing we want to do with a rapidly growing human population is to reduce plant productivity.

        Fertile soil merely provides the needed trace vitamins, as does fertilizer. CO2 is the food. Over 90% of the dry mass of plants comes from the CO2, namely the carbon and oxygen in the carbohydrates. The hydrogen comes from water. If you do not count the liquid water in the cells, plants (and people) are composed mostly of processed CO2.

      • All life is carbon based and the carbon in all terrestrial life comes from atmospheric CO2, including in humans.

        Spot on, with the only amendment being that nearly all ocean life similarly owes its existence to photosynthesis.

      • TE:
        Keep an eye on algae.
        Scientists say despite prevention efforts, harmful algae is quickly becoming a global epidemic.
        “A rising number of water bodies across the U.S. have excessive levels of nutrients and blue-green algae, according to a 2016 report by the Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Geological Survey. The algae-generated toxin was found in one-third of the 1,161 lakes and reservoirs the agencies studied.”
        I know from personal experience just getting this stuff on your skin can really make you sick. Every year the algae blooms are getting bigger and killing fish, livestock, birds and even pets.

      • Long ago I read a carbon cycling study on Chesapeake Bay. Took me weeks but right at the end they said they needed more than the 14 carbon compartments in their carbon model. The world is much more complex – and we are modulating complexity with land use and emissions. Carbon cycles from volcanoes to planetary stores – which we burn.

        On the way a planetary carbon dynamic establishes. We have lost carbon from grazing and cropping land – and continue to. The loss is being reversed and there is much more that can be done.


        Whatever happens to population – it is going to need a much more productive agriculture. Which is possible with ‘living soils’. Agricultural productivity and market access create prosperous communities in vibrant, living landscapes and with clean waterways and oceans. There is much more that can be done there as well in restoring habitat and ecology and reducing the pressures on remaining natural systems.

        The point is to reverse losses from soils and respiration to the atmosphere – and put it back into soils and vegetation. Here’s another rebel female academic.

        Plants create sugars which they feed in exudates to soil organisms that metabolise rock, silt, sand and mud and supply the nutrients – there are many of them – that plants need.

      • There is a 10mm layer of sediment that is oxygenated by diffusion and keeps metals and phosphorous in insoluble form. With excessive nutrient inputs – algae grows and then dies to settle at the bottom – preventing sediment oxygenation and a surge of soluble contaminants and phosphorous is released into the water column. In truth it takes a while – as surface sediment is churned by worms and bugs up to 100mm deep. And then there commonly is a shift in state of waterways from clear to murky. Blue-green algae metabolise free nitrogen and flourishes where there is a copious supply of phosphorus.

        The response is somewhat different in coastal ‘dead zones’ – but related none the less. Repaired riparian zones and living agricultural soils is the way to go.

    • As for fossil fuels – the market will transition overnight to innovative energy options.

    • Here’s a good ol’ boy.

  26. I am not a fan of doomsday projections.

    I am a fan of total pragmatism in regards to human populations. Despite my abhorrence of the like of the Club of Rome, the Ehrlichs and Jared Diamond there is an important message in Webster’s presentation — something that has been the focus of my post-retirement life — the problem is not too many people, the problem is too many poor people with lack of all the things we consider essential to modern life:

    “US has played an important, critical and leading role in the last 50 years in the developing world. This needs to continue especially:
    •Alleviation of poverty
    •Promote female education and emancipation
    •Increase access to birth control and family planning
    •Natural disaster preparedness (not just reaction) through “strategic adaptation” whether environmental change is natural or forced.
    •Aid needs to be politically blind”

    I would add to that list: basic health care for all, adequate nutrition for children (allowing them to develop in healthy intelligent adults), and basic education for all (not just females), access to reliable electrical energy and clean water through local self-sustainable efforts.

    Those who have not lived a few years in a true third-world country, sharing homes and lives with the world’s real poor just have no idea at all what this all means.

    Radical Islam and other fundamentalist terrorist movements do not stem from race or location, but it propagated by evil people for evil purposes, taking advantage of those in ignorance, hopelessness, and poverty.

    Helping people meet their own basic needs, teaching them to solve their own local problems with a minimum of outside assistance, supplying only those things they can not yet supply on their own, will dependably raise their standard of living and allow their children and grandchildren to achieve an acceptable level of education to carry forward the momentum of improvement and societal success — and this alone will solve the other problems in the long run.

    The UN should be doing what it was intended to do — rid the world of malevolent kleptocratic / sociopathic / psychotic governments that enrich a very few while intentionally impoverishing the many.

    • +1000

      Well stated Kip!

    • “Those who have not lived a few years in a true third-world country, sharing homes and lives with the world’s real poor just have no idea at all what this all means.”

      An apt statement of poor Kip’s predicament in the aftermath of the hot sea driven hurricane that just blasted his denial of climate change into self parody.

  27. Doubling of the world population over the next 60 years (or 3 generations) means the future will be for a very, very, competitive world. Food, water, arable land, and mineral resources & energy will be lead to conflicts for sure.
    Nations and peoples will all be tested. Unless there is good will and sense prevails the future will become a survival of the fittest.

    • It won’t double because we won’t have the resources. The raw material for fertilizers is methane and phosphate. Both have limits. Thus far I can’t find anybody who has a well grounded analysis explaining how Indonesians and Nigerians will make do when their population is 50% higher and fertilizer prices quadruple.

  28. I’d urge you all to go to the website whose motto is “Almost Nobody Knows the Global Facts.” Take their introductory test to get an idea how your perceptions line up with the statistics. Then look at their graphs, many interactive, on the subjects being commented about here. See if the trends nudge you towards being a Cornucopian like me. And see if you don’t begin to believe that the talents and skills and intentions of a vast number of people will make this even a better world in the future. While Black Swans, perhaps Virus X or an asteroid collision for instance, may spoil my hopes, I firmly believe that nearly everything gets better nearly every day in nearly every way. I’m a skeptic, about even what I believe, but the evidence seems overwhelming. I’m proud of the world I helped to create and feel like my great grandchildren will be in the luckiest generation ever borne.

  29. Robert

    I don’t know if you saw this?

    It must be five years since you did that article here on soil co2


    • Hi Tony

      No I don’t read!

      And far too much ‘thuggery’ around here for one of my delicate sensibilities to risk posting. Gasp. It’s all too much for a white women as a male friend of mine used to say.

      But I can tell you as a hydrologist that widespread recharge of groundwater relies on infiltration. Building soil organics and great biological health and biological diversity in soils – builds soil water holding capacity and longer term seepage to aquifers.


  30. One would more reasonably say that water depletion is putting more water vapor in the atmosphere. Assuming that the movement of water from point A to point(s) B, C etc… should be called depleting.

  31. It seems their game plan is to beat up on Republicans:

    With not much in the way of solutions.

  32. I’m surprised no one’s brought up Mark Steyn. He’s wrote a few books on this subject and has a point of view. I read one of them (and wrote an Amazon review). I don’t know if he’s right, but he makes his case well.

  33. A friend rang yesterday pleased with himself for protesting the Adani coal mine in Central Queensland. I am afraid I was a bit rude and angry. Don’t prattle in my ear about denying energy supply to the global poor.

    There is a history to this.


    “Climate change can’t be solved on the backs of the world’s poorest people,” said Daniel Sarewitz, coauthor and director of ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes. “The key to solving for both climate and poverty is helping nations build innovative energy systems that can deliver cheap, clean, and reliable power.”

    In the interim – the Adani mine will supply Indian coal generating plants.

    “Yet coal still provides roughly 40 percent of the world’s electricity, and many countries aren’t willing to commit to a total phase-out just yet. A number of developing countries in Asia — including India, Vietnam and Bangladesh — are still looking to build new coal plants to bring electricity to those who don’t have it.”

    Coal is by far the most important individual global energy source. In Paris countries agreed to increase CO2 emissions from fossil fuels by 3.7 billion tonnes a year by 2030. They can carry on all they like in Bonn – but this is the reality of Paris – not the 2 degree rubbish.

    The real objective must be to use coal more efficiently.


    Fossil fuel emissions are some 25% of global emissions. This will only fall if alternative cost competitive technologies are available. Coal is some 17% of global emissions.

    But the other sources of emissions remain largely unaddressed in this symbolic demonisation of coal. Literally – nothing makes any sense to me. From what they consider science to nonsenscal, symbolic policy.

    From Lomberg’s tweet above you can find complaints that emission reduction strategies – gas to nuclear in the US – is a contradiction because we don’t believe the simplistic climate science of global warming activists. But more especially we do not believe that the policies of activists have anything to recommend them.

  34. If we assume GHG emissions are required to make solar panels then there’s a payback period to where we are back to where we started and then gravy thereafter. This payback period varies by the sighting location and also angle relative to the average Sun location.

    Some solar panels are made in China, so I heard. And if they’re burning coal to get the kilowatts to do that, the actual payback period is now longer.

    Science of Doom:

    covers this above.

    So if the point is CO2 emissions, you need to ask how much were produced to make your solar panels. He comes with payback periods from 7 to 14 years.

    So what we have is a CO2 time shift. We emit now and plan not to emit later. I suppose during a massive build out, we’d make things worse in the short term.

  35. What you find about population growth as shown by Hans Rosling is simple and clear: it is GROWING ECONOMY that slows and stops population growth:

    And what drives growth of economy? LOW PRICE FOSSIL FUEL ENERGY.

    Stop sabotaging economic growth with Malthusian global warming politics and energy rationing.

    Then population growth will level off and with it energy use.

  36. The cool thing about talking about the impact of demographics on the future is you almost immediately cross into the realm of speculative fiction. It is the bedrock of Science Fiction – taking data, themes and trends and extrapolating to some future date. It is so cool that you can create a world of doom and gloom, even hellish, or a utopia, depending on what you choose to focus on.

    Dr Webster chooses a future of doom and gloom. Yet another Peter (Zeihan) has looked at demographics, geopolitics and world resources and come to a different conclusion. According to him, the US is extremely well positioned in relation to much of the rest of the world. While a lot is accidental – hence the name of his book, “The Accidental Superpower” – it exists all the same. We have advantages which no other nation comes even close to matching. Unlike most developed nations the US does not rely on an export economy. And with the advent of fracking, we have once again reached energy independence. And with a modest positive population growth, we are far better positioned to weather the bulge of the baby boomers than Europe and Asia.

    Neither future is a given. However taking the positive outlook historically has a much better track record than that of the Malthusian school of prediction. Then there is also the fundamental hypocrisy of the limited carrying capacity crowd. If our planet and ecosystem is so limited, why don’t the believers do their part and check out? At a minimum they should refrain from having children and limit their own consumption of resources.

  37. Buckminster Fuller offered a compelling case against Malthus in his book, “I Seem to be a Verb”. Basically, his argument was that Malthus was wrong due to the unanticipated mechanization of agriculture. Unanticipated technological developments can change the calculations drastically, and technological developments have occurred consistently throughout human history. In any case, we need to hope this continues and support continued research and development, because I doubt there is anything we can do to change the rate of population growth in places where it is now most rapid.

  38. Are some posts moved to moderation? Should I wait to see before trying again?

  39. Well I’ll try again:

    Dr Curry,

    I am sorry but as others here have already pointed out, Dr Webster’s presentation is misleading/erroneous because it has failed to point out the impact and effect of Birth Rate. The population increase is built in because of an ageing population despite average global birthrate now at 2.0 per couple. Hans Rosling explains how here:

    While it is true to say that changing demographics have huge implications for security and society, it is not for the reasons he has given. It is the ageing population, and diminishing size of the workforce in relation to the overall population.

    To put in perspective here are the birthrates for some European countries as of 2015:

    Italy: 1.35
    Spain: 1.3
    UK: 1.8
    Germany: 1.5

    More info here:

    There is in fact no EU country with a BR greater than 2. What that means is that once the generation born when the BR was greater than 2 has passed on, there will be fewer people to replace them.

    Our great danger going into the future is not from over-population (though maybe for a short time) but from population COLLAPSE. Japan is already starting to decline – in 2015 it’s population grew by -0.1%. There may be ways to mitigate for population decline to an extent (such extending life spans through better health), but if developing countries go the same way as mature western economies, and all the evidence suggests they are, then they will follow with extremely low birth rates and the accompanying collapse in population as not enough children will be born to replace the older generations.

    In the meantime, the population will age and require more support, and there will be fewer young people to drive the economy and look after the older generation. This changing demographic will be the REAL challenge.

    This is how things may pan out. It’s more likely to be at the low end unless great advances are made across the population in reducing the death rate. But here is how the natural population increase has been declining over the last few decades:

    The natural increase is the taken from the crude number of live births minus the crude number of deaths per 1000 people.

    It strikes me that the coming revolution in robotics and gerontology probably are turning up at the right time. In the meantime, if overpopulation – at least in the short term is a real concern, then economic development of the poorest countries should be the highest priority for modern society, since the connection between wealth and and BR is clear and unambiguous, never mind the moral imperative of reducing human suffering and improving the human condition.

    • agnostic2015

      Old people don’t live forever.
      The excess of oldies is transient.

      • I’m not sure what your point is.

        The reason the population is increasing despite global BR being around 2.0 is because it is “baked in”. I refer you to the newsnight Hans Rosling video. However, once all the generation born at the time of a BR of 2.0 have reached old age or start to pass on, then the world population will decline – just as inevitably.

        If global BR follow the precedent of western societies then BR will average around 1.5 to 1.6 meaning population will decline severely – we will have population collapse of around 25%. This is way into the future and obviously things may change in that time – for instance the trend for less than 2 children per couple may reverse or gerontology is able to keep people alive much much longer.

        But all of this is to try to illustrate that the real challenge for future generations is not too many people, but a changing demographic – a world full of old people who presumably want to retire.

  40. Does this analysis take into account the dropping Total Fertility Rate? I think there is as much concern about the TFR dropping below 2 in many parts of the world, as there is about the total population (which also grows due to longevity). Check out the Wiki page for the projections of TFR through the rest of this century