Demographers Warn of Impending Population Collapse

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Fertility data contradicts U.N. predictions of overpopulation and environmental devastation

Amid the deluge of dire predictions that the human population will rise exponentially, deplete the earth’s resources, and overheat the planet, two recent demographic studies predict the opposite—that the number of people will peak within the next several decades and then begin a phase of steady, irreversible decline.

In some places, including Japan, Russia, South Korea, and most countries in Europe, that population collapse has already begun. China is not far behind.

The United Nations has predicted that humanity will continue its rapid expansion into the next century, growing from just under 8 billion today to more than 11 billion by 2100. An oft-repeated interpretation of this data is that people are having too many babies, and many of the models for climate change and environmental degradation are based on projections like these. In August, the U.N. declared a “code red for humanity” over climate change and overpopulation, and analysts at investment bank Morgan Stanley stated that the “movement to not have children owing to fears over climate change is growing.”

However, a demographic study funded by the Gates Foundation and published in the Lancet, a medical journal, paints a much different picture. This study, conducted by researchers at the University of Washington, predicts that the global human population will peak at 9.7 billion within several decades, and then start to decline. “Once global population decline begins,” the authors write, “it will probably continue inexorably.”

The Lancet study projects that by the end of this century, China will have shrunk by 668 million people, losing almost half of its current population, and India will lose 290 million. Despite all efforts to reverse this trend in China, including eliminating the one-child policy and providing incentives for child-rearing, couples are not cooperating; China experienced its fifth consecutive record low birth rate in 2021.

Findings like these are the basis for Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s statement in May that “civilization is going to crumble” from the loss of so many people. Musk had previously declared at a speaking event in 2019 that “the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years is population collapse.” Jack Ma, co-founder of Alibaba Group, also present at the event, said, “I agree.”

By Kevin Stocklin

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