The planet’s population will hit a new milestone son: 7 billion people. But the rate of growth starting to slow.

Check out this fascinating graphic courtesy of The Economist:


Category: Data Analysis

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

26 Responses to “World Population Change”

  1. TerryC says:

    The video speaks of the rapid rise of population in the 1950′s as the “Baby Boom” which of course has nothing to do with the baby boom in the US. It’s because of Western science’s push to immunize the world and reduce deadly disease, as well as the rapid increase of pesticides, fertilizers, genetically created crops, and modern farming techniques. Oh, and one other thing…..GLOBAL WARMING!!!!!! The northern hemisphere is capable of producing more crops for a hungry world because of the very favorable effects of a slightly longer growing season in the US, Russia, Canada, and other areas where even ten more growing days a year is very significant.

    As more people improve their lives and hopefully enter a “middle class” existence in their countries, they will voluntarily want fewer children. The video specifically mentions Iran, where the birth rate has dropped rapidly under the wise rule of the Imams (of course it has nothing to do with them, it’s their increasing standard of living).

    Enter the global warming fanatics. More taxes on everyone for using the evil energy from fossil fuels, cut off China and India and any other country that uses these evil fuels to increase their standards of living. After all, a poor, primitive society is a “greener” society. If they die young, so be it. And then we can achieve our ultimate goal-Global Cooling. This worked well in the Middle Ages-the seas dropped a few inches, half of Europe died off from the Bubonic Plague, and everyone was happier because the CO2 content in the atmosphere dropped off.

  2. Paul Jones says:

    Who does the counting?

    And how is it done?

    I believe a lot of these numbers are unreliable (i.e. someone predicted the population would be 7 billion in 2011, and it would be unchic to be sceptical),.

    Also unreliable are the predictions for the future.

    Better than a “this will happen” approach, one should entertain a variety of possible futures; for instance, faster population growth than expected, the current status-quo thinking, lower than expected growth, a population crash.

    Without actually counting can we detect the impact of recent events: commodity prices going up, a global recession that is far from over may have blunted family formation and fertility. Cell phones and the increasing availability of information may be dropping fertility rates further.

    I’d like to se a count, not just some happy talk from the same folks whou thought everything was perfect before the crash.

  3. machinehead says:

    Counting is done by censuses in most countries, and it’s fairly reliable. I doubt it’s off by more than a couple of percent either way. There are several ways to proxy population in the absence of a census.

    Rarely considered is the possibility that global pop may actually go into reverse. Government Ponzi schemes — errr, ‘transfer programs’ — assume an ever-rising population of taxpayers to cover unfunded past promises. This assumption is already invalid in major countries such as Japan, Russia and Italy.

    If it becomes a global meme, then sovereign debtors are screwed. Markets being anticipatory, maybe the message is coming through already.

  4. Interesting . . . We’ve now reached the point where we reflexively doubt official data

  5. James says:

    >We’ve now reached the point where we reflexively doubt official data

    Alas, if only we could review the actual data source, “official” or otherwise. This graphic/video like so many today cites a general source – the UN, in this case – but no specific document . . . all in the age of the URL.

  6. cognos says:

    What is the #1 cause of inflation — population growth. (#2 is war, #3 is money creation).

    The population is already dropping slightly in ALL wealthy communities of the world — Japan, Western Europe, wealthy half of USA.

    China is doing a fantastic job (for both themselves and the environment) by pursuing the “1-child policy”. People cause polution. Over population is THE major cause of poverty on both the macro and micro (family) levels.

    This is a cool intro to the topic but I think understates the change.

  7. Ilya says:

    Herman Kahn ( ‘The Coming Boom’ Simon and Schuster 1982 ) expected peak population around 2160. I miss that old genious fat man!

  8. I heard a fascinating stat just the other day. The world only uses 50% of all available farmland out there. That land that goes unused is currently forest

  9. DrungoHazewood says:


    I was just thinking about this the last few weeks: if the cooling that ended circa 1980 had continued things would be much different, and not in a good way. Just going back to the temps of the 60′s would really cause problems. I looked at some of the temperature records and 1930-1980 was really cold: we had a low of 54 in August ’67. Old timers tell of ponds even freezing over here in cent Alabama in the ’40s and ’50s. A Winter like ’76-77 would cripple many regions with tons of snow, high winds and persistent fierce cold. We were used to arctic like Winters and things still shut down. The heater in my Ford Caliente crapped out and I had to drive through blowing snow and single digits to get to school. Both ways!

  10. DrungoHazewood says:


    One of the biggest shifts has been Italy: prewar highest birthrate in Europe. With mass urbanization, the birthrate plummeted and is now way below replacement, and among the lowest in the World. I went to Italy in ’93 and the population was older than I could have imagined. Lots of short people, with copious ear hair. The people were nicely dressed, and not one was thin or fat. Anyway, got a little side tracked. China, if it enters the dreaded demographic death spiral, will have a huge problem.

  11. f says:

    Not everybody is a trader looking at the micro details of every release which, granted, have been a bit better lately. If you look at the ‘Big Picture,’ the Fed is in the process of implementing QE2 on it’s way to QE3, the EU is struggling to tape the cracks and running out of tape, a lot of the western world is still swimming in way too much debt, while the Fed is encouraging people to take on even more by keeping rates at ridiculously low levels. How is this healthy? You can get up and limp forward but if you haven’t healed from the previous injury, it’s only a matter of time before you fall again, and it will most likely be worse.

    People are sick of the boom and bust which are becoming ever more frequent. Barry, do you really think the solutions being implemented today are putting us on a path to long term, economic sustainability for the future?

  12. Jojo says:

    China conducted a census in the beginning of Nov. Wonder when the results will be released. With their new super computers, they should be able to report soon. :)
    October 28, 2010

    A Head Count to Reveal China’s Secrets
    One of the challenges of China’s 2010 census is to determine the number of migrant workers and unregistered children

    On Nov. 1, more than 6 million government workers will go door-to-door in China asking residents to fill out census questionnaires. For 10 days they will scour 31 provinces, 330 cities, 2,800 counties, and 680,000 villages to find out the true composition of the 1.3 billion population. The Public Security, Labor, and Housing Ministries and Family Planning Bureau will all help. To rally support, a massive educational campaign is under way. “Carry Out the Census, Build a Harmonious Society” reads one giant green banner in a South Beijing alleyway.

    The most daunting challenge will be getting accurate numbers for migrant workers, the uprooted rural Chinese who move ceaselessly between village and city looking for work. Estimates of the migrant population range from 140 million to well over 200 million.

  13. f says:

    oops, but earlier entry was meant for the ‘end of the world’ post.

  14. PIMCO’s Bill Gross recently speculated that system of capitalism itself depends on population growth:

  15. Andy T says:

    Wonder what Malthus would have said if he was around to see 7 BILLION people on the planet?

    Talk about being “early” on a call…

  16. CuriousCreature says:

    This assumes that mankind will get to populate at will. The planet is far more sophisticated then we give her credit for. If the balance of the population is more then it can bear, expect to see super-viruses, flu’s, plagues and so on as mother nature forces sustainability upon us.


  17. victor says:

    ‘Practically ALL growth will come from the 3rd world: the meek, poor, abject, unwashed. No I wont follow with what Jesus preached about who’ll inherit the world, better to remind all of the adage “Demography is destiny” who said that? Yes, in but a few decades now I see the Western man being more of a curiosity and his Western Civilization downgraded to second status versus something like….sharia…The Mosque of The Notre Damme de Paris is coming, the loss of the Western Civilization will be much regrettable, but it did happen before: one millennium of “Dark Ages”after the fall of the Roman Empire? And all this because we are stopping to reproduce, gotta get that Masters’ degree first, the Lexus and of course, I got to look good in my bikini and NO it is not a sin to be the master of my Reproduction Rights…. But then again Global Warming may somehow rescue us Westerners? as far as Japan goes, they are beyond repair, check out yearly school closings there due to lack of…well…children

  18. Deborah says:

    How many have done studies on economic growth related to population growth? Seriously, humanity has seen about 500 years of population growth and ALL of our economic theory has come about in this environment of unsustainable population growth.

    I looked up Malthus after Andy T’s comment. I think his theory is correct.

    “Yet in all societies, even those that are most vicious, the tendency to a virtuous attachment is so strong that there is a constant effort towards an increase of population. This constant effort as constantly tends to subject the lower classes of the society to distress and to prevent any great permanent amelioration of their condition”.
    —Malthus T.R. 1798. An essay on the principle of population.

    I suspect agricultural improvements were beyond what anyone of his era could every expect:

    “Malthus argued that two types of checks hold population within resource limits: positive checks, which raise the death rate; and preventative ones, which lower the birth rate. The positive checks include hunger, disease and war; the preventative checks, abortion, birth control, prostitution, postponement of marriage and celibacy.[26] Regarding possibilities for freeing man from these limits, Malthus argued against a variety of imaginable solutions. For example, he satirically criticized the notion that agricultural improvements could expand without limit.”

    I read somewhere that agricultural improvements increased crop production by about 10 fold over the last century, and hence making his call “early” as Andy T points out. Those kinds of technological improvements are unlikely to continue and it seems that there is even pressure for crop production per acre to decline as climate change continues and as water issues continue to grow.

    But historically I believe people face famine about every 50 years so chances are that most people prior to the 1900s lived through at least 1 famine in their lives.

    How the common man sees it’s stat scares me. Forests are the Earth’s lungs and to think of them as potential farmland….

  19. cognos says:

    Malthus was an idiot. He was 100% wrong. He neglected the power of technology.

    The same came be said for those who think shrink populations and older citizens are “dire” for society. First, this lacks all common sense- society will adjust, easily. Second, it’s so short sighted. In 50 yrs its over.

  20. Ilya says:

    Malthus was a wonderful mathmatician and philosopher of the day STATIC. Almost everything he postulated was true at any POINT in time foreward, Static.

    What he missed was the dynamics of western math as applied by an evolving dynamic capital system and employed by men who sensed the future and made it happen.

    What used to vex me most was the northern European population explosion in the first 400 years from about 1000 AD. I always wondered if it resulted from the good Cistercian Fathers teaching a three field rotation system in order to feed the expanding population or rather that the three field system allowed the population to expand. I think it was the former… Dynamics for Church purposes was to conquer the infidels, no doubt!

    Famines are caused by a misdisribution of excess stocks owing to wars, politics or transportation and refrigeration obsticles. Of course weather can play a part but the secret to stemming high prices is even higher prices. An example might be the 10′s of millions of acres in the U.S. that lay fallow each year. Given a high enough price for cotton or oats or beans, those acres will succumb to the plow in six months…Problem solved. In the 70′s I witnessed hay being bailed in the median strips on I 35 between Dallas and Topeka Kansas. Waste not, want not.

    I love Malthus and Darwin and Rousseau and all the other iconic epic clowns that have punctuated western philosophy with gut wrenching laughs from sober men who understand the way that the world truely works.

    If you want laughs, read Rabalais or Moliere. If you crave philosophy, read Goethe. If you are a Demuplican or Republicrat read the funny papers.

    And always remember THE defination of inflation is… Things don’t cost more. Your money just buys less…and less and less.

    I long for the day that an honest government relieves me of the need to own the barbaric relic. Fat chance near term but my philosophy remains;

    Never put Descartes before Derhorst…

  21. JimRino says:

    TerryC, if you’re in the Stock Market, you’d better open your eyes to what you buy.
    Didn’t Fox Lies tell you about the Russian Wheat Disaster last year?
    Russian Heat Wave destroyed $15,000,000,000 of wheat. Are you expecting a miracle to protect the US wheat belt? Two thousand + Moscow citizens died in that heat wave. That’s the 55 parallel, the only US territory in the 55 is in Alaska.

    Then there’s the Pakistan floods, 20% of the country, again $15,000,000,000 of infrastructure damage, more then 2000+ dead.

    Global Warming isn’t FREE, and it’s isn’t Positive.
    To ignore it will be the biggest mistake mankind ever makes.

    Time to get your money out of coal and oil.

  22. JimRino says:

    Capitalism brings with it prosperity, but it is also a Huge Magnifier of RISK.
    - Pennsylvania, profit from natural gas fracking, destroyed drinking water for 15 million people, and increased brain cancer risk.
    - Genetic seed development, for pesticide tolerance,, seed monopoly profit, Mono-Crop wipeout from a new plant disease.
    - Global Warming, the dynamics of weather systems modified. Greater variability in weather, with greater intensity, pest infestations on a continental scale.
    - Nuclear energy ( uranium ): relatively cheap stable power, catastrophic losses from a nuclear accident.

    Wall Street Ignores Risk.

  23. TerryC says:

    @ JimRino:

    No, Jim, I’m not a stockbroker, I’m a geologist. Way to take individual points, make analogies about them, and then turn them in to generalities about future trends. You might get a decent grade from a rookie 9th grade debate teacher.

    Populations rise-commodities rise due to scarcities. Then people start looking for substitutes that are cheaper because capital does not rise as fast as population or commodities prices. Perhaps someday someone will come up with the perfect engine (I like Ayn Rand’s, John Galt made an engine that ran on air-pretty slick, if fiction). Until then, I will continue to make a pretty good living in the oil industry. We did have $9/barrel oil in 1998-I guess most 10 year olds aren’t old enough to remember that.

    As far as natural disasters go in Russia, Pakistan, etc., get a World Almanac and Book of Facts and look up all the natural disasters recorded in the last 2,000 years, pick a date, and start your pathetic “woe is me, humanity is doomed” speech. In our modern scientific and technological society, you can either lead, follow, or get out of the way. I’m pretty sure the Chinese would tell you to get the hell out of their way.

  24. JimRino says:

    Others have notice an increase in Volatility and Frequency of storms and disasters, over the last 30 years. That’ what you’re missing TerryC. There was an article in the NYTimes about western states experiencing 3 “One Thousand Year Storms”.

    You also marvel at humanities increase in farm productivity. That’s just another side of the coin: Synthetic Nitrogen production, from the conversion of the US war machine after World War II, to peaceful use. Nitrogen production is based on oil. Peak oil will squeeze farm productivity, as prices rise the type of corn we grow and the number of acres that are capable of producing may drop.

    So, we have a host of related issues: Global Warming, Peak Oil, Peak Water, Species die off, and Human population explosion. They are all related, they are all real. Societies grow until they collapse.

    As for Global Warming, if you get a Wheat Disaster like Russia’s hit’s the US, what will be the costs? Who will bear the burden? Will coal production be shut down immediately? Will the US be in a position to shutdown coal, and replace that energy with Wind and Solar? Will we prepare for the future?

  25. monkeylove says:

    JimRino is right. In addition, the problem isn’t just increasing population but increasing consumption per capita. For example, the U.S. is one of the most technologically advanced societies in the world, but it has achieved that by consuming around 25 pct of world oil production, even as it hass less than 5 pct of the world’s population. So much for Malthus being wrong and technology saving all!

    Now, demand for oil is increasing significantly for non-OECD countries as more people become part of the middle class, and not just oil but other resources. And combined these countries have a much larger population than that of the U.S.