Earth will have almost 10 billion people by 2050, according to the United Nations, and yet another billion by the turn of the century, creating a substrate of tension under climate change, aging, and automation.
But Vienna-based demographers say these forecasts overstate the population trend. Instead we are headed for a population plateau and decline — in short, "peak human."
Why it matters: The basis of modern economics is how to manage crisis and progress for a fast-growing human population. But for several years, researchers at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis have been saying that the human population will balloon to 9.5 billion people by 2070, but will peak there, and decline below 9 billion by the end of the century.
- That is 2.3 billion less than the UN forecast. And if IIASA is right, the function of future experts will revolve around how to manage during population shrinkage.
What's behind the contrarian forecast: The lead IIASA researchers, Samir KC and Wolfgang Fengler, have said the key difference is educated women.
- In countries like India and Nigeria, female literacy will rise, and mute the population surge forecast by the UN. (They explain in this piece at Brookings).
- For example, the population in Nigeria will triple to 576 million by 2100, they say, but it won't quadruple to 794 million as the UN projects.
Reaction: Jesus Crespo Cuaresma, who teaches economics at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, tells Axios that, if IIASA is right, one enormous potential benefit is that per capita wealth can improve without an increase in overall production.
"We can be richer without having to produce more," he says.
Go deeper: Read the whole post here.