So writes Joel E. Cohen, Ph.D., Dr.P.H., professor and head of the Laboratory of Populations at The Rockefeller University and Columbia University, in a Viewpoint article in the November 14 issue of the journal Science.
In "Human Population: The Next Half-Century," Cohen examines the history of human population and how it might change by the year 2050. By then, the earth's present population of 6.3 billion is estimated to grow by 2.6 billion.
"There are some things we can reasonably know and other things we cannot know," Cohen says about population projections. "By examining population size and distribution, it is possible to get a feeling for possible challenges to our future well-being. It is possible to get a sense of the larger picture."
What can be reasonably predicted? The world's population will be growing at a slower rate than it is today, especially in the richer, developed countries, but it will be larger by 2 to 4 billion people. It will also be more urban, especially in the underdeveloped countries. And it will be more elderly. However, exactly how international migration and family structures will change demographers cannot say.
"I also do not know whether we will inflict a doomsday on ourselves by warfare, disease or catastrophe. Our future depends on choices -- on the choices we have made in the past and those we will make in the future," adds Cohen. "We cannot continue the exceptional growth of this last half century without experiencing consequences."
The demographic projections that Cohen cites assume that fertility rates will continue to decline and that more effective preventions and treatments against HIV and AIDS will be implemented and major catastrophes such as biological warfare, severe clim
Contact: Joseph Bonner