Population growth should be treated as national security risk
March 19th 2008
The Government’s national security strategy recognises many of the new environmental symptoms of global insecurity but ignores their root cause, the Optimum Population Trust said today (Wednesday, March 19).
Commenting on the strategy, disclosed today by the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, David Nicholson-Lord, OPT research associate, said: “Talking about threats to national security without highlighting the growth in human numbers is a bit like staging Hamlet without the prince. Population growth is one of the major forces behind global environmental insecurity, whether it’s the direct effect on issues such as climate change and food, water and energy shortages, or the creation of large cohorts of discontented young people in developing countries, which provide fertile breeding grounds for terrorism.
“The Government’s explicit recognition that environmental instability can be a potent source of conflict is welcome and long overdue. But while the strategy recognises some of the symptoms of this, such as climate change and competition for natural resources, it seriously downplays a root cause. It’s an extraordinary omission, but unfortunately all too typical of the population myopia which currently affects much mainstream political thinking about the environment.”
UN figures show that world population is projected to grow by 40 per cent, from 6.7 billion today to 9.2 billion in 2050. The UK’s population is also forecast to grow by 40 per cent over the next seven decades, from 61 million today to over 85 million by 2081, according to the latest principal projection from the Office for National Statistics, published last October.
David Nicholson-Lord added: “Both globally and nationally, the population projections are alarming and will clearly put extreme pressure on life-support systems. Fortunately, more and more experts are highlighting the crucial role of human numbers in environmental problems, not least the recent rise in food prices. A sensible and far-sighted national security strategy would include not only recognition of the role human numbers play in environmental instability but doing far more to restrain them.
“While the report briefly mentions population growth in its discussion of global security challenges, it completely omits it from its proposals for action by the UK. The Government should clearly identify population growth on its security risk register to be published later this year and should formulate proposals to combat it. Ignoring population – or, worse, letting the UK population spiral out of control, as this Government has done in recent years – will make Britain increasingly vulnerable to resource problems as the 21st century unfolds and is a recipe for future insecurity.”