23 April 2020

Report: overpopulation one of ten greatest threats to humanity

A new report by a group of Australian researchers identifies the ten most catastrophic threats to human survival, including overpopulation, climate change, biodiversity loss, and pandemics, and calls for urgent global action.

Wake up sign

No government is currently prepared to tackle any of the major crises, according to the authors. They point out that decisions taken in the next few years “will determine whether present and future generations face a safe, sustainable and prosperous future or the prospect of collapse and even extinction”.

The Commission for the Human Future (CHF) is a body of scientists and concerned citizens who came together to share insights into planetary risks and how to build a safer, better future. The report, Surviving and Thriving in the 21st Century, is a result of their first roundtable discussion.

The ten listed catastrophic risks are natural resource depletion, mass extinction and ecosystem collapse, unchecked human population growth, global heating, pollution, increasing food insecurity, nuclear weapons, pandemics, dangerous new technologies, and denial and misinformation.

The group highlights the interconnectedness of all ten risks and how they must therefore be solved together in a systematic way.

On population, the report clearly states

“There are now too many people on the planet using too many resources and producing too many risky wastes.

Human population growth at current levels exacerbates all other threats. Its seriousness, and preventability, are not being addressed in any country or internationally.”

Population growth is a key driver of emissions, shortage of food, water and other resources, pollution, biodiversity loss, and disease emergence and spread.

The authors note that the expected fourfold increase in the human population from 1950 to 2050 is the underlying driver of all the catastrophic risks we now face, combined with our overconsumption of scarce resources.

CHF is planning to come up with detailed solutions at future roundtable discussions, but the report does mention that lower birth rates can be achieved by providing access to education and reproductive healthcare, advancing women’s rights and alleviating poverty – key measures that also immediately benefit human welfare and that we have long promoted at Population Matters.

With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forcing humanity to reassess its relationship with the natural world, the report urges using this opportunity to embark on a less anthropocentric, more sustainable path forward.