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Nobel laureates: population growth a major threat

A survey of 50 Nobel laureates has found that many recognise population growth to be among the greatest threats to humanity today.

A survey carried out by Times Higher Education, in association with the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, drew responses from almost a quarter of living Nobel Prize winners for chemistry, physics, physiology, medicine and economics.

Nobel Laureates were asked to respond to the questions:

What is the biggest threat to humankind, in your view? And is there anything science can do to mitigate it?

Threats facing humanity

One in three respondents cited population growth and environmental degradation, making this the highest-ranking threat in comparison to all other responses.

Source: Times Higher Education, 2017

“Climate change [and providing] sufficient food and fresh water for the growing global population… are serious problems facing humankind,” responded one Laureate. “Science is needed to address these problems and also to educate the public to create the political will to solve these problems.”

Other respondents who cited environmental issues also mentioned concerns over feeding and supplying water, as well as opposition to genetically-modified products given their potential to boost agricultural output.

Threats also mentioned which ranked lower compared to population growth included nuclear war, infectious disease breakouts, ignorant leaders (including Donald Trump), as well as artificial intelligence.

Taking action

According to John Gill, editor of Times Higher Education, “There is a consensus that heading off these dangers requires political will and action, the prioritisation of education on a global scale, and above all avoiding the risk of inaction through complacency.”

At Population Matters we advocate for taking effective action on climate change, starting with smaller families. We also recognise the inherent benefits of global education and empowerment of women, both in bringing down family sizes as well as contributing to overall human rights and well-being.

To learn more about our vision and values, please visit here.

For more information on what we can do to turn the tide of population growth and environmental degradation, be sure to visit our newly launched Solutions page.


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