6 July 2023, media briefing, immediate use

World Population Day 11 July 2023

World Population Day is a United Nations observance day, held each year on 11 July. This year’s will be the first since our human population passed 8 billion in November 2022. This briefing from campaigning charity Population Matters provides context and background for articles marking WPD. In particular, it addresses a number of common narratives around population which obscure the reality of demographic change and its implications.

For further information or to arrange an interview with Population Matters director Robin Maynard contact Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications, at alistair.currie@populationmatters.org  or +44 (0)208 123 9170.

Robin Maynard says:

“For such a critical issue, public debate on population is often woefully simplistic, ideological, ill-informed and hyperbolic. Most prevailing narratives obscure the reality: population growth is far from over, with more than two billion people set to be added over the next 60 years, stressing ecosystems and undermining our wellbeing. They also obscure that population action is about empowering people and providing opportunities for better lives, especially those of women and girls, and can play a critical role in tackling climate change.” 

1. False narrative: global population is about to crash

Population is still rising and will do so until the second half of the century at least.

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2. False prophet: Elon Musk says it is an existential crisis

Musk’s pronouncements on population are at best shakily supported by the evidence and at worst, absurd. Those include:

More information

3. False narrative: population policies are coercive

Coercive population policies like China’s one-child policy and forced sterilisation in India in the 1970s are an aberration, not the norm.

More information

4. False narrative: population is irrelevant to the climate crisis

While the most affluent people and countries have driven climate change and continue to do so, growing numbers of people both increase emissions and reduce the ability of the Earth to absorb emissions.

More information

5. False narrative: ageing populations spell economic disaster

Ageing populations pose a genuine challenge, but one that is predictable, gradual, frequently exaggerated, and can be addressed through practical, available policy mechanisms.

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Alistair Currie, Head of Campaigns and Communications

E: alistair.currie@populationmatters.org

T: +44 (0)208 123 9170

Population Matters is a UK-based charity working globally to achieve a sustainable future for people and planet. Our mission is to drive positive, large-scale action through fostering choices that help achieve a sustainable human population and regenerate our environment.


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[1] [3] United Nations World Population Prospects 2022 https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/wpp2022_summary_of_results.pdf

[2] UNFPA (2023) State of World Population 2023 https://www.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/swop23/SWOP2023-ENGLISH-230329-web.pdf  

[2] See summary in United Nations World Population Prospects 2022 https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/wpp2022_summary_of_results.pdf or Population Matters review of population projections in 2023 https://populationmatters.org/news/2023/01/the-world-of-population-projections/  

[4] Twitter, @elonmusk, 24 May 2022 https://twitter.com/elonmusk/status/1529193812949614594

[5] Twitter @PPathole   https://twitter.com/PPathole/status/1516474757126193154

[6]  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2018) Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5ºC, https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/  

[7] UNDESA (2021) World population policies 2021 https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/undesa_pd_2021_wpp-fertility_policies.pdf

[8] United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2021) Global Population Growth and Sustainable Development https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/sites/www.un.org.development.desa.pd/files/undesa_pd_2022_global_population_growth.pdf  

[9] IPCC (2022) Climate change 2022: mitigation of climate change https://www.ipcc.ch/report/sixth-assessment-report-working-group-3/  

[10] Project Drawdown (2022), Table of Solutions, https://drawdown.org/solutions/table-ofsolutions  

[11]  Chaurasia, A.R. (2020) Population effects of increase in world energy use and CO2 emissions: 1990-2019, The Journal of Population and Sustainability https://jpopsus.org/full_articles/population-effects-of-increase-in-world-energy-use-and-co2-emissions-1990-2019/   

[12]  Oxfam International (2020) Confronting Carbon Inequality: Putting climate justice at the heart of the COVID-19 recoveryhttps://www.oxfam.org/en/research/confronting-carboninequality  See also Population Matters analysis at https://populationmatters.org/news/2022/02/fat-cats-and-fossil-fuel-companies-whos-to-blame-for-climate-change/  

[13] UNDESA World population ageing 2020  https://www.un.org/development/desa/pd/news/world-population-ageing-2020-highlights

[14] United Nations World Population Prospects 2022

[15] World Bank 2022 https://genderdata.worldbank.org/data-stories/flfp-data-story/  

[16] United Nations World Population Prospects 2022


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