A new report from UN statisticians says their earlier predictions about global population stabilization are wrong and that we are on the cusp of major and dangerous growth.
The UN Population Division has traditionally been an objective purveyor of information used by UN and other policy makers around the word. This was the case under longtime Population Division chief Dr. Joseph Chamie, who is now connected to Fordham University. Under Chamie, the Population Division tended not to get involved in the divisive arguments about overpopulation. This changed under his successor, Hania Zlotnik, and continues under current chief John Wilmoth.
The new report, published in the journal Science, asserts that global population will continue to expand from the current 7.2 billion to as high as 10.9 billion by century’s end and could go as high as 12 billion. Previous reports from the same office said global population would peak in 2050 and begin to decline. The Population Division says the difference lies in their new and better method of making projections, called “probabilistic Bayesian hierarchical models.”
Not so, says scholar Nicholas Eberstadt of Harvard University and the American Enterprise Institute. Eberstadt points out in the Wall Street Journal that the Bayesian method, like all probabilistic methods, cannot take into account human activity. Human reproductive activity in one century cannot be a predictor of the same in another century. Throw in galloping advances in medical and scientific knowledge that makes lives last longer, and any method for figuring out the future falls off a cliff.
Taking a veiled dig at traditional demographers who think they can use insects and animals models to predict human reproduction, Eberstadt said humans are not like fruit flies or deer ticks and that one simply cannot predict human activity because humans, unlike fruit flies, have volition.
Eberstadt fears the new report could fuel a call for Neo-Malthusian programs of coerced population control, particularly since most of the growth will come from the vulnerable and not terribly powerful populations of Africans in the Sub-Saharan region. Eberstadt says, “[The report] is all but certain to reignite Malthusian debates about the race between mouths and food, and to re-energize the international population-planning activists who castigate governments and aid donors for their complacency about the global demographic threat.”