Elon Musk has caused quite the stir in the past week, with the billionaire quoting a “population collapse due to low birth rates is a much bigger risk to civilization than global warming.”
Now, climate change is a very real and very serious problem that deserves its own editorial, but when people argue we could be facing an overpopulation problem — whether we should be worried about overpopulation or a population collapse is quite confusing.
The population of the world is projected to reach eight billion come November of this year and ramping up rather quickly, it could hit 8.5 billion eight years after. By 2080, that number is projected to reach 10.4 billion and many experts believe that’s where it will peak; either plateauing or decreasing by 2100.
Now, there are some nations in the world where the population is expected to decline, and some of them are at a rather high rate. Places like Bulgaria and Lithuania are expected to decline by 22 per cent over 30 years while Italy, Cuba and Portugal are facing a 10 per cent decline.
The argument for population collapse comes when experts look at the ageing population of certain countries, with Elon Musk quoting that “you can tell by the sale of adult diapers versus children diapers along with birth rates in certain countries.”
Now, will there be a large decline in population? Well, we believe it’s hard to tell, and experts quote a phenomenon they refer to as ‘population momentum’ which is if women are having one birth, the population keeps growing because large groups of women already born are contributing to a large number of births. This means that while a population collapse or decline may definitely be in our future, it’ll most likely happen gradually and a full-on collapse will not be caused solely by low birth rates.
This goes slightly further, with some experts noting that a lower fertility rate and smaller populations is something to be celebrated rather than feared — saying that lower birth rates are usually tied to increased education of women, greater gender equality and higher living standards. With an ageing population, we may face some societal changes but with advances in medicine and people living longer, it also means they can work longer too.