By 2030, world population is expected to hit 8.3 billion, causing a 50 percent increase in the global demand for food and energy and a 30 percent increase in the demand for fresh drinking water—a resource that is already in short supply for about a third of the world’s people. Climate change will complicate things even further, and in unpredictable ways, Prof. John Beddington told a London conference on sustainable development.
"It's a perfect storm," Beddington said. "There's not going to be a complete collapse, but things will start getting really worrying if we don't tackle these problems."
So what’s the solution? It will be essential to develop better water storage and cleaner energy supplies, Beddington said, and to improve crop yields and agricultural productivity through a combination of genetic modification and conventional plant breeding to create crop strains that are resistant to drought, salinity, diseases and pests.
While developing countries will experience the most dire consequences of the predicted shortages, and contribute the most to population growth over the next two decades, every nation will exacerbate the problems and feel the effects.
In the United States, for example, new births hit an all-time high of more than 4.3 million in 2007—the highest number of births since the previous record was set in 1957 at the height of the post-World War II baby boom—according to the National Center for Health Statistics, part of the Centers for Disease Control.
Despite the recent high birth rate, the U.S. population is growing more slowly than those of most nations. Yet, even though the United States has fewer people than many other countries, Americans use more resources per capita than any other nation on Earth. We have a vested interest in taking a leadership role in helping the nations of the world create a sustainable balance between population and the availability of life-giving resources.
- How Global Population Growth is Creating Serious Environmental Problems
- Global Water Supply Drying Up as Population Grows
- Malnutrition, Pollution and Population Growth Spur Increase of Deadly Diseases
- Worldwide Hunger and Food Insecurity Rise Dramatically
- One Third of World's Population Lacks Fresh Water
- Can Ocean Desalination Solve the World's Water Shortage?