Earth4All report: Is population growth really irrelevant?

Written by Olivia Nater | Published:


A provocative new report argues that it is unequal resource distribution, rather than overpopulation, that is driving our environmental crises, but this claim is misleading, as demonstrated by the report’s own data.

The new report was produced by Earth4All, a collaborative initiative by prominent think-tanks The Club of Rome, the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and the Norwegian Business School.

The authors’ models show that we could live within our planet’s means if everyone on Earth (currently 8 billion and counting) adopted a minimum standard of living (with an annual income per person of $15,000-$19,500), provided an equal distribution of resources.

This convergence of living standards to just above the poverty line is not only impossible to implement—it also proves that our numbers do, in fact, matter by demonstrating how drastically we would need to slash consumption in the absence of population action.

The report also suggests that under “business as usual” our global population could peak at just 8.8 billion people in 2050, before declining to 7.3 billion by 2100. These projections are a lot more optimistic than the authoritative United Nations ones, which calculate a peak of 10.4 billion in the 2080s, and no significant decline during the remainder of the century. The Earth4All models differ by using the historical global trend in GDP per capita as a predictor of future fertility rates. However, in the regions with the highest fertility rates, GDP per capita has largely been stagnating. The report ignores that lowering fertility rates by improving access to family planning and education is often a necessary precursor to accelerated economic development.

Population Connection President & CEO John Seager says,

“It is unhelpful to argue that overconsumption is the only issue. Both overconsumption and overpopulation drive environmental degradation, and both need addressing. The Earth4All report demonstrates that achieving sustainability solely by tackling overconsumption would require drastic measures, while we can end population growth by empowering women everywhere to choose their family size—a goal that is within reach through actions that advance human rights and benefit the whole world.”


Contact Marian Starkey: | 202-974-7735