1. The world’s population will grow to 9 billion by 2050.
Early versions of this report predicted that the world’s population would double by 2050, and population growth has proceeded almost exactly on schedule. However, even this estimate may be too low. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, most official projections underestimate both fertility and future gains in longevity. Unfortunately, the greatest fertility is found in those countries least able to support their existing people. Populations will triple in the Palestinian Territories and Niger between 2000 and 2050 and will more than double in Yemen, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Uganda. In contrast, populations in most developed countries are stable or declining. The United States is a prominent exception.
Assessment: Demographic trends such as this are among the easiest to recognize and most difficult to derail. Barring a global plague or nuclear war—wildcard possibilities that cannot be predicted with any validity—there is little chance that the population forecast for 2050 will err on the low side.
Implications: Rapid population growth in the United States compared with its industrialized competitors will reinforce American domination of the global economy, as the European Union falls to third place behind the United States and China.
To meet human nutritional needs over the next forty years, global agriculture will have to supply as much food as has been produced during all of human history.
Unless fertility in the developed lands climbs dramatically, either would-be retirees will have to remain on the job, or the industrialized nations will have to encourage even more immigration from the developing world. The third alternative is a sharp economic contraction and lower living standards.