Another example of valuing theory over data is the Club of Rome’s 1971 model that predicted that the world standard of living would peak in 1990 and then decline inexorably. Their doomsday manifesto was translated into 30 languages and sold more than 12 million copies. Their solution to the impending economic collapse was for world governments to reduce the world supply of food by 20 percent so that people would be forced to have fewer children, or starve. You might think they were joking. They weren’t. As William Nordhaus wrote, their prescription “would save the planet at the expense of its inhabitants.”
The Club of Rome model is all theory and no data. They simply assumed that the world’s supply of resources is fixed while the demand for resources grows at a compound rate—which guarantees that demand will exhaust resources (surprisingly soon with compound growth). They completely ignored the fact that humans have been endlessly creative in thinking of ways to substitute more plentiful resources for less plentiful ones. We have figured out how to use nuclear fuels and solar energy in place of fossil fuels, e-mail in place of snail-mail, and plastic in place of wood, metal, and glass. No one knows what substitutes we will invent in the future but we can be confident that there will be substitutes. The doomsday year of 1990 is now long past and the world economy continues to grow.Gary Smith, “Beware of geeks bearing formulas—it’s often pseudoscience” at Mind Matters News
Meanwhile, here are some current predictions to mull over:
By 2100, 183 of the 195 countries in the study are forecast to have a fertility rate lower than the global replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. As a result, it is forecast that the populations of as many as 23 countries will more than half between 2017 and 2100, including Japan, Thailand, Ukraine and Spain. Another 34 countries will likely decline by 25–50%, including China which is forecast to experience a 48% decline.Shannon Roberts, “23 countries will lose half their populations by 2100” at MercatorNet
Noting the same study:
The global population will peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, according to the new projection, and then drop off to 8.8 billion towards the end of the century.
“That’s a pretty big thing; most of the world is transitioning into natural population decline,” Christopher Murray, co-author and researcher at the University of Washington, Seattle, told the BBC. “I think it’s incredibly hard to think this through and recognize how big a thing this is; it’s extraordinary, we’ll have to reorganize societies.”Victor Tangermann, “Researchers Say Earth Is Headed for “Jaw-Dropping” Population Decline” at Futurism
The United Nations predicts that the global population will soon explode. In Empty Planet, John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker argue they’re dead wrong…
DB: “We polled 26 countries asking women how many kids they want, and no matter where you go the answer tends to be around two. The external forces that used to dictate people having bigger families are disappearing everywhere. And that’s happening fastest in developing countries. In the Philippines, for example, fertility rates dropped from 3.7 percent to 2.7 percent from 2003 to 2018. That’s a whole kid in 15 years. In the US, that change happened much more slowly, from about 1800 to the end of the Baby Boom. So that’s the scenario we’re asking people to contemplate. “Megan Molteni, “The World Might Actually Run Out of People” at Wired
You might think the new pundits are wrong but they can’t be more wrong than the science pundits of the recent past.
The day is coming when, if someone accuses you of being “anti-science” because you are skeptical of trendy claims, you’ll be thinking, “Thank goodness! I was afraid that the lumpen certainty of the representatives of Science was catching. It appears not to be.”