Carrying capacity of Earth?

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PhilKravitz

Main Question or Discussion Point

What is the carrying capacity of Earth? How many human can be supported with the current level of technology? What level of standard of living should we aim for? Is over shoot possible? I have no computer model to study so I can not answer the first two questions. I would like to have at least a French/English standard of living.
 

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  • #2
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Are we assuming development will continue - that is more land will be farmed, more reservoirs will be constructed, more electricity will be distributed, more roads built, etc?
 
  • #3
PhilKravitz
Are we assuming development will continue - that is more land will be farmed, more reservoirs will be constructed, more electricity will be distributed, more roads built, etc?
We are assuming the optimum number of each of these is put in place to support the maximum number of people.
 
  • #4
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We are assuming the optimum number of each of these is put in place to support the maximum number of people.
Withour advances in technology - there will clearly be a point. However, I'm not aware of any models - there was a study done a long time ago on the subject of "Carrying Capacity" (can't recall the name?).
 
  • #5
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Here is some interesting relevant information:


EXCERPT

The world population was at some point in 2010 estimated to be 6,895,000,000, with unreported variability.[31]

1900


Africa - 133 million


Asia - 946 million


Europe - 408 million


Latin America & Caribbean - 74 million


North America - 82 million[32]


[edit] Projections of population growth


According to projections, the world population will continue to grow until at least 2050, with the population reaching 9 billion in 2040,[33][34] and some predictions putting the population in 2050 as high as 11 billion.[35]


According to the United Nations' World Population Prospects report:[36]


The world population is currently growing by approximately 74 million people per year. Current United Nations predictions estimate that the world population will reach 9.0 billion around 2050, assuming a decrease in average fertility rate from 2.5 down to 2.0.[37][38]


Almost all growth will take place in the less developed regions, where today's 5.3 billion population of underdeveloped countries is expected to increase to 7.8 billion in 2050. By contrast, the population of the more developed regions will remain mostly unchanged, at 1.2 billion. An exception is the United States population, which is expected to increase 44% from 305 million in 2008 to 439 million in 2050.[39]


In 2000-2005, the average world fertility was 2.65 children per woman, about half the level in 1950-1955 (5 children per woman). In the medium variant, global fertility is projected to decline further to 2.05 children per woman.


During 2005-2050, nine countries are expected to account for half of the world's projected population increase: India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Bangladesh, Uganda, United States, Ethiopia, and China, listed according to the size of their contribution to population growth. China would be higher still in this list were it not for its One Child Policy.


Global life expectancy at birth, which is estimated to have risen from 46 years in 1950-1955 to 65 years in 2000-2005, is expected to keep rising to reach 75 years in 2045-2050. In the more developed regions, the projected increase is from 75 years today to 82 years by mid-century. Among the least developed countries, where life expectancy today is just under 50 years, it is expected to be 66 years in 2045-2050.


The population of 51 countries or areas, including Germany, Italy, Japan and most of the successor States of the former Soviet Union, is expected to be lower in 2050 than in 2005.


During 2005-2050, the net number of international migrants to more developed regions is projected to be 98 million. Because deaths are projected to exceed births in the more developed regions by 73 million during 2005-2050, population growth in those regions will largely be due to international migration.


In 2000-2005, net migration in 28 countries either prevented population decline or doubled at least the contribution of natural increase (births minus deaths) to population growth. These countries include Austria, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Arab Emirates and United Kingdom.[40]


Birth rates are now falling in a small percentage of developing countries, while the actual populations in many developed countries would fall without immigration.[38]


By 2050 (Medium variant), India will have 1.6 billion people, China 1.4 billion, United States 439 million, Pakistan 309 million, Indonesia 280 million, Nigeria 259 million, Bangladesh 258 million, Brazil 245 million, Democratic Republic of the Congo 189 million, Ethiopia 185 million, Philippines 141 million, Mexico 132 million, Egypt 125 million, Vietnam 120 million, Russia 109 million, Japan 103 million, Iran 100 million, Turkey 99 million, Uganda 93 million, Tanzania 85 million, Kenya 85 million and United Kingdom 80 million.


2050


Africa - 1.9 billion


Asia - 5.2 billion


Europe - 674 million


Latin America & Caribbean - 765 million


North America - 448 million [32]

2050

Africa - 1.9 billion


Asia - 5.2 billion


Europe - 674 million


Latin America & Caribbean - 765 million


North America - 448 million [32]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation
 
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  • #6
Yea....That's a lot of people. Don't have any numbers on how many acres of farmland it takes to deliver a balanced diet of fruit vegetables and grains to x number of people but that seems pretty important here. Also the acreage of 'meat farms'. I am pretty sure if we took up all the land taking over the habitat of wild animals there would be some problems. And we should probably leave some trees kicking around incase we need some oxygen. So how much land does one person need to survive, just divide that by the number of usable acres on the planet and bam you've got the carrying capacity. We could built underground though and then just have farms on our 'roofs'. Your welcome.
 
  • #7
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Our seemingly infinite ability to procreate coupled with our irresponsible attitudes vs the finite unrenewable resources such as arable land available drinking water and fossil fuels will inexorably lead to a worldwide crisis. Calculating when requires too many variables. But if the present pace of procreative insanity is maintained and all things remain equal, then the disaster's eventual reality is definitely assured.


Fossil Fuel Reserves
http://www.energy-consumers-edge.com/fossilfueloil.html

Available Drinking Water Projections
http://www.fao.org/docrep/u8480e/u8480e0c.htm

The Coming Famine
http://www.sciencealert.com.au/features-global-food-crisis/20101304-20832.html [Broken]
 
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  • #8
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Our technology includes birth control, desalination and hydroponics.
 
  • #9
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Our technology includes birth control, desalination and hydroponics.
Is our tech adequately preventing famine, adequately solving the water scarcity problems and and adequately controlling world population growth at present? If not why? And if not now when the situation is more manageable, then on what can we base our certainty that it will be able to do so on a worldwide scale when the situation becomes desperate?
 
  • #10
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Is our tech adequately preventing famine, adequately solving the water scarcity problems and and adequately controlling world population growth at present? If not why? And if not now when the situation is more manageable, then on what can we base our certainty that it will be able to do so on a worldwide scale when the situation becomes desperate?
I would say it's a question of leadership. You can't help the people if the leaders don't want help - or profit from the assistance.

Another form of bad leadership is the type that allows special interest groups (such as environmentalists) to determine which lands can be farmed - see CA water issues.
 
  • #11
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I would say it's a question of leadership. You can't help the people if the leaders don't want help - or profit from the assistance.

Another form of bad leadership is the type that allows special interest groups (such as environmentalists) to determine which lands can be farmed - see CA water issues.

In short if indeed the crisis becomes a worldwide reality, then there is no guarantee that technology will bail us out because of our seemingly inherent inability to peacefully cooperate with each other. So the problem isn't really what will happen but how we might likely react to it and judging by past experience the likelihood of effective global cooperation is rather slim. Correct?
 
  • #12
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In short if indeed the crisis becomes a worldwide reality, then there is no guarantee that technology will bail us out because of our seemingly inherent inability to peacefully cooperate with each other. So the problem isn't really what will happen but how we might likely react to it and judging by past experience the likelihood of effective global cooperation is rather slim. Correct?
I would agree there is no guarantee that technology will benefit everyone.

Again, if the leaders of a specific group are unwilling to help that group - instead put personal profit ahead of the survival of their group - their group might perish.
 
  • #13
How many human can be supported with the current level of technology?
A lot more than today, as most countries are socialist.

What level of standard of living should we aim for?
As high as possible.
 
  • #14
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  • #15
cobalt124
Gold Member
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What is the carrying capacity of Earth? How many human can be supported with the current level of technology? What level of standard of living should we aim for? Is over shoot possible? I have no computer model to study so I can not answer the first two questions. I would like to have at least a French/English standard of living.
Are we assuming development will continue - that is more land will be farmed, more reservoirs will be constructed, more electricity will be distributed, more roads built, etc?
We are assuming the optimum number of each of these is put in place to support the maximum number of people.
The first thing to note (as Radrook has) is we are not even achieving this at the current population levels given the god knows how many people are dying every day. So are we assuming we hypothetically "do everything right", to get a "pure" capacity? This includes ignoring the politics and the economics of the question. If this is the case the standard of living should be that sufficient to maximise the carrying capacity of the Earth, so I guess standard of living would be somewhat reduced.

There would be more land farmed/resevoirs constructed unless technology stepped in. Electricity I wonder about, because I suspect most of our electricity usage is non-essential. We may need less? I have similar thoughts about road construction.

It is a simple question with a complicated answer.

...I am pretty sure if we took up all the land taking over the habitat of wild animals there would be some problems...
Yep, could we exist without biodiversity?

...And we should probably leave some trees kicking around incase we need some oxygen...
Biodiversity aside, technology could step in for carbon capture/oxygen creation?

In short if indeed the crisis becomes a worldwide reality, then there is no guarantee that technology will bail us out because of our seemingly inherent inability to peacefully cooperate with each other.
Agreed. Technology can't be the first thing we turn to to address the issues.

As high as possible.
Wouldn't that limit the "carrying capacity"?
Possibly the OP needs pinning down a bit more.
 

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