How Many People Can The Planet Sustain?

how many people can the planet sustainThere are currently over 7 billion humans inhabiting the earth, and that value is increasing exponentially. So, that is a lot of people wondering, including us, how many people can the planet sustain?

Resources & Human Population

It’s estimated that by the end of the century, the human population will be over 10 billion and scientists are unsure whether that will be sustainable or not. To see why, let’s start off by talking about a favorite subject to a lot of folks, food.

If you were to take all the land, being used to raise livestock and put it on one continent, it would take up all of Africa. In fact, it would actually be greater than Africa, between eight to nine billion acres. If we did the same thing for crop production, it would take up an area about the size of South America. Still, after a while the soil in these areas will degrade, meaning its fertility decreases and it erodes, rendering it useless for growing crops. And not only that, scientists are unsure if farmers can even maintain their current crop yields, due to changes in the environment.

You see, the global average of carbon dioxide emissions per person is about 5 metric tons per year. But for Americans that averages closer to 17 metric tons per year. ( And remember this is per person. )

If we have about 3,000,000,000 more people living on this planet and they all adopt a lifestyle similar to the average American, the effects of global warming will be worsened even more. In fact, it’s projected that the temperature of the earth will increase by 2 degrees Celsius by the end of the 21st century. And with that increase comes more extreme weather conditions, which would inevitably disrupt food production. ( So yeah, you know, that’s not good. )

Now, this could be partially remedied by everyone adopting the vegetarian diet and reclaiming the land to grow more crops instead of raising livestock, but the crops won’t be enough to feed an infinite number of people. In fact, some scientists predict that it would only be enough to feed 10 billion people and more than likely most people won’t switch to a vegetarian diet. ( After all, bacon is a beautiful thing that exists and bacon on pizza o(≧∇≦o) … you catch the drift. )

But what about the amount of available water?

Humans are currently using up about 30 percent of the Earth’s accessible renewable water supply, the rest of the fresh water is being used for agriculture. And not to speak about the available water to people in some countries that is not even clean enough to drink. So, if we want to sustain that population the amount of water reaching humans would have to increase alongside with the rising number.

So, the answer to the original question is that Earth may be able to hold a large number of people, even over 10 billion, but the quality of those people’s lives would be much different than they are right now.

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