Population projections: focus on the big picture

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” That quote, attributed to any number of voluble Brits, says much about contemporary public discourse.

I thought about that recently while deep in the Virginia mountains (where smartphones don’t work) when a news item came crackling through the antique radio of an antediluvian jalopy passing for a pickup truck. It said the world’s population had just passed 8 billion. Not true, I thought. That was last year’s big demography thing. Or was I in a time warp? 

On my return to base camp in the Shenandoah Valley, I checked it out. Sure enough, the empire’s official people counter, the US Bureau of the Census, had just reported “World Population Estimated at 8 Billion”:

Using data from the International Database, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the world population hit 8 billion on September 26. [2023]

[Note the] Emphasis on the word estimates.

There are many sources of uncertainty in estimating the global population, and it’s unlikely this population milestone was reached on that exact date.

For example, the United Nations (U.N.) Population Division estimates the world population reached 8 billion on November 15, 2022

‘Twas not a time warp after all. But no worries, Mercator readers got the low-down last year. The UN, the lion’s share of demographers, and even yours truly believe that we passed 8 billion in 2022.

So what?

But that doesn’t matter. There’s an irascibly cantankerous contingent, a veritable Greek Chorus of educrats, journalists and self-ordained “environmentalists” who tell us, as gospel, that there are just too many people about, and overpopulation will cause us to moulder away in a maelstrom of climate change. Don’t confuse ‘em with the facts. That would be attacking PC gospel, the secular religion that enables management by guilt.

We’ve been so unkind to the environment. We must atone and save the world by not having kids! Is that what we call circular reasoning? If you don’t have kids, you’re not saving us. But I digress.  

Elon the apostate

As an amateur futurist, I love population projections. With furrowed brow, I was in a state of deep cogitation about this when Fox News popped up with the latest from population apostate Elon Musk. (Stay tuned for the projections):

"Having children should be incentivized, not be a financial penalty like it is in most countries!" Musk wrote on his social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

"We must create the next generation of humans or spiral into oblivion."

The statement came in response to Katalin Novak, the President of Hungary, who announced several pro-natalist policies. These include tax exemptions for women with more than four children, loan forgiveness for couples after having three or more children and access to government-operated fertility clinics.

Spot on! Two years ago, Elon said, "If the alarming collapse in birth rate continues, civilization will indeed die with a whimper in adult diapers.” According to Bloomberg, Musk calls population decline a "much bigger issue" than climate change. What a numbskull he must be!

Notice the hit pieces on Elon popping up here and there? Coincidence, I’m sure. As the world’s wealthiest of the unwoke, he’s an easy target. How ‘bout those hateful Hungarians? Incentivising families? C’mon man!


If you can believe the Internet, it was either Yogi Berra or Niels Bohr who first said, "It is difficult to make predictions, especially about the future." Projections are predictions based on research, so you can credibly hedge your bets.


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Understandable. Population projections are all over the map. Here’s what we do know: In 1950, 2.5 billion folks populated the planet. We were 7.8 billion by 2020. We’re now over 8 billion. Beyond that, conjecture kicks in. Best for us lay people not to quibble over numbers or methodology. The big takeaway is that the world population will continue to increase for several decades, peak sometime before 2100 and decline thereafter. Every credible population growth scenario supports that.

The US Census Bureau emphasises the slowing rate of population growth that began in the 1960s. They predict a peak 10.2 billion by 2060.

While it took 12.5 years for the world to go from 7 billion to 8 billion people, we project it will likely take 14.1 years to go from 8 billion to 9 billion, and another 16.4 years to go from 9 billion to 10 billion.

The UN World Population Prospects 2022 says there will be 9.7 billion people in 2050, topping out at 10.4 billion sometime in the 2080s, levelling off until 2100, then declining.

The Lancet projects global population peaking in 2064 at a likely 9.73 billion and declining to a likely 8.79 billion by 2100. They also say that by 2100, 183 countries will have below replacement fertility. That’s just about everybody.

Vienna’s Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW, WU) saysthe aggregate population for the world will reach 8.3 billion in 2030, 9.2 billion in 2050, peak at 9.4 billion around 2070 and start a slow decline to 9.0 billion by the end of the century.”

The future

The numbers clearly show us where Homo sapiens is headed. Global population will peak and begin declining before the century’s end. Given the rapidly falling fertility in Africa, this may unfold faster than expected. There is no stopping it. And if the geniuses that supposedly run the show in various world capitals stumble us into yet another world war, it will be even faster.

Just think, wokesters – killing so many children in war could save the planet even faster than not having children. But don’t call it killing; think of it as systematic government-sanctioned post-natal abortion. Let the culling begin!   

OK, I’ll zip it on the sarcasm. But just look at where population is already declining. The decrease accelerates as each successive generation produces fewer people to bear children. The Brave New World is already here, and the best we can do is take a lesson from the Boy Scouts: Be Prepared. 

Now, I’m not predicting anything. But it is entirely possible that one day, the world’s vapid, enervated, mammon-worshiping societies could be refreshed by higher-fertility people of faith. This would include Amish, coteries of traditionalist Catholics and Orthodox Christians, along with pockets of true-believing Mormons, Mennonites, Muslims and Orthodox Jews. There will also be a knot of uber-rich pronatalist high-tech types. Hopefully, all these folks won’t be living cheek by jowl. History and human nature teach us that getting along is, shall we say, a supreme challenge.

Seriously, folks, pray for peace.

Louis T. March has a background in government, business, and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author, and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

Image: Pexels


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  • mrscracker
    “Although we do have pockets of healthy, large families, Yes, these families seem to have something in common: they have a faith.”
    Exactly, Mr, Jürgen thank you.
  • Jürgen Siemer
    commented 2023-11-19 05:04:04 +1100
    Nice to see a German map in the background.

    For many countries UN data show significantly higher population data for 2022 than the public statistics offices of the respective countries. And then there are “political data”. There are for instance chinese professors in the US, who claim, and they have reasons for their claims, that China has appr. 200 mio people less than officially reported.

    Our western societies are sick, the low birth rates show it.

    Although we do have pockets of healthy, large families, Yes, these families seem to have something in common: they have a faith.
  • Steven Meyer
    commented 2023-11-18 13:37:16 +1100
    Your trouble, Mr March, is that you don’t understand statistics. Specifically, you don’t understand that an “average” by itself is meaningless.

    It’s the sort of thing that happens when you get most of your information from the outrage machine that is modern media. What you’re getting is not news, but “newstainment” – entertainment disguised as news.

    If you dig a little deeper you discover the following:

    On “average” women are having fewer babies. What that “average” is and what the error bars are is subject to some discussion but the general downward trend has been established beyond any reasonable doubt and is reflected in birth numbers.

    Dig a little deeper and we discover that, in Western countries at least, the main driver behind this trend is the rising number of women who are having no children at all.

    Stop and think about that for a moment. Mothers .as a group are either more than replacing themselves and their partners, or are close to replacement.

    Now non-mothers do not contribute to the future gene pool. So, to the extent that the propensity to have children has a genetic component, and it almost certainly does, the future gene pool will contain a greater proportion of men and women with a higher propensity to breed than the current one.

    Are you with me so far?

    So I don’t think the human race is in any danger of going extinct through lack of desire for children. The “non-breeders” will simply become rarer.

    Of course falling fertility is happening at different rates among different demographics. Currently the only continent with above-replacement fertility is Africa and that means that Africans will make up a greater proportion of the future gene pool. It’s locked in. I understand some people may find this unpalatable.

    So it goes.