Optimum Population Trust
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February 18 2008
UK “OVERPOPULATED” BY 70 PER CENT
If the UK had to provide for itself from its own resources, it could support a population of only 17 million – 43 million less than its latest official population figure* - according to new research by the Optimum Population Trust.
Even if the UK dramatically improved its sustainability with a 60 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2050 - the target set by the present Government - UK “overpopulation” would grow from 43 to 50 million, the research shows. This is because projected population growth of 17 million**, taking the country’s population to 77 million by 2050, would cancel out the sustainability benefits of carbon savings.
The sustainability of human populations: How many people can live on Earth? ***, published today (Monday February 18), is based on a new analysis of biological capacity and ecological footprinting data. It suggests that in 2003, the last year for which comprehensive data are available, total world population was 6.3 billion but the sustainable figure was 5.1 billion. Global overpopulation was thus 1.2 billion.
However, as standards of living rise across the Earth and human footprints grow, the number of people the planet can support will diminish. The paper suggests that although the UN forecasts a world population rising to 9.2 billion by 2050, the Earth’s long-term sustainable population is in the 2-3 billion range.
For the UK, a sustainable population is estimated at between 17 and 27 million – less than half the current total and between a third and a fifth of the 85 million who will be living in the country in the last quarter of this century, according to the most recent Government projections**.
The size of the discrepancy between the UK’s actual population and the number of people it could support sustainably is a result of its affluence combined with a high population density, the paper says. The wealth and population density of the UK mean that its ecological footprint is 3.5 times greater than its biocapacity. If the whole world consumed and generated waste like the UK, it would require 3.5 (an additional 2.5) planets to sustain the human race.
To live sustainably, the current UK population of 60 million would have to reduce its average individual footprint by more than 70 per cent. This would mean Britons living a lifestyle similar to citizens of countries such as China, Paraguay, Algeria, Botswana and the Dominican Republic.
Even a zero-carbon Britain would have a maximum sustainable population of 40 million if it refused to change its lifestyle and its non-carbon footprint therefore remained unaltered. “In reality,” the paper argues, “a ‘zero-carbon’ UK could never reach sustainability without population reduction: the lifestyle reductions demanded would be too great.”
The world was living within its ecological means until the 1980s, when it went into overshoot, the study says. Population growth is now the main cause of increasing overshoot, which will be running at almost 100 per cent by 2050: humanity will then be using up, annually, the equivalent of nearly two Earths. Currently, overshoot is 25 per cent, which means humanity requires one and a quarter Earths for its needs.
The paper argues that the strain placed on the global ecosystem by such demands means that the UN’s forecasts of a world population of over nine billion by 2050 are unlikely to be realised. Instead, resource wars and starvation “threaten the worst population crash in the history of humankind.”
It adds: “There is an urgent need for national strategies on sustainable population not only in the UK but in all countries. Politicians need to demonstrate courage and leadership on this issue: they must persuade their nations to accept the necessity of smaller families and provide the means for people to reduce their family size.”
The study’s author, Dr. Martin Desvaux, an ecological researcher, said: “There has been much discussion recently of overcrowding in the UK and whether there is an ideal number that the country could support. This study is an attempt to put a figure on that, based on the best biocapacity and ecological footprint research available. It shows how far the UK is from genuine sustainability and what a fundamental role human numbers play in the whole survival equation.”
Valerie Stevens, OPT chair, added: “Politicians from all parties have been showing more awareness of population issues over the last year or two and we hope this study will contribute to their thinking. Taken with the latest national population figures, published last October, it demonstrates the extent of the UK’s overpopulation and the threat this poses to our environment and quality of life. It also shows how desperately we need a national population policy.”
*The population of the UK was 60.6 million in mid-2006, according to figures published last August by the Office for National Statistics.
**ONS principal projections, October 2007.
***Summary appended to this news release and also available online at http://www.optimumpopulation.org/HowManyPeople.Summary.pdf
The full report can be viewed at http://www.optimumpopulation.org/HowManyPeople.pdf
OPT ARCHIVED PRESS RELEASES
From 1 September 2002
UK sleepwalking to population nightmare (23 October 2007)
Migration figures show UK quality of life falling (22 August 2007)
Compulsory birth limits “may become unavoidable” (11 July 2007)
World should not give in to mega-cities (27 June 2007)
Combat climate change with fewer babies (7 May 2007)
Leaders urged to be brave on population (13 March 2007)
"Overcrowded" UK can support only 17 million people (4 December 2006)
Migration “moving deckchairs on Titanic” (2 November 2006)
“UK “in denial about overpopulation” (31 July 2006)
“Stop at two children to halt climate change” (11 July 2006)
Mass migration "damaging the planet" (30 May 2006)
Population growth "bigger threat than climate change" (20 March 2006)
Seven million more houses in UK (14 March 2006)
Baby shortage "a myth" (20 February 2006)
Call for population "Kyoto" (14 February 2006)
Is the UK overpopulated? Experts debate population (8 February 2006)
Ten million population increase in UK - another 57 Lutons (20 October2005)
Planning for Housing Provision (ODPM Consultation Paper): OPT Response (9 September 2005)
New government figures show UK needs national population policy (25 August 2005)
Britain's major parties "environmentally illiterate" - An OPT analysis of election manifestos shows no mention of human population growth as an issue (25 April 2005)
More MPs oppose population growth... but delayed action makes it more difficult to reverse (8 February 2005)
Sustainable development needs a sustainable population policy (6 September 2004)
Population growth must stop, says OPT (18 December 2003)
Call for population stabilisation policies in party manifestos (23 September 2003)
UNDP World population projections: OPT calls for a population protocol (27 February 2003)
Government house-building plans: the concreting of Britain. OPT calls for a population policy (28 January 2003)
Census results: OPT publishes population reduction targets (29 September 2002)
Media coverage from mid-2002 (excluding most local radio interviews and letters to the press) includes: The Times (Britain better off with half the people, Anthony Browne, Oct 2002), New Statesman (Pop the Pill and think of England, Anthony Browne), BBC Radio 4: You and Yours (Nov 2002), BBC Radio 4: The Westminster Hour (Dec 2002); OpenDemocracy (Mass immigration: a route to environmental collapse, Rosamund McDougall, 22 May 2003); Sunday Times (John Humphreys), The Times ( You don't save the world by having a headache , Magnus Linklater), The Guardian (We should welcome signs of a shrinking population, Martin Woollacott), BBC Radio 4: Talking Politics, BBC TV: Newsnight, Daily Mail, Sunday Times (Attenborough: cut human population, Jonathan Leake) ; The Observer (Juliette Jowit) (Aug 2003), BBC Radio 4: The World Tonight, GP Magazine (29 Sep 2003); BBC World Service (Nov 2003); Hello! magazine, BBC Radio 4 (Dec 2003); Sunday Times Magazine (Richard Girling, 15 Feb 2004); BBC World Service (Mar 2004); Oxford Times (Jul 2004); Free Inquiry magazine, USA (Europe's baby bust - what problem? Rosamund McDougall); The Guardian (Crowd control, Walter Schwarz, 1 Sep 2004); The Independent (Sep 2004); The Fewer the Better New Statesman (David Nicholson-Lord, 8 Nov 04, shortlisted for the David Watt prize); Geographical magazine (Andrew Brackenbury, Mar 2005); New Statesman: Labour can beat the fear factor (25 Apr 2005); The Independent: The green issue that dare not speak its name (David Nicholson-Lord, 20 Jun 2005); The Week (25 Jun 2005); Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Daily Mail (25 Aug 2005); The Times T2 (29 Aug 2005); New Scientist (1 Oct 2005); BBC Radio 4: Home Planet (27 Sep & 4 Oct 2005); The Guardian, Financial Times, The Daily Telegraph, BBC World Service: Europe Today (21 Oct 2005); Guardian: Society (26 Oct 2005); Whatever happened to the teeming millions? (David Nicholson-Lord, Green Futures, Nov 2005); The Independent:Overpopulation "is main threat to planet" (Steve Connor, 7 Jan 2006); The Observer: Is it ethical to have children? (Lucy Siegle, 22 Jan 2006); The Guardian (15 February 2006); BBC Radio Scotland (15 February 2006); BBC Radio 4: Today (16 February 2006); Science and Public Affairs (British Association for the Advancement of Science) (March 2006); Daily Express (2 May 2006); Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail, Daily Express, Metro, BBC World Service - Network Africa, The Scotsman, Evening News (Edinburgh), Daily Telegraph (Australia), Gulf Times (Qatar), Zee News(India), News24 (South Africa), NewKerala.com, India, Yahoo!News.com, Lanka Business Online (Sri Lanka) (30 May 2006); Dominion Post (New Zealand), DailyIndia.com (New York), Nerve News(India) (31 May 2006); Financial Express (Bangladesh) (01 June 2006); BBC World Service, World Business Review (17/18 June 2006); BBC 1 (Television), Breakfast (20 Jun 2006); Challenge (Green Liberal Democrat magazine, Population - the ghost at the table, David Nicholson-Lord, Summer 2006); Biologist (Institute of Biology, Overpopulation denial is a fatal game, Rosamund McDougall, June 2006); Resurgence (Blind spot, David Nicholson-Lord, July-August 2006); Sky Radio News, Real Radio (Scotland), Colourful Radio (11 July 2006); Guardian (12 July 2006); BBC News Magazine Online (Shrinking office syndrome, 20 July 2006); Daily Mail (22 July 2006); Daily Telegraph (26 July 2006); Daily Express (31 July 2006); BBC Radio 4: The World Tonight, Channel Four: More 4 News, Three Counties Radio (24 August 2006); Daily Express, Three Counties Radio (25 August 2006); Radio Manchester (26 August); The Ecologist (The Numbers Game, David Nicholson-Lord, October 2006); Glasgow Herald (21 Oct 2006); Capital Doctor (Rage, rage against the dying of the light, obituary of Jack Parsons, by Rosamund McDougall, November 2006); Capital Doctor (Hardinian taboo, November 2006); Capital Doctor (Oppressive environments and middle-class flight, David Nicholson-Lord, December 2006); Adbusters (The Great Urban Outdoors, David Nicholson-Lord, Jan/Feb 2007, Big Ideas of 2007); Resurgence (London conundrum, David Nicholson-Lord, March-April, 2007); The Observer (No one is willing to address the accelerating growth in the world's population, Juliette Jowit, 18 March 2007); The Guardian Online (The numbers game, David Pallister, 21 March 2007); BBC News Online (How ethical is my baby? Justin Rowlatt, 30 March 2007); The Ecologist (Population the number one issue, Jonathon Porritt, April 2007); The Independent (How to save the planet, Guy Adams, 19 April 2007); Sunday Times, BBC Radio 4 (6 May 2007); The Guardian, Daily Telegraph, The Sun, Belfast Telegraph, BBC Radio 5 Live, Sky Radio: Fox News, CitizenLink, WDC Media News, Reiten Television KXMB Bismarck, National Review Online (all US); The Age (Melbourne), The Australian (7 May 2007); BBC Radio2, Jeremy Vine Show; Daily Grist, LifeSiteNews.com (US); Radio Canberra (8 May 2007); Galway Independent; Action Institute, The Conservative Voice, Alex Jones Show (Radio) (US); New Zealand Herald; Melbourne Talk Radio, Australia (9 May 2007); The Dominion Post, New Zealand; Baptist Press, WorldNetDaily (US) (11 May 2007); Boston Globe, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, The Argus (Fremont, California) (13 May 2007); Sydney Morning Herald, National Post (Canada), Hindustan Times (14 May 2007); CNSNews.com, Crosswalk.com (US) (17 May 2007); The New York Sun (18 May 2007); Restoring the Balance (Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio), Youth Talk Radio (Melbourne, Australia),The Observer (20 May 2007); CFRO Radio, Vancouver (23 May 2007); Indianapolis Star (28 May 2007); Newstalk Radio (Ireland) (30 May 2007); The Guardian (7 June 2007); Sunday Times (10 June 2007); Stuttgarter Nachrichten (13 June 2007); Guardian Online (14 June 2007); Enter Stage Right (US) (18 June 2007); Daily Telegraph, Spiked (27 June 2007); New Statesman (28 June 2007); The Spark, E-debate (Engineers Against Poverty) (Newsletter 10, July 2007); Woman’s Hour, BBC Radio 4 (5 July 2007); Sunday Times, Australia (7 July 2007); The Independent (10 July 2007); The Guardian (Citizens Arrest, David Nicholson-Lord, 11 July 2007); The Guardian, Daily Mail, BBC4 TV News/World News Today, BBC World Radio, BBC Radio Five Live, BBC News 24, Sky News Radio, LBC Radio, Radio Midlands, Raisingkids News; Melbourne Age, Herald Sun (Australia); Digital Journal (US); Islamic Republic News Agency (Iran) (11 July 2007); The Guardian, Daily Mail, BBC Radio Ulster, Bounty News; Media Matters for America, Huffington Post, Lifesite (US) (12 July 2007); UKParents Lounge; BBC TV Breakfast, BBC Radio Wales, The Times, Kaiser Network News (US) (13 July 2007); Peopleandplanet.net (14 July 2007); Sunday Times; Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times (Populating and perishing, David Nicholson-Lord) (15 July 2007); New York Sun, Lifenews, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (US) (16 July 2007); People’s Media Company (US) (18 July 2007); The Guardian, Nursery World, National Public Radio (US), CNSNews.com (US) (19 July 2007); The Tablet (21 July 2007); The Observer (22 July 2007); CitizenLink (US) (24 July 2007); National Public Radio (US) (25 July 2007); RH Reality Check(US)(27 July 2007); Sunday Times (29 July 2007); FrontPage Magazine (US) (31 July 2007); Radio Newcastle (1 August 2007); Talking Politics, BBC Radio 4 (11 August 2007); The Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Metro, New Statesman, Zeenews.com (India)(23 August 2007); Guardian Weekly, Times of India (24 August 2007); Significance (Journal of Royal Statistical Society, The sustainability of populations, Martin Desvaux, September 2007); The Ecologist (September 2007); Newconsumer.com, The Press (York) (4 September 2007); The Guardian (Greens need to grasp the nettle: aren't there just too many people? Madeleine Bunting, 10 September 2007); The Guardian Online (20 September 2007); Costing The Earth, BBC Radio 4 (27 September 2007); One Planet, BBC World Service (14 October 2007); Herald Sun (Melbourne) (19 October 2007); World At One, BBC Radio 4; BBC News 24, Channel 4 News, BBC News Online, Colourful Radio (23 October 2007); The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, Daily Express, Daily Mirror (24 October 2007); Daily Telegraph (25 October 2007); Today, BBC Radio 4; The Economist, The Independent (26 October 2007); Financial Times (29 October 2007); The Guardian Online (1 November 2007); Reporting Religion, BBC World Service (4 November 2007); The Independent (6 November 2007); The Observer (Three’s a crowd, Juliette Jowit, 11 November 2007); Spiked (November 2007); Radio Five Live (20 November 2007); National Catholic Register (US) (25 November 2007); Express & Echo, Exeter (26 November 2007); BBC News 24 (27 November 2007); Herald Sun (Australia) (28 November 2007); Daily Mail, Scotland (7 December 2007); Daily Telegraph (12 December 2007); Radio Five Live (13 December 2007); National Review (US) (16 December 2007); The Times (18 December 2007); FrontPage Magazine (US) (19 December 2007); Christian Examiner (US) (January 2008); Sunday Express (Why we’re in a tight spot, Rosamund McDougall), Sunday Times (Budge up back there, the country’s got to squeeze more in yet, Jonathan Leake) (6 January 2008); Liverpool Echo (17 January 2008); The Guardian (29 January 2008); Radio 5 Live (30 January 2008); Spiked (1 February 2008); Geographical Magazine (February 2008); The Guardian (6 February 2008); The Times (8 February 2008); Sunday Express (17 February 2008); Daily Telegraph, Daily Record, Metro, Radio 5 Live, Spiked (18 February 2008); Daily Mirror (21 February 2008);
OPT POPULATION POLICY AND PROJECTIONS
Sustainable or optimum population sizes vary according to economic and environmental circumstances, and target ranges can be adjusted downwards or upwards accordingly. OPT's suggested policy for the UK is population stabilisation and reduction, to reach a target of 53 million by 2050 and possibly further to 30 million by 2121. This would have involved a gradual reduction of about -0.25% a year if put into effect in 2000. No coercive measures on family size would be necessary. The OPT population policy could have been achieved by introducing a zero net immigration policy (broadly inflow = outflow), combined with a reduction in unintended pregnancies, particularly among teenagers. Since no action has yet been taken, however, while population has continued to rise, a 53 million target at a 0.25% annual reduction would not now be achieved before 2064, with 56 million being achieved in 2050.
For full details see OPT Population policy projections (To view these, you may need a free Excel Viewer.)
David Nicholson-Lord (Research Associate)
Tel: (OPT) 07976 firstname.lastname@example.org
OTHER CONTACT DETAILS
Andrew Ferguson (Research Coordinator/Ecological footprinting)
Contact via OPT tel: 07976 370221
Yvette Willey (Membership Secretary)
Email: Membership Secretary
This website was launched in June 2002
This page updated 25 February 2008
Optimum Population Trust, 12 Meadowgate, Urmston, Manchester M41 9LB, UK
Tel: 07976 370221 email: email@example.com