The Fred H. Bixby Forum:The World in 2050 (Day 2 Presentations)

(February 2009) “The World in 2050: A Scientific Investigation of the Impact of Global Population Changes on a Divided Planet” was held in Berkeley, Calif., on Jan. 23 and 24, 2009. The forum focused on the impact of population growth and population decline on economic and social development, on resources, and on broad national and international issues such as energy use, environmental degradation, and conflict. The goal of the forum is to develop the best possible population-related policies and programs that will foster the welfare of the human and natural world.

The forum was sponsored by the Fred H. Bixby Foundation, and coordinated by the Bixby Center for Population, Health and Sustainability, University of California, Berkeley; Bixby Program in Population and Reproductive Health, University of California, Los Angeles; and the Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco.

Each day’s presentations have been webcast; presenters’ PowerPoints are synchronized with their presentations.

Jan. 24, 2009: Day 2 Presentations and Discussions

View webcast of this session (1 hr 5 min): Population Policies, Programs, and the Environment (session description below)

Presentation by: J. Joseph Speidel, University of California, San Francisco, “Food, Water, and Population”

Discussant: Daniel Kammen, University of California, Berkeley

View webcast of this session (1 hr 11 min): Traversing the Mountaintop: World Fossil Fuel Production to 2050 (session description below)

Presentation by: Richard Nehring, Nehring Associates, “Traversing the Mountaintop: World Fossil Fuel Production to 2050”

Discussant: John Harte, University of California, Berkeley

View webcast of this session (1 hr 17 min): Considering Population and War: A Critical and Neglected Aspect of Conflict Studies (session description below)

Presentation by: Bradley Thayer, Missouri State University, “Considering Population and War: A Critical and Neglected Aspect of Conflict Studies”

Presentation by: Richard Cincotta, National Intelligence Council, “Age Structures and Civil Conflicts”

Discussant: Richard Cincotta, National Intelligence Council

View webcast of this session (40 min): Making Family Planning Accessible in Resource-Poor Settings (session description below)

Presentation by: Ndola Prata, University of California, Berkeley, “Making Family Planning Accessible in Resource-Poor Settings”

View webcast of this session (1 hr 3 min): The Theoretical and Political Framing of the Population Factor in Development (session description below)

Presentation by: Martha Campbell, University of California, Berkeley, “The Theoretical and Political Framing of the Population Factor in Development”

Presentation by: Joel E. Cohen, The Rockefeller University, “Questions”

Discussant: Joel E. Cohen, The Rockefeller University

View webcast of this session (1 hr 3 min): General Discussion

Population Policies, Programs, and the Environment

Human consumption is depleting the Earth’s natural resources and impairing the capacity of life-supporting ecosystems. Humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively over the past 50 years than during any other period, primarily to meet increasing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber, and fuel, according to the United Nations-sponsored Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Increasing levels of consumption per capita, together with world population growth from 2.6 billion in 1950 to 6.7 billion today, have been major contributors to environmental damage. Population is growing by about 78 million each year. Strengthening family planning services in developing countries is key to slowing birth rates and limiting world population to 9.2 billion by 2050. If birth rates remain unchanged, world population will grow to 11.9 billion during the same time. Unintended pregnancy is the factor in continued population growth that is most amenable to program and policy intervention. Worldwide, 80 million pregnancies (38 percent of all pregnancies) are unintended. More than 200 million women in developing countries who would like to delay their next pregnancies, or stop bearing children altogether, must rely on traditional, less-effective methods of contraception (64 million) or are using no method because they lack access or face other barriers to using contraception (137 million). Family planning programs have a successful track record of reducing unintended pregnancies, thereby slowing population growth; however, family planning funding needs are estimated to be $15 billion a year with foreign aid providing at least $5 billion of the total. Current assistance is less than 15 percent of the amount needed.

Traversing the Mountaintop: World Fossil Fuel Production to 2050

During the past century, fossil fuels dominated world primary energy production. From 1950 to 2005, fossil fuels provided 88 percent to 89 percent of all primary energy production. All fossil fuels—petroleum liquids, natural gas, and coal—grew substantially during this period. This growth, however, was irregular, providing for rapidly growing per capita production from 1950 to 1980, stable per capita production from 1980 to 2000, and rising per capita produc­tion again after 2000. During the past half-century, growth in fossil fuel production was essentially limited by energy demand. During the next half-century, fossil fuel production will be limited primarily by the amount and characteristics of fossil fuel resources. Three possible scenarios—low, medium, and high—are developed for the production of each of the fossil fuels to 2050. These scenarios differ primarily by the amount of ultimate re­sources estimated for each fossil fuel. In these three cases, overall fossil fuel production peaks in 2020, 2030, and 2035, respectively. These peaks are robust; none of the fossil fuels, even with highly optimistic resource estimates, is projected to keep growing beyond 2045. Fossil fuel production per capita worldwide will thus begin an irreversible decline between 2020 and 2030.

Considering Population and War: A Critical and Neglected Aspect of Conflict Studies

This study analyzes the relationship between war and population. The impact of the growth and decline of population on important types of warfare—great power, small power, civil war as well as terrorism—is illustrated, with the objective in each case to be descriptive of risk. Population change has a significant impact on each, with the greatest causal impact on small power conflicts, civil war, and upon terrorism. It concludes with some reasons for guarded optimism about the incorporation of population as a component of analysis in the discipline of international studies, and for the potential to devise new solutions to prevent conflict.

Making Family Planning Accessible in Resource-Poor Settings

Evidence shows that it is imperative to make family planning more accessible in low re­source settings. The poorest couples have the highest fertility, the lowest contraceptive use, and the highest unmet need for contraception. It is also in the low resource settings where maternal and child mortality is the highest. Family planning can contribute to improve­ments in maternal and child health especially in low resource settings where overall access to health services. Four critical steps should be taken to increase access to family planning in resource poor settings: a) increase knowledge about the safety of family planning meth­ods; b) ensure contraception is genuinely affordable to the poorest families; c) ensure sup­ply of contraceptives by making family planning a permanent line item in health care systems’ budgets; and d) take immediate action to remove barriers hindering access to family planning methods. Making family planning accessible in low resource settings would help decrease existing inequities in achieving desired fertility at individual and country level. In addition, it could help slow population growth within a human rights framework. The United Nations Population Division projections for the year 2050 vary between a high of 10.6 billion and a low of 7.4 billion. Given that most of the growth is expected to come from today’s resource-poor settings, easy access to family planning could make a difference of billions in the world in 2050.

The Theoretical and Political Framing of the Population Factor in Development

The silence about population growth in recent decades has hindered the ability of those concerned with ecological change, resource scarcity, national security, health and educational systems, and other global challenges to look with maximum objectivity at the problems they confront. Two central questions about population—(1) is population growth a problem, and (2) what causes fertility decline—are intertwined, in that people who fear the second question implies possible coercion, or interfering with cultures, are often reluctant to talk about the first. The most widely respected theoretical explanations of fertility decline focus on couples’ decisions based on exogenous change in social or economic conditions. It would be constructive to place greater weight on the wide range of barriers preventing women access to the methods and information they need to manage their childbearing. Many of the barriers reflect a patriarchal desire to control women, which can be largely explained by evolutionary biology. This patriarchal behavior in turn has been sustained largely through western Christian colonialism. Women should be given opportunities to manage their reproductive lives; and once it is understood that fertility can be lowered within a human rights framework, comfort with talking about the population factor in development will rise.