How will population growth affect energy?

crowded street, population
How will population growth affect our energy supply?

The world is growing at an amazing rate. Currently, the Earth’s population is growing by 60,000 people every eight hours -- that’s two children born every second somewhere around the globe. Experts believe if we continue to grow at this pace, we’ll need 50 percent more energy to sustain humanity by 2050. And that’s not all; more people means we'll need more food, water and shelter, putting a strain on our renewable resources, as well.

Keep reading to learn how population growth will affect energy.


Unfair and Unbalanced

Yet, if you consider where populations are growing fastest, they're not in the same countries consuming the most energy. For example, the United States has a population of just over 300 million people -- that's about 5 percent of the people on Earth. Yet we consume 20 percent of the world’s energy and cause 19 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases.

China’s a little better, but still skewed in the wrong direction with 20 percent of the world's population that is responsible for 33 percent of its greenhouse emissions. Developing nations like India and some African countries tend to consume much less energy but add to the population crisis. India, for example, is almost the exact opposite of the United States on an energy consumption scale, using only 5 percent of the world's energy. But with nearly 1.2 billion people, it's responsible for almost 17 percent of the Earth’s population.


Population's Link to Energy

So, are population and energy consumption related? Unfortunately, yes. Although wealthier countries are not growing at as fast a rate as developing nations, they’re still growing. And, as each human is added to the Earth, resources become more of a precious commodity -- especially nonrenewable ones like fossil fuels, which provide most of the world’s energy. Consider this: If the United States consumes 20 percent of the world’s energy now, how much energy will the country consume if it reaches the United Nations' projected population of 450 million by the year 2050?

Our insatiable appetite for energy across the globe contributes to deforestation, global warming and other environmental issues like pollution and acid rain. In the United States, 40 percent of our water resources are already so polluted, they're unsafe for fishing or cannot support aquatic life.


Fixing the Crisis

Clearly population growth is a problem, but how do we fix it? Experts suggest tackling the areas with the highest rates of growth by providing education on family planning and making modern contraceptives available in developing countries as starting points. Researchers estimate more than 215 million women around the world would delay or stop having children if these two resources were available to them.

But reducing our rate of population growth alone will not solve our energy consumption issue. Instead, experts say we must also find cleaner, more efficient sources of energy, cut back on our current consumption and push governments for stricter regulations. Little steps like switching to energy-efficient appliances and fluorescent light bulbs, or using programmable thermostats are ways homeowners can conserve, as well. Whatever the solution, experts agree a group effort around the globe is needed if there is any hope of change.