Population Matters

Population matters on World Energy Day

Population matters on World Energy Day

October 22 is World Energy Day.

Since its first edition in 2012, this annual event has raised awareness of global energy challenges, the need to conserve natural resources and the importance of creating policies that increase energy efficiency.

The global demand for energy will be one third higher by 2040
The global demand for energy will be one third higher by 2040

Energy usage is linked to prosperity and wellbeing. It allows societies to produce goods, and provides humans with domestic comforts. Meeting the growing global demand for energy is a challenge because, on the one hand, the world faces depleting fossil fuel reserves and environmental degradation, but on the other hand, it also faces rapid population growth and increasing demand for energy.

In the last 30 years, global energy consumption has more than doubled, and the world has relied predominantly on fossil fuels to supply its energy needs.

While that has been happening, human population size has grown from 2.5 billion in the 1950s to 7.4 billion in 2016, and it is projected that the world’s population will pass 9.7 billion by 2050.

There appears to be a strong causal relationship between population growth and energy consumption.  Each new individual uses energy, and the availability of energy has improved living conditions, thereby increasing life-expectancy, which in turn leads to still greater energy use. The world’s total energy demand is therefore bound to grow as population grows.

It is certainly true that energy can be used more efficiently, that humans can adopt more mindful lifestyles and that the development of renewable energy sources should be prioritised more than is currently the case.

Yet, it takes time to make these changes and to implement them successfully. In that time, population is still growing, and placing an ever-greater strain on the Earth’s natural resources.

As long as population grows, the total number of energy consumers grows, even if each consumer uses less. Therefore, we should focus not only on per capita optimisation of energy use and on the development of renewable energy sources, but also on population stabilisation.