Population Matters

Why Thomas Malthus is still relevant today

Why Thomas Malthus is still relevant today

Thomas Malthus predicted that the earth would one day no longer be able to support indefinite population growth.

13 February 2016 will mark the 250th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Malthus, the English economist who predicted that the size of the expanding human population would one day outstrip the earth’s ability to feed it. Recent attitudes towards his theory have mostly been skeptical, as he failed to predict the technological advances that would enable billions of people to be fed. Today, however, the impacts of climate change are severely threatening food production, and this suggests that Malthus might not have been completely wrong after all.

In light of the anniversary of his birth and one of the strongest El Niño events, which caused 2015 to be the warmest year in history, we have published a briefing to emphasize the relevance of Malthus’ theory to food security today. In the briefing, we set out the elements which fail to contribute to, or are threatening, food production in the future — such as biotechnology, the increase in natural disasters and water scarcity.

Our findings show that population growth, the depletion of natural resources and the increase in extreme weather events are increasing the risk of crop failure, and thus food insecurity.

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