Seven Billion People on the Earth Day
SEVEN BILLION PEOPLE ON THE EARTH DAY
Highlights from the University of Warwick's Research Community
October 31st 2011 is the day that the UN Population Division has chosen to mark the seven billion people on the Earth milestone. The last time the Earth hit a round billion was in October 1999 when the number of the planet’s inhabitants climbed to six billion. And the numbers are still rising. Here we round up some of the research that Warwick academics are undertaking to address the challenges of population growth.
Over the last century we have seen the profound effects of population growth on the planet with issues such as conservation, food security, transport and power coming to the fore. How will we as a species feed all these extra mouths? Can we heat all people’s homes and enable them to travel for work and play without causing more damage to our environment?
These are all issues that the Knowledge Centre has covered closely since our 2010 launch. Here we collate some features that show the challenges facing the increasing human race. We also reveal the work that academics, researchers and scientists are doing to rise to them.
As Caroline Fiennes of greener living charity Global Cool says: “The planet doesn’t care why people make changes that benefit the environment, as long as they do”. Some may be idealistically-driven, others more motivated by saving money or being seen to do the ‘right’ thing. What is certain is that the more of us there is on the planet, the more we must do protect it for future generations.
"How can we produce enough food to meet the needs of an ever increasing human population without causing further damage to the environment?" asks Dr Charlotte Allender, Assistant Manager of Warwick's Genetic Resources Unit. "Part of the solution is to develop new varieties of crops which are more productive yet require fewer inputs in terms of water, pesticides and fertilizers. Here, the past may provide the key to the future; seed collections such as those held by Warwick Genetic Resources Unit are regularly accessed by researchers and plant breeders looking for sources of useful traits such as pest and disease resistance and drought tolerance. These traits may be found in a range of material from old commercial varieties, which are no longer maintained elsewhere, to traditional varieties developed by farmers over many generations and even in samples of wild species which do not resemble their cultivated relatives at all. Set up to protect and conserve the genetic variation in our food crops, genebanks such as the Warwick Genetic Resources Unit are an invaluable resource in the effort to increase food production and ensure that everyone has access to enough safe and nutritious food."
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"As the world's population passes the 7 billion milestone, one challenge is the increasing demand for energy," explains David Elmes, Academic Director of The Warwick Global Energy MBA, and a Senior Teaching Fellow at Warwick Business School. "While population growth from now until 2035 is expected to be around 0.9 per cent per year, growth in energy is forecast to be 1.2 per cent per year. By 2050, the world will need double the energy it uses today and the energy industry will need to invest around $1Trillion every year to provide it - more if it is to be without the carbon emissions produced today. This reflects the economic growth in countries such as China, India, Russia and South America. It also reflects many millions of people gaining access to basic energy services and so moving out of poverty. But it will be with challenges. There will be tensions between providing the food, energy and water we need as demand for all three rises. The shifts in supply and demand across the world will leave countries concerned about their energy security. Commitments to reduce emissions and avoid the forecast effects of climate change remain less than scientists advise. The world’s larger population will face far greater challenges in meeting its demands for energy than seen in recent decades."
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Related WRAP Articles
Allender, Charlotte J. and King , Graham J. (2010) Origins of the amphiploid species Brassica napus L. investigated by chloroplast and nuclear molecular markers. BMC Plant Biology, Vol.10 (Article 54). ISSN 1471-2229