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The Impact of Population Growth

The Impact of Population Growth

Author: Sophia Tutorial

Identify environmental effects associated with given impacts of human population growth. 

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what's covered
This tutorial will cover the topic of impacts of population growth. We will discuss the three main categories of impacts, as well as explore what projected futures of population growth look like.

Our discussion breaks down as follows:

  1. Impacts of Population Growth
  2. Population Growth Projections

1. Impacts of Population Growth

Impacts of population growth fall into three categories:

  • Energy
  • Land
  • Water

As human populations have grown, the demand or need for energy has grown, too. Increased population has expanded cities and increased the amount of technological devices, which require various forms of energy — most of which are non-renewable natural resources and whose consumption is increasing atmospheric pollution and climate change.

Secondly, growing populations have also increased the need for developed land use, which has resulted in the degradation of habitats and loss of ecosystems. Deforestation, to acquire more arable land, has reduced oxygen production and carbon storage from trees. Species loss has resulted from degradation, and the migration of people has led to environmental depletion and degradation.


The Rwandan refugees in Africa in 1994 deforested areas near their camps in order to survive.

Thirdly, population growth has demanded more water resources, which has increased the need for dams for reliable sources of potable water and resulted in water pollution in freshwater, groundwater, and oceanic systems.

2. Population Growth Projections

Every year at current rates of population growth, 72 million people are added to the planet. There are three major scenarios for projections of population growth, outlined in the graph below:

World Population in Billions

  • Scenario One (the red line): If we maintain rates of exponential growth, that by 2050 we will reach between 10 and 10.5 billion people.
  • Scenario Two (the orange line): If we maintain current rates of slowing growth, that by 2050, there will be 8.9 billion people.
  • Scenario Three (the green line): If there is a radical slowing in population growth by 2050, there will be 7.4 billion people.

Even though these scenarios may not seem that different, the differences on impact will be drastic. Depending on which scenario becomes most accurate, human standards of living, food supply, water access, prevalence of disease, and environmental degradation will be dramatically different. In the past, technology and innovation have been able to support population growth. However, it is unknown how it will play a role in the future, and if it will be able to mitigate the impacts.

Today we discussed the impacts of human population growth, focusing on the three main categories of energy, food, and water. We also explored potential projected rates of growth for the year 2050.

Source: Adapted from Sophia instructor Jensen Morgan, WORLD POP GRAPH, CC HTTP://BIT.LY/1CQGTWX