General Question

AstroChuck's avatar

What's the maximum human population the Earth can handle?

Asked by AstroChuck (36567 points ) March 10th, 2009

Are we close to that number? How far can the planet’s resources be stretched?

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29 Answers

electricsky's avatar

We’ll find out soon enough.

KrystaElyse's avatar

Ten thousand sexdecillion.

MissAnthrope's avatar

Estimates of the Earth’s human carrying capacity (loosely defined as the number of people the planet can support) range from fewer than 1 billion to more than 1 trillion. This enormous spread follows from widely varying concepts, methods, and assumptions. Most frequently, estimates fall between 4 billion and 16 billion. Counting the highest figure when an author gives a range of possibilities, the median estimate is 12 billion. Counting the lowest estimate when an author gives a range, the median estimate is 7.7 billion. The lowest and highest U.N. population projections for 2050 show that within the next century, the world’s population could face exceedingly difficult choices in trading off human well-being and human numbers.

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wundayatta's avatar

12,496,322,581. One more than that and the earth implodes.

Mr_M's avatar

This is such a tough question. Are you talking about “elbow room”? Or are you also including the space required to feed and care for the population as well? The space for the necessary farms? Factories? Hospitals?

essieness's avatar

I don’t know, but I’m fully prepared to not reproduce to help with this problem!

patg7590's avatar

@essieness You’re just like your mother!

Bri_L's avatar

@patg7590 – LURVE!!!

nebule's avatar

@daloon seriously??? :-[

nebule's avatar

@AlenaD and…don’t you think that reeeeeally the ruling forces of the world are already practising population control through various methods of…um..pharmaceuticals…diseases…not, not necessarily in that order….?

fireside's avatar

12,496,322,582

wundayatta's avatar

@lynneblundell: have you ever known me not to be serious? Come on, lady. Get a grip!

@fireside: you want the world to implode? Sigh. When will they ever learn.

SeventhSense's avatar

@patg7590
Very funny quip.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@essieness, you know what they say, “if your parents don’t have kids, then you won’t have any either.”

steve6's avatar

less than the current

essieness's avatar

Maybe it’s just too late in the evening… but I don’t get it :(

Yeah, it’s definitely too late. And I had a long night. Explanations please!

antimatter's avatar

As long no one invades my space I don’t know how many people can live on earth.

SeventhSense's avatar

@AstroChuck
I think it just depends on the rate at which we develop sustainable systems as opposed to resource depletion. Sustainable farming methods continue to be promoted but are only slowly being implemented. There are billions of acres of residential real estate that could be utilized for farming.
We have hardly begun to explore the ocean’s potential either.
Meanwhile we continue to burn fossil fuels at staggering rates, deforest vast acreage and act as if there is no consequence to all of this. I think that if there is not significant change we won’t be able to sustain the present population for much longer.
But contrarily, if the world can pay heed to our scientific minds and create peace by realizing the interdependence of all people then perhaps we can double or even triple the population.

Jack79's avatar

Apparently the number is less than 5 billion if we’re talking about current way of life vs resources. Right now we’re using up more resources than the planet can produce, meaning we’re already on the road to destruction.

We should either:
1) use less (food, energy, oxygen etc)
2) have fewer children so that the population goes down
3) have a nice little war and reduce our numbers by a couple of billion. Genocide against either the Indians or the Chinese might possibly solve the issue. Though Americans seem to use more resources than anyone else, so perhaps we should do that instead.

nebule's avatar

@daloon i think you are a complicated person…and i wouldn’t be so arrogant to presume that you are always serious… i luvvvvvvves ya either way x

wundayatta's avatar

@lynneblundell: and lurve back to you. It’s funny. Sometimes people take seriously the things that I think are the most ludicrous, and other times they think I’m joking when I’m quite serious. So it goes.

mattbrowne's avatar

I think 9 billion people in a few decades is a good maximum if we want all people to enjoy a certain minimum standard of living. We need to transform our energy sources and we need to move to a cradle-to-cradle economy to deal with the problem of limited resources. Eventually people will leave the Earth and start colonizing space but I don’t see this happening on a larger scale before 2050.

bea2345's avatar

The question assumes that population will continue to grow. I have no proof, but recent events suggest that there will come a point when the environment cannot support the human populations, and people will die out. No: I do not envisage a sudden, catastrophic event, but rather a series, or cascade of events, each one worsening the condition of the survivors. This idea has been with me ever since reading about the extinction of the dinosaurs; it happened over a fairly short period, did it not? (helped by a meteorite).

bea2345's avatar

@RomanRealtorsDavid Pimentel and Ron Nielsen, working independently, determined that the human population as a whole has passed the numerical point where all can live in comfort, ... by the year 2000, children in developing countries were dying at the rate of approximately 11,000,000 per annum. “Wikipedia”:
http://en.wikipedia.org_/wiki/Malthusian_catastrophe. For those children, the catastrophe has begun and continues.

PossumCuber's avatar

However many Chuck Norris wills to live.

flutherother's avatar

One billion is the absolute maximum. How many have we got?

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