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How big will global population be in 2100? Some 10 or 11 billion, according to the UN. But some demographers think that estimate is way too high. Back in 2013, I blogged about a projection from Sanjeev Sanyal of Deutsche Bank. His calculations find the world’s overall fertility rate falling to the replacement rate in 2025, although global population will continue to expand for a few decades thanks in part to rising longevity: “We forecast that world population will peak around 2055 at 8.7 billion and will then decline to 8.0 billion by 2100. In other words, our forecasts suggest that world population will peak at least half a century sooner than the UN expects and that by 2100, and that level will be 2.8 billion below the UN’s prediction.”
But what if the UN is right? How can we feed all those people? It actually wouldn’t be that difficult, according to the World Bank’s Heinz-Wilhelm Strubenhoff in a piece over at Brookings. He runs through the math, but I wanted to highlight two things. First, plenty of existing farmland isn’t being used efficiently: “Farmers in the Netherlands produce 8.6 tons of cereals per hectare, Ukrainian farmers produce 4 tons per hectare, and yields in Nigeria are stagnant at 1.5 tons per hectare.” Second, we waste so much: “The average European is wasting 179 kg of food in the value chain from the farm gate to the lunch or dinner table. This is almost the annual consumption of a poor person mainly living on cereals (200 kg).”