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Fake BBC report: Population to crash by end of century

Global fertility rate since 1950

No one is gonna be born! According to this garbage BBC report of a even more vapid science paper, the on-going decline in the fertility rate will cause the world’s population by the end of the century to shrink by about a billion, with some countries losing half their populations.

Falling fertility rates mean nearly every country could have shrinking populations by the end of the century. And 23 nations – including Spain and Japan – are expected to see their populations halve by 2100. Countries will also age dramatically, with as many people turning 80 as there are being born.

What is going on? The fertility rate – the average number of children a woman gives birth to – is falling. If the number falls below approximately 2.1, then the size of the population starts to fall. In 1950, women were having an average of 4.7 children in their lifetime.

Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation showed the global fertility rate nearly halved to 2.4 in 2017 – and their study, published in the Lancet, projects it will fall below 1.7 by 2100. As a result, the researchers expect the number of people on the planet to peak at 9.7 billion around 2064, before falling down to 8.8 billion by the end of the century. [emphasis mine]

The key word in the quote is highlighted. It is also illustrated in the graph above, taken from the BBC article but annotated by me to indicate the time period in red where we have absolutely no data at all, and no one really knows anything. While the decline in fertility since the 1960 is well documented, caused by prosperity and greater choices for women worldwide, the projections beyond 2017 are not worth the money that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation paid for it. Those projections are based on models, and from what I can tell, those models are more opinion that anything. We really can’t predict what is going to happen, because the factors that have caused the fertility decline in the past half century might simply not apply in the next eighty years.

In fact, based on the completely unexpected disaster that occurred this year because of the Wuhan virus panic and the possible fundamental changes, for the worse, that this panic will likely bring to worldwide culture, the prosperity that fueled the fertility drop in the past half century might vanish, bringing about changes that make any projections into the future pure guesswork.

In fact, these models are probably as useless and as wrong as the models used to predict that millions would die from COVID-19 in the first year. In fact, this model is likely comparable to most scientific models that attempt to predict the future. You have a better shot at guessing what will happen by looking at tea leaves.

The sad thing is that the BBC is still reporting on a model like this as if it were real data, and therefore must happen. You’d think they’d learn.

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  • Col Beausabre

    Bob, To the extent this has any validity. it is based on a well established rule of the thumb – expect to have what is happening to continue to happen. Sometimes it does have scientific underpinning, Newton’s Second Law for example, but most of the time, as you rightly point out, it is nothing more than a guess, a first approximation. Even if the behavior does continue, we have no idea why. And don’t misteak correlation for causation., especially with human behavior, There is a high correlation between the rise in the number of golf courses operating in the US and the rise in the divorce rate. Does golf cause divorce (golf widows would say “YES”!)….does divorce cause people to take up the activity to occupy time once spent with a spouse… does a common factor cause both (the rise in disposable income leads to more people being able to afford what was once a rich man’s game and more women feeling they are not locked into marriage for economic reasons)..or is it an inverse correlation with the number of sun spots (my favorite)…

  • Andrew Robson

    sigh. Thomas Malthus, the Club of Rome and their “Limits to Growth”, Paul Ehrlich and his “The Population Bomb”, warnings of an impending new ice age in the 70’s, then global warming/climate change/whatever they’re calling it this week, now this Gates Foundation nonsense. Classic Garbage In/Garbage Out.

    Doomsayers always get more headlines than those who point out real human progress. That’s the news business. If it bleeds it leads, and if some expert(s) scream “We’re all gonna die!!!” it’s page one, just below the fold.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to some nonsense I can enjoy and get behind:

  • V-Man

    I thought they were complaining about overpopulation… now they’re complaining about lack of reproduction? Make up your mind.

    (Let me guess, they’re requesting more funding to “study” the issue. And also, more social controls. And really, scientists and politicians should decide everything for you, since you reproduce too mu… sorry… not enough. )

  • Andrew_W

    People make BAU projections as a starting point, then, based on those projections we change what we do if we want to avoid the projected adverse consequences of that BAU behaviour.

    People with axes to grind then assert that the BAU projection was proven wrong and thus the changes in behaviour that changed the results from those projected in the BAU model were unnecessary.

    I’m sure there’s a logical fallacy in there somewhere.

  • Andrew_W: Except that a close look at the COVID-19 models, at the beginning, clearly showed they were garbage and not to be trusted. That they turned out wrong was not a surprise to anyone who was willing to be skeptical about them.

    This by the way happens to be the entire point of my post. I remain disturbed how blindly trusting too many people are of computer models, including journalists and politicians who should know better.

  • Rose

    Acronym expansion: “BAU projection” = “Business As Usual projection”
    A projection based on the continuation of current behavior.

    (I had to look it up. Presumably Andrew and Bob are familiar with the term from discussing pCO2 projections.)

  • Rose: I actually made a mistake and assumed BAU was referring to specific past COVID-19 models.

    In the case of this particular story however BAU does not apply. Look at the graph. This model is clearly requiring that the fertility rate drop even more, and at a faster rate than it has in decades. That is not “business as usual.”

    Regardless, I think we should always rely on this stock market tip: “Past performance does not guarantee future results.” This is why these models are always to be treated with great skepticism. Too often we now rely on them, as if they were giving us real data.

  • Andrew_W

    This model is clearly requiring that the fertility rate drop even more, and at a faster rate than it has in decades. That is not “business as usual.”

    No, it assumes that as the levels of education in western countries spread to the rest of the world, those other countries will switch to the lower birth rates observed in the richer countries with better educated female populations. This has been seen, is being seen. Their projections show only a small drop from current fertility levels for richer, better educated countries.

  • Andrew_W

    This is why these models are always to be treated with great skepticism. Too often we now rely on them, as if they were giving us real data.

    Speaking of projection, You obviously don’t see them as giving real data, I sure don’t, people and governments that change their behaviour/policies as a result of seeing these projections obviously don’t, so who exactly are these people treating these projections as real data?

  • Cotour

    “No, it assumes that as the levels of education in western countries spread to the rest of the world, those other countries will switch to the lower birth rates observed in the richer countries with better educated female populations. ”

    I think it would be more accurate to say that births per woman decline as a society moves from a more agrarian society model to a more industrial model. And with that shift comes a more Liberal attitude towards education and no longer the need for more hands to do work.

  • Andrew _W

    Cotour, might be part of it, we do have mechanized farming, but rural life is often seen as a better environment for raising kids (or is that just the excuse cos there’s less things to do Saturday night?)

  • Cotour

    No, the agrarian model requires more hands, and the more kids you have the better security you have to produce and get work done.

    Is rural life better to raise a kid in? Very possibly.

    And as a society shifts from the agrarian model to the industrial then there is introduced mechanization and from that comes the need for education, and from that comes a more Liberal societal model where woman are seen more as equal and tend to be more educated.

    Just look at the numbers of people that it took to farm even 100 years ago compared to today. Those numbers have flipped because of mechanization. And these numbers are seen in developing countries in the same manner for the most part.

    (And it can be seen as a double edged sword, just like anything else depending on your perspective.)

  • Andrew_W

    Cotour, we might be arguing semantics, I’d still call a rural community using mechanized farming in a developed country “agrarian”, such a community does not require child labor, but child labor was common after the industrial revolution in those industrialized societies. It all revolves around greater wealth & technology and the reduction in the need for full-time homemakers. So women have become free to seek careers as men were previously, and that shift is seen as socially desirable, a shift in priorities not conducive to having larger families.

    There was a video up on youtube a while ago about Brooke Smith of Brisbane who was happy and proud to be a housewife and mother making family her priority ahead of a career in paid employment, the attacks on her from the feminist fraternity were eye-opening.

  • Andrew _W

    Another possible influence on fertility rates is the ability to work from home. Perhaps this will become more common in the future and have the effect of lifting fertility rates. Family farming is working from home and anecdotal evidence I’m aware of is that rural families in NZ tend to be larger than urban families.

  • Cotour

    Let me broaden my context to the last 10,000 years of human global societal development to today.

  • Edward

    Andrew Robson is right. Half a century ago this would have been good news. This century China is actively trying to reduce its fertility rate. Finally, we will achieve what people told us was so desperately needed.

    So why is a reduced fertility rate “jaw-dropping?” Was the dropped jaw good or bad? The article didn’t say until near the end: “Why is this a problem?” and “Are there any solutions?

    The problem is that the current generations are paying taxes while they work and expect, like the past three generations, to be able to relax and pay far less tax during retirement years, yet getting the benefits promised to them. Gee, how greedy of them. However, having the oldest generation retire and relax on everyone else’s dime was an idea that was all the rage among socialists, only a century ago. This century it is a problem that needs a solution. So much for the bright ideas of our great socialist thinkers.

    According to the article, not the paper or the model, the solution seems to be: pack up a bunch of people from Africa and ship them to countries around the world.

    Huh. That was done a quarter millennium ago, advocated and encouraged by the British, but these days it is thought to have been a crime against humanity. Here we are, coming full circle, this time to save humanity. Once again, advocated by the British.

    What model saw that one coming?

    The article mentioned that “It will create enormous social change.” These changes must be different than the ones we have been going through the past couple of decades. Actually, we have been going through a lot of changes since the invention of “the pill,” which came out just in time for Paul Ehrlich to throw his Population Bomb at us and for U.S. policy to allow Planned Parenthood to start handing out abortions like they were candy. Reviewing the chart, that is also when the fertility rate began to decline.

    The referenced paper states in its interpretation section that a low fertility rate “would have economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical consequences. Policy options to adapt to continued low fertility, while sustaining and enhancing female reproductive health, will be crucial in the years to come.

    When I was young and studly, I took a class in college on the agricultural and industrial revolutions, and it mentioned medieval demographics. The fertility rate, back then, was associated with and driven by the average age at which women married. Younger brides tended to produce more children over their lifetimes. I do not remember what sociological forces drove the marriage age, but I bet that just as in the medieval times we will be able to sort out our changing demographics, no matter what the models say. If we need policy changes, perhaps we need to go back to some of the ones before the decay, before the sweets, when we were doing OK.

    Isn’t it strange that the model seems to be based solely on recent trends and not on predicted future sociological forces?

  • pzatchok

    The lowering birth rate ia caused by a little of everything modern.

    In older agrarian societies they need a large amount of children.
    It has little to do with the brides age. She just produces until she can not. No matter what age she started.
    Children died early and often. In many cases they didn’t even name the child until their first birthday because so many died in their first year.
    As children lived longer and survived at higher rates families and thus societies found that having a bunch of children was now a problem so the next generation just had less children.

    As children lived more often and lived to adulthood something was needed for them to do. Fathers would hand the farm down to the eldest child. but what about all the rest? Portion out the farm until each kid doesn’t even have enough to make a living on? No. You send them out to take other menial labor jobs. But as though filled up those children needed something to do about getting a job.
    The rich educated their children. Then as books became available to the common man even their kids started to get educated.

    Even if everyone was educated for free if half the children died by 5 years old parents would automatically have replacements ready. Every family would have 4 kids just in the hope of keeping two.

    Further dropping the birth rate in advanced societies is selfishness.
    Couples not wanting children because they either don’t want to bring more children into such a screwed up world. Forgetting they themselves are living a pretty good life.
    Other couples don’t want children because they don’t want the inconvenience. If you have kids how will you be able to vacation all over the world every year? Or get that new car and huge house. What if me and the spouse don’t stay together? Just too much trouble.

  • Aaron R

    “All models are wrong. Some are useful.” George Box

  • Richard P.

    Here I am, glad that a major news outlet is finally referencing a major change that demographers have been warning about for decades.
    Sure, it is sensationalized and overwrought, but BBC.
    My real problem is the BBC is relying on the UN’s junk graphs.
    In reality by the end of the century the global population decline will be more than a billion. If the Austrians are right, MUCH more than a billion.
    That’s just math. Not “models”; math.
    And no, COVID won’t increase TFR; TFR goes *down* after economic slumps in the post Demographic Transition world.
    The year 2100 will have a population of about, oh, 2.5 billion people and the First World will be much more religious.
    And there’s nothing to can do to change it, not really.

  • Rose

    Richard P.> And there’s nothing to can do to change it, not really.

    Artificial wombs? State run crèches?

    Been quite a while since I’ve read Huxley.

  • Star Bird

    The BBC is becoming as bad as CNN Fake News 99/447100% Fake News that’s all we get from all the major news networks Fake News and LIES LIES LIES

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