World Energy and Population – Trends 2007 to 2100

This introduces a gem of a post on a subject of global importance, one on which civilization itself, depends.

Not a new article – Original text: World Energy And Population, by Paul Chefurka, October 2007, it is an extensive, in-depth study of the resources, reserves, utilization of the world’s energy production, together with the directly related global population.

One needs to be a keen student to handle all the ramifications, it might satisfy some readers just to skim through the original text and get the gist. Anyone who is seriously interested will find a wealth of research and commentary.

There may be areas open to interpretation and debate, in which case, questions are best put to the author.  Here are two extracts, the beginning and the ending:

“Remarks: The causal link between energy and population in this paper is essentially intuitive. While it seems reasonable, “proving” that causality is difficult. However, if the linkage is valid,  the consequences for humanity of any overall decline in energy supplies are too dire to be ignored.

For conclusions on medium term global energy supplies you can consult the later article “World Energy to 2050” .


Throughout history, the expansion of human population has been supported by a steady growth in our use of energy. Our present industrial civilization wholly depends on access to a very large amount of energy of various types. If the availability of this energy were to decline significantly it could have serious repercussions for civilization and the human population it supports. This paper shows production models for the various energy sources we use and projections of their likely evolution out to the year 2100. The full picture is then translated into a population model based on an estimate of changing average per-capita energy consumption over the century. Finally, the impact of ecological damage is added to the model to arrive at a final population estimate.

This model, known as the “World Energy and Population” model, or WEAP, suggests that the world’s population will decline significantly over the course of the century.


During the global industrialization, the level of human population has been closely related to the amount of energy we have used. Over the last forty years, the per capita energy consumption has averaged about 1.5 tonnes of oil equivalent (toe) per person per year, rising from a global average of 1.2 toe per person in 1966 to 1.7 toe per person in 2006. As the global energy supply tripled over that time, the population has doubled.

Figure 1 shows the close relationship between global energy consumption, world GDP and global population and implies that an overall increase in the energy supply has supported the increase in population.

Figure 1: World Energy, GDP and Population, 1965 to 2003″


All the research I have done for this paper has convinced me that the human race is now out of time. We are staring at hard limits on our activities and numbers, imposed by energy constraints and ecological damage. There is no time left to mitigate the situation, and no way to bargain or engineer our way out of it. It is what it is, and neither Mother Nature nor the Laws of Physics are open to negotiation.

We have come to this point so suddenly that most of us have not yet realized it. While it may take another twenty years for the full effects to sink in, the first impacts from oil depletion (the net oil export crisis) will be felt within five years. Given the size of our civilization and the extent to which we rely on energy in all its myriad forms, five years is far too short a time to accomplish any of the unraveling or re-engineering it would take to back away from the precipice. At this point we are committed to going over the edge into a major population reduction.

However, this does not mean that we should adopt a fatalistic stance and assume there is nothing to be done. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. The need for action is more urgent now than ever. Humanity is not going to go extinct. There are going to be massive and ever-growing numbers of people in dire need for the foreseeable future. We need to start now to put systems, structures and attitudes in place that will help them cope with the difficulties, find happiness where it exists and thrive as best they can. We need to develop new ways of seeing the world, new ways of seeing each other, new values and ethics. We need to do this with the aim of minimizing the misery and ensuring that as many healthy, happy people as possible emerge from this long trauma with the skills and knowledge needed to build the next cycle of civilization.

October, 2007

In agreement with the author a few phrases in the text above have been shortened. – Rudo de Ruijter.

© Copyright 2007, Paul Chefurka


Follow the complete article here.

About Ken McMurtrie

Retired Electronics Engineer, most recently installing and maintaining medical X-Ray equipment. A mature age "student" of Life and Nature, an advocate of Truth, Justice and Humanity, promoting awareness of the injustices in the world.
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