The major global trends in population, food, greenhouse, and oil

Essay, 2004

8 Pages, Grade: HD


Table of contents

1 Remarks on the question

2 Global trends in population, food, greenhouse, and oil

3 Hopeful changes: the greenhouse effect and climate change

4 Barriers to change: the greenhouse effect and climate change

5 Closing words

6 References

1 Remarks on the question

In order to answer questions, it is always advisable to step back and reflect upon what the speech-parts used mean. The question contains the four title-like terms 'population', 'food', 'greenhouse', and 'oil' referring to global issues that are heavily and controversially discussed by the political and academic community. It is to be emphasised that these issues are highly intertwined and pose various environmental, economical, social, political, and cultural challenges.

The question supposes that there are "major trends" in these issues. Moreover, the usage of the definite article seduces one to assume that there is a fixed set of major global trends. Considering the often different, even contradictory, analysis, predictions, and instructions that different people make, one has to question who determines global trends. Is it Björn Lomborg[1], who plays down concerns wherever possible? Or rather Lester Brown[2], who alarmingly advises fundamental changes in current patterns of human (economic) behaviour? What could the indicators be that allow the claim of a global trend?

These questions must be answered in another essay. For this essay it is sufficient to say that there is a vast number of different data sources, and various different methods for interpreting the data. Additionally, the diagnosis of a global trend is a means to an end determined by humans with certain worldviews and aims. Differentiations are always decisions - they have impacts on political agents, the common people, and the future of planet earth.

Finally, the question raises a debate about values. The specification 'that need reversing' refers to a certain conglomerate of values or principles according to which the major global trends need reversing. Also, the interpretations differ considerably if one asks a neoclassical economist or an holistic deep ecologist. It is assumed that the underlying principles refer to sustainability.[3] However, here one also has to be more specific in order to avoid the misunderstandings resulting out of confusion due to the differentiation of 'weak' and 'strong' approaches.[4]

Compiled in the following, there are some numbers and interpretations regarding the four global issues, population, food, greenhouse, and oil (↑ 2). The greenhouse issue is focused and discussed in more detail, particularly in terms of hopeful developments (↑ 3) and their obstacles (↑ 4). Whether or not the following findings reflect ' the major global trends', this remains necessarily undecided.

2 Global trends in population, food, greenhouse, and oil


The second half of the twentieth century has been characterised by a dramatic increase in world population. From 1950 to 2001, the world's population doubled from just over 3 billion to almost 6.2 billon.[5] During the last decade, 77 to 80 million people have been added to the planet each year, while the annual growth rate has actually been decreasing from 2.1 percent in 1970 to 1.3 percent in 2001.[6]

Population projections by the United Nations estimate a continuing slowing of population growth. The medium fertility scenario predicts an increase to about 9.3 billon in 2050. The annual growth rate is predicted to fall to 1 percent around 2020 and 0.5 percent in 2050. Most of the population growth will occur in developing countries leading to a geographical shift in the distribution of the world population: The proportion of people living in Europe, Russia, or Japan will decline whereas the proportion living in Africa and Asia will dramatically increase, especially in the world's poorest countries.[7]

A crucial population trend is unprecedented urban growth. In the 20th century, global urban populations have expanded from 15 to 50 percent of the total. By 2020, two-thirds of humanity will live in cities.[8]

In 1998 the United Nations projected lower overall increases in numbers compared to previous publications, due to unexpected declines in fertility in many countries.[9] However, the report points out that a significant increase in population will certainly occur in the medium term, whereas long-term projections are subject to a high degree of uncertainty.[10]


As with population, the world's agricultural production has increased steadily. Compared with the rate in 1961, 23 percent more food per capita has been produced globally; in developing countries, an increase of even as much as 52 percent can be noted.[11] Also, average food intakes of below 2200 kcal per day fell from 57 percent in 1964-66 to just 10 percent in 1997-99.[12] Moreover, the amount of people starving has fallen from 35 to 18 percent despite a growing population.[13]


[1] Lomborg (2001).

[2] Brown (2001).

[3] For a compact overview see Jacobs (1999), especially page 26/27.

[4] For example Dobson (1996); Atkinson et al. (1997); Neumayer (1999).

[5] Worldwatch Institute in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (2002), p.89.

[6] Worldwatch Institute in cooperation with the United Nations Environment Programme (2002), p.88.

[7] United Nations (2001), p.2.

[8] Girardet (2000), p.202.

[9] United Nations 1998, p.184.

[10] United Nations 1998, p.189.

[11] WRI (1996/97), p.246.

[12] FAO (2002).

[13] FAO (2000).

Excerpt out of 8 pages


The major global trends in population, food, greenhouse, and oil
Murdoch University  (ISTP - Institute for Sustainability and Technology Policy)
Global Environmental Issues
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ISBN (Book)
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This essay examines the following questions: What are the major global trends in population, food, greenhouse, and oil that need reversing? Some suggestions of some signs of possible hopeful change concerning greenhouse effect and climate change. The main barriers to change concerning greenhouse effect and climate change.
Global, Environmental, Issues
Quote paper
Stefan Krauss (Author), 2004, The major global trends in population, food, greenhouse, and oil, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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