Climate change is already affecting people's lives, even as some may try to deny it. If nothing is done to curtail it, the impact will be much more pronounced in the coming years and decades, not only for certain communities — in low-lying coastal areas, for example — but for entire regions. Fast forward to the end of this century, and climate change could shift the global population balance, researchers now warn.
Today, Asia is home to roughly 60% of the world's population. But by 2100, it could drop to 43%, according to a study published in the journal Sciences Advances. That's in part due to rising temperatures and humidity levels, which would make it nearly impossible for people to live in the southern part of the continent. These areas are vulnerable to heat waves that would test the limits of human capacity to survive. In countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, where citizens rely on agriculture, climate change would also endanger livelihoods. This is all nothing short of disastrous.
Drought in Uttar Pradesh, India — Photo: Prabhat Kumar Verma/ZUMA
In contrast, the proportion of the world's population living in Africa could rise by the end of the century, according to an estimate recently published in French daily Le Monde. Today, Africa holds 1.3 billion people — or about 17% of the world population. By 2100, the continent is projected to house 4.5 billion people. That would be 40% of the globe.
How will this affect the balance of power in the world? My guess is as good as yours.
By striving to curb climate change, we can alter these projected statistics.
The jump in Africa's population is attributed to longer life expectancy. This is good news, as is the opportunity offered by the demographic dividend, i.e. Africa's relatively youthful population will be a driving force for growth in an aging world. But in Asia, the future looks bleak, if we are to go down the path described by current projections.
It's important to remember that these are estimates. It's also important to remember that we can act now: By striving to curb climate change, we can alter these projected statistics. The world in 2100, in other words, can still be whatever 2017 decides it to be.