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The Earth could be 'unrecognisable' by 2050, says experts

Competition for unsustainable resources, population growth and increased meat consumption could render the planet “unrecognisable” in 40 years – when the global population is expected to reach 9 billion.

The lonely planet: a composite image from NASA made over a span of several months and from different angles.
The lonely planet: a composite image from NASA made over a span of several months and from different angles.
Image: Press Association Images

PLANET EARTH COULD be “unrecognisable” in 40 years because of competition for unsustainable resources and a growing global population, according to scientists speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) yesterday.

The population of the world is expected to hit 9 billion by 2050, meaning that “we will need to produce as much food in the next 40 years as we have in the last 8,000,” said Jason Clay of the World Wildlife Fund.

Clay said the Earth will be “unrecognisable” if current trends continue, reports France24, as incomes are expected to rise in the coming years and more strain will be put on global food supplies – particularly because people tend to eat more meat when they have more money.

However, maintaining livestock and producing meat is expensive, time-consuming and depletes natural resources much faster – and for far longer periods – than other types of food.

Experts told AFP that it takes around seven pounds (3.4 kilograms) of grain to produce a pound of meat, and around three to four pounds of grain to produce a pound of cheese or eggs. Clay urged governments and consumers to consider the impact of which foods are being produced: “More people, more money, more consumption, but the same planet,” he said.

Meanwhile, the director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University, John Casterline, said that family planning also needed to be considered: “We want to minimize population growth, and the only viable way to do that is through more effective family planning,” he said.

For 20 years, there’s been very little investment… but there’s a return of interest now, partly because of the environmental factors like global warming and food prices,” said John Bongaarts of the non-profit Population Council, reports the Irish Examiner.

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