BIG FEET: ASSESSING THE CURRENT AND FUTURE IMPACT OF POPULATION SIZE ON A COUNTRY’S ECOLOGICAL FOOTPRINT
Abstract:Background: Ecological footprints assess the land and water a population needs to procure its resources and handle its waste. Measures derived from these footprints look at a population’s ecological overshoot rather than weighting the population to its footprint. The aim of this study was to examine the latter approach by determining what the current and future weighted world population, by income gradient, would be if everyone lived within the boundary of 1.8 hectares per person.
Methods: Country-specific ecological footprints and populations for 2007 were obtained from the Global Footprint Network (www.footprintnetwork.org); and projected populations were collected from US Census Bureau (www.census.gov). Footprint growth to 2050 was based on a business as usual approach developed by Kitzes et al. in Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B (2008). Weighted population estimates were derived by multiplying actual population by the ratio of the country’s footprint to overall boundary of 1.8 hectares per person.
Results: The weighted global population increased by 2.4 billion people (37%) in 2007 based on our adjustment. High and middle-income country populations increased, by 242% and 10%, respectively, while low-income country populations decreased by 33%. The weighed global population in 2050 increased by 10.1 billion with the majority of this growth occurring in high-income countries -- 437% versus 67% and 9% respectively for medium and low-income countries.
Conclusions: Our study showed that current and future global weighted demographic and ecological impact would be felt mainly in high-income countries even though actual population growth would occur mainly in low and middle-income countries.