University of Bristol
Wellcome Trust
Recommended by:
Society of Biology
PEEP for Physics & Ethics at GCSE


Human Population

  • During the last century, human impact on the natural world has increased dramatically.
  • Many of the negative impacts have been due to pollution and the vast increase in the consumption of non-renewable resources (particularly by the developed nations).
  • In addition to this, the world population (now at about 6 billion) is growing by 80 million every year.
  • The predicted rate of growth is unknown although some projections suggest that the population in 2050 may be as high as 12 billion people.

A graph showing the growth of the human population can be found at:

 Population graph.

This dramatic growth in population can contribute towards the following, which seriously threaten global biodiversity:

  1. Air pollution contributing towards global warming, ozone depletion and acid rain.
  2. Climate change – rises in sea levels.
  3. Fumes from the combustion engine leading to serious air pollution in some areas –  global dimming.
  4. Global water consumption leading to serious water shortages.
  5. Global energy consumption (increased by 70% since 1970) using up fossil fuels and contributing towards greenhouse gas emissions.
  6. Production of vast quantities of waste with little recycling (pollution and depletion of resources).
  7. Depletion of natural resources due to high consumption by industrial economies (45-85 tonnes per person annually)
  8. Aquatic environments (coral reefs – 58% are at risk) are being destroyed.
  9. Extinction of species – current rates are 100-1000 times higher than pre-human times.
  10. Deforestation due to burning and logging.
  11. Overfishing of fish stocks.
  12. In some areas, human population growth exceeds food production and many are under-nourished or starving. Need for increased agriculture.

 The environmental impact of population growth


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1. Using your ICT skills, produce a poster based on the list left. Find suitable images to go with each.

2. Debate: overuse of resources versus population growth
The impacts listed left can be attributed towards:
- the over-use and misuse of resources by the developed world.
- the dramatic growth of the human population.