Engineers warn of population overload

A report this week warns that the world is heading for population overload which will bring rise to hunger, thirst and slum conditions if not prepared for.

The report Population: One planet, too many people? by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), says the projected 2.5 billion more people by the end of this century will ‘crush the earth’s resources’.

‘Mega-cities’ of more than 10 million people will rise to 29 by 2025 and the urban population will increase from 3.3billion (2007) to 6.4 billion (2050).

Energy, food, water, urbanisation and finance will be significantly affected by this population growth. Climate change could displace up to one billion people over the next 40 years, putting further pressure on resources in urban areas.

This, the report states, could create civil unrest and land battles for resources and will affect the developed world as well as developing countries.

The report outlines engineering solutions to these problems. It states: “The challenge is how to apply engineering knowledge, expertise and skills around the world to build a new sustainable future.”

Among the recommendations are: using existing sustainable energy technologies rather than waiting for new technologies to be developed; and replenishing groundwater sources, improving storage of excess water and increasing energy efficiencies of desalination.

The Institution calls for the government to focus on engineering solutions and to set up a knowledge ‘swap-shop’ of engineering skills with other countries.

Lead Author, Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy, Environment and Climate Change at IMechE, said: “This is not altruism. This is self-defence.

“Up to 1 billion people could be displaced by climate change over the next 40 years and we are likely to see an increase in unrest as resource shortages become clear. The term Nimbyism will become obsolete. No-one’s back yard will be immune from these effects.”

Alison Brown

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