LAUREATES’ FEARS FOR THE FUTURE: PLANET’S GROWING POPULATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION POSE ‘BIGGEST DANGER’ TO HUMANITY
Population rise and environmental degradation pose the biggest threat to mankind’s future, according to the Times Higher Education/ Lindau Nobel Laureate Survey.
More than a third of respondents to the survey, which asked 50 Nobel winners about their fears for the future, selected the growing number of people on the planet and the effect that this is having on the environment as the most significant danger to humanity.
Almost a quarter have similar concerns about the risk of nuclear war.
Fears about the rise of infectious diseases and drug resistance also feature among the group, but less prominently.
Thirty-four per cent of respondents identified population rise and environmental degradation as the biggest threat to man- kind, reflecting growing concerns about Earth’s swelling population.
Latest estimates by the United Nations suggest that the global population will increase by 3.7 billion to reach 11.2 billion by 2100. The current tally is 7.5 billion, up from just 1.5 billion in 1900.
Science has a key role to play in solving the threat this poses, the laureates said, not only to address the challenges of feeding an ever-growing population, or mitigating the environmental effects of rapid urbanisation but also, crucially, to help harness the will to find solutions.
As one laureate said: “Climate change [and providing] sufficient food and fresh water for the growing population…are serious problems facing humankind. Science is needed to address these problems and also to educate the public to create the polit- ical will to solve these problems.”
Another said that the “blatant disregard for scientific opinion” surrounding the use of genetically biotechnology-enhanced crops to feed the world’s hungry was “disgusting”.
It is likely that current political concerns among the laureates have ramped up fears of nuclear war, which was the second most commonly perceived threat to humanity listed by the group, at 23 per cent.
Tensions are rising worldwide as relations between US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sour. Many are concerned