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.

THE (Times Higher Education) - - LEADER -

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

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