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Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 21:24 EDT

Effects Of Population Growth To Be Studied

July 12, 2010

A controversial new study, commissioned by the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, will analyze how population growth will impact sustainable development and the economy, according to a statement release by the organization on Monday.

“The Royal Society has decided that it is time for a comprehensive review of the science, looking at the extent to which population will be a significant variable in rates of progress towards sustainable economic and social development over the next thirty years and beyond,” the Royal Society said in their press release.

The study, entitled “People and the planet: the role of global population in sustainable development,” will be headed up by Nobel laureate Sir John Sulston, who previously worked on the Human Genome Project. It will be launched on World Population Day during a special event, which will be held at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and will conclude in 2012.

“As the world’s population approaches seven billion, the Royal Society has chosen to explore the complex and contentious issue of population,” Sulston said on Monday. “We will be examining the extent to which population is a significant factor in the momentous international challenge of securing global sustainable development, considering not just the scientific elements, but encompassing the wider issues including culture, gender, economics and law.”

“The Royal Society has brought together a working group of immense expertise, but also markedly different interests, to ensure that the end report will be comprehensive and cross-disciplinary and bring understanding of population issues to the cutting edge,” he added.

The report states that the worldwide population was just 2 billion in 1930. In 1993, it grew to 5.5 billion, and currently it is an estimated 6.8 billion. According to projections, the population will grow to 7 billion by 2012 and 9 billion by 2050.

Sulston and his colleagues will try to study to find out what implications the growing population would have on various aspects of society, including the environment and the economy.

“This is a topic that has gone to and fro in the last few decades, and appears to be moving back up the political agenda now,” Sulston told BBC News on Monday. “So it seems a good moment for the Royal Society to launch a study that looks objectively at the scientific basis for changes in population, for the different regional and cultural factors that may affect that, and at the effects that population changes will have on our future in term of sustainable development.”

Many scientists have blamed the growth of the human population as a contributing factor in several environmental conditions, including climate change, deforestation, and loss of biodiversity, according to BBC News. Thus, Sulston will head a panel of environmental, agricultural, economic, law, and theological experts from the U.S., the U.K., China, and several other countries to study these issues.

According to what Jonathon Porritt, the founder of Forum for the Future and a member of the Royal Society panel, told the BBC, the upcoming study can “shed some light on the different interpretations that people draw from the underlying trends” and could lead to increased support for family planning initiatives in developing countries.

Sulston was born on March 27, 1942 and studied at the University of Cambridge, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. In 1986, he was elected to the Royal Society and was presented with the W. Alden Spencer Award. Since 1992, he has been serving as the Director of the Sanger Centre in Cambridge, and during that time, he has been awarded the Darwin Medal of the Royal Society, the Rosenstiel Award, the Pfizer Prize for Innovative Science, the George W Beadle Medal, the Sir Frederick Gowland Hopkins Medal, the Edinburgh Medal, and the Prince of Asturias Award.

The Royal Society was founded 350 years ago, and according to the group’s website, it is “the world’s oldest scientific academy in continuous existence”¦ The backbone of the Society is its Fellowship of the most eminent scientists of the day, elected by peer review for life and entitled to use FRS after their name. There are currently more than 60 Nobel Laureates amongst the Society’s approximately 1400 Fellows and Foreign Members.”

“Throughout its history, the Society has promoted excellence in science through its Fellowship and Foreign Membership, which has included Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Ernest Rutherford, Albert Einstein, Dorothy Hodgkin, Francis Crick, James Watson and Stephen Hawking,” the Royal Society’s official website also says. “The Society is independent of government, as it has been throughout its existence, by virtue of its Royal Charters.”

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