This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

You can download an iPhone app for the 13th edition from the App Store (search for Weeks Population).

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at:

Thursday, July 11, 2013

World's Hottest and Most Populated Decade in History

Earlier this month the Geneva-based World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a report suggesting that we have recently been experiencing the hottest several years in recorded history, with the caveat of course that scientific recordings of weather go back only to the mid-19th century and are associated with the scientific advances brought about by the Enlightenment. Reuters picked up the story:
Every year of the decade except 2008 was among the 10 warmest since records began in the 1850s, with 2010 the hottest, according to the study by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The number of daily heat records far outstripped lows.
It said many extremes could be explained by natural variations - freak storms and droughts have happened throughout history - but that rising emissions of man-made greenhouse gases also played a role.
"Rising concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are changing our climate, with far-reaching implications for our environment and our oceans, which are absorbing both carbon dioxide and heat," WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement.
You can see the interlinkages here. The very same scientific advances that have allowed us to control death and thus explode from one billion people alive two hundred years to more than seven billion alive now, have allowed us to exploit resources on the planet in ways that pollute the atmosphere (not to mention the lithosphere and hydrosphere). And that same science has brought us technology to monitor these changes. The challenge is whether science can save us from our pollution of the environment before we find that, like the Mayans hundreds of years ago, our way of life is unsustainable.


  1. Prof Weeks - I have a feeling that "Sustainable Technology" could be a applied on both local and global scales. We just don't seem to be too interested in doing it. Unfortunately - it's not clear that a "crisis management" approach to this topic is really going to work. The scientists who did early modeling of the complete global system seem to believe we have already crossed the threshold for a sustainable population on Planet Earth. I really hope they are wrong! But with each passing year that we don't curb our appetites for resources and continue to operate in "exploitation mode" - we are a step closer to proving them right.

    I wonder what we have to do ... to change things??
    DrP, Los Angeles