Predictions based on population growth
Population Change from 1950-2010, both in absolute numbers and in % change. Note the dip around 1960 when the Chinese famine occurred
In 1798 Thomas Malthus incorrectly predicted that population growth would outrun food supply by the mid 19th century. In 1968, Paul R. Ehrlich reprised this argument in The Population Bomb, predicting famine in the 1970s and 1980s. The dire predictions of Ehrlich and other neo-Malthusians were vigorously challenged by a number of economists, notably Julian Lincoln Simon. Agricultural research already under way, such as the green revolution, led to dramatic improvements in crop yields. Food production has kept pace with population growth, but Malthusians point out the green revolution relies heavily on petroleum-based fertilizers, and that many crops have become so genetically uniform that a crop failure would be very widespread. Food prices in the early 21st century are rising sharply on a global scale, and causing serious malnutrition to spread widely.
From 1950 to 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the world; grain production increased by 250%. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon-fueled irrigation. The peaking of world hydrocarbon production (Peak oil) may test Malthus and Ehrlich critics.As of May 2008, the price of grain has been pushed up by increased farming for use in biofuels,world oil prices at over $140 per barrel, global population growth,climate change, loss of agricultural land to residential and industrial development, and growing consumer demand in China and India. Food riots have recently occurred in many countries across the world.