Future Environmental Concerns: Population, Food Supply, Energy & Pollution

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  • 0:08 Future Environmental Concerns
  • 0:36 Population
  • 2:19 Food Supply
  • 3:16 Energy
  • 4:25 Pollution
  • 5:31 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

There are many issues that raise future environmental concerns. Learn how the environment may be impacted by the growing population and food and energy needs of the world, as well as growing pollution concerns as we move through the 21st century.

Future Environmental Concerns

What does the future hold for our planet's natural environment? Well, no one has a crystal ball to tell us exactly what lies ahead, but we can look at past trends and current data to make future predictions. In this lesson, we will take a look at future environmental concerns, including how the environment could be impacted by the expected population growth, food and energy needs, and pollution as we progress through the 21st century.


Let's start our discussion by looking at the dramatic increase in population that is expected in the 21st century. At the turn of this century, the world population was just under 7 billion people. According to the United Nations, by the year 2075, the population is expected to rocket up to 9.2 billion people.

Many of the future environmental concerns that come with a growing population are straightforward. For instance, more people means an increased need for housing as well as increased use of resources, such as water, food, and fuel. Therefore, meeting the basic needs of a growing population means that more land will be converted to living areas, natural resources will be depleted, and greenhouse gas emissions will increase.

To complicate matters, much of this growth is expected to take place in developing countries. These countries face many social and economic challenges that make it difficult to address environmental concerns. Many of the citizens of these countries survive through subsistence farming, which is farming that supplies only what is needed for the farmer and his family. Subsistence activities are one of the leading causes of deforestation.

Of course, it is not the world's poor that are entirely at fault. We see that citizens in wealthier countries have higher rates of consumption of goods, use more electricity, and drive more vehicles. In other words, the ecological footprint, which is the measure of the demand for resources required to support a lifestyle, is higher for individuals living in wealthier countries.

Food Supply

Another future environmental concern is how to meet the food supply without compromising the sustainability of the environment. It is easy to see that with the growing population comes a growing need for food. Maintaining the food supply while protecting the environment faces many challenges. To meet the need for more food, more land will be converted to farmland. To complicate this matter, future farmland may be used not only to produce food to feed the world's population, but also to grow crops for energy. These are called energy crops because they are crops grown to be turned into biofuels.

Food supply and agricultural practices also face some uncertainty due to climate changes. Agriculture is highly dependent on consistent climate conditions. While it is not certain how projected climate changes could impact farming in the future, climate changes could make it challenging to grow crops.


How to meet growing energy needs is also a future environmental concern. Much of the developed world runs on energy obtained from the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas. While these energy sources are efficient, they come with an environmental concern. If more fossil fuels are burned for energy, this will lead to the increased release of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases within the atmosphere trap heat and are thought to contribute to global climate changes. Fossil fuels are non-renewable, which means that they do not regenerate after they are depleted.

To meet electricity demands of the future, there will be a need to find alternative energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydropower. While these energy sources do not produce greenhouse gases during their operation, there are greenhouse gases emitted during the construction of these power plants. Also, to provide sufficient energy, these sources may require the use of large areas of land or conversion of previously undisturbed land. For example, the creation of a dam to create hydroelectric power requires the flooding of land upstream of the dam.

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