reports: Most predictions call for at least 10 billion people on Earth by 2100. With more and more reports saying that Earth can’t even support its current population — largely due to wealthy nations’ overconsumption — it makes many people want to throw in the towel or seek a solution to slow population growth. But a little-known trend toward increasing energy efficiency may change some minds.

From Thomas Rohr Malthus in 1798 arguing that population always outpaces agricultural production to Paul Ehrlich in 1968 arguing that mass starvation would hit the world in the 1970s, most population predictions have pointed to negative conclusion.

Of course, they mostly haven’t happened. Improvements in agriculture have prevented Malthus’s predicted disasters, and today’s lack of food is a problem of distribution, not production. In fact, environmental degradation seems a more pressing problem. Regardless, when asked about population growth most people ask when, not if, we’ll hit a wall.

If Richard A. Muller, a professor in the Physics Department at UC-Berkeley, is correct, however, we can avoid a wall if we take a few proactive steps. Writing in Technology Review, Muller presents something he calls Rosenfeld’s Law, a law that shows how increasing energy efficiency can allow for increased population and increased standard of living with decreased environmental degradation.