World population hits 8 billion, UN says, as growth poses more challenges for the planet


The world’s population will hit 8 billion on Tuesday, marking a “significant milestone in human development” before birth rates begin to slow, according to a United Nations projection.

In a statement, the UN said the figure meant that one billion people had been added to the world’s population in just 12 years.

“This unprecedented growth is due to the gradual increase in human lifespan through improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine. It is also the result of persistently high levels of fertility in some countries,” the UN statement said.

Middle-income countries, mainly in Asia, have accounted for most of the growth over the past decade, gaining some 700 million people since 2011. India has added about 180 million people and is expected to overtake China in as the most populous nation in the world next year.

But even as the world’s population reaches new heights, demographers note that the growth rate has steadily dropped to less than 1% per year. This should prevent the world from reaching 9 billion people until 2037. The UN projects that the world population will peak at around 10.4 billion people in the 2080s and will remain at this level until 2100.

Most of the 2.4 billion people who will be added before global population peaks will be born in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN, marking a shift away from China and India.

Niger's most populous city, Lagos (photo), is one of the African metropolises on the way to becoming the world's new megalopolises.

Reaching a world population of 8 billion “is an opportunity to celebrate diversity and progress while taking into account humanity’s shared responsibility for the planet,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in the UN press release.

Having more people on Earth puts increased pressure on nature as people compete with wildlife for water, food and space. Meanwhile, rapid population growth combined with climate change is also likely to cause mass migration and conflict in coming decades, experts say.

And whether it’s food or water, batteries or gasoline, there will be less to do as the world’s population grows. But the amount they consume is just as important, suggesting that policy makers can make a big difference by forcing a change in consumption habits.

The carbon emissions of the top 1%, or around 63 million people, were more than double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity between 1990 and 2015, according to a 2020 analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute. and the non-profit organization Oxfam International.

The pressure on resources will be particularly daunting in African countries, where populations are set to explode, experts say. These countries are also among the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts and most in need of climate finance.

Leave a Comment