Earth officially hits 8 billion population mark

One billion people were added to the planet in just the last 11 years.

Belmont Lay | November 15, 2022, 08:36 PM

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The world’s population has reached eight billion people, the United Nations said, warning of more hardship in regions facing resource scarcity because of climate change.

Reaching eight billion population mark is “a sign of human success, but it’s also a great risk for our future,” John Wilmoth, the director of the UN’s population division said on Nov. 15, 2022.

“The milestone is an occasion to celebrate diversity and advancements while considering humanity’s shared responsibility for the planet,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement.

Exponential rate of increase

The global population has increased eight-fold since 1800.

Barely two centuries ago, there were an estimated one billion people on Earth.

The eight billion population milestone occurred after one billion people were added to the planet in just the last 11 years.

The latest UN projections indicate that the world’s population could grow to about 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050.

Rate of increase in the new few decades

Despite the global population reaching new highs, the growth rate has fallen steadily to less than 1 per cent per year -- low enough to keep the world from reaching nine billion people until 2037.

The UN projects population will peak at about 10.4 billion people in the 2080s.

It is expected to remain at that level until 2100.

More than half of the projected increase in the global population up to 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United Republic of Tanzania.

Countries of sub-Saharan Africa are expected to contribute more than half of the increase anticipated through 2050.

India to surpass China

Most of the growth in population came from middle-income countries, mainly in Asia.

Some 700 million people were added in these countries since 2011.

India alone added about 180 million people and is set to surpass China as the world’s most populous nation in 2023.

China in 2021 tried to reverse course as it urged families to have a second and even third child in the wake of the legacy of its One Child Policy programme.

China has also put in place limited access to non-medical abortions.

In other areas, births have been steadily declining in the United States, Europe, and Japan.

Population increase due to advancement in tech

The exponential explosion of human numbers across the globe was largely due to the development of modern medicine and the industrialisation of agriculture, which increased global food supplies.

The development of vaccines was also a population booster.

The smallpox jab alone helped to rid the world of one of the biggest killer diseases.

Outcome of population spike

Some of the world’s poorest countries, most of which are in sub-Saharan Africa, witnessed spikes in population, which put their development goals at risk.

This was largely due to higher fertility rates in these countries.

Most experts say the bigger problem is the overconsumption of resources by the wealthiest people.

“Some express concerns that our world is overpopulated,” said UN Population Fund chief Natalia Kanem.

“I am here to say clearly that the sheer number of human lives is not a cause for fear.”

Carbon emissions of the richest 1 percent, or some 63 million people, were more than double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity between 1990 and 2015.

This is according to a 2020 analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute and non-profit Oxfam International.

Sub-Saharan Africa at risk of overstretched resources

As a result, there will be fewer resources to go around as the global population adds another 2.4 billion people by the 2080s, according to UN projections.

African nations will bear the brunt of resource pressures.

Populations there are expected to boom, experts say, but these are also among the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts.

In sub-Saharan Africa, where some 738 million people already live without adequate food supplies, the population is projected to jump by 95 percent by mid-century, according to the Institute for Economics and Peace.

Much of sub-Saharan Africa will be unsustainable by mid-century, the think-tank warned in an October report.

Top photo via Unsplash