World population to hit 10 billion

2011-10-26 20:54

London - The world's population of seven billion is set to rise to at least 10 billion by 2100, but could top 15 billion if birth rates are just slightly higher than expected, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

In a report ahead of ceremonies on October 31 to mark the seven billionth human alive today, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) warned demographic pressure posed mighty challenges for easing poverty and conserving the environment.

New estimates see a global human tally of 9.3 billion at 2050, an increase over earlier figures, and more than 10 billion by century's end, UNFPA said.

But, it added, "with only a small variation in fertility, particularly in the most populous countries, the total could be higher: 10.6 billion people could be living on Earth by 2050 and more than 15 billion in 2100".

The 126-page document, The State of the World Population 2011, highlights a surge that began with the post-World War II baby boom - a numbers "bulge" that shows up in following generations as they in turn grow up and have children.

In contrast, prosperity, better education and access to contraception have slashed the global fertility rate to the point that some rich countries have to address a looming population fall.

Over the past six decades, fertility has declined from a statistical average of 6.0 children per women to about 2.5 today, varying from 1.7 in the most advanced economies to 4.2 in the least developed nations.

Even so, 80 million people each year are added to the world's population. People under 25 comprise 43% of the total.

"Our record population can be viewed in many ways as a success for humanity - people are living longer, healthier lives," said Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA's executive director.

"How did we become so many? How large a number can our Earth sustain?" he asked.

"These are important questions, but perhaps not the right ones for our times. When we look only at the big number, we risk being overwhelmed and losing sight of new opportunities to make life better for everyone in the future."

The report highlighted these challenges:

HELPING YOUTH: Having large numbers of young adults offers many poor countries the hope of rising from poverty.

But, warns the UNFPA, "this opportunity of a 'demographic dividend' is a fleeting moment that must be claimed quickly or lost." Finding jobs for this swelling sea of youngsters is essential.

The report notably quotes from a report by the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO) which suggests the 23.4% youth unemployment in the Arab world was a major contributor to the uprisings there.

GREEN WORRIES: The report cites environmental problems that are already pressing and set to intensify as demand grows for food, energy and homes.

Referring to a yardstick of sustainability used by the environmental think-tank Global Footprint Network, the report said it now takes the Earth 18 months to regenerate the natural resources that we use in a year.

"Climate change and rapid population growth are among the many factors contributing to the current drought and famine in the Horn of Africa, which has affected more than 12 million people," it says.

Future concerns focus especially on water stress. "Analysis suggests that the world will face a 40% global shortfall [in water] between forecast demand and available supply by 2030," says the report, citing Egypt - hugely dependent on the Nile - as a particular example.

CITY FUTURES: The balance between rural and urban populations "has tipped irreversibly" towards cities in today's world of seven billion. The biggest urban agglomeration, as defined by the UNFPA, is Tokyo, with 36.7 million people, followed by Delhi, with 22 million, Sao Paulo, 20 million and Mumbai, with 20 million.

As the world's population expands, better urban planning, with closer involvement of residents, will be essential. Adequate housing, sanitation and green spaces should be incorporated in the shaping of cities rather than ad-hoc growth that leads to shanty towns.

IMMIGRATION: In rich countries where populations are becoming top-heavy with the elderly, the task will be to meet growing demands for labour. Immigration, one of the options, needs to be orderly and managed so that migrants are better integrated and protected.

FAMILY PLANNING: Dozens of countries are lagging in achieving the UN's Millennium Development Goal of providing universal access to reproductive health, said the report.

"A stable population is a sine qua non for accelerated, planned economic growth and development," said Osotimehin.

  • Eugene - 2011-10-26 21:10

    And the white race will most likely be exctinct by 2100...if you dont believe me study it up. Our Birth rate is amongst the lowest in the world. In the next couple of years we would be the minority in all teh western countries.

      Rob - 2011-10-27 09:32

      You won't be here so whats the problem?

  • Delusion - 2011-10-26 21:16

    We are probably the most successful INVADER SPECIES ever - pushing out other species and destroying their habitat at a record pace. Religion somehow convinced most people that our out-of-control breeding is OK, a type of a "blessing". "If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference." — Richard Dawkins (River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life

      allcoveredinNinjas - 2011-10-27 08:39

      Watch how quickly 'human rights' goes out the window ,a minor drought here or there and you'll have epic refugee problems. We will cut the numbers down either by societal/cultural change or by war. If history dictates anything it'll be the latter.

      Andrew - 2011-10-27 21:20

      Don't worry. When the Rapture comes most of the dead wood will go.

  • r.mashigo - 2011-10-26 21:34

    Doubt I'll be alive to witness the world population estimate for 2100.

      andreviljoenjoubert - 2011-10-27 08:42

      That Kind of thinking is what got us here in the first place.

  • Chris - 2011-10-26 21:53

    I find it utterly amazing that we require people to undergo training, tests etc for simple things such as operating a vehicle, but yet any fool can have 10 kids without any regulations in place to ensure that these kids can be adequately supported by the parents, that the parents are mentally ready for offspring etc. If you are having kids that will only be supported by the state welfare system via grants etc then surely some restrictions must be in place to regulate this spending? Maybe this isn't the most politically correct POV, but the current trends are not exactly sustainable, and haven't been for a long time especially in Africa where millions of children have starved to death over the last few decades.

      Alan - 2011-10-27 11:40

      That is why I have been an advocate for mandatory abortions and sterilization for people that A: have more than two children B: Dont have the means to look after those children. This was policy until Hitler screwed it up for us. Now if you have ideals that forward humanity, by compromising its growth you are called a nazi. People need to stop having children. You are not contributing by making more people. People think they are doing the world a favor by having children, they are doing the opposite. Save the world and kill your kids

  • Grace - 2011-10-26 21:56

    I think I'm going to book a seat for another planet

  • Margret - 2011-10-27 10:53

    That staggering milestone brings new challenges and implications.

  • Wilbur.Like.Smith - 2011-10-27 11:40

    Unbelievable that News24 only supports FB commenting now O_o

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