World population has officially surpassed 8 billion, UN confirms

World population has officially surpassed 8 billion, UN confirms
Credit: Belga/ Nicolas Maeterlinck

As was predicted this summer, the global population officially surpassed the 8 billion-resident mark on Tuesday (15 November) following an "unprecedented growth" in the earth's inhabitants.

The United Nations (UN) speaks of "unprecedented growth," as the global population remained under one billion until the 1800s. By 1950, this had increased to 2.5 billion inhabitants, which it noted was the result "of a gradual increase in longevity thanks to advances in health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine."

The growth has further blown up in recent years and it took just 12 years to grow from 7 to 8 billion inhabitants. There is a sign of a demographic slowdown, as it will take about 15 years to reach the 9 billion mark (projected to happen in 2037).

Meanwhile, it will take another 40 years or more to reach the "peak" of 10.4 billion(in the 2080s), which is predicted to be followed by a stagnation in the world population until the end of the century.

These global figures mask immense demographic diversity, as more than half of population growth by 2050 will be the result of the population growth in just eight countries (Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Tanzania).

Responsibility reminder

Tuesday's event has been hailed as "a major milestone in human development" by the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), however, the body stressed that population growth also poses a formidable challenge to the poorest countries, where it is most concentrated, as these countries often also have the highest fertility rates.

India, for example, is a country of 1.4 billion people and will become the most populous in the world by 2023, surpassing China. Its urban population will explode in the coming decades while megacities are already overpopulated and lacking the essential infrastructure to properly house these people.

Pertinently, the milestone comes midway through the 27th UN climate conference (COP27). The UN called it a reminder of "our shared responsibility for our planet."

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COP27 zooms in on the challenge of both sides of the spectrum — rich countries, which are most responsible for global warming, and poor countries, which are most heavily impacted by the effects of it.

Figures show that rising per capita incomes are the main driver of unsustainable patterns of production and consumption, not necessarily population growth.

"The countries with the highest per capita consumption of material resources and emissions of greenhouse gas tend to be those where income per capita is higher, not those where the population is growing rapidly," the UN noted.

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