April 19, 2024

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

By Gabriella Sotelo (November 10, 2022)

The global population has been growing at its slowest rate since 1950, and has fallen under 1% in 2020, yet we will still reach 10 billion by 2080

The World Population Prospect 2022, published earlier this year by the United Nations (U.N), projected the world’s population will reach 8 billion people on November 15, 2022.

In 1950 our estimated population was at 2.5 billion, in 1987 we doubled that number and saw 5 billion people on Earth, in 2010 we saw an estimated 7 billion people. By 2022 we added another 1 billion people to the world. This means an estimated eight billion people will be on Earth in just five days. Is this a feat that should be celebrated or seen as a warning for the future of our planet? 

“The relationship between population growth and sustainable development is complex and multidimensional,” said Liu Zhenmin, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, in a press release in July. “Rapid population growth makes eradicating poverty, combating hunger and malnutrition, and increasing the coverage of health and education systems more difficult.” Zhenmin continued to say that achieving the U.N’s Sustainable Development Goal will contribute to slowing development goals. 

Those achievements have certainly helped, as well as other achievements made by people in the past years. Human innovation has brought us improvements in medicine, nutrition, personal hygiene, and public health, which has then contributed to an increase in life expectancy. In 1990 global life expectancy was at 65.4 years, in 2019 we reached 72.8 years, and in 2050 our life expectancy should average at around 77.2 years. So should we celebrate this milestone of 8 billion people, well yes according to Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General.

“This is an occasion to celebrate our diversity, recognize our common humanity, and marvel at advancements in health that have extended lifespans and dramatically reduced maternal and child mortality rates,” Guteress said in a speech in July. “At the same time, it is a reminder of our shared responsibility to care for our planet and a moment to reflect on where we still fall short of our commitments to one another.”

Our population is projected to grow to 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion by 2050, and 10.4 billion by 2080, where we will remain until 2100.

Are you going to celebrate this milestone?