The World’s Population Just Hit 8 Billion People!

What this could mean for overpopulation and the future of humanity during the 21st century

Jacob Goldman, Scarlet Staff

On Tuesday, the world’s 8 billionth living person was born according to United Nations projections. The announcement was made by United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who said that “The milestone is an occasion to celebrate diversity and advancements while considering humanity’s shared responsibility for the planet.” The UN called for new advancements in social, economic, and environmental development to help combat the growing problems that overpopulation will continue to cause.

In just eleven years, since the 7 billion mark was passed in October of 2011, humans have added another billion versions of themselves to our planet. In these statistics, it is easy to see what a massive population explosion has occurred over the past few centuries. History tells us humanity first began this massive growth after the Great Famine of 1315-1317 and the end of the Black Death in 1350. By that point in history, the world numbered around 370 million people (just over our current American population). By 1804, the world’s population finally reached one billion people. Over the past 220 years, we’ve added 7 billion to that number. Additionally, the time it has taken to reach the next billion people has been consistent since 1974, when 4 billion people lived on Earth. In the following years, intervals when the population increased by 1 billion people have occurred every 15 or fewer years since then. The UN attributes this sizable growth in population to the better public health, nutrition, medicine, and hygiene standards that people have adopted in recent history.

Despite the booming population that the world has endured over the past few centuries, the birth rate has begun to show signs of slowing down. According to projections from the UN’s World Population Prospects (WPP) 2022 study, it will take 15 more years, until 2037, for the population to reach 9 billion people. Beyond that, it will take 20 more years to reach 10 billion people. Researchers of the study have blamed the slowing of the birthrate on the relative lack of babies being born right now, owing to the current higher life expectancies of people. In the 2019 WPP report, the UN found that for the first time in 2018, senior citizens outnumbered children under 5. The report also found that the elderly will outnumber adolescents and youth by 2050. Current projections note that the population will peak at around 10.4 billion people in the 2080s and remain that way until 2100.

When it comes to population growth, some of the biggest factors in the coming years are set to include migration, with estimates placing that number at around 3 percent of the population since 2000. This will allow some dramatic shifts in what countries will become the most populous in the future- shifts that we are beginning to see right now. In the UN report, they also announced that India will likely overtake China in population by next year, with both countries having around 1.4 billion people. India currently has a population boom occurring, while China’s growth rate has all but halted over the past few years. Additionally, we are beginning to see a great increase in births happening in impoverished Asian and African countries. Nations like Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo are experiencing major population growth and may surpass the US in population by 2050.

One major problem that will likely come as an effect of our growing population is an increased amount of ecological harm to the Earth’s environment. As more people are born, more space will be needed to live in, leading to gradual encroachment into the territories of wild animals. We will see the destruction of animal ecosystems, as well as an increase in carbon emissions as more and more people begin to use motor vehicles. So as world governments will continue to fight against world hunger and the growing needs of our countries, we will also have to deal with the world itself turning against us. Good luck, future!