There are currently 7.3 billion people sharing the Earth, and the 2015 Revision of the World Population Prospects issued by the United Nations Population Division estimates that there will be nearly four billion more people by 2100.
Media coverage was typically dismal about the news the UN estimates there will be a world population of 11 billion by the turn of the next century. The National Post opened its coverage with the line, “Think the world is crowded now? You haven’t seen anything yet.” England’s Guardian newspaper said the predicted population growth “will complicate efforts to stamp out poverty, inequality and hunger and place further strain on health and education systems.”
The UN is predicting rapid population growth in the near-term, estimating a global population of 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. It also predicts that population will stabilize at 11.2 billion by 2100.
Half of the growth in the next 35 years should occur in just nine countries: India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the U.S., Indonesia and Uganda. Five of those countries are African.
Most of the growth over the next 85 years will occur in Africa, which currently accounts for 16 per cent of world population but is expected to host nearly half (49 per cent) of all people by 2100.
The United Nations now blames global aging, rather than high fertility rates for population growth. Jonathan Abbamonte of the Population Research Institute says that isn’t a problem because population growth is the result of a number of positive trends, including rising life expectancy and lower child mortality rates. Average life expectancy at birth in the early 1950s was 48 years for women and 45 for men; in 2015, those numbers are 73 and 68 respectively, with average lifespan in most western democracies hovering around 80 years for both men and women. And according to UNICEF, mortality rates for children under five has decreased from 9 per cent in 1990 to 4.6 per cent in 2013.
Abbamonte also says population growth need not result in mass starvation or environmental catastrophe, as many doomsayers suggest. “In the past two and a half decades, world population has increased by 2 billion people,” he explained, “yet despite the rapid rise in world population, the percentage of people living with hunger in developing countries has actually dropped from 24 per cent to 14 per cent over the same time period.” Abbamonte said, “welcoming another 4 billion to the human family does not appear to necessitate a demographic catastrophe.”