World population hits 8 billion

Last Tuesday, the world’s population hit 8 billion people. This is based on United Nations projections, which reported another billion reached just 12 years after the population hit seven billion.

The UN said this is the fastest increase they expect to see, and birth rates will decline from here. Tara Subramaniam of CNN explained that demographers place the current growth rate as less than one percent per year, which is causing the population to plateau as that rate gets closer to zero. As the population continues to grow, the UN expects the world population to hit nine billion in 2039 (17 years after eight billion).

The UN estimates that the world population will peak at 10.4 billion people in the 2080s, plateau until 2100, and then decline. Daniel Victor of the New York Times said around 70 percent of the growth from seven to eight billion people came from low- and lower-middle-income countries mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, with the same demographics projected to account for 90 percent of the growth from eight to nine billion.

The country-by-country breakdown also has notable changes. Victor explained that India is likely to pass China as the country with the largest population in summer 2023. Dan Ikpoyi of PBS reported that in 30 years, Nigeria is projected to grow from 216 million to 373 million, tying with the U.S. for third most populous country. Other nations with notable growth include the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Egypt, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Some countries' populations declined, although not enough to offset those that are growing. Ikpoyi said that 61 nations are expected to experience population decline by one percent or more. The UN attributes this to emigration and low fertility rates, with over two-thirds of the world’s population living in areas where lifetime fertility is below replacement level (roughly 2.1 births per woman).

In honor of the population milestone, a baby was chosen to be the symbolic eight billionth baby — well, two of them were. Baby Vinice Mabansag of the Philippines and baby Damian of the Dominican Republic were given the title.

But what does this population growth signal for the world? Experts don’t see it as a death knell for the human race. In fact, Ikpoyi noted that the issue isn’t the number of people on the planet, but the behaviors of the people who are here. He quoted Charles Kenny, who stated that, “Population is not the problem, the way we consume is the problem.” How we handle population growth isn’t by looking at the underdeveloped countries that contribute to population spikes, but at the developed countries that use resources too fast.

This includes environmental harms of our consumption, which Victor said is unsustainable, leading to “climate change, deforestation, and the loss of biodiversity.” Add this to the challenges of meeting the needs of everyone, whether it be with education, public health, employment, water, or sanitation, and we are trying to do more with less.