The world’s population will reach 8 billion people on Tuesday, marking a “milestone in human development” before birth rates begin to fall, according to a United Nations projection.
In a statement, the UN said the figure meant 1 billion people had been added to the world’s population in just 12 years.
“This unprecedented growth is due to the gradual increase in human lifespan due to improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine. It is also the result of high and persistent fertility levels in some countries,” the UN statement said.
Middle-income countries, mainly in Asia, accounted for most of the growth over the past decade, adding some 700 million people since 2011. India added about 180 million people and will surpass China next year as the world’s largest world’s most populous nation.
But even as the world’s population hits new highs, demographers note that the rate of growth has steadily declined to less than 1% per year. This should prevent the world from reaching 9 billion people by 2037. The UN predicts that the world’s population will peak at about 10.4 billion people in the 2080s and will remain at that level until 2100.
Most of the 2.4 billion people that will be added before the world’s population peaks will be born in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the UN, marking a shift away from China and India.
Reaching a world population of 8 billion “is an opportunity to celebrate diversity and progress while recognizing humanity’s shared responsibility for the planet,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in the UN statement.
Having more people on Earth puts more pressure on nature, as humans compete with wildlife for water, food and space. Meanwhile, rapid population growth coupled with climate change is also likely to drive mass migration and conflict in the coming decades, experts say.
And whether it’s food or water, batteries or gasoline, there will be less to trade as the world’s population grows. But how much they consume is just as important, suggesting that policymakers can make a big difference by mandating a shift in consumption patterns.
The carbon emissions of the richest 1%, or about 63 million people, were more than double the emissions of the poorest half of humanity between 1990 and 2015, according to a 2020 analysis by the Stockholm Environment Institute and nonprofit Oxfam International .
Pressure on resources will be especially daunting in African countries, where populations are expected to grow, experts say. These are also the countries most vulnerable to climate impacts and most in need of climate finance.