Op-Ed: The world population hit 8 billion — but with a peak in sight. What lessons does that have for climate change?
The world is on the brink of a demographic crisis that may threaten the future of the human race. The population of the planet is now well over 8 billion. In the next decade, the world’s population will hit 8.1 billion, according to a recent report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). That’s a whopping 8 percent surge in just 20 years. In order to reach that milestone, more than 1 billion people will have to be added to the planet.
The global population began to rise in 1990, when fertility rates dipped. The global total went from 2.9 billion to 3.0 billion, peaking in 2015 and then quickly falling.
At the start of 2017, the global fertility levels have rebounded. Fertility rates have been trending upward since the 1980s, and are now close to replacement levels (with the exception of sub-Saharan Africa, where populations are still falling).
Countries with rapidly rising fertility are not the only ones in need of an increase in their populations. For the first time, Africa and Latin America both have a fertility rate below 2.1, according to the United Nations (UN)’s current population model. This is an unprecedented situation of low fertility rates in the world’s most populated continents.
The United States, Brazil, Canada and Australia are the only major industrialized population centers that have consistently had fertility rates below 2.1.
So are the U.S., Canada and Australia the new normal? Should the world adopt low fertility as the new norm? I spoke with four experts who have studied the relationship between the world’s fertility rates and the planet’s population.
The world population hit 8.06 billion at a rate of 1.1 births per woman in 2017
The new reality
In 2014, UNFPA and the World Bank released the first estimates of