World population could exceed 12 billion by 2100

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The world population is growing, consuming and destroying our planet at an enormous pace.  At 7.2 billion people today, it could be about to get a whole lot larger.  A new report released in Science Mag by the United Nations in conjunction with the University of Washington suggests that our world population could reach between 9.6 and 12.3 billion by the end of the century.  And this reported growth is beating all estimates, blowing them out of the water by as much as 2 billion people!  The report says there is an 80% probability of the world population increasing to these levels by 2100, throwing the previous beliefs that world populations would plateau later this century into disarray.

The impact of a world with 12 billion people in it is both exciting and frightening if you take the time to stop and think about it. And the United Nations report bears plenty of interesting insight into how things might change from today.

According to the report’s authors, rising population could exacerbate world problems such as climate change, infectious disease and poverty, he said. Studies show that the two things that decrease fertility rates are more access to contraceptives and education of girls and women, Raftery said. Africa, he said, could benefit greatly by acting now to lower its fertility rate.

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The report shows that much of the increase in the population is set to come from Africa due to higher fertility there.    In Africa,  population is projected to quadruple from around 1 billion today to 4 billion by the end of the century. The main reason is that birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa have not been going down as fast as had been expected. There is an 80 percent chance that the population in Africa at the end of the century will be between 3.5 billion and 5.1 billion people.

Other regions of the world are projected to see less change. Asia, now 4.4 billion, is projected to peak at around 5 billion people in 2050 and then begin to decline. Populations in North America, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean are projected to stay below 1 billion each.

There will also be a significant shift in the ratio of working age people to older people, with the number of working aged people set to decline sharply in future years across all nations, even those with younger populations today.

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world population by continent world populationImage: Earth at Night by NASA