It’s getting tighter in the world – this month we will have 8 billion people on our planet.
The UN estimates that the world’s population will reach eight billion by the middle of this month. We explain what it means for us, the planet and humanity through five pressing questions about the population explosion.
8 billion people! Is the population increasing now?
No, a large-scale study published in 2020 in the journal The Lancet assumed that the world population would only increase to 8.8 billion people by 2064. After that, all of humanity will shrink again. 183 out of 195 countries have low birth rates, and immigration alone can maintain population. The study differs significantly from the forecasts of the United Nations: not long ago, they assumed that the population would increase to about 11 billion people by the year 2100.
The leader of the study, Professor Christopher Murray (60) from the University of Washington in Seattle, knows why the world population will decrease again in about 40 years: “If women have more access to education and contraceptives, they will choose, on average. Children less than 1.5.”
Where is the population growing the fastest and where is it decreasing?
For a stable population, an average birth rate of 2.1 children per woman is necessary – if the rate is high, the population grows, below that it shrinks. The global fertility rate, meaning the number of births per woman, currently stands at 2.3 percent.
In nearly 101 countries it is below this figure, and in seven countries, including Kosovo and Monaco, it is almost exactly 2.1 percent. That means birth rates are stable or declining in more than half of all countries in the world. Coincidentally, Switzerland ranks third with a birth rate of 1.46 children per woman – and is only growing because of immigration.
In general, the population is declining in Western countries, namely North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. But even in various Asian countries, the birth rate is not what it used to be: Japan is already suffering from an aging society, and China is unable to raise its fertility rate again. – Child policy. According to various sources, population India currently has a ratio of 2.0 to 2.18 children per woman – and the trend is declining.
According to the forecast, all countries in sub-Saharan Africa will continue to grow.
Is more people good or bad for our society?
Scientists disagree on this question. The social contracts of many cultures are based on the young supporting the old through their labor. In our country this is done through our pension system, while in other cultures offspring directly care for their parents and grandparents. Many young people in a society make sure that the old people are also doing well.
On the other hand, if the birth rate falls, this transitional contract no longer works: the pension funds either have too little money for the pension fund, or there are no descendants who can take care of their parents. So various economists feel that healthy population growth is also essential for a strong economy. Others criticize this system and point out that our planet cannot tolerate more people with their resource consumption. In short, one can say: In the short run, healthy population growth is good for our Western economic system, but in the long run it is harmful globally.
How does population affect climate change?
Professor Hermann Lötze-Kampen (56) from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Research said population growth is one of the most important factors affecting climate change. But: most CO₂ emissions will continue to occur in rich countries in the future. In contrast, regions with strong population growth, such as Africa, currently contribute little to total emissions. A trained farmer, agricultural scientist and expert in sustainable land use, he sees a good approach to reducing our food consumption CO₂ emissions: by producing and consuming milk and meat.
How to feed them?
According to the UN’s annual report on world hunger, 828 million people will be hungry in 2021 – 150 million more than before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. That’s almost 10 percent of the world’s population. About 3.1 billion, or nearly 40 percent of the world’s population, suffer from malnutrition, meaning they cannot afford a balanced, healthy diet. The future prospects are bleak: even before the war in Ukraine, catastrophic climates caused by drought and floods destroyed harvests. Harvests failed this summer in the U.S. grain belt, western China and large parts of Europe due to drought. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, which normally exports grain to the rest of the world, is exacerbating this situation. The UN report therefore urges governments to ease trade restrictions such as food tariffs.
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