The global population on Tuesday hit the imposing 8-billion mark, doubling in about 48 years from the time it hit the 4 billion mark in 1974. It was also the fastest addition of 1 billion humans to the population.
It took almost 11 years for humans to add another 1 billion humans on the planet. It was in October 2011 when the world population hit the 7 billion milesone.
“The growth of our population is a testament to humanity’s achievements, including reductions in poverty and gender inequality, advancements in health care, and expanded access to education,” the United Nations Population Fund said.
Just how much the global population has exploded over the last century is clear from the chart below.
At the turn of the 19th century, there were just about 1.6 billion humans on the planet. Which means that global population has risen almost 5-fold since the early 1990s.
India set to overtake China
China and India are the two most populous countries in the world, with both of them making up over 36% of the total population.
According to the United Nations, India’s population will overtake China’s during 2023.
China’s population will hit the saturation point this year, which means that from now on, it is projected to start shrinking.
On the other hand, India’s population will continue to soar and is not expected to start declining before 2064.
Numbers show that the less developed regions of the world added more people to the population compared to the developed countries.
High-income countries used to be home to 28% of the population in 1950, and now have just 16%.
Low and lower middle income countries have 53% of the world’s population now, up from 36% in 1950.
Now, for the verdict
Doomsayers, environmentalists and other activists fear that the 8 billion mark portends a demographic disaster.
But there are many arguments which paint a not-so-gloomy picture about the rise in global population. In fact, some feel that it is actually a good thing.
In his TOI+ column, Swaminathan Aiyar, citing economist Julian Simon, wrote that human ingenuity is the greatest resource, not land, food, or minerals.
“Short-term scarcities will constantly occur, induce more investment and research into alternatives, and hence increase supply, replacing scarcity by abundance,” he said.
The basis for the argument is that despite a growth in population, the world is facing an increasing abundance of resource and not scarcity.
In fact, the growth at which the resources are being generated is greater than the rate at which the population is growing.
“Between 1980 and 2020, world population grew 75% but time-prices of 50 key commodities fell 75%. For every percentage increase in population, global resource abundance increased 8%.
“That confirms Simon’s thesis that people are not a burden on but creators of resources,” Aiyar wrote.
In an article titled “The world’s population has reached 8bn. Don’t panic”, the Economist said that longer lives, improvements in nutrition and public health; falls in infant mortality, disease and maternal deaths in childbirth are behind the population growth.
It noted that even during the Covid pandemic, the population growth did not deaccelerate. Thus, there was not much indication of a demographic disaster.
About the environmental impact of 8 billion humans, The Economist said that the developing world pollute far less than the developed.
“According to the UN, poor and lower-middle-income countries account for only a seventh of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide. But 90% of population growth over the next decade will come from these less-polluting countries,” it said.
This means that there is little evidence that population growth contributes as much to global warming as rising living standards do.
It noted that while does face issues of environmental degradation and political upheaval, the 8 billion mark does not mean demographic disaster. It said the earth is actually “having something of a Goldilocks moment: neither too hot nor too cold.”