Today at the 2015 Joint Statistical Meetings in Seattle, John R. Wilmoth, director of the United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, had a startling report to present to a session on demographic forecasting:
The world's population will increase from the 7.3 billion people of today to 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100.
Population growth will persist unless there are unprecedented fertility declines in the areas of sub-Saharan Africa that are still undergoing rapid population growth.
Though population projections can never be exact, the report estimates with 95 percent confidence that the total will be somewhere between 9.5 billion and 13.3 billion by 2100. The UN put the probability that world population growth will end within this century at 23 percent.
Houston, we have a problem.
These staggering numbers have important policy implications for national governments. Resource scarcity and pollution; maternal and child mortality; unemployment, low wages and poverty; lagging investments in health, education and infrastructure; political unrest and crime, noted Wilmoth, will all need to be considered.
Wilmoth told the audience that in the United States, the population is projected to add 1.5 million people per year on average until the end of the century, pushing the current count of 322 million people to 450 million.
The primary driver of global population growth is a projected increase in the population of Africa. The continent's current population of 1.2 billion people is expected to rise to between 3.4 billion and 5.6 billion people by the end of the century. The continent's population growth is due to persistent high levels of fertility and the recent slowdown in the rate of fertility decline, notes a statement on the report.
Asia (current population: 4.4 billion) will probably maintain its title as the most populous continent. Its population is projected to peak around the middle of the century at 5.3 billion, and then to begin to dip to around 4.9 billion people by the end of the century.
“The concentration of population growth in the poorest countries will make it harder for those governments to eradicate poverty and inequality, combat hunger and malnutrition, expand education enrollment and health systems, improve the provision of basic services and implement other elements of a sustainable development agenda to ensure that no-one is left behind,” notes the report.