Steph Deschamps / November. 15, 2022
The world’s population surpassed 8 billion on Tuesday, according to the official estimate of the United Nations, which sees it as “an important milestone in human development ».
For the UN, “this unprecedented growth” – there were 2.5 billion people in 1950 – is the result of “a gradual increase in life expectancy thanks to advances in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine.
But population growth also poses formidable challenges to the poorest countries, where it is most concentrated.
While the Earth had less than a billion people until the 1800s, it took only 12 years to grow from 7 to 8 billion.
As a sign of its demographic slowdown, it will take about fifteen years for it to reach 9 billion in 2037. The UN projects a “peak” of 10.4 billion in the 2080s and a stagnation until the end of the century.
The 8 billion mark was passed in the middle of the world climate conference, COP27, in Sharm el-Sheikh, which once again underlines the difficulty of rich countries, the most responsible for global warming, and poor countries, which are asking for help to deal with it, to agree on a more ambitious reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from human activities.
But, as the UN points out, “while population growth amplifies the environmental impact of economic development,” “the countries with the highest per capita consumption of material resources and the highest per capita emissions of greenhouse gases tend to be those with the highest per capita incomes, not those with rapidly growing populations.
Our impact on the planet is determined much more by our behaviors than by our numbers,” Jennifer Sciubba, researcher in residence at the Wilson Center think tank, summarized for AFP.
And it is in countries where poverty is already high that population growth poses major challenges.
“The persistence of high fertility levels, which are at the root of rapid population growth, is both a symptom and a cause of slow progress in development,” writes the UN.
For example, India, a country of 1.4 billion that will become the world’s most populous by 2023, surpassing China, is expected to experience an explosion of its urban population in the coming decades, with megacities that are already overcrowded and lacking essential infrastructure.
In Bombay, about 40% of the population lives in slums, overcrowded areas of misery made up of makeshift shacks, mostly without running water, electricity or sanitation.
The global figures mask a huge demographic diversity. For example, more than half of the population growth by 2050 will come from only 8 countries according to the UN: Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Tanzania.
And by the end of the century, the three most populous cities in the world will be African: Lagos in Nigeria, Kinshasa in DR Congo and Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania.