New UN population report reveals planet changing in more ways than one
May 26th 2011
The United Nations Population Division just released a new report on projections for world population growth, with somewhat surprising findings. It said that the global population — rather than stabilizing as experts previously thought — will most likely grow to over 9 billion in less than 40 years, and continue to grow to just over 10 billion by 2100. Even the UN’s “low” projections for world population growth have been revised upwards based on the new data.
One reason for the new projections is that fertility rates aren’t declining in some developing countries as experts had forecasted. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, fertility rates remain high and population could more than triple from 1 billion to 3.6 billion in our children’s lifetimes. This is probably the result of several things, including the fact that foreign aid for family planning services has not kept up with demand, in part due to widespread social, religious and political pressures, and in part to shortsighted cuts in assistance. The most recent US Congressional budget recently cut 5 percent from international family planning, representing nearly 30 percent below its 1995 peak in inflation-adjusted dollars. The number of women of reproductive age grew by several hundred million during that time. In addition, fertility rates have increased in some industrialized nations, including in the United States and Britain.
We are expected to reach the significant “7 billion global population milestone” this fall. While this unwieldy number and the new UN projections for growth may not seem to have a real connection to our everyday lives, there are significant links, with women and girls, family planning and reproductive health, and environmental sustainability.