By Yoshita Singh
IN A milestone for humanity, the global population hit 8 billion on Tuesday after having added a billion people in the last 12 years, with India on the cusp of overtaking China as the world’s most populous country next year.
The United Nations said the global milestone signals major improvements in public health that have lowered the risk of death and increased life expectancy but the moment is also a clarion call for humanity to look beyond the numbers and meet its shared responsibility to protect people and the planet, starting with the most vulnerable.
“Eight billion hopes. 8 billion dreams. 8 billion possibilities. Our planet is now home to 8 billion people,” the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) tweeted. “As we become 8 Billion Strong, @DieneKeita explains how a world of 8 billion is a global success story. Together we can build a world that allows 8 billion of us to thrive,” it said in another tweet. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said unless the world bridges the yawning chasm between the global haves and have-nots, “we are setting ourselves up for an 8-billion-strong world filled with tensions and mistrust, crisis and conflict”.
India is projected to surpass China as the world’s most populous country in 2023. The population prospects report said that India’s population stands at 1.412 billion in 2022, compared with China’s 1.426 billion. India is projected to have a population of 1.668 billion in 2050, way ahead of China’s 1.317 billion people by the middle of the century. The population clock flashed 8,000,000,000 on November 15, with the world having added one billion people in the last 12 years.
The United Nations described the global population reaching 8 billion as a “remarkable milestone” given that the human population numbered under 1 billion for millennia until around 1800, and that it took more than 100 years to grow from 1 to 2 billion. By comparison, the increase of the world’s population over the last century has been quite rapid and despite a gradual slowing in the pace of growth, the global population is projected to surpass 9 billion around 2037 and 10 billion around 2058, according to UN estimates.
The world population is projected to reach a peak of around 10.4 billion people during the 2080s and to remain at that level until 2100, the World Population Prospects 2022 released by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division in July this year had said. UNFPA Executive Director Natalia Kanem said that a world of 8 billion is a milestone for humanity – the result of longer lifespans, reductions in poverty, and declining maternal and childhood mortality.
“Yet, focusing on numbers alone distracts us from the real challenge we face: securing a world in which progress can be enjoyed equally and sustainably. We cannot rely on one-size-fits-all solutions in a world in which the median age is 41 in Europe compared to 17 in sub-Saharan Africa.”