Earth now has 8 billion people—and counting. Where do we go from here? (2023)

ByCraig Welch

Published November 14, 2022

(Video) There are 8 billion people on Earth, but soon we’ll hit a decline we might never reverse | ABC News

10 min read

From the emergence of Homo sapiens, it took roughly 300,000 years before one billion of us populated the Earth. That was around 1804, the year morphine was discovered, when Haiti declared independence from France, and when Beethoven first performed his Third Symphony in Vienna.

We’ve added our most recent one billion more just since the first term of U.S. President Barack Obama. A mere dozen years after reaching seven billion, the planet most likely will surpass eight billion people sometime around mid-November, the United Nations estimates based on its best demographic projections.

The actual timing, however, is uncertain. In parts of the world, census data is decades old. During COVID-19 it was virtually impossible for some countries to record every death. Even sophisticated computer models may be off by a year or more. It’s not as if anyone has done a global person-by-person head count.

But the UN is declaring November 15 as the “Day of Eight Billion” because there is no mistaking the import of this moment. Humans everywhere are living longer, thanks to better health care, cleaner water, and improvements in sanitation, all of which have reduced the prevalence of disease. Fertilizers and irrigation have boosted crop yields and improved nutrition. In many countries, more children are being born, and far fewer are dying.

Of course, the challenges we face as the world’s population continues to rise also are significant. Pollution and overfishing are degrading many areas of the oceans. Wildlife is disappearing at an alarming clip, as humans wipe out forests and other wildlands for development, agriculture, and commercial products made from trees. A changing climate driven by a global energy system that is still overwhelmingly powered by fossil fuels is fast becoming the greatest threat in history to biodiversity, food security, and access to water for drinking and farming. And that’s with the number of people we already have.

(Video) Earth now has 8 billion people's |counting| where do we go from here| #world #population#facts

The risks and opportunities of our population boom and parallel resource crisis depend largely on decisions we’ve not yet made. Which will control our future more—the billions of mouths we’ll have to feed, or the billions more brains we could employ to do so?

“The exact impacts on future human life, I think, are still somewhat yet to be determined,” says Patrick Gerland, who oversees population estimates for the United Nations' Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

“So far, the overall experience is that the world has been successful in adapting and finding solutions to our problems,” Gerland says. “I think we need to be somewhat optimistic.”

But he quickly concedes that climate change is a powerful threat. “Simply maintaining the status quo and doing nothing is not an option,” he says. “Whether we like it or not changes will be happening, and the situation will not improve by itself. There is a need for current and future interventions.”

In the meantime, our overall population explosion belies vastly different types of demographic change taking shape around the globe. And the world’s top demographers don’t agree on just where our population is headed from here.

Population changes vary dramatically

The world is facing the likelihood of huge population explosions and collapses at the same time. The most significant just happen to be on opposite sides of the planet.

Perhaps as soon as this year, for the first time in two millennia, China will no longer be Earth’s most populous country, as India finally surpasses it. Even before China’s one-child policy, which went into effect in 1980, “births in China have been declining almost continuously,” Gerland says. In the 1970s alone, the birth rate dropped by half. With increasing opportunities for better education and careers, more women are delaying childbirth, and there already are fewer of childbearing age.

(Video) There are now 8 billion people on the planet

These trends accelerated during the pandemic. There were 45 percent fewer children born in 2020 than in 2015. China’s birth rate is now far lower than that of the United States.

Even with one of the longest life expectancies of any country, at 85 years, China’s population of 1.4 billion is expected soon to begin declining—in fact that decline may already have started. The workforce has been shrinking for a decade. As it is, there are barely two workers supporting every retiree or child. In the next quarter century, the country will likely see 300 million people over the age of 60, straining government resources, according to a report in Nature. Health care costs are expected to double.

In Africa, on the other hand, trends are moving rapidly in the other direction. Across the Sahel, population is expanding rapidly. Nigeria’s median age is just 17, less than half that of China. Birth rates there are falling, too, but remain 20 times higher than in China.

Food security is already a concern. More than one-third of the country lives in extreme poverty, a greater number than any other country, including India, which is six times larger. A third of all households include one adult who must skip meals at times for the family to survive.

Currently at 216 million, the country’s population by some estimates could quadruple by the end of the century. By then it could have more people than China, which has 10 times more land. But that all depends on childbirth rates. All these projections are driven by assumptions, and the reality could be much different.

The biggest driver of falling birth rates is education, especially for girls. A decade ago, researchers determined that increasing access to education could slow global population growth by one billion by mid-century. How much and how fast we expand those educational opportunities over the next several decades are among the important unanswered questions that will determine how many of us will be living on Earth as we approach 2100.

Predicting the world’s population is complex

Gauging population in the near-term isn’t terribly controversial. “The majority of the people that will be alive in 2050 are already alive today,” Gerland says.

(Video) Earth now has 8 billion people - and counting, facts, figures and more (Global) (1)

The UN, a group of researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, and other experts in Vienna, Austria, tend mostly to agree on what the next quarter century holds. Based on past events, at least, few expect another deadly global pandemic quite so soon. Despite crises like the war in Ukraine, neither do demographers yet foresee planet-wide mass migration by mid-century. Most experts see the population topping nine billion roughly by then.

After that, projections vary greatly. A few years ago, the UN estimated that by 2100, the globe’s population could balloon to 11 billion. Earlier this year, it revised those estimates downward, to about 10.4 billion, thanks to progress in reducing the average number of children born per family. At the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, in Vienna, researchers in 2018 projected the population could rise to 9.7 billion in 2070 and then fall back to around 9 billion by century’s end. They used different assumptions, largely by asking global experts to weigh in. “The main story is not just about fertility but about progress in fighting child and infant mortality,” says Anne Goujon, population program director for IIASA.

Meanwhile Seattle’s Institute for Health Metrics sees population peaking at roughly 9.7 billion in 2064, but dropping down to 8.8 billion, possibly less, by century’s end. Populations could fall by half across nearly two dozen countries, including Bulgaria and Spain. A lot of the difference is based on a complex method the researchers use to estimate future birth rates.

In addition to the differences between models, all of the researchers agree that efforts so far to incorporate climate change into future population projections have been inadequate. In part that’s because the potential effect largely depends on how quickly the world reduces greenhouse gas emissions. But part of the difficulty also lies in assessing climate impacts. Extreme heat could make parts of the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, and India uninhabitable. Storms could worsen food security. How will people respond to sea-level rise in heavily populated coastal regions?

“No one is doing this in the right way at the moment,” says Stein Emil Vollset, who oversees IHME’s population estimates.

And aside from global population estimates, climate change and politics also will likely greatly influence migration between countries. Population in the U.S. and Western Europe has been largely sustained by immigration, but it has become a political hot button. Other countries with declining populations, such as Japan, have been even more reluctant to welcome immigrants.

Yet the lopsided trends, between booming and declining populations, exacerbated by climate change, will almost certainly increase migration pressure almost everywhere.

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“The only way we can get out of this demographic imbalance,” Vollset says, “is well-managed international collaboration.”


How long will it take us to reach 8 billion people? ›

While it took the global population 12 years to grow from 7 to 8 billion, it will take approximately 15 years—until 2037— for it to reach 9 billion, a sign that the overall growth rate of the global population is slowing.

Who will be the 8 billionth person? ›

Maria Margarette Villorente delivered the baby at Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Medical Center at 1.29 a.m. on Tuesday (1729GMT on Monday). The world's population has now topped 8 billion people, just 11 years after passing 7 billion milestone.

Are there 8 billion people on earth? ›

World population has reached 8 billion people on November 15, 2022 according to the United Nations.

What does 8 billion population mean? ›

The World's Population Has Hit 8 Billion People

That's 8 times more humans than existed in 1800. Even so, the world's population is growing at its slowest rate since 1950 due to a declining global fertility rate. Today there are an average of 2.3 births per woman.

How many people can Earth support? ›

Earth's capacity

Many scientists think Earth has a maximum carrying capacity of 9 billion to 10 billion people. [ How Do You Count 7 Billion People?] One such scientist, the eminent Harvard University sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson, bases his estimate on calculations of the Earth's available resources.

What year will we reach 11 billion? ›

A few years ago, the UN estimated that by 2100, the globe's population could balloon to 11 billion. Earlier this year, it revised those estimates downward, to about 10.4 billion, thanks to progress in reducing the average number of children born per family.

Was the 8 billionth baby born? ›

The infant, named Damian, was born at the Nuestra Señora de la Altagracia maternity hospital on the island, where he was given a custom shirt reading, "Bebé 8000 millones," with the hashtag "#8MilMillonesMasFuerte," or "Eight Billion Stronger," sources report.

Who is the 7th billionth human? ›

Sadia Sultana Oishee, an 11-year-old from Bangladesh, who is the seventh-billionth child in the world, is aware of her fame. She was born in 2011, and according to her parents, her birth was nothing short of an event, with politicians and television crews swarming around her mother to get a look at her.

How many humans have ever existed on Earth? ›

Still, with some assumptions about population size throughout human history, we can get a rough idea of this number: About 117 billion members of our species have ever been born on Earth.

What race is the largest in the world? ›

The world's largest nationality group is Chinese, with Mandarin being the world's most spoken language in terms of native speakers. The world's population is predominantly urban and suburban, and there has been significant migration toward cities and urban centres.

What year will we reach 8 billion population? ›

The global population is projected to reach 8 billion on 15 November 2022, and India is projected to surpass China as the world's most populous country in 2023, according to World Population Prospects 2022, released today on World Population Day.

What year Will there be 9 billion humans? ›

But even while the global population reaches new highs, demographers note the growth rate has fallen steadily to less than 1% per year. This should keep the world from reaching 9 billion people until 2037.

What happens if we overpopulate? ›

The Effects of Overpopulation

More people means an increased demand for food, water, housing, energy, healthcare, transportation, and more. And all that consumption contributes to ecological degradation, increased conflicts, and a higher risk of large-scale disasters like pandemics.

What will happen when we hit 8 billion? ›

For decades, scientists have warned of the catastrophic consequences of overpopulation on the environment and climate change. Having 8 billion people in the world means humans will increase their reliance on the Earth's resources, inevitably adding pressure on already stressed and highly overexploited ecosystems.

What will the population be in 2050? ›

World population projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100. The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100, according to a new United Nations report being launched today.

How much longer can Earth support life? ›

Earth could continue to host life for at least another 1.75 billion years, as long as nuclear holocaust, an errant asteroid or some other disaster doesn't intervene, a new study calculates. But even without such dramatic doomsday scenarios, astronomical forces will eventually render the planet uninhabitable.

Can there be too many humans on Earth? ›

There are currently 8 billion humans on Earth, and in 40 to 60 years there will be 10 billion. For many scientists this is too many, given the climate crisis. The question of human overpopulation has been raised since the 19th century.

Where will we be in 1000 years? ›

We'll live somewhere beyond Earth.

In 1,000 years we'll probably have a thriving civilization on Mars, the Moon, or maybe even another planet beyond the solar system. We've already discovered billions and billions of planets outside our own solar system. There are 40 billion Earth-like planets in our own galaxy alone.

Is the US population declining? ›

DEC. 22, 2022 – After a historically low rate of change between 2020 and 2021, the U.S. resident population increased by 0.4%, or 1,256,003, to 333,287,557 in 2022, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Vintage 2022 national and state population estimates and components of change released today.

What will the population be in 2070? ›

Other projections

An analysis from the Wittgenstein Center IIASA predicts global population to peak in 2070 at 9.4 billion and then decline to 9.0 billion in 2100.

Who was the first baby born on Earth? ›

Virginia Dare
US postage stamp issued in 1937, the 350th anniversary of Virginia Dare's birth
BornVirginia Dare August 18, 1587 Roanoke Colony (present-day North Carolina)
Known forfirst English child born in the New World
ParentsAnanias Dare (father) Eleanor White (mother)

What's the heaviest baby to be born? ›

The Guinness World record for the heaviest baby to survive infancy belongs to a boy weighing 22 pounds, 8 ounces, who was born in Aversa, Italy, in 1955.

Why is world population declining? ›

Population growth has declined mainly due to the abrupt decline in the global total fertility rate, from 5.3 in 1963 to 2.4 in 2019. The decline in the total fertility rate has occurred in every region of the world and is a result of a process known as demographic transition.

How many babies are born a day? ›

About 385,000 babies are born each day according to the UN. That adds up to more than 140 million a year. The 140 million extra babies per year join a world population projected to reach 10 billion people by 2056.

Who was the billionth baby born? ›

Aastha Arora, whose birth in 2000 marked a milestone in India's population, on what the “billionth baby” tag has meant since. May 11, 2000. 05:05AM.

How many people are born a day? ›

The UN estimates that around 385,000 babies are born each day around the world (140 million a year). This number will remain relatively stable in the 50 years from 2020 to 2070. From 2070 to 2100, the number will decline to around 356,000 (130 million a year).

How long would it take to reach 10 billion people? ›

The latest UN population update, released in July this year, also revises its long-term projection down from 11 billion people to 10.4 billion by 2100. Demographers will never be sure if 15 November really was the Day of Eight Billion, as the UN has named it, but they do agree on one thing.

How long will it take for Earth to reach 10 billion people? ›

The UN predicts that the world population will reach 10 billion people in 2057 .


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