November 15, 2022 has been marked as a milestone in human development, as the world population grew to surpass 8 billion people for the first time in human history.
“The day of 8 billion” as it has been dubbed by the United Nations (UN) reflects the addition of an additional 1 billion people to the human population over the span of 12 years.
The UN has attributed this “unprecedented growth” of the human population mainly to “the gradual increase in human lifespan owing to improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine”, “high and persistent levels of fertility in some countries” were also noted as a significant factor.
Most of the growth recorded occurred in middle income countries across Asia which, over the past decade, gained an estimated 700 million to their joint population.
India alone accounted for about 180 million people and as it is currently projected to surpass China as the world’s most populated country in 2023.
While the UN said that the arrival of an 8 billion-population is “an occasion to celebrate diversity and advancements”, the organization added that it is also a time to reflect on humanity’s shared responsibility for the planet.
A growing population places even greater pressure on the global competition for resources and calls for emphasis on reaching a balance between human settlement and the food, water and space left for the needs of wildlife.
It is predicted that this growing competition for resources combined with worsening prevalence of the effects of climate change could result in future conflicts.
This pressure is expected to be particularly impactful in countries across Africa, small island developing states and areas most vulnerable to the effects of climate change.
United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres reflected on the situation by saying “Billions of people are struggling; hundreds of millions are facing hunger and even famine. Record numbers are on the move seeking opportunities and relief from debt and hardship, wars and climate disasters. Unless we bridge 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.”
Guterres noted that the first step curbing the issue is recognizing that continued runaway inequality is a choice and that it is a problem that lays on the shoulders of developed countries to address.
He noted that the ongoing COP 27 conference in Egypt and the upcoming G20 conference in Bali serve as the platforms to get the ball rolling.
Guterres said that he is hopeful that COP 27 will see the emergence of a historic Climate Solidarity Pact which will unite countries in a common strategy to pool their resources for the benefit of all humanity.
To achieve that, he stressed that wealthy countries must provide the necessary financial and technical support to assist developing countries in reaching their climate goals by transitioning away from fossil fuels.
Guterres urged leaders at COP 27 to agree on a “roadmap and institutional framework to compensate countries in the Global South for climate-related loss and damage that is already causing enormous suffering”.
While it took 12 years for the global population to grow from 7 to 8 billion, the United Nations predicts that following this milestone birth rates will slow and it will take approximately 15 years for the population to reach 9 billion.