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The world population is expected to reach 8 billion on November 15, according to a United Nations projection. Should we worry? The Midi Enter takes stock with Gilles Pison, specialist in world demography.

The world’s population is expected to reach 8 billion people on November 15, according to a projection by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs published on Monday, July 11. It is expected to reach around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050.

“Zero growth by the end of the century”

“The population should then continue to grow until it reaches 10.4 billion inhabitants in 2080,” explains Gilles Pison, professor at the National Museum of Natural History, researcher associated with INED, specialist in world demography. “At that moment the world population would have reached a ceiling and would not increase any more. We are therefore on the path to achieving zero demographic growth by the end of the century.”

“Of course, the Earth will have a quarter more humans, but there will be no multiplication as we have seen in the past, points out the specialist. The bulk of the world’s population growth is behind us.”

Another important point: if the population continues to increase, the pace has been decelerating, for about fifty years. “Population growth reached a peak growth rate of over 2% per year in 1960. Since then, the population has continued to increase but decelerating. Today it is growing at a rate of nearly 1% per year. and this rate should continue to decline over the next few decades ”.

One in four people will live in Africa by 2050

But how to explain it? Mainly due to decreased fertility. “Today couples give birth on average 2.3 children. It was more than double, or 5 children, in 1950”, explains Gilles Pison. Among the regions of the world where fertility is still high – that is, above 3 children on average – we find almost all of Africa, the regions of Asia ranging from Afghanistan to northern India, passing through Pakistan. “It is in these regions of the world that most of the future growth of the global population will be found.”

Therefore, one of the great changes to come will be the sharp increase in the population of Africa. “Africa had 1 billion inhabitants in 2010. Today it is 1.3 billion. And the continent could have 2.5 billion inhabitants in 2050 and almost 4 billion in 2100! In other words, one in six men lives today. in Africa. It will be one in four by 2050 and probably one in three by the end of the century. Humanity will therefore be distributed differently. “

“The first challenge is the climate challenge”

This UN projection poses several challenges today and tomorrow. “We will have to feed the 10 billion that will be on Earth better than how we feed the 8 billion today, explains the expert. A part of the population does not eat enough to satisfy themselves, both in quantity and in quality. And others eat too But the challenge it’s not that big, because the number of humans suffering and dying of hunger has never been so low today. “

“The first challenge is the climate challenge, says the specialist. It is illusory to think that we can act on the number of human beings in the years to come. We will not escape these 2 billion more human beings by 2050, due to demographic inertia , which no one can prevent “.

However, according to the specialist, the important thing today is to act on lifestyles, and this without delay, to make them more respectful of the environment, biodiversity and more efficient in terms of resources. “If there is a problem it is not because there are too many of us, but because we live in an unsustainable way, especially in the countries of the North”.

What is the impact of Covid-19?

The Covid-19 pandemic has increased mortality in the years 2020-2021. “Experts estimate nearly 15 million more deaths from the pandemic. That’s 10% more deaths,” details Gilles Pison. “However, this increase in deaths is temporary and does not call into question demographic levels and trends. According to UN projections, from 2022 and subsequent years, the latter will resume their pre-pandemic course”.

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