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Words Tamara Batshon

Over the last one hundred and fifty years, humans have drastically altered the natural environment through industrialization, intensive farming, rapid urbanization, and the development of fossil fuels.  While all these contribute to climate change, the real problems that we face may stem from world population growth. 

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French presidential candidate Nicolas Sarkozy recently made a controversial remark on a TV talk show downplaying man-made climate change. He stated that while climate change is a very serious challenge, the first cause of environmental degradation is the number of people on this planet. “Only man could be so arrogant as to think that it is we who are changing the climate,” said Sarkozy.  He stated that the climate has been changing for four billion years – way before we even arrived, and the reason that the Sahara has become a desert is not because of industry. So let’s assume for now that too many people on Earth is a much bigger problem than climate change and take a look at world demographics.

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Then and Now

Around 8,000 B.C. the population of the world was approximately 5 million people.  Over the 8,000-year period up to 1 A.D., it grew to 200 million people (some estimate as much as 300 million or even
600 million people), with a growth rate of under 0.05 percent per year.

The exponential growth occurred with the industrial revolution: Whereas it had taken all of human history until around 1800 A.D. for the world population to reach one billion, the second billion was achieved in only 130 years (1930), the third billion in less than 30 years (1959), the fourth billion in 15 years (1974), and the fifth billion in only 13 years (1987).

Latest United Nations projections indicate that the world population will reach 10 billion people in the year 2056.

During the 20th century alone, the population in the world grew from 1.65 billion people to six billion people. In 1970, there were roughly half as many people in the world as there are now.

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Growth rate of the world population

The population in the world is currently growing at a rate of around 1.13 percent per year. The current average population change is estimated at around 80 million people per year.

The annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at two percent and above. The rate of increase has therefore almost halved since its peak of 2.19 percent, which was reached in 1963.

The annual growth rate is currently declining and is projected to continue to decline in the coming years. Currently, it is estimated that it will become less than one percent by 2020 and less than 0.5 percent by 2050.

This means that the world population will continue to grow in the 21st century, but at a slower rate as compared with the recent past. The world population has doubled in 40 years from 1959 (three billion) to 1999 (six billion). It is now estimated that it will take a further 39 years to increase by another 50 percent, to become nine billion by 2038, and the latest United Nations projections indicate that the world population will reach 10 billion people in the year 2056.

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All the statistics in this article were provided by Worldometers.