Can the Planet Support 10 Billion People?

July 11, 2011 • Family Planning, Africa, Daily Email Recap

Thanks to SD Shantinath for this article.  See

Can the Planet Support 10 Billion People?

How will countries feed and shelter populations that are expected to soar by century’s end?

Africa’s Daunting Challenges.

David E. Bloom is a professor of economics and demography and chairman of the department of global health and population at Harvard University. He spoke about population growth at the World Economic Forum meeting this week in Cape Town, South Africa:

In many respects, the figures for Africa represent the most disconcerting aspect of the United Nations report on population growth. Africa’s population today stands at 1 billion. According to the U.N., that number will increase to 2.2 billion by 2050 and 3.6 billion by 2100. It took humankind more than 50,000 years to reach 1 billion, and now Africa alone will be adding more than that number in just four decades.

No other region will come close to having such a rapid rate of population growth in the coming decades (1.9 percent per year). Africa’s billion only represents 15 percent of world population today, but Africa will account for 49 percent of global population growth over the next four decades.

High fertility rates are driving rapid population growth in Africa. Globally, women are having an average of 2.5 children over the course of their childbearing years. But the average African woman is having nearly 4.5 children (and over 6 in four countries). One consequence of Africa’s high fertility is that a preponderance of its population is young. Twenty-seven percent of the world’s population is under age 15, but in Africa, the figure is 40 percent.

These facts are troubling because population growth is clustered with, and aggravates, other major problems. If you look at all countries in terms of income poverty, water poverty, and the Failed States Index , the 14 countries that rank high on all three, all but one are in Africa (Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Uganda). And the average annual population growth rate of those countries is a whopping 2.6 percent.

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Current World Population


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