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World population to peak at 9.2 billion in 2050

World population to peak at 9.2 billion in 2050

World population to peak at 9.2 billion in 2050
March 13, 2007

World population is expected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050 according to a new study by the United Nations. Virtually all growth will occur in developing countries, with their population growing from 5.4 billion today to 7.9 billion mid-century. The population of developed regions is expected to remain unchanged at 1.2 billion, and would have declined, were it not for the anticipated net migration from developing to developed countries.

The report also said that global population will age faster than ever before, with half the expected increase in world population between 2005 and 2050 to be accounted for by a rise in the population aged 60 years or over. The number of children under the age of 9 will decrease slightly over the same period.

Global life expectancy will increase from 66.0 years today to 75.4 in 2045-2050, according to the report. Japan is expected to have the highest life expectancy (87.1 years versus 81.9 years today), followed by Hong Kong, Switzerland, Iceland, and Australia. The United States is expected to see life expectancy increase by six years, from 78.5 years today to 84.5 years in 2050.

At the opposite end of the scale, life expectancy in Zambia, currently the country with the shortest life expectancy at 39.2 years, is expected to increase by 46 percent by 2050 to 57.4 years. The largest gains are expected in Zimbabwe, where life expectancy is expected to increase by more than 60 percent from 40 years today to 64.2 years in 2050.

The U.N. notes that fertility in less developed countries is expected to fall from 2.75 children per woman in 2005-2010 to 2.05 in 2045-2050, a figure that puts births below replacement levels of 2.1 children per woman. Least developed countries will likely see their fertility rate decline from 4.63 children per woman to 2.50 children per woman.

The new population figures are about 100 million than those released last year due to success in treating the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The U.N. expects most countries to have antiretroviral treatment programs by 2015. Antiretroviral extend life by an extra seven-and-a-half years on average for those infected with HIV/AIDS. Overall, the U.N. forecasts 32 million fewer deaths between 2005-2050 in the 62 most affected countries than it did in its prior population revision.

The 9.191 billion figure is “medium” estimate by the U.N., which gives a range of 7.792 to 10.756 billion for 2050.

While it appears likely that human population will level off mid-century, the human footprint on the planet is expected to grow as larger numbers of people achieve higher levels of affluence, especially in China and India. In general as quality of life improves, a population uses more resources. For example the United States appropriates more than 20 percent of the world’s resources despite having less than 5 percent of global population.

This article uses quotes from an Iowa State news release.

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