About 13.5 percent of the current world population is undernourished and millions go hungry each year, but the situation is going to get much worse. A new UN report shows the world’s population is projected to hit between 9.5 and 13.3 billion people by 2100. High fertility rates and the rising median age in each country are contributing factors, and beg the question few people seem willing to ask: how will we sustain our planet with that many people?
The director of the United Nation’s Population Division, John R. Wilmoth, gave a demographic forecasting presentation at the Joint Statistical Meeting in Seattle this week, titled “Populations Projections by the United Nations.” He detailed how, based on current and historical data, it is estimated that 1.5 million people will be added to the United States population each year, bringing totals to 450 million.
Africa, alone, is projected to rise to between 3.5 and 5.6 billion by century’s end, with the continent’s most populous country, Nigeria, racing from 182 million to 752 million people. These numbers are staggering. Another way of understanding these projections is by looking at the potential support ratio (PSR), more conventionally known as the ratio of workers to “retirees,” or people over 65. Shockingly, there are currently only five countries with a PSR below 5.0: Niger, Somalia, Nigeria, Angola, and Gambia (Japan and Italy have the lowest, at 2.1 and 2.6, respectively).
The implications of a drastically rising world population are unsettling. With a litany of problems arising from this increase, including resource scarcity, maternal and child mortality, increased pollution, high unemployment, and political unrest, the pressure for each nation to address these needs now, rather than later, is of utmost importance.