In November 2022, the global human population surpassed 8 billion. By 2050, it is expected to reach 9.8 billion. The ever-increasing number of humans on the planet has implications across numerous aspects of society, the global economy, and the environment.
Image Credit: DrCarrrven/Shutterstock.com
The world’s demand for natural resources increases with the expanding population. As a result, we are increasingly overexploiting the planet, generating harmful pollution and accelerating habitat destruction, leading to climate change and loss of biodiversity.
To feed 2050’s global population, food production will need to increase by a massive 56% compared with 2021 levels. If we do not ramp up food production using sustainable methods, we will further increase habitat destruction and pollution, contributing to climate change.
Additional pressures will be added to healthcare and education systems as well as transportation, sanitation, energy, and water supper systems.
There is an urgent need to implement proactive measures so the future population can enjoy a healthy, safe, and sustainable existence. There is a need to establish sustainable processes before the population reaches numbers that exceed what current infrastructure can maintain.
While the global population continues to increase year-on-year, the growth rate has gradually decreased in recent years. In the 1960s, growth rates peaked at around 2% per year. Recent data suggests that the current growth rate has dipped below 1% annually.
There have been other changes in recent years. The age distribution of the global population has shifted, with the population of those aged 65 years and over being the fastest-growing age group. In 1970, the global median age was just over 20 years, while in 2022, it was just over 30.
This data demonstrates how the world’s population is aging. This is partly thanks to improvements in healthcare, working conditions, and quality of life over the century.
Food Security and Agriculture
As the population increases, there will be increased pressure on agricultural systems, leading to enhanced agricultural productivity.
Unless sustainable approaches are adopted on a large scale, current agricultural processes will continue to contribute to deforestation, water pollution, soil erosion, habitat destruction, loss of biodiversity, and other forms of environmental degradation. Unsustainable farming will also contribute to climate change.
To prevent these problems, effective strategies must be adopted now. Many strategies involve the use of technology, such as a range of wireless sensors designed to collect various data, such as temperature, moisture, pH levels, etc., so that conditions for crops can be adjusted to ensure that a greater percentage of the crop survives until harvest, resulting in greater crop yields.
Crop diversification is another key strategy, where instead of relying on a single crop, farmers sew numerous crop types. This reduces crop vulnerability to climate-related risks, such as adverse weather, and strengthens crops against pests and disease.
Where one adverse weather event or pathogen may have wiped out an entire crop if the crop were all the same type of plant, with crop diversification, farmers can ensure that at least a percentage of their crop is sparred in these occasions.
Finally, strategies that aim to tackle food waste are vitally important. Currently, the world throws out roughly one-third of the food produced. By reducing this, a greater amount of food is available to the population without increasing food production.
Healthcare and Education
Access to quality healthcare and education supports the world's growing population. Healthcare and education are interconnected aspects of society that have far-reaching effects on well-being, the economy, and oral society progress.
Investing in healthcare to reduce mortality and improve overall health is essential in a growing population. Investment in this area can also boost child and maternal health and prevent and control future outbreaks of infectious diseases.
Investment in education is equally important. Funding education can support gender equality and reduce poverty by helping people to break free from the cycle of poverty. Education is also important for boosting technological advancement, increasing environmental awareness, and enhancing economic prosperity.
Urbanization and Infrastructure
As the world’s population increases, more people live in urban areas than ever before. In many of the world’s largest cities, society already recognizes the need to adapt to accommodate the increasing number of city dwellers.
Most importantly, an increased demand for affordable and adequate housing in urban areas requires investment in urban planning and housing development projects.
There is also an increasing need to address the strain on infrastructure, such as evolving public transportation systems and developing water supply systems, sewage systems, and energy networks.
Healthcare and education must also adapt to the growing population in urban areas to ensure that all can access high-quality services.
The growing human population is associated with numerous environmental challenges. More people means more energy usage. This means higher greenhouse gas emissions, and, therefore, a more significant contribution to climate change. The widespread adoption of renewable energy will be vital to addressing this challenge.
As the population grows, so does our demand for natural resources such as freshwater, minerals, and trees. We are in danger of depleting the Earth’s natural resources unless we implement effective conservation strategies.
International cooperation and collaboration are vital to address the challenges of an increasing global population. This is because many of the challenges that arise from population growth have global implications that transcend borders, and, therefore, coordinated efforts are required to mitigate their impacts effectively.
Many challenges are interconnected and complex, such as resource availability, food security, pollution, and climate change. We need initiatives that understand the connectedness of these facets so that they can be addressed efficiently.
Many partnerships between governments, organizations, and communities are already in place to address the problems associated with the growing population. Perhaps the most impactful are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the World Health Organization (WHO) Initiatives, and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
To support the rising global population, we must implement strategies to secure our food production, ensure urban areas have the infrastructure to support their residents and improve their healthcare and education systems so that future generations can prosper.
A focus on sustainable practices across industries will also be important, as will a focus on implementing renewable energy, given the connection between the challenges of population growth and climate change.
To ensure the future population is safe and can thrive, multiple partnerships between governments, organizations, and communities are currently underway to make changes today for the future.
Continue Reading: Yume and Suez's Solution for Tackling Commercial Food Waste
References and Further Reading
Population Growth [online] Our World in Data. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/population-growth (Accessed August 2023)
Age Structure [online]. Our World in Data. Available at: https://ourworldindata.org/age-structure (Accessed August 2023)
The future of food: What will you be eating in 2050? [online]. HDI Global. Available at: https://www.hdi.global/infocenter/insights/2021/future-of-food/ (Accessed August 2023)
World population projected to reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and 11.2 billion in 2100 [online] United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/en/desa/world-population-projected-reach-98-billion-2050-and-112-billion-2100 (Accessed August 2023)