World Population

As of Oct. 31, 2011, there were 7 billion people on Earth, according to the United Nations. This latest milestone was part of the rapid rise in Earth's population over the course of the 20th century — there were just 2.6 billion people in 1950 and 5 billion people in 1987. The population explosion has its roots in the decrease in mortality (because of a better understanding of disease and new treatments) that began in the 19th century and continued through the 20th, moving from the developed world into the developing world, to some extent. In June 2013, the United Nations released a new report on estimates of population rise through the 21st century. It found through a new statistical analysis that the world's population could hit 11 billion by 2100, faster than it had previously predicted, in part because birthrates in Africa were not declining as quickly as predicted. The rapid rise in the human population presents a set of challenges in terms of straining Earth's resources, from putting pressure on other species, to providing enough water, food and basic sanitation to all populations.
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Latest Articles

Why Iran May Ban Vasectomies
fathers-day-llm-100617-02
August 15th, 2014
Iran's parliament has recently voted to ban permanent forms of birth control, such as vasectomy, in a bid to improve country's declining birth rate. Experts find the move a bad policy, and borderline unethical.
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What 11 Billion People Mean for Space Travel
Spacecraft concept image
November 27th, 2013
The soaring global population could accelerate the pace of climate change, strain resources and threaten biodiversity around the globe. But it may also help humanity get off the planet and establish its first footholds in the final frontier.
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What 11 Billion People Mean for Climate Change
Flooding in Newtok, Alaska
November 21st, 2013
A recent report from the United Nations projects global population could hit 11 billion people by the year 2100. How might this rapid growth affect climate change?
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New Baby Boom? How Global Birthrates Could Bounce Back
Twin boys with newborn baby.
January 28th, 2014
Globally, the number of births per woman is dropping. But the decline in fertility rates may not persist in the long run, new research suggests. It's possible that birth rates could come bouncing back.
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What 11 Billion People Mean for Sanitation
garbage in landfill
November 26th, 2013
As the global population creeps upward, the world faces the major challenge of dealing with all the human and material waste that this population will produce. But there's a window of opportunity to avert a crisis, if the world acts now.
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What 11 Billion People Mean for Water Scarcity
water bottles, recycling, reusing
November 20th, 2013
Providing enough water for 11 billion people will require drastic improvements in agricultural water use and a new way of accounting for water usage in the economy.
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5 Ways Toilets Change the World
toilet
November 19th, 2013
The loo, the W.C., the lavatory, the privy, the porcelain god — while it goes by many names, the toilet — one of life's most mundane objects — plays a fundamental role in society. From preventing illness to fostering education, here are five ways toilets
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What 11 Billion People Mean for Disease Outbreaks
people wearing masks.
November 25th, 2013
With 11 billion people expected to live on Earth by 2100, the spread of infectious disease is a major concern, and scientists are working to spot the next pandemic before it starts.
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5 Ways We Waste Water
a sprinkler watering a lawn
November 20th, 2013
From lawns to flood irrigation, here are five ways that people waste water, and more efficient ways they could use that water instead.
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