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

Pope's Climate Call Misses Population Problem, Scientists Say
Pope Francis, global warming
September 24th, 2015
Pope Francis did the world a service with his encyclical addressing climate change, but he failed to address population growth, scientists say.
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Why Iran May Ban Vasectomies
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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Are You the 5 Percent? Small Minority Have No Health Problems
A conceptual image shows a stethoscope over the Earth.
June 7th, 2015
If you're in perfect health, you're in the minority: Less than 5 percent of people worldwide had no health problems in 2013, a new study finds.
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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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US Birth Rate Hits All-Time Low
December 4th, 2014
The U.S. birth rate reached an all-time low in 2013, as the number of babies born in the country declined for the sixth straight year since the peak in 2007, a new report finds.
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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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