World hits 8 billion population: The good, the bad and the ugly

😃 The Good: Societies are coming more sustainable

😔 The Bad: Not enough resources to support an ageing population

😡 The Ugly: Population can't survive on current food systems

The world ticked over a new milestone on Tuesday, reaching a population of 8 billion people.

The United Nations claims the unprecedented growth is due to the gradual increase in human lifespan as a result of improvements in public health, nutrition, personal hygiene and medicine.

With an increasing life expectancy, the United Nations predicts that rates will continue to climb, all though at a slower pace, until they peak at about 10.4 billion in the 2080s before beginning to decline.

But can the planet survive at such population levels? Take a look at the good, the bad and the ugly from the 8 billion milestone.

Societies are becoming more sustainable

A slow-down in the world's population growth is a sign that societies are becoming more sustainable, according to Associate Professor Tod Jones from Curtin University’s School of Design and the Built Environment. He told Yahoo News Australia this is a result of people’s choices.

Crowds of people in India.
The world's population was predicted to hit 8 billion on Tuesday, just 11 years after it reached 7 billion. Source: AAP

“As society has become more wealthy, and as women take more control over their fertility and have more independence,” he said, “instead of massively overshooting or ending up having a huge population that will be hard to sustain, we are actually seeing that population, really through the choices of people, become sustainable."

With the United Nations predicting that the population will peak in 60 years’ time, Professor Jones says this will give countries time to plan for the future and prepare for issues surrounding an ageing population.


Not enough resources to support an ageing population

With an increasing life expectancy and expanding older demographic, Professor Jones says the balance of people in the workforce and those who are retired will tip, and that will place more pressure on resources.

“We're going to have to move from being in a situation where there's increasing numbers of productive people who are working, to a state where we're going to have larger and larger numbers of older people who aren’t working, and they're going to need to be supported by those people who are working,” he said.

The global population has exploded in the past century. Source: OurWorldInData
The global population has exploded in the past century. Source: OurWorldInData

New figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal that Australia’s life expectancy has jumped to the third-highest in the world, up from sixth place last year. A girl born in Australia today is expected to live to until 85.4 and a boy to 81.3.

“We are going to need to consider the amount of funding and resources required to look after older people,” Professor Jones said. “As people get older, because of bodies that wear out over time, there is going to be greater costs on the health system and greater demand for things like retirement homes, so that is the biggest risk.”


Population can't survive on current food systems

As the world's population continues to amplify amid unprecedented impacts of climate change including extreme heat and flooding, experts warn that our food supply systems hang in a dangerous balance.

Economist Steve Keen, from the University of Western Sydney, told the ABC's The Business the human population at this size cannot survive.

Cows pictured as the world's limited food supplies are questioned.
Economist Steve Keen says the world population can't survive on its current food systems. Source: AAP

“When you add up the mass of humans and the animals the humans breed to eat, compared to the mass of the rest of the animals on the planet, we are over 95 per cent of the mammal mass on this planet," he said. "That is at eight billion and there is just no way we can keep on going at this rate without basically wiping out the life-support systems that we ourselves depend upon."


Do you have a story tip? Email:

You can also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter and download the Yahoo News app from the App Store or Google Play.