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World population closing in on 6 billion

Six billion and counting: The world's population has made a fourfold increase this century alone  

CNN's Jonathan Karl looks at the conditions that led to this record number and what it means for the world population in the future
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Latin America struggles to cope with expanding population

CNN's Jonathan Karl looks at the conditions that led to this record number and what it means for the world population in the future
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September 22, 1999
Web posted at: 10:19 a.m. HKT (0219 GMT)

From Correspondent Jonathan Karl

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- On October 12, the world will reach a dramatic milestone, according to the U.N. Population Fund. On that day, the planet's population will hit 6 billion -- marking a fourfold increase this century alone.

The U.N. study, due out Wednesday, projects that by 2050, some 8.9 billion people will be living on Earth.

It took a mere 12 years for the population to rise from 5 billion to 6 billion. While growth has slowed or stopped in Europe, North America and Japan, it is soaring in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and West Asia.

India has witnessed the most significant increase, adding 16 million people in just five years. In less than 50 years, India is projected to surpass China as the world's most populous nation, with 1.5 billion people.

Some observers believe the global population boom will strain the planet's natural resources, including drinking water.

"There are probably a billion and a half people in the world who do not have fresh, safe water to drink. We have made progress, but much of that progress in some parts of the world (has) been washed away by rapid population growth," said Lester Brown of Worldwatch.

It took only 12 years for the world's population to go from 5 billion to 6 billion  

Others think the increase in population is a sign of progress.

"If you look at the world today with 6 billion people, you know what the problem with food today is?" asked Stephen Moore of the Cato Institute. "We have too much of it. We have farmers growing too much food. We have countries like China exporting food."

To add to the growth, people are living longer. Global life expectancy has risen from 46 to 66 years.

However, people are having fewer children. The U.N. Population Fund says fertility rates in less developed regions have dropped from more than six children per woman in 1950 to less than three today.

Due to this declining fertility, the United Nations projects the world's population will never again soar so fast.


Mexico's birth rate drops as planners worry about future
July 28, 1999
World population to top 6 billion this year
April 5, 1999

United Nations Population Fund
The Cato Institute
Zero Population Growth
The Internet Guide to Demography and Population Studies
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