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World population could near 11 billion by 2100

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The world population doesn't look like it's going to stop growing anytime soon. New research finds that the earth's population count is likely to hit around 10.9 billion in 2100, whereas earlier estimates suggested that it would cap off at closer to 9 billion. Currently, there are over 7 billion people on the earth.

"Rapid population growth in high-fertility countries can create a range of challenges."

The research was led by the University of Washington and the United Nations, and it's being published today in the journal Science. The researchers write that their new estimate was made using more modern statistical models than what have been used in the past — in fact, prior estimates, they write, factored in a number of arbitrary and unhelpful figures. Though they landed on 10.9 billion, they also provide a broader estimate, writing that there's a 95 percent chance that the world population will land somewhere between 9 billion and 13.2 billion in 2100.

Most of the growth is predicted to come from Africa, which the researchers say will grow from 1 billion today to around 4 billion at the end of the century. This is likely because family size is still large there, and there's still a significant and unmet need for contraception. Populations almost everywhere else aren't expected to grow anywhere near as much, with Europe, North America, and Latin America remaining below 1 billion each. Asia is currently at 4.4 billion, but it's only expected to hit around 5 billion in 2050 and then start to decline.

The estimates are all based on life expectancy and fertility rates. How those two factors are changing is going to make the biggest difference in what actually becomes of the population, and the researchers suggest that some of the population increase might be reduced by investments in family planning programs and the distribution of contraception.

It may well be important that governments of the world do that, too. "Rapid population growth in high-fertility countries can create a range of challenges," the researchers write. That could include the depletion of natural resources, issues with unemployment, increased rates of child mortality, growing crime, and broad infrastructure issues.