IPCC: 30 years to climate calamity if we carry on blowing the carbon budget

September 27, 2013

SOURCE: The Guardian

Global 2C warming threshold will be breached within 30 years, leading scientists report, with humans unequivocally to blame.


Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten


Half of world carbon dioxide allowance used up

The world's leading climate scientists have set out in detail for the first time how much more carbon dioxide humans can pour into the atmosphere without triggering dangerous levels of climate change - and concluded that more than half of that global allowance has been used up.

If people continue to emit greenhouse gases at current rates, the accumulation of carbon in the atmosphere could mean that within as little as two to three decades the world will face nearly inevitable warming of more than 2C, resulting in rising sea levels, heatwaves, droughts and more extreme weather.

This calculation of the world's "carbon budget" was one of the most striking findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , the expert panel of global scientists who on Friday produced the most comprehensive assessment yet of our knowledge of climate change at the end of their four-day meeting in Stockholm.

Global warming caused by mankind

The 2,000-plus page report , written by 209 lead authors, also found it was "unequivocal" that global warming was happening as a result of human actions, and that without "substantial and sustained" reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we will breach the symbolic threshold of 2C of warming, which governments around the world have pledged not to do.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, urged world leaders to pay heed to the "world's authority on climate change" and forge a new global deal on cutting emissions. "The heat is on. Now we must act," he said.

In the summary for policymakers, published on Friday morning after days of deliberations in the Swedish capital, the scientists said: "Each of the last three decades has been successively warmer at the Earth's surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the northern hemisphere, 1983-2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1,400 years."

Natural variability was cited as one of the reasons for warming being less pronounced in the last 15 years, and the role of the oceans in absorbing heat, which is still poorly understood.

"There are not sufficient observations of the uptake of heat, particularly into the deep ocean, that will be one of the possible mechanisms that would explain this warming hiatus," said Stocker.

The scientists found that to hold warming to 2C, total emissions cannot exceed 1,000 gigatons of carbon. Yet by 2011, more than half of that total "allowance" - 531 gigatons - had already been emitted.

Action must be taken

To ensure the budget is not exceeded, governments and businesses may have to leave valuable fossil fuel reserves unexploited. "There's a finite amount of carbon you can burn if you don't want to go over 2C," Stocker told the Guardian. "That implies if there is more than that [in fossil fuel reserves], that you leave some of that carbon in the ground."

This raises key questions of how to allocate the remaining "carbon budget" fairly among countries, an issue that some climate negotiators fear could wreck the UN climate talks, which are supposed to culminate in a global agreement on emissions in 2015. 

Their other key findings in the report - the first such assessment since 2007 and only the fifth since 1988 - included:

  • Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide are now at levels "unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years".
  • Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.
  • Sea levels are expected to rise a further 26-82cm (10-32in) by 2100. The wide variation in part reflects the difficulty scientists still have in predicting sea level rises.
  • The oceans have acidified, having absorbed about a third of the carbon dioxide emitted.

This article by Fiona Harvey, published by The Guardian, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes, cuts and additions may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

UN Secretary General speaks out on population issues

August 27, 2013

SOURCE: UN News and Media Division

In a video address to the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population on 26 August in Busan, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon emphasized the significance of population dynamics for sustainable development challenges, and the need for rights-based responses. 


Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: 

"To ensure sustainable development, we need to know how many people inhabit the planet now and how many will be added in the years to come. We need to know where they live and where they will live in the future. We need to know how old they are and how age distribution will change.

Population growth and aging, migration and urbanization affect all development objectives: poverty reduction employment and social protection; education, housing and sanitation; water, food and energy. The systematic use of demographic data and projections is essential for development planning and policymaking. Such policies must address and harness the realities of population dynamics. They should be rights-based and gender-responsive to empower women and youth. They should support universal access to health, including reproductive and sexual health and family planning. And they should promote sustainable consumption and production that benefits both people and the planet."

This article, published by the UN News and Media Division, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

Ethiopian NGOs embrace family planning to cope with climate change

August 23, 2013

SOURCE: Thomson Reuters Foundation

An article has been published about the linkages between population, reproductive health and climate change in Ethiopia, featuring Population and Sustainable Development Alliance member PHE Ethiopia Consortium. 


Credit: Jaspreet Kindra/IRIN

Making the links

Yeshi Tadesse, a mother of six, seems an unlikely proponent of family planning as a solution to climate change. But the Ethiopian villager in her 30s speaks eloquently of the linkages between the two issues.

Tadesse has witnessed the forests she grew up with being
cleared to make room for more agricultural land to feed hungry mouths, leading to soil erosion and environmental degradation.

"I currently have half a hectare of land, which I shall pass on to my six kids - but unless I get good yields as well as control my family size, my children will have to inherit much more hardship," she said.

In her lifetime, she has also observed shifts in the four seasons. Droughts that used to be rare now affect her community periodically, and the rainy season eats into harvest time, spoiling crops and leaving people destitute, she said.

In response, Tadesse is participating in a project run by LEM Ethiopia, one of a consortium of 47 local and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) known as PHE (Population Health Environment) Ethiopia Consortium, which takes a holistic approach to development. Participating groups aim to tackle challenges of health, population growth and the environment together, to improve people’s livelihoods and well-being.

Tadesse uses contraception to keep the size of her family in check at a time when dwindling farm productivity makes providing enough food for a large number of children a challenge.

The PHE consortium believes that with the number of Ethiopia’s people nearing 90 million - 45 percent of them under the age of 15 - and 1.2 million joining the national workforce each year, a growing population is one thing the country cannot afford to neglect if it is to meet its green ambitions.

National sustainable development aspirations

PHE Executive Director NegashTeklu noted that Ethiopia’s population is increasing by 2.6 percent each year, with an average fertility rate of 4.8 children per family.

In 2011, the prevalence of contraceptive use in Ethiopia was 28.6 percent of the population, which is still a low figure, despite almost doubling since 2005.
Ethiopia’s Climate Resilient Green Economy Strategy envisions the country achieving zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, and is based on four components: forestry, energy, agriculture and industry.

The strategy foresees that more sustainable levels of population growth will result in less division of arable land, curbing land degradation and deforestation. At the same time, it will be possible to provide enough employment and to meet the energy needs of most Ethiopians.

The national five-year Growth and Transformation Plan, which supplements the green economy strategy and runs through to 2015, includes a target of increasing contraceptive prevalence to 65 percent. It also promises to enforce the legal age of marriage - 18 years old - to prevent early marriage and pregnancies.

"Ethiopia doesn’t have an option of the 'one child policy' like China, but rather (should follow) a rights-based family planning strategy," PHE's Teklu said. His organisation is promoting such an approach in some 40 woreda (district) pilot sites around the country, with a potential reach of millions of people, he added.

PHE's member NGOs are working with relevant government ministries in the areas of health, agriculture, social welfare and the environment. The work is being funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA).

Integrated development programmes

Tadesse’s household is one of 600 located in Dire Dayu village in the highlands of Central Ethiopia, an area with a high population density thanks to its abundant water resources, crop-friendly climate and fertile soils.

Here, LEM Ethiopia provides reproductive health assistance, including contraceptive pills and condoms, alongside fuel-efficient cooking stoves, personal hygiene classes, high-yielding seed varieties and help for local people to make organic compost.

Tamirat Selamu, a natural resource manager at LEM Ethiopia, said that as well as offering family planning education, the programme enables local people to grow more lucrative crops like apples, which are flood-resistant and help conserve soil fertility.

LEM also hands out seeds to grow cattle fodder, as well as trees as part of a reforestation effort.

The programme is not without its critics, however - especially when it comes to the use of the much-maligned eucalyptus tree as a means of replanting forests and earning extra income.

Brought to Ethiopia more than a century ago from Australia by Emperor Menelik to combat the drought that was blighting Ethiopia at the time, the eucalyptus has been accused of leeching nutrients from the soil and leaving other vegetation short of water. Fifteen different varieties are currently grown in the Horn of Africa nation.

Selamu said the downsides of eucalyptus have been exaggerated, and there is no other plant like it in the country that brings multiple benefits for farmers.

"Eucalyptus trees are known for being drought-resistant, they rehabilitate highly degraded land, and are easy to use for fuel, perfume, medicinal purposes and construction," he said. Local indigenous trees tend to grow slowly, and so aren’t suitable for the urgent problems a community might face, he added.

Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan is in line with the sustainable development efforts of NGOs in the PHE consortium. It aims to distribute 9 million energy saving stoves by 2015, for example, and increase the area of land being rehabilitated to 10.2 million hectares. Another key goal is to cut the number of people receiving social welfare under a national safety net programme from 7.8 million to 1.3 million.

This article, by E.G Woldegebriel and published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance. 

Nearly 35 Million Migrants Are Under Age 20

August 16, 2013

SOURCE: UN via Associated Press

International migration is becoming a key issue in the lives of young people with the latest preliminary data revealing that nearly 35 million migrants are under the age of 20, the United Nations said Monday.


Credit: UN Photo/Albert Gonzalez Farran

Increasing migration of youth

UNICEF Deputy Director Christian Salazar said the data collected by the UN children's agency and the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs showed that 62 per cent of the young people are living in developing countries.

"Whether alone or with their families, adolescents and youth are increasingly migrating in search of employment, education, cultural advantages and better living standards," he said at a special UN event on youth migration to commemorate International Youth Day on Monday.

"But for many young people migration represents also a way out of insecurity, discrimination or abuse," he said.

Salazar and other speakers stressed, however, that there is little data available to assess the real situations and needs of young migrants including their health, education, degree of exploitation and discrimination, and social inclusion.

Almost half of migrants are women

Salazar said the limited information available shows that girls migrate in almost the same number as boys and that migration between developing countries is running at almost the same level as migration from developing countries to industrialized nations.

Charles Dan, the International Labor Organization's special representative on youth and social inclusion, said 214 million people are living outside their country of birth today — "more than at any time in history."

"Almost half of these international migrants are women," he said. "And one in eight is a young migrant aged 15 to 24."

Dan said the global youth unemployment crisis is currently driving millions of young people "to think about or decide to migrate."

Poor pay and discrimination

Worldwide, he said, four out of 10 unemployed people are young women and men, and many more are underemployed or "working poor," with 228 million young people earning less than US $2 a day.

Dan warned that young people who migrate can face poor working conditions, discrimination based on gender, ethnicity or religion. In the worst cases, they can be subjected to human trafficking and forced labour, he said.

"For young people, migration should be a possibility, not a necessity," Dan said.

Jean-Pierre Gonnot of the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs said that in 2010, there were an estimated 27 million international young migrants.

Inter-connections with population ageing

He said migration is taking place "against the backdrop of an unprecedented demographic divide — an ageing industrialized world and a youthful developing world."

"Industrialized nations need young migrants to replenish their ageing labour force," he said, "developing countries also need the talents of their most skilled youth to meet the challenges of economic growth in ever more competitive, globally integrated capital and labor markets."

Gonnot said receiving countries want to harness the benefits from the migration of young people while sending countries seek to maximize the social and economic impact of the remittances they send home.

Chris Richter of the International Organization for Migration, said migration is a driver of economic growth and "young migrants are particularly powerful agents of change and development" because they provide remittances and skills and promote knowledge sharing between countries and regions.

He urged "safe and regular migration" to reduce the risks of exploitation and abuse.

This article, by UN via Associated Press, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

PSN contributes to Friends of the Earth population briefing

August 1, 2013


PSN and network member MSI have contributed to a briefing by Friends of the Earth on the topic of global consumption, population and rights that calls for the advancement of sexual and reproductive health and rights. 


Credit: UN Photo/Sylvain Liecht

Friends of the Earth ‘lends its voice in support of SRHR’

The Friends of the Earth briefing published yesterday, provides a brief analysis of global population trends, together with consumption trends.

Arguing that ‘a rights-based approach to accelerating the positive trend of declining rates of population growth is necessary’, the briefing makes a number of recommendations focusing on:

  • Delivering primary and secondary education
  • Achieving sustainable consumption
  • Ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services, including voluntary family planning services that respect and protect human rights
  • Eradicating gender inequalities
  • Adapting environmental and development goals, targets and indicators to consider future changes in population size and structure.

Addressing both population and consumption

Taking a refreshing approach to the complex and sensitive issues of population and consumption, the briefing asserts that;

'Demographic projections are not the same as destiny, nor are consumption projections, and in Friends of the Earth's view government’s need to actively engage in both areas.'

The briefing goes on to note that advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights and education is not only part of an equality and justice agenda, but will; ‘also have a major demographic impact that confers additional benefits for environmental sustainability and human welfare.'

PSN welcomes the briefing

PSN's Karen Newman and Leo Bryant of MSI contributed to the briefing as advisors, and the briefing includes information about the work of PSN and MSI, as well as the shared recommendations.

PSN is pleased to have collaborated with Friends of the Earth on this project and welcomes the focus on these issues from such an esteemed organisation campaigning for environmental sustainability.

Download the briefing from the Friends of the Earth website.

Read a Friends of the Earth blog summarising and explaining the rationale of the briefing.

Read another Friends of the Earth blog focusing on women’s empowerment and other changes needed to achieve wellbeing for people and the planet.

Why is family planning seldom prioritised in refugee settings?

July 25, 2013

SOURCE: The Guardian

An article in The Guardian has highlighted that 250,000 women in Syria and refugee settings will become pregnant this year, yet reproductive health services are scarce, as in many emergency settings. 


Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Pregnancy entails higher risks

Imagine making the journey as a refugee from Syria into Lebanon. It may be a long distance and often involves travelling through areas of fighting. On arrival, your first priorities are food and shelter, and protecting your loved ones; family planning is probably the last thing on your mind.

But pregnancy happens in every community, and war zones are no exception. Sadly, however, access to family planning may be rare.

No two conflicts or natural disasters are the same, but difficult pregnancies are seen time and again when communities are forced to flee their homes. Some women are forced to give birth alone; others make it to clinics, but urgently need blood transfusions and are miles from the nearest hospital with a blood bank.

Pregnancy can also carry a risk of death and disability for mothers and newborns, especially in fragile states. This is especially true for refugees.

Some 15% of deliveries are likely to result in life-threatening complications and require emergency obstetric care, which only a doctor or midwife can provide. Delivery is more likely to be complicated if you have been through the trauma of fleeing a conflict or natural disaster, and medical assistance, such as antenatal care, is less likely to be available. But even though the risks associated with pregnancy are greater, reproductive health is often put to one side in emergency relief situations.

Lack of access to family planning

Before Syria descended into civil war, it had a working health system. Family planning was free and used relatively widely by 58% of women. Yet the last time an extensive survey was carried out among Syrian refugees in Lebanon, only 37% of non-pregnant married women were using contraception.

According to the UN Population Fund, 250,000 women in Syria and refugee settings will become pregnant by the end of this year. Syrian refugees frequently tell aid workers they are terrified of becoming pregnant, so why is family planning such a rarity?

Part of the answer is rooted in the same reasons that women lack healthcare in general. Lebanon, whose population has grown by nearly 25% since the war in Syria began, is struggling to meet demand for basic healthcare. Many refugees live in unofficial settlements far from cities, and simply do not know where to get healthcare. Cost is also an issue. Most clinics are privately run and prohibitively expensive: a prescription for the pill and a consultation fee may be only a few dollars, but most Syrian refugees are entirely reliant on savings, which dwindle quickly. Fundamentally, however, there are simply more immediate needs.

In refugee communities, people will, understandably, be concerned first and foremost about medical care for those who are already ill, or finding food and shelter. Colleagues from other NGOs have told stories about setting up focus groups to determine family planning needs, where refugees have interjected and asked to discuss food and jobs instead.

Reproductive health must be prioritised

The solution lies in adapting to the specific needs of refugees, whether they are living in camps, host communities or informal settlements. For example, Merlin uses mobile clinics to take healthcare to remote communities around the world. We are prioritising such clinics in Lebanon to provide healthcare, including family planning, to unregistered refugees.

Family planning remains a low-cost way of reducing pregnancy-related deaths, and one that women have told us they need time and again. But conflict-affected settings receive 50% less funding for reproductive health than stable settings. Addressing this different and often complex set of challenges means that pregnancy can be the natural and life-affirming process it should be for women who have already endured conflict and disaster.

This article, written by Lizzy Berryman, head of emergencies for the medical charity Merlin, and published by The Guardian has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes and cuts may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.

World Population Day: UN spotlights teen pregnancy and need to empower girls

July 11, 2013

SOURCE: UN News Centre

United Nations officials marked World Population Day today by spotlighting the issue of adolescent pregnancy, and calling on Governments to take measures to enable girls to make responsible life choices and realize their potential.  


Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Adolescent pregnancy is rife

About 16 million girls under age 18 give birth each year, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which noted that another 3.2 million undergo unsafe abortions.

The vast majority - 90 per cent - of the pregnant adolescents in the developing world are married. But for far too many of these girls, pregnancy has little to do with informed choice, said the agency.

When we devote attention and resources to the education, health and well-being of adolescent girls, they will become an even greater force for positive change in society that will have an impact for generations to come.

UNFPA pointed out that adolescent pregnancy is a health issue: the youngest mothers face a heightened risk of maternal complications, death and disability, including obstetric fistula. Their children face higher risks as well. It is also an issue of human rights: adolescent pregnancy often means an abrupt end of childhood, a curtailed education and lost opportunities.

Action is needed

"This sensitive topic demands global attention," Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, observed annually on 11 July.

To address the problems associated with adolescent pregnancy, Mr. Ban stressed the need to get girls into primary school and enable them to receive a good education through their adolescence. "When a young girl is educated, she is more likely to marry later, delay childbearing until she is ready, have healthier children, and earn a higher income."

He also cited the need to provide all adolescents with age-appropriate, comprehensive education on sexuality, stating that this is especially important to empower young women to decide when and if they wish to become mothers. Also vital is providing comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, as well as the maternal health services that women need. 

"When we devote attention and resources to the education, health and well-being of adolescent girls, they will become an even greater force for positive change in society that will have an impact for generations to come."

A health and development issue

UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin stated that adolescent pregnancy is not just a health issue, but also a development issue.

"It is deeply rooted in poverty, gender inequality, violence, child and forced marriage, power imbalances between adolescent girls and their male partners, lack of education, and the failure of systems and institutions to protect their rights," he said in his message for the Day.

"Breaking the cycle of adolescent pregnancy requires commitment from nations, communities and individuals in both developed and developing countries to invest in adolescent girls", he said. Governments should enact and enforce national laws that raise the age of marriage to 18 and should promote community-based efforts that support girls' rights and prevent child marriage and its consequences.

"Today, we call on Governments, the international community and all stakeholders involved to take measures that enable adolescent girls to make responsible life choices and to provide the necessary support for them in cases when their rights are threatened," said Dr. Osotimehin.

"Every young girl, regardless of where she lives, or her economic circumstances, has the right to fulfil her human potential. Today, too many girls are denied that right. We can change that, and we must."

This article, published by the UN News Centre, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes, cuts and additions may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.  

PSDA participates in UN Open Working Group discussions on health and population dynamics

June 24, 2013


The Open Working Group (OWG) for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) held its fourth session in New York from June 17-19, and focused, among other things, on health and population dynamics.   


Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

PSDA at the OWG

Several members of the Population and Sustainable Development Alliance (PSDA) participated in the meetings at the UN, including representatives from DFPA, IPPF and PAI, working alongside the
Women's Major Group and other SRHR advocates at the meeting.

On behalf of IPPF and PSDA, on 19 June IPPF's Sarah Shaw made an intervention to member states emphasizing the importance of ensuring that the post-2015 development framework young people’s access to SRHR, and calling for "an understanding of population dynamics, including population growth, urbanization, migration etc, to be integrated into sustainable development plans."

Highlights from member states

A number of supportive statements were made in favour of sexual and reproductive health and rights and the importance of a focus on population dynamics, including:

  • The Joint Statement delivered by Uruguay on behalf of the Governments of Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Liberia, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, Mozambique, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Rwanda, South Africa, Slovenia, Turkey, United Kingdom and Switzerland.
  • statement by the Australia, Netherlands and UK Troika.
  • The Co-Chairs summary noted: "The discussions highlighted the importance of equal access of women and girls to health-care services, including addressing women’s sexual and reproductive health, and ensuring universal access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable modern methods of family planning."

Read the briefing issued by PSDA in advance of the OWG session. 

Read an interview with Marianne Haslegrave sharing her strategic views on the OWG session.

Statements, presents and documents, including Technical Support Team briefings on population dynamics and health for the OWG session are available from the UN SDKP website. 

PSNs Karen Newman is appointed to FP2020 Rights & Empowerment Group

June 14, 2013


PSN is proud to announce that Karen Newman has been selected to join the Rights and Empowerment Working Group to Family Planning 2020.  


Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Increasing access to lifesaving contraceptives

Four working groups were announced this week for Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) – the outcome of last year's London Family Planning Summit.

The groups will provide technical guidance in the global effort to
achieve FP2020's aim to reach 120 million more women and girls in the world's poorest countries with access to lifesaving contraceptives, information and supplies by 2020.

The Rights and Empowerment Working Group, which PSN's Karen Newman will contribute to, will provide guidance and support on rights-based approaches to family planning to all the FP2020 groups.

Karen will be joined on the group by FP2020 members from a number of key organisations to which PSN is linked, including the Asia-Pacific Resource and Research Center, Danish Family Planning Association, DFID, IPPF, MSI, PAI and UNFPA. The membership list for the Rights & Empowerment Working Group is available here.

About Family Planning 2020

FP2020 is a global partnership that supports the right of women and girls to decide, freely, and for themselves, whether, when, and how many children they want to have. At the 2012 London Summit on Family Planning more than 20 governments made commitments to address the policy, financing, delivery and socio-cultural barriers to women accessing contraceptive information, services and supplies.

UN: World population to reach 8.1 billion in 2025

June 14, 2013

SOURCE: Agence France Presse

New population projections have been published by the UN, revising its projection upward since its last report two years ago, forecasting that the worlds population will increase from 7.2 billion today to 8.1 billion in 2025 and 9.6 billion in 2050.  


Credit: UN Photo/Martine Perret

A complex global picture

The UN report World Population Prospects, the 2012 revision, projects that most of the population growth will occur in developing regions which are projected to increase from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050. During that same period, the population of developed countries is expected to remain largely unchanged at around 1.3 billion people. By 2100 the world population is projected to reach 10.9 billion.

The report said much of the overall increase between now and 2050 is expected to take place in Africa and countries with large populations such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States.

India's population is expected to surpass China's around 2028 when both countries will have populations of around 1.45 billion, according to the report on "World Population Prospects." While India's population is forecast to grow to around 1.6 billion and then slowly decline to 1.5 billion in 2100, China's is expected to start decreasing after 2030, possibly falling to 1.1 billion in 2100, it said.

The report found global fertility rates are falling rapidly, though not nearly fast enough to avoid a significant population jump over the next decades. In fact, the UN revised its population projection upward since its last report two years ago, mostly due to higher fertility projections in the countries with the most children per women. The previous projection had the global population reaching 9.3 billion people in 2050.

Two extremes

John Wilmoth, director of the Population Division in the UN's Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said the projected population increase will pose challenges but is not necessarily cause for alarm. Rather, he said, the worry is for countries on opposite sides of two extremes: Countries, mostly poor ones, whose populations are growing too quickly, and wealthier ones where the populations is aging and decreasing.

"The world has had a great experience of dealing with rapid population growth," Wilmoth said at a news conference. "World population doubled between 1960 and 2000, roughly. World food supply more than doubled over that time period."

"The problem is more one of extremes," he added. "The main story is to avoid the extreme of either rapid growth due to high fertility or rapid population aging and potential decline due to very low fertility."

Among the fastest-growing countries is Nigeria, whose population is expected to surpass the US population before the middle of the century and could start to rival China as the second most populous country in the world by the end of the century, according to the report. By 2050, Nigeria’s population is expected to reach more than 440 million people, compared to about 400 million for the US. The oil-rich African country’s population is forecast to be nearly 914 million by 2100.

The report found that most countries with very high levels of fertility - more than 5 children per women - are on the UN list of least developed countries. Most are in Africa, but they also include Afghanistan and East Timor.  But the average number of children per woman has swiftly declined in several large countries, including China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Brazil and South Africa, leading to a reduction in population growth rates in much of the developing world.

In contrast, many European and eastern Asia countries have very low fertility levels.

"As a result, these populations are aging rapidly and face challenges in providing care and support to their growing ranks of older persons," Wilmoth said.

Wilmoth cautioned that "there is a great deal of uncertainty about population trends." He said projections could change based on the trajectories of three major components - fertility, mortality and migration.

Still, population growth until 2050 is all but inevitable.

The UN uses the "medium-variant" projection, which assumes a substantial reduction in the fertility levels of intermediate - and high-fertility countries in the coming years. In the "high-variant" - if women on average had an extra half of a child - the world population would reach 10.9 billion in 2050. In the "low-variant" - if women on average had half a child fewer - the population would be 8.3 billion in 2050.

Key findings

Among the notable findings in the report:

  1. The population in developing regions is projected to increase from 5.9 billion in 2013 to 8.2 billion in 2050. In contrast, the population of developed countries is expected to remain largely unchanged during that period, at around 1.3 billion people.
  2. Africa's population could increase from 1.1 billion today to 2.4 billion in 2050, and potentially to 4.2 billion by 2100. 
  3. The number of children in less developed regions is at all time high at 1.7 billion. In those regions, children under age 15 account for 26 per cent of the population. In the poorest countries, children constitute 40 per cent of their populations, posing huge challenges for providing education and employment. 
  4. In wealthier regions, by contrast, children account for 16 per cent of the population. In developed countries as a whole, the number of older people has already surpassed the number of children, and by 2050 the number of older people will be nearly twice the number of children. 
  5. Low-fertility countries now include all of Europe except Iceland plus 19 countries in Asia, 17 in the Americas, two in Africa and one in Oceania. 
  6. The populations of several countries are expected to decline by more than 15 per cent by 2050, including Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cuba, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russia Serbia, and Ukraine. 
  7. Life expectancy at birth for the world as a whole rose from 47 years in 1950-55 to 69 years in 2005-2010 and is projected to reach 76 years in 2045-2050 and 82 years in 2095-2100.

Further information

Further analysis and a map depicting estimated populations in 2100 is available on The Guardian website and the full data is available from UN DESA.

This article, published by Agence France Presse, has been reproduced by PSN. Minor changes, cuts and additions may have been made for the purpose of brevity and relevance.