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World Population to Hit 7 Billion This Year, 10 Billion by 2100

With 2.3 billion more people arriving to the globe in the next 40 years, the battle for resources is just beginning.

The globe's seven billionth citizen will be born before January 2012, according to new estimates from the United Nations. It was only 1999 when the earth's population hit 6 billion, and by 2050 we're expected to add 2.3 billion more. Despite all the financial hardships many currently face, proud parents abound. But their joy might spell trouble for the rest of us.

For centuries, global population grew gradually. It only took 50 years, however, for the population to skyrocket from 3 billion to the current 7 billion, and studies say that the vast majority of the people coming into the world over the next four decades—a full 97 percent—will do so in less developed regions. Africa alone will account for nearly 49 percent of the growth. With so many mouths to feed in those struggling locales, the challenge of global sustainability will be even more acute in the coming years.

In many nations around the world, scarcity is already a concern—a cause the West has both exacerbated and halfheartedly tried to address time and time again. In June, the U.N.'s World Food Programme was struggling with a $360 million funding shortfall, putting hundreds of thousands of people living in the Horn of Africa at risk of starvation. At the same time, millions of people in Somalia alone are being cut off from food by Islamist rebel groups.

The population milestone should be a wake-up call to act on climate change, as the developing world is expected to bear the brunt of our carbon emissions in the West. It's also a reminder of the importance of promoting family planning initiatives in the developing world. This helps prevent the spread of HIV and AIDS, of course, but it also gives power to women and families who may have never heard of birth control before.

Because if you think what happens in Africa doesn't impact you, think again. Commenting on the data in the new issue of Science, Harvard economist David Bloom noted, "Although the issues immediately confronting developing countries are different from those facing the rich countries, in a globalized world demographic challenges anywhere are demographic challenges everywhere."

photo (cc) via Flickr user Saad.Akhtar

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