Earth now has 8 billion people—and counting. Where do we go from here?

We’ve added a billion people in just 12 years. The implications for the planet—and our own welfare—hinge on how we tackle climate change.

On the eve of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, people crowd a market in Bangalore. As soon as this year, India will become the world's most populous country, replacing China, which has held the top spot for two millennia. As the world's population reaches 8 billion people, some countries, like Nigeria, are experiencing rapid growth, while others, like Japan, are shrinking. 
Photograph by Manjunath Kiran, AFP, Getty

From the emergence of Homo sapiens, it took roughly 300,000 years before one billion of us populated the Earth. That was around 1804, the year morphine was discovered, when Haiti declared independence from France, and when Beethoven first performed his Third Symphony in Vienna.

We’ve added our most recent one billion more just since the first term of U.S. President Barack Obama. A mere dozen years after reaching seven billion, the planet most likely will surpass eight billion people sometime around mid-November, the United Nations estimates based on its best demographic projections.

The actual timing, however, is uncertain. In parts of the world, census data is decades old. During COVID-19 it was virtually impossible for some countries to record every death. Even

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