Population on earth to hit 14bn by end of the century
The number of people on Earth is set to double by the end of the century, the United Nations has warned.
The world-population milestone of seven billion is due to be passed sometime after midnight next Monday, according to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
Hospitals around the world are being asked to mark the event by celebrating the birth of a "symbolic child".
The UNFPA, which is in charge of monitoring world population, said the seven billion mark would be passed earlier than expected because people were living longer, more babies were surviving and more children were being born in the developing world.
Although world population is not growing as fast as in the mid-1960s, because developed countries such as Britain have a lower birth rate, the number of people in 58 countries, including India, continues to grow.
Previously, the UN had kept to the conservative estimate that the population would grow to more than 10 billion by 2100.
If birth rates in developing countries continue to grow, the total could reach 10.6 billion by 2050 and 15 billion by 2100.
"Much of this increase is expected to come from the high fertility countries, which comprise 39 in Africa, nine in Asia, six in Oceania and four in Latin America," the UN reported.
Environmentalists, including high-profile figures such as David Attenborough, argue that the situation is not sustainable because food and water supplies will run low.
Launching the latest 'State of the Population' report, Dr Babatunde Osotimehin, chief executive of the UNFPA, said consumption rather than numbers was the real issue.
He said that seven billion people "in a group photo" would only take up as much space as the city of Los Angeles.
"The population question is not about the amount of space people take up," he explained.
"It is about equity, social justice, distribution and consumption."
Asia will remain the most populous area, with 4.2 billion people today, rising to 5.2 billion in 2052 before falling.
Africa is gaining ground, rising from one billion today to 3.6 billion in 2100.
The populations of all other major areas including the Americas, Europe and Oceania amount to 1.7 billion in 2011 and are projected to rise to nearly 2 billion in 2060 before falling.
Europe is projected to peak at around 2025 at 0.74 billion and decline thereafter.
Dr Osotimehin said there were 215 million women worldwide who wanted family planning but who could not get it.
He said it would cost just €1.44bn to help those women take control of their reproduction.
Dr Osotimehin added that there were more young people in the world than ever before with 1.8 billion 10 to 24-year-olds, mostly living in the developing world.
Some 70pc of people would live in cities by 2050, meaning there must be more investment in urban planning, he added. (© Daily Telegraph, London)