World population in mid-1996 is 5.8 billion. Although rates of growth have fallen and will continue to fall, our numbers are increasing by more than 86 million persons annually. According to United Nations projections, annual increments are likely to remain above 86 million until the year 2015. While it took 123 years for world population to increase from 1 billion to 2 billion, succeeding billions took 33 years, 14 years and 13 years. The next billion is expected to take only 11 years and to be completed by 1998. World population will pass 6 billion in 1998.
During the remaining years of this critical decade, the world's nations by their actions or inactions will choose their demographic future. Looking ahead 20 years, United Nations population projections range from a low of 7.10 billion people in 2015 to a high of 7.83 billion. The difference of 720 million people in the short span of 20 years is nearly equivalent to the current population of Africa. Further into the future, the projections diverge even further. By the year 2050, the United Nations low projection shows a world population of 7.9 billion people, and the high projection a population of 11.9 billion people.