Kazuo Yanase, Yohei Matsuo, Eugene Lang, and Eri Sugiura, Nikkei Asia »

For the past 200 years, a rapidly rising population has consumed the earth’s resources, ruined the environment, and started wars. But humanity is about to trade one population bomb for another, and now scientists and policymakers are waking up to a new reality: The world is on the precipice of decline, and possible extinction.

Today the world’s population, which stood as 1 billion in 1800, is now 7.8 billion, and the strain on the planet is clear. But scientists and policymakers are slowly waking up to the new numbers: The population growth rate reached a peak of 2.09% in the late 1960s, but it will fall below 1% in 2023, according to a study by the University of Washington, published last year. In 2017, the growth rate of people aged 15 to 64 — the working-age population — fell below 1%. The working-age population has already begun to drop in about a quarter of countries around the world. By 2050, 151 of the world’s 195 countries and regions will experience depopulation.

Ultimately, the study forecasts that the global population will peak at 9.7 billion in 2064 and then start declining.