GEO-6 identifies five drivers affecting the health of the planet. The trends in human population and demographics combined with economic development, and the growth of consumption that this can enable, have been acknowledged for many decades as the primary drivers of environmental change (well established). More recently, rapid urbanization, accelerating technological innovation, and climate change have been identified as additional drivers. There are wide disparities globally in the consumption and production patterns linked to those drivers. ﹛2.1.1, 2.2; SPM, p. 6﹜
The global population in 2018 was 7.5 billion, with median projections estimating an increase to nearly 10 billion by 2050 and nearly 11 billion by 2100 (well established). Increases in life expectancy, and reductions in infant and other mortality, mean population growth rates will remain positive in all regions except Europe and certain parts of Asia. Unequal access to education (Figure 2.1) and lack of empowerment of women, as well as women's lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services, all contribute to high birth rates. ﹛2.3﹜
Population growth is expected to be highest in countries that are very poor, have a low carbon footprint per capita, and have high gender inequity in terms of access to education, work, and sexual and reproductive rights and health services (well established). ﹛2.1, 2.3, 2.3.4, 2.1.1; SPM, p. 6﹜ Such countries also have a low carbon footprint per capita (well established). ﹛Chapter 2, ExecSum, 2.1, 2.3.1, 2.3.2; Co-Chairs’ Message﹜
Population growth will remain important in countries experiencing an early or late demographic dividend (most middle-income and upper middle-income countries) (Figure 2.2). These are also the countries that are projected to have the highest increases in carbon footprints per capita and in environmental footprints more broadly. ﹛Chapter 2, ExecSum, 2.3.1﹜
The world population will become older on average (including in the global South), will become more urban, and will live in smaller households (well established). The trend of rapid urbanization is mainly in the global South.
Economic development has lifted billions of people out of poverty and improved access to health and education in most regions of the world (well established). Although income levels in developing countries lag behind those of developed countries, growth rates in the former are now outstripping growth rates in the developed world (Figure 2.3) and the welfare of large numbers of people is improving.