Is the world full, nearly full - or past the point of no return?

The population is set to hit 10 billion by 2060.
The population is set to hit 10 billion by 2060. Photo credit: NASA/file.

Researchers are debating whether the ever-increasing population could result in a world that is simply too full to function.

In 1900, the world's population sat around 1.65 billion. Fast-forward to 2000, and the Earth's inhabitants have increased by 4.4 billion. In 19 years, a predicted 1.5 billion humans have been added - an increase almost the size of the entire planet's population 119 years ago. 

The population is set to hit 10 billion by 2060, according to estimates by the United Nations.

In 41 years, each square kilometre will have 20 inhabitants - including all the areas of the globe that are currently considered uninhabitable, reports.

The debate has raised issues of population versus individual consumption and consumer habits, as well as each nation's individual rates of population growth.

While Europe's population growth has stagnated in recent years, India and Africa have experienced significant booms in numbers - largely due to inadequate sexual health services and a lack of effective contraception.

"If good sexual, reproductive and health services were universally available, this would help bring down population because it would eliminate so many unwanted pregnancies," Dr Satterthwaitre told

Experts agree that implementing better educational campaigns, investing in girls' education and investing in family planning worldwide can help slow the ever-increasing number of humans.

On a more positive note, the world's population is increasing at a far slower rate than it has in the last 50 years, the publication reports.

The United Nations predicts that the annual growth rate, which currently sits around 1 percent, should halve again to around 0.5 percent by 2050. By 2100 they believe the population's yearly growth will sit around 0.1 percent.

However, some scientists and researchers believe that despite the reduced growth rate, the inevitable increase will still be large enough to put severe pressure on future ecosystems

A number of environmentalists believe the world is already "full", judging by examples of rapidly depleting resources and mass consumption.

There's also the standpoint that increased population will lead to increased consumption - leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

Increased global warming could make some places, such as the areas experiencing the greatest growth, uninhabitable.