A statistical look at where human history has brought us. Additions or suggestions are invited; send to email@example.com
Carbon dioxide and other "greenhouse gases" trap heat in the atmosphere and raise average global surface temperatures. Emissions of carbon dioxide grew 12-fold between 1900 and 2000, from 534 million metric tons per year in 1900 to 6.59 billion metric tons in 1997( State of the World).
In the same period, human population nearly quadrupled, from 1.6 billion to 6.1 billion, progressively consuming greater quantities of fossil fuels-oil, gas and coal. Expanded agriculture, destruction of forests and increased production of certain chemicals also increase greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that the earth's atmosphere will warm by as much as 5.8 degrees Celsius over the coming century, a rate unmatched over the past 10,000 years. The IPCC's "best estimate" scenario projects a sea-level rise of about half a metre by 2100 (with a range of 15 to 95 centimetres), substantially greater than the increase over the last century (State of the World).
The human and ecological impacts of rising oceans include increased flooding, coastal erosion, salinization of aquifers, and loss of coastal cropland, wetlands and living space. The intensity and frequency of hurricanes and other hazardous weather may also increase, endangering the growing human population in coastal areas. Rising global surface temperatures and changes in precipitation magnitude, intensity and geographical distribution may well redraw the world renewable resources map. Whether or not these climatic changes affect net global agricultural production, they are almost certain to shift productivity among regions and countries, and within nations (State of the World).
Earth's average temperature has been hotter over the last quarter century than during the previous four centuries and possibly much longer, a definitive new National Academy of Sciences study has found. (Davidson.)
If emissions of heat-trapping gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere at the currrent rate, there may be many centuries of warming and a near total loss of Arctic tundra, according to a new climate study. (Revkin.)
The Arctic ice cap has thinned by 42 percent(State of the World).
To date, 27 percent of the world's coral reefs have been lost (State of the World).
Unless fossil fuel use slows dramatically, the Earth's temperature could rise to as high as 6 degrees above the 1990 level by 2100. Such an increase could lead to acute water shortages, declining food production, and the proliferation of deadly diseases such as malaria and dengue fever (State of the World).
Unless change occurs, climate change will soon rival habitat destruction in dooming plants and animals to extinction. Eighteen to 35 percent of species will vanish from six key large global areas; this could mean the loss of up to a million species worldwide (Chui 3A) .
By 2050, rising temperatures exacerbated by human-induced belches of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases could send more than a million of Earth's land-dwelling plants and animals down the road to extinction, according to a recent study. "Climate change now represents at least as great a threat to the number of species surviving on Earth as habitat-destruction and modification," said Chris Thomas, a conservation biologist at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom (Roach).
Some 50 percent of the world's flora and fauna could be on a path to extinction within a hundred years. And everything is affected: fish, birds, insects, plants, and mammals. As many as 11 percent of birds, or 1,100 species out of the world's nearly 10,000, are on the edge of extinction; it's doubtful that the majority of these 1,100 will live much beyond the end of the next century. Also a team of respected botanists recently reported that one in eight plants is at risk of becoming extinct. This is a worldwide epidemic of extinctions (Morrell).
Such a rate of extinction has occurred only five times since complex life emerged, and each time it was caused by a catastrophic natural disaster. For instance, geologists have found evidence that a meteorite crashed into Earth 65 million years ago, leading to the demise of the dinosaurs. That was the most recent major extinction. Today the Earth is again in extinction's grip--but the cause has changed. The sixth extinction is not happening because of some external force. It is happening because of us, Homo sapiens, an "exterminator species," as one scientist has characterized humankind (Morrell).
The risk of extinction that over dozens of species of frogs and other amphibians around the globe, due to pressures that range from deforestation to ozone depletion. These are "an important bioindicator-a sort of barometer of Earth's health-more sensitive to environmental stress than other organisms" (State of the World).
As many as 122 species of frogs have died out since 1980, and a new study documents for the first time a direct correltion between climatic warming and the disappearance. Warming made a fungus fatal to the frogs more prevalant; 80 percent of the time there has been a correlation between higher temperatures and frog species extinction. (Eilperin.)
Thirty five percent of the world's fisheries report declining yields (Jones 25).
GLOBAL WEALTH AND POVERTY
Around 1.7 billion people worldwide-more than a quarter of humanity-have entered the "consumer class," adopting the diets, transportation systems, and lifestyles that were limited to the rich nations of Europe, North America, and Japan during most of the last century. In China alone, 240 million people have joined the ranks of consumers-a number that will soon surpass that in the United States (Richer).
The 12 percent of the world's people living in North America and Western Europe account for 60 percent of this consumption, while the one-third living in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa account for only 3.2 percent (Richer).
Some 500 billionaires on this planet, mostly Americans, have the equivalent assets of half of the world's population (Krieger).
Basic education for all would cost $6 BILLION a year.$8 BILLION is spent annually for cosmetics in the United States alone. Installation of water and sanitation for all would cost $9 BILLION plus some annual costs;$11 BILLION is spent annually on ice cream in Europe. Reproductive health services for all women would cost $12 BILLION a year;$12 BILLION a year is spent on perfumes in Europe and the United States (United Nations Development).
1.2 billion people across the world live on less than $1 a day-a condition classified as "extreme poverty" and characterized by hunger, illiteracy, vulnerability, sickness and premature death. Half the world's population, 2.3 billion people, live on $2 a day or less (State of the World).
More than a billion people cannot fulfill their basic needs for food, water, sanitation, health care, housing and education. Nearly 60 per cent of the 4.4 billion people living in developing countries lack basic sanitation, almost one third do not have access to clean water supplies, one quarter lack adequate housing, 20 per cent do not have access to modern health services, and 20 per cent of children do not attend school through grade five (State of the World).
On our planet over one billion people are illiterate, and some 100 million children are denied access to primary education(Krieger).
Over the past decade, youth unemployment rates worldwide have jumped from 11.7 percent to a record 14.4 percent in 2003, more than double the overall global unemployment rate. (An estimated) 88 million young people, ages 15-24, were without work in 2005, nearly half the world's jobless (The Worldwatch 25).
GLOBAL LIVING CONDITIONS--WATER
1.2 billion people lack access to clean water and hundreds of millions breathe unhealthy air. Income is related to the availability of water between and within nations. (State of the World).
Global population has tripled over the past 70 years and water use has grown six-fold as the result of industrial development and increased irrigation. Worldwide, 54 per cent of the annual available fresh water is being used. If per capita consumption everywhere reached the level of more developed countries we could be using 90 per cent of the available water by 2025(State of the World).
In the year 2000, 508 million people lived in 31 water-stressed (1700 cubic meters per capita per year) or -scarce countries (1000 cubic meters). By 2025, 3 billion people will be living in 48 such countries. This is a sixfold increase(State of the World).
By 2015, 3 billion people, or 40 percent of the world's population, will live in water-stressed countries (The Worldwatch 6).
The World Health Organization reports that about 1.1 billion people do not have access to clean water (whatever its quantity)(State of the World).
2.4-3.0 billion people lack access to sanitation. These shortcomings are most pronounced in rural areas, where 29 per cent of residents lack access to clean water and 62 per cent to sanitation systems (State of the World).
In developing countries, 90-95 per cent of sewage and 70 per cent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into surface waters where they pollute the usable water supply(State of the World).
Agriculture uses two thirds of the available fresh water (State of the World).
In California, agriculture accounts for 7 percent of economy but uses 43 percent of the water. (Harpers April)
GLOBAL LIVING CONDITIONS--FOOD
Worldwide, nearly 2 billion people suffer from hunger and chronic nutrient deficiencies....Among the major food security threats on the horizon are the loss of diversity of plant and animal species, the emergence of new diseases and foodborne illnesses, and food bioterror (Worldwatch 63).
842 million people go to bed hungry each night, most of them in Africa and Lat in America--though interestingly 34 million of them are in the former Soviet Union countries, and 10 million even in the rich industrialized world (Vallely).
Nearly 2 billion people in developing countries are anemic(State of the World).
GLOBAL LIVING CONDITIONS--POLLUTION & HEALTH CARE
Unclean water and associated poor sanitation kill over 12 million people each year. Air pollution kills nearly 3 million more(State of the World).
It has been estimated that roughly 60 per cent of the global burden of disease from acute respiratory infections, 90 per cent from diarrhea disease, 50 per cent from chronic respiratory conditions and 90 per cent from malaria could be avoided by simple environmental interventions(State of the World).
Air pollution kills an estimated 2.7 million to 3.0 million people every year, about 90 per cent of them in the developing world(State of the World).
Within each decade, the prevalence of asthma increased50 percent. Worldwide, more than 300 million people are affected, the Global Initiative for Asthma said. The World Health Organization adds that deaths are projected to rise by almost 20 percent in the next ten years without urgent action. Treatment costs more than HIV and TB treatment combined (Kole).
A February 2001 University of North Carolina (U.S.) study found that fetal deaths are almost twice as likely among pregnant women in California farming communities who live near areas where certain pesticides were sprayed. Deaths appeared to be a result of exposure during the first trimester of pregnancy. These findings are relevant to developing countries where regulation of chemical application is less stringent and where even more dangerous chemicals banned in the developed world are still used in agriculture and disease control(State of the World).
In 1997 the International Association for Research on Cancer found high levels of dioxin in human breast milk in 29 of 32 countries studied, including France, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the United States and Viet Nam(State of the World).
A controversial set of studies of U.S. girls points to a nationwide trend towards earlier and earlier puberty. Other studies show that girls exposed to high levels of PCBs and DDE (a product resulting from the breakdown of DDT) in utero entered puberty 11 months earlier than did those without such exposure(State of the World).
Every minute, totaling 509,000 avoidable deaths each year, a woman somewhere in the world dies in childbirth (Loth).
Few of the 70,000 or so chemicals on the market in Europe have been adequately tested for safety. But several of those that have been tested increase the prevalence of cancer, disrupt hormonal systems, and retard child development (The Worldwatch 78).
Ending poverty has been an international aim since 1960. After significant advances between 1970 and 1990, the rate of poverty reduction in the 1990s fell to only one third of the pace required to meet the United Nations' commitment to halve poverty levels by 2015(State of the World).
The US remains last among industrialized countries in the amount of its gross domestic product that it allocates for international development at--.11 percent. The US is spending more on its plans to research, develop and deploy missile defenses ($7.8 billion) than it for its international humanitarian and development assistance ($7.6 billion)(Krieger).
There are about 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world, down from the all-time high in 1985 of 65,000. The United States has 10,240; Russia has 8400; China has 390; France has 350; UK has 200-300; India has 60-90; Pakistan has 55-250, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (http://www.nrdc.org/nuclear/nudb/datainx.asp). There are many other suspected nuclear states (List of).
Currently, only six countries worldwide possess declared stocks of chemical weapons-- Albania, India, Libya, Russia, South Korea, and the United States. Russia and the United States have over 98 percent of those stockpiles (Worldwatch 142).
If health care spending in the world's 60 poorest countries could be steadily increased from the present $13 per capita to $38 by 2015, experts say, on average 8 million lives could be saved each year. This would require a total contribution from industrial countries of abut 438 billion--a fraction of what the United States recently spent to unseat Saddam Hussein in Iraq (The Worldwatch 44).
Each year more than 2.3 million people, primarily in poor countries, die from eight diseases that could easily be prevented by vaccination (The Worldwatch 47).
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