MAC: Mines and Communities

Vital Signs: Record Resource Consumption Depletes a Warming World

Published by MAC on 2007-09-14

Vital Signs: Record Resource Consumption Depletes a Warming World


14th September 2007

Record levels of consumption by a global population that now numbers 6.6 billion people are pushing the limits of ecosystem services upon which all life depends, according to the latest Worldwatch Institute report, "Vital Signs 2007-2008."

The 44 trends tracked in Vital Signs illustrate the urgent need to check consumption of energy and other resources that are contributing to the climate crisis, starting with the largest polluter, the United States, which accounted for over 21 percent of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning in 2005.

"The world is running out of time to head off catastrophic climate change, and it is essential that Europe and the rest of the international community bring pressure to bear on U.S. policymakers to address the climate crisis," said Erik Assadourian, Vital Signs project director.

Assadourian was speaking Thursday at the launch of the Vital Signs report at the Catalonian Ministry of the Environment in Barcelona, Spain. "The United States must be held accountable for its emissions, double the per capita level in Europe, and should follow the EU lead by committing to reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050," he said.

This summer, the European Union became a deadly example of how the world is being transformed by climate change, with fires in Greece and the Canary Islands, floods in England, and heat waves across the continent. Assadourian urged European leaders to push the United States "to engage more constructively with the international community on climate change," starting at the United Nations later this month and in the Bali climate negotiations in December.

"With the U.S. Congress preparing to take up far-ranging climate legislation this fall, and with President [George W.] Bush planning to hold an international climate change summit in Washington, now is the time to act," urged Assadourian. "If the U.S. and other nations walk away without concrete plans to implement a binding agreement, the EU should not hesitate to use its diplomatic clout to press the issue."

While U.S. carbon emissions continue to grow, the fastest rise is occurring in Asia, particularly China and India. But without a U.S. commitment to emissions constraints, says Assadourian, persuading China and India to commit to reductions is unlikely.

"The only hope for reducing the world's carbon emissions is for the U.S. to begin reducing its emissions and cooperating with other nations immediately. The EU may be the only entity that can make that happen," he said.

The expanding global appetite for everything from everyday items such as eggs to major consumer goods such as automobiles is helping to drive climate change, endangering organisms both on land and in the sea, the report documents.

Some statistics from the Vital Signs report:

In 2006, the world used 3.9 billion tons of oil. Fossil fuel usage in 2005 produced 7.6 billion tons of carbon emissions, and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide reached 380 parts per million.

More wood was removed from forests in 2005 than ever before.

Steel production grew 10 percent to a record 1.24 billion tons in 2006, while primary aluminum output increased to a record 33 million tons. Aluminum production accounted for roughly 3 percent of global electricity use.

Meat production hit a record 276 million tons (43 kilograms per person) in 2006.

Meat consumption is one of several factors driving rising soybean demand. Rapid expansion of soybean plantations in South America could displace 22 million hectares of tropical forest and savanna in the next 20 years.

The rise in global seafood consumption comes even as many fish species become scarcer: in 2004, 156 million tons of seafood was eaten, an average of three times as much seafood per person than in 1950.

The warming climate is undermining biodiversity by accelerating habitat loss, altering the timing of animal migrations and plant flowerings, and shifting some species toward the poles and to higher altitudes.

The oceans have absorbed about half of the carbon dioxide emitted by humans in the last 200 years. Climate change is altering fish migration routes, pushing up sea levels, intensifying coastal erosion, raising ocean acidity, and interfering with currents that move vital nutrients upward from the deep sea.

Despite a relatively calm U.S. hurricane season in 2006, the world experienced more weather-related disasters than in any of the previous three years. Nearly 100 million people were affected.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2007. All rights reserved.


Home | About Us | Companies | Countries | Minerals | Contact Us
© Mines and Communities 2013. Web site by Zippy Info