issues to keep you awake at night
The global population will reach
6 billion around the time UNEP's GEO-2000 is published. Under a
medium-fertility scenario, the global population is likely to peak at 8.9
billion in 50 years time. This projection assumes that all developing countries
will achieve replacement fertility levels (2.1 children per woman). However,
falling fertility is linked to factors such as rising income and improvements
in healthcare, employment and women's education. So stable population
levels cannot be taken for granted. If fertility rates exceeded the medium
scenario by half a child per couple, the population figure would shoot
towards 27 billion.
Nearly half of all people live
in cities. 600 million live in shanty towns while a further 100 million
are believed to be homeless. 1 billion urban residents are exposed to health-threatening
levels of air pollution.
More than 1.3 billion people
live on less than US$1 a day. A tenfold reduction in resource consumption
in the industrialised countries is a necessary long-term target if adequate
resources are to be released for the needs of developing countries.
Since World War 2, the number
of vehicles on the road has risen from 40 million to 680 million. At current
rates of expansion there will be 1 billion vehicles by 2025. Transport
is one of the major contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and urban
A survey of 200 scientists singled
out water scarcity and climate change as the most serious environmental
issues facing humanity in the 21st century. Next came deforestation and
Greenhouse gas emissions will
raise the global temperature by between 1 and 3.5 degrees Celsius in the
next 100 years*. Average sea level is expected to rise by 50cm with devastating
Climate change has been linked
to the increasing ferocity of natural disasters. Losses from natural disasters
between 1986 and 1995 were eight times higher than in the 1960s**. 3 million
people have perished as a result of natural disasters in the past three
In 1996, 25% of the world's
4630 mammals and 11% of the 9675 bird species were at significant risk
of extinction. More than half the world's coral reefs are threatened
by human activities. 80% of the forests that originally covered the earth
have been cleared.
By 2025, two out of three people
will live in water-stressed conditions***. Polluted water contributes to
the death of 15 million children under 5 every year.
Malaria affects more than 500
million people in 90 countries, causing 1.5-2.7 million deaths per year.
Poor sanitation in the developing world allows malaria to spread through
urban areas. Climate change may enable malaria to re-emerge in Europe.
Global pesticide use has resulted
in 3.5 million to 5 million acute poisonings a year. Nitrogen run-off from
fertilisers can lead to brain damage in children.
Armed conflicts create refugee
crises which in turn put pressure on the environment. In 1995, the number
of refugees worldwide hit an all time high of 27.4 million. In 1997 it
was 22.7 million. 1999 saw the problem exacerbated by the conflict in Kosovo.
Africa is the only continent
on which poverty is expected to rise during the next century. 500 million
hectares of land have been affected by soil degradation since about 1950.
75% of the world's poor
live in Asia. The estimated health cost of South East Asian forest fires
during 1997-1998 was $US 1400 million.
The strongest demonstration
of what unified environmental action can achieve is the global community's
success in controlling damage to the ozone layer. Since 1986 global consumption
of ozone-depleting CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) has fallen from 1.1 million
tonnes to 160,000 tonnes in 1996. As a direct result of this effort, the
ozone layer is expected to recover to pre-1980 levels by the year 2050.
Without the Montreal Protocol, which co-ordinated action on CFCs, levels
of ozone-depleting substances would have been five times higher than they
Urban noise is a problem in
Europe. Around 10 million people are exposed to environmental noise levels
that may cause hearing loss.
Most forests in eastern and
southern Amazonia are subjected to severe dry seasons, particularly during
El Niño events. These forests are on the edge of the rainfall regime that
is necessary for them to resist fire.
North Americans use more per
capita energy and resources than any other region. Average fuel use in
1995 was five times as high as in Europe.
1.2 billion barrels of oil are
spilled into the Persian Gulf annually. The region's oil-producing
countries produce 2-8 times more hazardous waste per capita than the USA.
Private foreign investment was
about US$250,000 million in 1998 compared to overseas development assistance
of less than US$50,000 million. These figures underline the importance
of the private sector in tackling environmental issues.
*Source: Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change. **Source: Munich Reinsurance Company *** World Meteorological
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