c . GLOBAL SNAPSHOT 2016--a statistical look at where human history has brought us

Additions or suggestions are invited; send to lhalper@gavilan.edu


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 2001).

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.)

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. (State of the World 2001).

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 2001).

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 2001).

… newly released data revealed continued growth [in 2012] in emissions of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and other major greenhouse gases, as well as a shifting geographic distribution of emissions. According to the Global Carbon Project, CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and cement production reached 9.7 gigatons of carbon (GtC) in 2012, with a ±5 percent uncertainty range.1 This is the highest annual total to date—and it is 58 percent higher than emissions in 1990, the year often used as a benchmark for emissions trends.2 Coal (43 percent) and oil (33 percent) accounted for the majority of these emissions, with natural gas (18 percent), cement production (5 percent), and flaring (1 percent) making up the remainder. (Auth).

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 average sea level around the world has risen a total of 222 millimeters (mm) since 1875, which means an annual rate of 1.7 mm… Yet at the end of this long period, from 1993 to 2009, the sea level rose 3.0 mm per year—a much faster rate.2 An estimated 30 percent of the sea level increase since 1993 is a result of warmer ocean temperatures that cause the water to expand (thermal expansion)… Another 55 percent of the increase results from the melting of land-based ice, mainly from glaciers and the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets… (Sea ice that melts does not contribute to sea level rise, as the volume remains constant.)… The other 15 percent of the rise is due to changes in terrestrial freshwater dynamics, such as wetland drainage and lowered water tables. (State of the World 2010)

In 2012, there were 905 natural catastrophes worldwide—and 93 percent of these events were weather-related disasters.1 This figure was about 100 above the 10-year annual average of 800 natural catastrophes.2 In terms of overall and insured losses ($170 billion and $70 billion, respectively), 2012 did not follow the records set in 2011 and could be defined as a moderate year on a global scale.3 But the United States was seriously affected by weather extremes: it accounted for 69 percent of overall losses and 92 percent of insured losses due to natural catastrophes worldwide (Low).

Of the 905 documented loss events, 45 percent were meteorological events (storms), 36 percent were hydrological events (floods), and 12 percent were climatological events such as heat waves, cold waves, droughts, and wildfires.5 The remaining 7 percent were geophysical events—earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.6 This distribution deviates somewhat from long-term trends, as between 1980 and 2011 geophysical events accounted for 14 percent of all natural catastrophes.7Some 37 percent of natural catastrophes occurred in Asia, 26 percent in the United States, 15 percent in Europe, 11 percent in Africa, and 6 percent in Australia/Oceania.8 … trends of weather-related catastrophes show considerable regional differences. The largest increases over the last 30 years occurred in North America (including Central America and the Caribbean), Asia, and Australia, while the smallest increases happened in Europe and South America (Low).

The world’s forests shrank by 1.3 percent or 520,000 square kilometers from 2000 to 2010—an area roughly the size of France. i(See Figure 1.) In total, forests now occupy 40.3 million square kilometers—31 percent of Earth’s land surface. Deforestation, mainly the conversion of forests to agricultural land, continues at a high rate in many countries. In addition, the extension of built-up areas and transport networks drives the changes in global land use (Normander).


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).

At least one quarter of the world's mammals in the wild are threatened with extinction, according to an international survey...that blames the loss of wildlife habitat, hnting, and poaching for the steep declines. The survey, assembled over five years by 1700 researchers in 130 countries, is the most comprehensive yet to assess damage on every continent and in every ocean (Weiss).

Since 1996, a total of 47,677 species of animals, plants, fungi, and protists (a group that includes protozoans and most algae) have been evaluated by the IUCN, and 17,291 of these are now considered threatened—a full 36 percent. (State of the World 2010.)

A complete evaluation of the world’s 1.7 million known species—not to mention the 3–50 million species that have yet to be discovered—is extremely far off, but some species families have been completely described and evaluated, including birds, mammals, and amphibians….Currently, 30 percent of amphibians, 21 percent of mammals, and 12 percent of bird species are listed as threatened with extinction… Of all groups evaluated, cycads and sturgeon have the highest proportion of threatened species, at 52 and 85 percent respectively (State of the World 2010).

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) .

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.)

As many as nine out of 10 of the world's seabirds likely have ieces of plastic in their guts, a new studey found. Previously scientists figured that about 29 percent of seabirds had swallowed plastic, based on other studies. (But) far more seabirds are affected (Borenstein).

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 2010).

A total of 842 million people in 2011–13, or around one in eight people in the world, were estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger, regularly not getting enough food to conduct an active life. This figure is lower than the 868 million reported with reference to 2010–12. The total number of undernourished has fallen by 17 percent since 1990–92 ("The Multiple").

Sub-Saharan Africa remains the region with the highest prevalence of undernourishment, with modest progress in recent years. Western Asia shows no progress, while Southern Asia and North- ern Africa show slow progress. Significant reductions in both the estimated number and prevalence of undernourishment have occurred in most countries of Eastern and South Eastern Asia, as well as in Latin America ("The Multiple").

Three billion people suffer from chronic micronutrient deficiencies, lacking adequate amounts of iron, iodine, and other important micronutrients in their diets. (State of the World 2010.)

If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million (World Food).

Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five - 3.1 million children each year. One out of six children -- roughly 100 million -- in developing countries is underweight. One in four of the world's children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three. 80 percent of the world's stunted children live in just 20 countries. 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. WFP calculates that US$3.2 billion is needed per year to reach all 66 million hungry school-age children (World Food).

In 2008, nearly 9 million children died before they reached their fifth birthday. One third of these deaths are due directly or indirectly to hunger and malnutrition. Malnutrition is not having enough nourishing food, with adequate amounts of protein, vitamins, minerals and calories to support physical and mental growth and development. Children who survive early childhood malnutrition suffer irreversible harm—including poor physical growth, compromised immune function, and impaired cognitive ability. ("Hunger and Poverty")

Around the world, 178 million children under 5 are stunted, low height for age. Of all stunted children, 90 percent live in just 36 countries, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa and South and Central Asia. ("Hunger and Poverty")
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 (The Worldwatch 63).

Nearly 2 billion people in developing countries are anemic (State of the World 2010).

Three companies control about half of the global agrochemical market: Bayer, Syngenta, and BASF. Use of genetically modified (GM) seeds has risen dramatically since these were first commercialized in the mid-1990s—now 45 percent of the corn and 85 percent of the soybeans grown in the United States are GM2 By branching out into plant biotechnol­ogy, huge chemical and pharmaceutical companies such as Monsanto have gained control over critical agricultural inputs that reach into food systems around the world. In 2004, land planted with Monsanto seeds accounted for 88 percent of the total area in GM crops world­wide. Once a global commons, genetic resources are now subject to Intellectual Property Rights protections. Developing countries are forced to deal with large transnational companies to get access to improved seed varieties and plant breeding technologies (State of the World 2010).

Other input markets are similarly concen­trated. In the United States, Mosaic—a com-pany created out of a merger between Cargill and IMC Global—controls 50–60 percent of the synthetic fertilizer market, while four firms control over 80 percent of the market for farm equipment. Four companies control 60 percent of terminal grain facilities, and Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland, and Zen Noh control 81 percent of U.S. corn exports and 65 percent of soybean exports. Cargill has the largest global terminal capacity, handling significant grain exports in Canada, the United States, Brazil, and Argentina. It owns and operates a worldwide transportation network of ships, trucks, barges, railcars, and grain elevators for storage. Cargill is also among the top three beef producers in the United States and plays an important role in poultry production (State of the World 2010) .

The absolute number of people in extreme poverty has almost doubled….from 200 million in 1981 to almost 400 million in 2005("Hunger and Poverty").

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).

Every minute, totaling 509,000 avoidable deaths each year, a woman somewhere in the world dies in childbirth (Loth). 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).

Some 1.2 billion people—almost one fifth of the world—live in areas of physical water scarcity, while another 1.6 billion face what can be called economic water shortage.1 The situation is only expected to worsen as population growth, climate change, investment and management shortfalls, and inefficient use of existing resources restrict the amount of water available to people. It is estimated that by 2025 fully 1.8 billion people will live in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity, with almost half of the world living in conditions of water stress (Kumar).


Water tables are falling as groundwater is overpumped in South Asia, northern China, the Middle East, North Africa, and the southwestern United States, often propping up food production unsustainably. The World Bank estimates that some 15 percent of India’s food, for example, is produced using water from nonrenewable aquifers. Another sign of scarcity is that desalination, a limited and expensive water supply solution, is on the rise (State of the World 2010).

Income is related to the availability of water between and within nations. (State of the World 2001).

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 2001).

By 2015, 3 billion people, or 40 percent of the world's population, will live in water-stressed countries (The Worldwatch 6).

The share of people in the world with access to improved sanitation rose to 62 percent in 2006, according to the most recent data from the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation.1 (See Table 1.) This is an increase from 54 percent in 1990.2 Some 1.2 billion people have gained access to improved sanitation since 1990, yet more than twice that number—2.5 billion people worldwide—still lack such access, and 1.2 billion people still have no choice but to defecate outdoors in the open. (State of the World 2010.)

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 2001).

Agriculture uses two thirds of the available fresh water (State of the World 2001).

In California, agriculture accounts for 7 percent of economy but uses 43 percent of the water (Harpers April).

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 2001).

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 2001).

Some 1.3 billion tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) are generated globally each year, a volume that is increasing rapidly as urbanization, mass consumption, and throw-away lifestyles become more prevalent worldwide.1 The volume of MSW generated globally is projected to double by 2025 as two drivers of garbage generation—prosperity and urbanization—continue to advance, particularly in developing countries.2 The trend poses serious environmental and health challenges to cities worldwide.3 To the extent that MSW is not treated as a resource—and in most countries it is not—it stands as an indicator of economic unsustainability (Gardner).

Census data in 2010 indicate that cities are home to 3.5 billion people, which is 50.5 percent of the world.1 Only two centuries ago humans were predominately rural dwellers, with just 3 percent of us living in cities.2 According to U.N. estimates, the balance tipped sometime in 2008, when more people lived in urban areas than in rural communities—a first in the history of humanity (Potter).

In 2006, coal accounted for 25 percent of world primary energy supply.1 (See Figure 1.) Due to its high carbon content, coal was responsible for approximately 40 percent of the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels, despite supplying only 32 percent of fossil fuel energy. Management of this plentiful but heavily polluting energy resource has tremendous implica­tions for human welfare, the health of ecosystems, and the stability of the global climate (State of the World 2010).

Within each decade, the prevalence of asthma increased 50 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 2010).

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 2010).

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 2010).

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).

Around 7 million children under the age of five die each year. Almost all of these children’s lives could be saved if they had access to simple and affordable interventions such as exclusive breastfeeding, inexpensive vaccines and medication, clean water and sanitation. WHO is working with governments and partners worldwide to deliver integrated, effective care and strengthen health systems, both of which are crucial to saving children’s lives ("10 Facts").

Every day, nearly 800 women die due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Maternal mortality is a health indicator that shows very wide gaps between rich and poor, both between countries and within them. WHO works to improve maternal health by assisting countries to improve care before, during and after childbirth ("10 Facts").

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading causes of death in the world. Three in ten deaths globally are caused by cardiovascular diseases – diseases of the heart and blood vessels that can cause heart attacks and stroke. At least 80% of premature deaths from cardiovascular diseases could be prevented through a healthy diet, regular physical activity and avoiding the use of tobacco("10 Facts").

Mental health disorders such as depression are among the 20 leading causes of disability worldwide
Depression affects around 350 million people worldwide and this number is projected to increase. Fewer than half of those people affected have access to adequate treatment and health care("10 Facts").

Almost 1 in 10 adults has diabetes. Almost 10% of the world’s adult population has diabetes, measured by elevated fasting blood glucose (≥126 mg/dl). People with diabetes have increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Deaths due to diabetes have been increasing since the year 2000, reaching 1.4 million deaths in 2011("10 Facts").

Hearing loss, vision problems and mental disorders are the most common causes of disability. These disorders can affect people's lives and livelihoods, but many are easily treatable and some are preventable. Improved access to interventions such as hearing aids, corrective eyeglasses and cataract surgery can make a big difference to helping people live productively("10 Facts").

According to the World Health Organization, Globally, 1 in 4 (25%), suffer from mental disorders in both developed and developing countries. Four of the six leading causes of years lived with disability are depression, alcohol use disorders, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. Mental illnesses do not discriminate – they can affect anyone: men, women and children, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, and socio-economic status ( "Mental").

U.S. development assistance accounts for about 0.2% of gross national income. Since 2000, U.S. poverty-focused development assistance has tripled, and currently totals a little over $28 billion (Bread for the World estimate), but this amount still represents less than 1% of the federal budget. From 1985 to 2005, U.S. development assistance to support agriculture and rural development declined from 12 percent of all official development assistance to just 3.1 percent("Hunger and Poverty").

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 2001).

In 2012, world military expenditures ran to $1,740 billion, expressed in constant 2011 dollars ($1,753 billion in current prices).1 According to the World Military Expenditure Database of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), this is just slightly below the peak value of $1,749 billion in 2011, but still higher than in any other year since the end of World War II (Renner).

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).


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