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Some Interesting & Disturbing Environmental Facts
Some Interesting Environmental Science Facts & Figures
The Earth has been around for 4.6 billion years. Scaling this time down to 46 years humans have been around for only 4 hours and the Industrial Revolution began just 1 minute ago. During this short time period, we have ransacked the planet for ways to get fuels and raw materials, and have been the cause of extinction of huge numbers of plants and animals, while we have multiplied our population to that of a ‘plague’.
Over 40% of all tropical forests have already been destroyed, and another hectare is lost each second.
While the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world's population, they produce 72% of all hazardous waste and consume 33% of the world's paper. The United States is responsible for almost 26% of the world's total energy consumption.
The annual catch in 13 of the world's 15 major fishing zones has declined and in four of those, three in the Atlantic and one in the Pacific oceans, the catch has shrunk to a startling 30%.
More than 100 million Americans live in urban areas where the air is officially classified by the EPA as unsafe to breathe.
One-half of US lakes and one-third of rivers are too polluted to be completely safe for swimming or fishing.
Raw sewage, poison runoff and other pollution have caused 8,000 beach closures or advisories over the past five years in the USA.
The United States uses two million liters of oil every minute. In 1991, 1 billion Kg of pesticides were used in the U.S. - 4 Kg for every man, woman and child. A 1991 NRDC study found that pesticide use could easily be reduced in nine major U.S. crops by up to 80 percent.
Americans are exposed to 70,000 chemicals, some 90% of which have never been subjected to adequate testing to determine their impact on our health. In the early 1990's, 116 million Americans drank water from systems that violated the Safe Drinking Water Act.
As of 1994, 1.7 million American children, ages one to five, suffered from lead poisoning.
Of the trash that Americans throw away every day, 30% by weight is packaging alone. In 1993, they threw away 7 billion Kg of plastic packaging.
Children who lived near streets traveled by more than 20,000 cars a day were six times more likely to develop cancer than those who lived in quieter neighborhoods, where local traffic was less than 500 vehicles per day

Motor vehicles are responsible for about one-thirds of global oil use, but for nearly two-thirds of US oil use. In the rest of the world, heating and power generation account for most oil use.

The city of Los Angeles, California, has more cars today than all of China.

Bicycles use 2% as much energy as cars per passenger-kilometer, and cost less than 3% as much to purchase.

The impact of the average U.S. citizen on the environment is approximately 3 times that of the average Italian, 13 times that of the average Brazilian, 35 times that of the average Indian, 140 times that of the average Bangladeshi, and 250 times that of the average sub-Saharan African. A child born in the industrial world consumes and pollutes more over his or her lifetime than do 40 children born in developing countries.

General Motors [and other companies] systematically destroyed much of rail transport in the USA. More than 3,000 miles [4.800 Km] of US railroad tracks are abandoned each year.

Streets, parking lots and alleyways take up at least 40% of the average American city centers.

The Price of Mid Eastern oil in 1988 was $18/barrel. It recently rose to about $70. [energy/oil – oil use/peak oil]

Auto emissions account for 17% of worldwide emissions of carbon dioxide (C02), whose buildup in the atmosphere is causing planetary climate change.

Per capita gas use in U.S. cities is nearly 4.5 times higher than in European cities and 1.5 times higher than neighboring Toronto, Canada. The auto- centered city of Houston, Texas uses 40 percent more gas per capita than public transit-centered New York City.

Automobile air conditioners are the single largest source of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) that are responsible, in part, for destroying the earth's protective ozone layer.
2.800 billion liters of lubricating oil, 250 million tires, 138.000 tons of lead from discard auto batteries, and 9 million passenger cars are disposed of each year in the U.S. alone.

In the Netherlands, 40% of all trips are made by bicycle, and a third of the people ride their bike to work everyday. In China, at least half of all urban vehicle trips are made on two wheels. 1 out of 74,000 people in China own a car. India has 30 million bicycles - 25 times the number of motorized vehicles there. Worldwide 1 out of 1000 people own a car. In Los Angeles there are more cars than people, including babies and people too old to drive.

100 bicycles can be manufactured for the energy and materials it takes to build a medium-sized car.
Every year in US they throw away 24 million tons of leaves and grass. Leaves alone account for 75% of our solid waste in the fall.
Americans use 50 million tons of paper/yr, consuming over 850 million trees.
Homeowners use up to 10 times more toxic chemicals per ha than US farmers.
Every day, 50 to 100 species of plants and animals become extinct as their habitats disappear and other human influences destroy them.
Deserts are advancing and taking over the land. In Mali the desert has taken over about 220 miles [350 Km] in 20 years.
In 2005, the average atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration reached 379.6 parts per million by volume, an increase of 2.6 parts per million - 0.6 percent - over the record high in 2004.

The average global temperature in 2005 was 14.6 degrees Celsius, making it the warmest year ever recorded on Earth’s surface, according to data from NASA. The five warmest years since recordkeeping began in 1880 have all occurred since 1998. The average global temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Celsius in the past century. More than half of that warming - a rise of 0.6 degrees has occurred in the past 30 years, meaning that this warming trend is accelerating. Various models suggest that during the 21st century the average temperature may rise by between 1.4°C and 5.8°C, and in the polar regions by as much as 10°C (IUCN, 2002 / GIEC, 2001) Climate changes are approaching a one million year high temperature that will cause ocean rise, increased storms, desertification, species migration, extinctions and much more!
Global cancer rates could increase by 50% to 15 million by 2020. In the year 2000, malignant tumors were responsible for 12% of the nearly 56 million deaths worldwide from all causes. In many countries, more than a quarter of deaths are attributable to cancer. In 2000, 5.3 million men and 4.7 million women developed a malignant tumor, and altogether, 6.2 million died from the disease.
E. O. Wilson of Harvard, perhaps the world's most esteemed biologist, estimates that one half of all species on earth will be extinct by the end of this century.

Over the course of the 20th century, the average global temperature increased by 0.6 °C. This number will in all likelihood continue to rise by between 1.4 °C and 5.8 °C during the 21st century and by close to 10 °C in polar regions. (IUCN, 2002 / GIEC, 2001)
More than half of the world's entire population lives below the poverty line (with less than USD $2 / day). (UN, 2002)
80% of the world's wealth is owned by 15% of the inhabitants of the richest countries. (UN Johannesburg Summit 2002) [population issues – income inequality]
Carbon dioxide emissions from human activity are responsible for more than 60% of the increase in the greenhouse effect. (OECD, 1999)
Since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, industrial carbon dioxide emissions have declined, but emissions from transport have increased by 75%. (UN, 2004)
The arctic ice floe is 40% thinner than in 1960. (International Geosphere Biosphere Program (IGBP) / World program of climate researches (PMCR), 2001)
A fifth of the global population has no access to drinking water.(UN)
In 2025 two third of the global population will suffer from a lack of water unless large-scale action is taken. (UNESCO / UNEP, 1999)
The world's annual budget for military spending is USD 1000 billion; the figure for development aid is USD 60 billion. (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) / OECD ; 2003)
The Agro-Food sector spends USD 40 billion on advertising every year.
(Tim Atlas de l'alimentation dans le monde Editions Autrement, 2003)
Every year the world produces 356 kg of cereal per person, while 40 million people die of hunger. (FAO / / WRI / WHO)
Since 1980, the volume of garbage generated per inhabitant in industrialized countries has tripled. (UNDP)
World population:1800: 1 billion 2005: 6,5 billion 2050: 9 billion? (UN, 24th of February 2005)
More than 1 million people move to towns and cities each week. Nearly 1 billion people (1 in 6) currently live in shanty towns. (UN HABITAT)
87% of the world's teenagers & infants live in a developing country. (UNFPA, 2003)
1/5 adults worldwide cannot read/write. 98% from developing countries; 2/3
On average, 40 liters of water are consumed per person/day. A Madagascan farmer consumes 10 liters, a Parisian 240 liters, and an American 600 liters. (CNRS 2004)
Bottled water costs up to 1,000 times more than tap water.
Pesticides kill almost 20,000 agricultural workers each year. (WHO and Tim Lang Atlas de l’alimentation mondiale Editions Autrement, 2003)
One woman dies every minute of complications resulting from pregnancy or child birth. 99 % of these deaths occur in developing countries. (UNICEF 2002)
The average amount of gasoline consumed per inhabitant per year is 31 liters in sub-Saharan Africa, 50 liters in Asia, 427 liters in Western Europe, and 1,637 liters in North America. (French Secretary for sustainable development, 2003)
Global reserves of fresh water:1950: 17,000 m3 per inhabitant 2005: 6,000 m3 per inhabitant 2025: 4,800 m3 per inhabitant ? (UNESCO, 2006)
Around 5% of the pollution in the ocean caused by oil slicks, about 25% by tanker discharges, & more than 70% is waste brought in by streams, rivers, and estuaries from land-based pollution. (IFREMER-CEDRE)
From the 1980s to the 1990s, the number of people affected by natural catastrophes increased by 50%, creating a 10-fold rise in related costs. (Red Cross / UNEP)
One third of the appeared lands suffers from desertification. (UNEP)
It now takes 6 weeks to consume the amount of gasoline used in 1 year in 1950. Half is used in transport. (French Secretary of sustainable development, 2003)
Each year, 16 million hectares of natural forest disappear. (FAO)
The oceans are the origin of life and cover over 70% of the planet. (UNEP, 2004)
Oceans are a primary food source for 3.5 billion people (half of the global population). In 20 years, this number could reach 7 billion people. (UNEP)
Half of the global population lives less than 100 km away from the coasts. This number may rise to 75% by 2025. (UNEP, 2004)
More than 70% of the marine fisheries are exploited to an extent surpassing their replenishment capacity. (UNEP, 2004)
7 million tons of fish & marine mammals are unnecessarily fished every year. (FAO)
In a period of only 20 years, 25% of the world’s coral reefs have disappeared, and about 55% are endangered. (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005)
Despite the fact that coral reefs cover less than 0.5% of the ocean floor, it is estimated that more than 90% of marine species are either directly or indirectly dependent on them. (UNEP, 2004)
More than 70% of ocean pollution is caused by human activities that take place on land. (UNEP, 2004)
In 2005, the hole in the ozone layer reached 27 million km2 in the Southern Hemisphere – a surface area greater than three times that of the United States. (World meteorological organization)
In order to contain global warming, CO2 emissions would have to be reduced by a half. The current objective outlined in the Kyoto Accord is a reduction of only 5% regarding to 1990 emissions. (IPCC)
In large European cities, 80,000 deaths/yr are due to car pollution.(WHO)
By the year 2050, the increase in the average global temperature could cause the disappearance of 25% of living species. (Nature, 1/2004)
Average sea level could rise by 50cm on average between 1990 and 2100. This would potentially affect the lives of 20% of the earth’s population. (Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency)
Worldwide, 600 million people are living under the threat of a volcano. (UNEP)
Since 1975, the number of meteorological events such as cyclones, floods or heat waves has increased by 160 %. Before the year 2050, 150 million people may be forced to leave their homes. (UNEP)
21 countries suffer from a lack of water. 12 of these are Mid Eastern countries. (FAO)
70% of the fresh water used on the planet is used for agriculture, 22% for industry, and 8 % for domestic purposes. (UNESCO)
Global fresh water consumption was multiplied by 6 during the 20th century, while the population tripled during the same period. (World Water Council)
Ecosystem degradation is the primary cause of species loss. (UNEP)
Worldwide, more than 50% of rivers are contaminated. In Europe, only 5 of the 55 largest rivers are pollution-free. (UNESCO)
In developing lands, 90% of wastewater goes untreated into rivers & streams. (WWF)
The surface area of the Aral sea, formerly the 4th largest fresh water reservoir of the planet, has decreased by two thirds. (UNESCO)
Every year, 10 million hectares of arable land is lost to desertification and rendered unusable (this is roughly the equivalent to the surface areas of Belgium and the Netherlands combined). (French Scientific Committee for Desertification)
Every year, contaminated water is the cause of 5 million deaths. This is more than the 3 million deaths caused by AIDS each year. (WHO)
Less than 10 countries have 60% of the globe’s fresh water resources. (CIEAU)
Every year, plastic waste causes the death of 1 million birds, 100.000 marine mammals and incalculable millions of fish. (UNEP, 2004)
Inhabitants of developing countries average 450kg of garbage/year. (UNEP)
80% of the primary forests were destroyed during the 20th century. (UICN)

Half of the world population lives in urban areas and this proportion should continue to increase by 2% per year before 2015. (UN)
Today, many plant and animal species are disappearing at a rate 1.000 to 10.000 times faster than their natural rate of extinction. This is the 6th massive wave of extinction for which, this time, humans are solely responsible. (UN)
Worldwide, 1 in 4 mammal species, 1 in 8 bird species, 1 in 3 fish species, and 2 in 5 amphibians species are threatened by extinction. (IUCN, 2002)
In 2004, estimates showed that there was a total of 9.2 million refugees; and 19.2 million people had to be relocate within their country. (UN / HCR, 2005)
38% of the global population is under 18 years old, in developing countries 50% of the inhabitants are children. (UNICEF, 2005)
Between 600 000 and 800 000 people are sold each year and bring in 10 billion dollars in revenue to their traffickers. (United States Department of State)
At the Rio Summit 1992, the world’s richest countries promised to contribute 0.7% of their GDP to foreign aid in poorer countries. In fact, these countries currently contribute less than 0.3%.(OECD)
55% of the revenue generated by international tourism is going towards airline companies, travel agencies, hotels, and international companies; not to the populations of the countries visited. (World Bank)
Oil covers 40% of the world energy demand. (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
90% of the energy consumed around the world today comes from non-renewable resources. (IEA) [energy/oil – peak oil]
If we are to continue at the current rate, global energy demands will likely increase by 60% by the year 2030. (IEA)
A single nuclear reactor produces approximately 20 tons of waste per year. The 443 reactors around the world produce 10.000 tons of waste annually. (IAEA)
During the last decade, each natural disaster averaged, 51 deaths in developed countries, and 573 in the developing. (Research center Epidemiology of Disasters)
Thanks to current agricultural production techniques, the earth could feed 12 billion people. Today, we are 6 billion people, however, 800 million are hungry. (FAO )
In 30 years, our planet has lost 30% of its natural resources. (UICN / WWF)
Of the world's 226 countries, approximately 140 have pluralistic elections.(UNDP, 03)
Life expectancy, which was 46 years in 1950, is now more than 66 years.
Every year, more than 120,000 European students opt to spend part of their studies in another European Union country.

Fair trade has improved living standards for almost 1 million of farmers and their families – around 6 million people. (Max Havelaar)
More than 7,000 towns and cities in more than 110 countries are locally implementing the principles of sustainable development. (Comité 21)
Public transport consumes 5 times less energy/passenger than a private car. (IUTP)
In the United States, 1 dollar in every 8 saved is invested in ethical funds.(Atlas Mondial du développement durable, Editions Autrement, 2002)
In France, 42% of household waste is incinerated, 40% is sent to the dump, 12% is recycled, and 6% is composted. (ADEME)
The 1989 ratification of the Montreal Protocol has helped reduce production of CFCs by a tenth in 10 years. (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change)
Certain species nearly extinct, such as the grouper in the Mediterranean Sea or the Prjevalski’s Horse in Mongolia, have narrowly escaped extinction thanks to strict protection of their natural environment or reintegration into their environment.
Planting a tree allows reducing the pollution of groundwater, to fight against erosion, to reconstitute chemically damaged soils, and to store CO2.
Yearly, 3.6 million ha of plants are replanted, or the result of natural expansion.(FAO)
Production of solar electricity has increased 30% per year over the last decade. In 2002 alone, the top 10 upped output from 14% to 75%.
Micro-credit – which allows the most impoverished to fund their projects – is helping 60 million people worldwide. Every year, 5% escape poverty. (Grameen Bank)
In Denmark, 30% of the electricity is supplied by wind energy. (UN)
Many wetlands, important reservoirs for biodiversity and fresh water, have been protected since 1971 under the RAMSAR convention.

The market for wind energy has grown 29% since 2004. Europe currently produces 73% world wind power; North America, 16% and Asia, 9%.
In Europe, 13 million m2 of solar panels save 500.000 tons oil.
A single sheet of recycled paper saves 15 g of wood, 1 l. H2O and 2.5 Wh electricity.
The burning of 4 m3 of wood saves approximately 1 TOE (ton of oil equivalent) of oil, and eliminates 2,5 tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.
Recycling 670 aluminum cans, it is possible to produce 1 bicycle.
By recycling 1 kg of aluminum, we can save approximately 8 kg of bauxite, 4 kg of synthetic products and 14 kWh of electricity. (Protégeons notre planète)
Recycling 1 ton of plastic allows saving 750 kg of oil. (Protégeons notre planète)
104 million bicycles are made every year, 44 million automobiles. (Worldwatch Inst.)
Worldwide consumption of organic products grows by 10 - 20% each year.
Organic farming currently covers 26 million hectares of cultivated land, or a bit less than 2% of all the agricultural surface cultivated in the world (3,5% in Europe). (
Since the industrial revolution, CO2 concentration in the air has increased by 31%, while methane concentrations have doubled. (IPCC)
It takes 1,500 l H2O to produce 1 kg of cereal and 15,000 l to produce 1 kg of beef.
It takes 1.8 tons of material to manufacture a personal computer. (UNU)
The use of agricultural fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphate and potassium hydroxide) has multiplied by 4 during the last 20 years. (FAO)
There were more than 37,000 international (NGOs) operating in 2000. (UNDP 2002)
If everybody was living and consuming as the French do, we would need at least two more planets. More than five would be needed at USA levels. (WWF)

Of children now in school, 80% will never reach the secondary level. (UNICEF, 05)
Acid rain has considerably decreased in North America and in Western Europe. However, this is not the case in Eastern Europe, in the ex-Soviet Union, and certainly not in China and Japan. (Mal de Terre Hubert Reeves, 2003)
Habitants of developed countries, which make up 20% of the world’s population, emit 10 times the amount of greenhouse gases per habitant as southern countries. (Mal de Terre Hubert Reeves, 2003)
Except for all that, everything's going fine.

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