World Facts and Trends
"We have the knowledge, the wisdom, and the visionaries among us to understand today's critical issues. We must now find the collective political will to implement and accelerate the necessary steps on a global basis - or suffer the consequences."
Edgar Mitchell, Apollo Astronaut
World population today is approximately 6.5 billion people and is increasing by about 90 million per year. The United Nations Population Division forecasts a population of 7.85 billion by 2025 and 8.92 billion by 2050. 98% of the population growth will occur in the developing countries. World population was 1.5 billion in 1900, 3 billion in 1960, and 6 billion in 2000. World population increased 400% in the 100 year period from 1900 to 2000, and 200% in just 40 years from 1960 to 2000.
In the developing world over 11 million children under the age of five years old die annually of preventable diseases and malnutrition; 1 out of 3 children under five is malnourished; 1.2 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water; 2.4 billion people lack adequate sanitation; 1 billion people live in slums and squatter communities; 3 billion live on less than $2 US dollars a day. 20% of the world's population in the developed nations consume 86% of world resources annually.
The world's 500 wealthiest people have a combined income greater than that of the world's poorest 416 million people. The richest 10% of world population accounts for 54% of global income while the poorest 40% accounts for only 5%. Wealth disparity is increasing worldwide.
World military spending now totals over $1.2 trillion US dollars annually. High-income countries account for about 80% of world military spending but only 16 per cent of world population. The USA accounts for well over 50% of the global total. In 2001, world military spending was 10 times higher than the combined levels of official development assistance. In contrast, meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, adopted by all UN member nations in 2000 to eliminate hunger, poverty, disease, etc., would cost just $125 to $150 billion US dollars annually - about 10% to 15% of global military spending.
War and Conflicts
The first years of the 21st Century have seen rising conflicts and violence between nations, religions and cultures, primarily in the underdeveloped Middle East, Africa and Asia together with increased threats of terrorism. Major sources of global instability include; continuing conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel/Palestine, India/Pakistan and other 'hot spots' along with increasing nuclear tensions with Iran and North Korea. Increasing confrontations between Western and Islamic nations are raising the spectre of a 'clash of civilizations' and possible world conflict.
Human activity is triggering rapid climate change including global warming, unstable weather patterns, extreme hurricanes and mega-storms, ozone depletion, etc. Global surface temperatures have increased 0.5 to 1.0 Fahrenheit since the late 19th century. Sea level has risen 4 to 8 inches over the past century. Rapid melting is now occurring in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Scientists expect that average global temperature will rise from 1 to 4.5° F by 2050, and from 2.2 to 10° F by 2100 which would have severe consequences for all life on Earth. An increase of 1.44 to 3.06° F appears inevitable due to existing CO2 levels now in the atmosphere. A 70% reduction in CO2 emissions from 1990 levels will likely be required by 2050 to stabilize the Earth's climate and avoid worst case scenarios. These scenarios include major sea level rise, mega-storms, widespread drought and famine, unstable weather patterns, increased forest fires, disease pandemics, large-scale species extinction, etc.
Humanity has consumed more of the Earth's natural resources in the 50 years since World War II than in all of history prior to that time. Half the world's forests and some 9.4 million hectares of forest area are lost annually worldwide. There may be only 40 years of 'easily accessible' oil reserves remaining and 'peak oil' production of these reserves may soon be reached. The Worldwide Fund for Nature stated in 2001 that humanity's Ecological Footprint was 2.5 times larger than in 1961 and exceeded the Earth's biological renewal capacity by 20%. Biodiversity (species) loss is at an all-time high and is increasing annually due to on-going habitat destruction and climate change. 25% of the world's coral reefs are now gone. Scientists predict that up to 1/3 of all species may become extinct by 2100 if average global temperature rises over 3.5° F.
Projections of global consumer demand in the next few decades suggest a marked escalation of impacts on world ecosystems. Consumption of commodities produced by ecosystems directly - grains, meat, fish, and wood - have increased substantially in the last four decades and will continue to increase as the global economy expands and population grows. Human consumption of planetary resources continues to grow exponentially, especially in the developing giants - China and India.