Vital Signs 2011

“Vital Signs...provides the most straightforward and reliable environmental, economic, and social information available on the entire planet Earth.”

—ePublishers Weekly


February 2011
ISBN: 978-1-878071-98-9


From economic growth to sea-level rise, Vital Signs 2011 documents the trends that are shaping our future in concise analysis and clear tables and graphs.

This eighteenth volume of the Worldwatch Institute series makes it clear that the Great Recession affects many of the world’s leading economic, social, and environmental trends—but that the impact can be very different by country. This volume reveals, for example:

  • Gross world product increased by just 0.3 percent in 2009, a substantial slowdown from the 2000–08 average yearly increase of 6.6 percent. But China’s economy grew by 9.1 percent, and India’s by 7.4 percent.
  • From 1993 to 2009, sea level rose 3.0 millimeters per year as warming melted polar and glacial ices—a much faster annual rate than the 1.7 millimeter annual average for the preceding 118 years.
  • Solar photovoltaic capacity increased by 20 percent in 2009, and solar thermal electric power plant capacity increased by 26 percent.
  • Global wind power capacity grew more than 31 percent in cumulative installations, the highest rate in the last eight years.
  • Natural gas consumption dropped by 2.1 percent, the largest recorded one-year decline.
  • The planet’s biodiversity continued to suffer, with the addition of 365 species to the “threatened” category of the Red List maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a 2.1 percent increase.


Sample figures from Vital Signs 2011:

Vital Signs 2011 tracks the most important trends in the environment, agriculture, energy, society, and the economy to inform and inspire the changes needed to build a sustainable world.

Table of Contents

Energy and Transportation Trends
Global Coal Use Stagnates Despite Growing Chinese and Indian Markets
Growth of Biofuel Production Slows
Natural Gas Use Falls But Renaissance Is in the Pipeline
World Nuclear Generation Stagnates
Wind Power Growth Continues to Break Records Despite Recession
Record Growth in Photovoltaic Capacity and Momentum Builds for Concentrating Solar Power
Auto Industry in Turmoil But Chinese Production Surges
Air Travel Trends Mixed as Carbon Footprint Grows

Environment and Climate Trends
World Will Completely Miss 2010 Biodiversity Target
Glacial Melt and Ocean Warming Drive Sea Level Upward
Losses from Natural Disasters Decline in 2009
Bottled Water Consumption Growth Slows

Food and Agriculture Trends
Grain Production Strong But Fails to Set Record
Meat Production and Consumption Continue to Grow
Global Fish Production Continues to Rise
Cocoa Production Continues Growth
Fertilizer Consumption Declines Sharply

Global Economy and Resources Trends
Global Output Stagnant
Unemployment and Precarious Employment Grow More Prominent
Materials Use Up
Roundwood Production Plummets

Population and Society Trends
World Population Growth Slows Modestly, Still on Track for 7 Billion in Late 2011
Global Chronic Hunger Rises Above 1 Billion
Educational Attainment Worldwide on the Rise
Mobile Phone and Internet Use Grows Robustly


Vital Signs Online
Be sure to check out Vital Signs Online (VSO), our interactive, subscription-based tool that provides hard data and research-based insights on the sustainability trends that are shaping our future. Created for business leaders, policymakers, academics, and engaged citizens, VSO can be used for strategic planning, understanding world events, or as a reference source for presentations and reports.

Updated twice a month, Vital Signs Online includes more than 40 sustainability trends—and the list is growing.

A subscription includes:

  • More than 24 new or updated trends every year, released twice a month
  • Concise, unbiased, data-driven analysis by authoritative researchers
  • Presentation-ready charts and graphs
  • Excel worksheets for data manipulation and comparative analysis
  • Full endnote referencing
  • Global trends in five categories: Food & Agriculture, Energy & Transportation, Environment & Climate, Global Economy & Resources, Population & Society

For more information, visit