VITAL FACTS: Selected facts and story ideas from Vital Signs 2006-2007

Selected facts and story ideas from Vital Signs 2006-2007

Food and Agriculture

  • For the second year in a row, the world produced over 2 billion tons of grain (more than at any other time in history). (p. 22)
  • Since 1997, wild fish harvests have fallen 13 percent. Yet total fish production continues to grow—to 132.5 million tons in 2003—bolstered by a surging aquaculture industry. (p. 26)
  • World exports of pesticides reached a record $15.9 billion in 2004. Pesticide use has risen dramatically worldwide, from 0.49 kilograms per hectare in 1961 to 2 kilograms per hectare in 2004. (p. 28)

Energy and Climate

  • Oil use grew 1.3 percent in 2005, to 3.8 billion tons (83.3 million barrels a day). (p. 32)
  • In 2005, the average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration reached 379.6 parts per million by volume, an increase of 0.6 percent over the record high in 2004. (p. 42)
  • The average global temperature in 2005 was 14.6 degrees Celsius, making it the warmest year ever recorded on Earth’s surface. The five warmest years since recordkeeping began in 1880 have all occurred since 1998. (p. 43)
  • Economic damages from weather-related disasters hit an unprecedented $204 billion in 2005, nearly doubling the previous record of $112 set in 1998. (p. 44)
  • Global wind power capacity jumped 24 percent in 2005, to nearly 60,000 megawatts. The growth in wind power capacity was nearly four times the growth in nuclear power capacity. (p. 36)
  • In 2005, worldwide production of photovoltaic cells jumped 45 percent to nearly 1,730 megawatts, six times the level in 2000. (p. 38)
  • Production of fuel ethanol, the world’s leading biofuel, increased 19 percent to 36.5 billion liters in 2005. (p. 40)

Economic Trends

  • In purchasing-power-parity terms, the global economy reached another new peak, with the gross world product hitting $59.6 trillion in 2005. (p. 52)
  • Global advertising spending increased 2.4 percent to a record $570 billion in 2005. Nearly half of this spending was in the United States, with $56.6 billion alone going to the production and distribution of 41.5 billion pieces of mail advertisements. (p. 54)
  • In 2005, steel production reached a new record of 1,129 million tons while aluminum production reached a record 31.2 million tons. (p. 56, 58)
  • Roundwood production hit a new record of 3,402 million cubic meters in 2004. (p. 60)
  • In 2004, nearly 1,800 transnational corporations or their affiliates filed corporate responsibility reports, up from virtually none in the early 1990s. While this reflects growing transparency and commitment to social and environmental principles, 97.5 percent of the nearly 70,000 TNCs worldwide still do not file such reports. (p. 122)

Transportation and Communications Trends

  • The world reached a new record in vehicle production, with 64.1 million cars and light trucks being manufactured in 2005. (p. 64)
  • Air travel hit new records as well: in 2004, 1.9 billion passengers traveled 3.4 trillion kilometers. Yet only 5 percent of the world’s population has ever flown. (p. 68)
  • Total membership in car-sharing organizations (CSOs) hit 330,000 in 2005, 2.5 times the number in 2001. Total vehicles used by CSOs reached 10,570. According to studies, sharing a car reduces the need for 4–10 privately owned cars in Europe and 6­–23 cars in North America. (p. 118)

Conflict and Peace

  • The number of wars and armed conflicts worldwide declined to 39 in 2005, the lowest figure since the peak in the early 1990s. Yet at the same time, global military expenditures hit $1.02 trillion, the highest spending since the early 1990s. (p. 82, 84)

Health and Society

  • World population added 74 million more people in 2005, reaching a record 6.45 billion. (p. 74)
  • Five million more people were infected by HIV in 2005, while 3 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses. (p. 76)
  • Infant mortality rates fell 7 percent over the last five years, from 61.5 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1995–2000 to 57 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2000–2005. (p. 78)
  • Over half of the world’s 7,000 languages are endangered, and more than 500 are nearly extinct. (p. 112)
  • One billion individuals, or one in every three urbanites, live in “slums,” areas where people cannot secure one or more of life’s basic necessities: clean water, sanitation, sufficient living space, durable housing, or secure tenure. (p. 114)
  • As of 2002, 1.1 billion people lack access to an improved water supply, and some 2.6 billion are thought to lack access to improved sanitation facilities. (p. 116)
  • Obesity now afflicts more than 300 million people, increasing their chances of contracting cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and other ailments.  (p. 120)

Environment Trends

  • Humanity overdrew the natural capital it depends on by 23 percent in 2002. (p. 92)
  • Between 2000 and 2005, global forested area shrunk by more than 36 million hectares (just under 1 percent of the total forested area). (p. 102)
  • As of late 2005, an estimated 20 percent of the world’s coral reefs had been “effectively destroyed,” while 50 percent are threatened in the short or long term. (p. 94)
  • Twenty percent of the world’s mangrove forests have been destroyed over the past 25 years. (p. 100)
  • Twelve percent of all bird species were categorized as “threatened” in 2005. (p. 96)
  • Three percent of all plant species are currently threatened with extinction. (p. 98)