Saturday, September 15, 2007

Worldwatch Institute: Record resource consumption depletes a warming world

Environmental News Service: Record levels of consumption by a global population that now numbers 6.6 billion people are pushing the limits of ecosystem services upon which all life depends, according to the latest Worldwatch Institute report, "Vital Signs 2007-2008."

The 44 trends tracked in Vital Signs illustrate the urgent need to check consumption of energy and other resources that are contributing to the climate crisis, starting with the largest polluter, the United States, which accounted for over 21 percent of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel burning in 2005.

"The world is running out of time to head off catastrophic climate change, and it is essential that Europe and the rest of the international community bring pressure to bear on U.S. policymakers to address the climate crisis," said Erik Assadourian, Vital Signs project director.

"The United States must be held accountable for its emissions, double the per capita level in Europe, and should follow the EU lead by committing to reducing its total greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050," he said.

…"With the U.S. Congress preparing to take up far-ranging climate legislation this fall, and with President [George W.] Bush planning to hold an international climate change summit in Washington, now is the time to act," urged Assadourian. "If the U.S. and other nations walk away without concrete plans to implement a binding agreement, the EU should not hesitate to use its diplomatic clout to press the issue."

Some statistics from the Vital Signs report: …More wood was removed from forests in 2005 than ever before…. Meat consumption is one of several factors driving rising soybean demand. Rapid expansion of soybean plantations in South America could displace 22 million hectares of tropical forest and savanna in the next 20 years….The warming climate is undermining biodiversity by accelerating habitat loss, altering the timing of animal migrations and plant flowerings, and shifting some species toward the poles and to higher altitudes….Despite a relatively calm U.S. hurricane season in 2006, the world experienced more weather-related disasters than in any of the previous three years. Nearly 100 million people were affected.

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