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World Watch group releases report card on environment

April 14, 2000
Web posted at: 5:10 p.m. EDT (2110 GMT)

World Watch has issued a report card for the planet to mark Earth Day 2000. The Washington, D.C.-based group determined that over the past 30 years:

  • Energy and climate. Fossil fuel burning released 160 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere, raising the Earth's temperature and corresponding with a 40-fold increase in the cost of annual weather-related disasters.

  • Population and the land. Surpassing 6 billion in October, the world population has grown more in the past 30 years than it has in the 100,000 years before the mid-20th century. In the meantime, forest cover and cropland loss have accelerated.

  • Chemicals and biology. Three synthetic chemicals are introduced each day but little is known about their environmental and health consequences. One known result: the evolution of pesticide resistant pests.

    Pervasive toxins like DDT and PCBs drift across water and air currents, accumulating in plants and animals and working their way in higher concentrations as they go up the food chain, atop which stand humans. Biologists fear even minute amounts of such synthetic chemicals can disrupt the development of animal and human fetuses.

  • Commerce and the oceans. The global economy has doubled and many nations have turned to ocean harvesting to generate more export revenue. The resulting overfishing has decimated many fish populations.

    Human activities threaten other life forms too. Biologists warn that plant and animal species are now becoming extinct at the fastest rate in 65 million years.

    Solar cells, hydrogen cars

    As with any report card, World Watch offers tips for improvement, like stabilizing the world population, relying more on organic farming, preserving old growth timber stands and using alternatives to coal, oil and gas.

    Some nations have adopted cleaner energy technologies. China makes the most energy-efficient compact florescent bulbs. India manufactures advanced turbines that harness wind power. Japan produces automobiles using electric power.

    But a third revolution is needed to wrest the world from the grip of petroleum, according to World Watch researcher Christopher Flavin. "The key enabling technologies have already been developed and commercialized, but they occupy only small niche markets," he writes in the Earth Day 2000 report.

    "The solar cell and hydrogen-electric car are steadily gaining market share (and) could foster a generation of mass-produced machines that efficiently and cleanly provide energy need to take a hot shower, sip a cold beer, or surf the Internet."




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    RELATED SITES:
    World Watch Magazine

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