is an easy-to-use desktop reference to the trends that are shaping our future. Covering everything from wind energy to sea level rise to military expenditures, and more, Vital Signs
uses succinct analysis, graphs, and tables to take the world's pulse on critical environmental and social issues. Some of the most compelling facts and trends from Vital Signs
2005 and Vital Signs
2003 are compiled here within this online portal.
In 2004, weather-related disasters caused nearly $105 billion in economic losses (in 2003 dollars)—almost twice the total in 2003.Roughly 12,000 weather-related disasters since 1980 have caused just over 618,200 fatalities and cost a total of 1.3 trillion.
In 1950, U.S. drivers covered some 588 billion kilometers (365 billion miles) in 40 million cars, or almost 14,600 kilometers per car. By 2003, the average distance driven per year had grown to more than 19,000 kilometers.
The world's airlines use some 205 million tons of aviation fuel (kerosene) each year, producing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone, sulfur dioxide, and methane. Jet fuel is the second-largest expense to airlines after labor and can amount to 20 percent of companies' operating expenses.
In the United States, cyclists are 12 times more likely than people in cars to die en route to their destinations. On a per-kilometer and per-trip basis, U.S. cyclists are twice as likely to die on the road as German cyclists, and more than three times as likely as Dutch cyclists.
Countries continue to lose more trees than they regenerate. Global forest cover stands at approximately half the original extent of 8,000 years ago. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, an average of 9.4 million hectares of forest (roughly the size of Portugal) was lost annually during the 1990s.
How many people perish during warfare? Tallying combatant deaths is a narrow approach, since both military personnel and civilians are killed in battle.
By 2020, people in industrialized countries will consume 90 kilograms of meat a year—the equivalent of a side of beef, 50 chickens, and one pig. Worldwide meat production continues to grow, with an estimated 258 million tons produced in 2004, a two-percent increase from 2003. Since the 1970s, meat production has more than doubled because of higher demand and the introduction of large-scale production processes.
A study by the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research found that rising global temperatures have been a key factor in increasing drought worldwide. Carbon emissions from fossil fuels are believed to be the main factor behind the rise in atmospheric concentrations and global temperatures. Nearly three times as much carbon was released in 2004 as in 1960.
In the Mesopotamian marshlands of Iraq and western Iran, the drawdown of fresh water has increased the salinity of marshes—changing plant composition, ruining nearby cropland, and compromising the wetlands' ability to regenerate. Blowing sediment and salt now contribute to growing health problems, while pollution caused by bombs, oil spills, and the destruction of local industries and sanitation facilities further threaten communities and remaining wetlands in the region.
The International Monetary Fund expected the value of world exports to reach $10.6 trillion in 2004, an increase of 15.3 percent over 2003. This would be the highest growth rate since 1995, when the value rose 16.7 percent. Much of this increase can be attributed to China's growing influence in rising world trade.