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Planet Ark World Environment News Many of Earth's "Vital Signs" in Bad Shape - Report

Date: 14-Sep-07
Country: US
Author: Ed Stoddard

The Washington-based think tank's "Vital Signs 2007-2008"
report points to global patterns ranging from rising meat
consumption to Asian economic growth it says are linked to the
broader problem of climate change.

"I think climate change is the most urgent challenge we
have ever faced," said Erik Assadourian, director of the Vital
Signs project.

"You see many trends in climate change, whether we are
talking about grain production which is affected by droughts
and flooding. Or meat production as livestock production makes
up about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions," he told
Reuters in a telephone interview before the report's release.

Assadourian said the key message of the report was that
unsustainable consumption patterns were responsible for climate
change linked to carbon emissions and other ecological woes.

He said of the 44 trends tracked by the report, 28 were
"pronouncedly bad" and only six were positive.

The trends range from the spread of avian flu to the rise
of carbon emissions to the number of violent conflicts. The
growing use of wind power is among the few trends seen as
positive.

Some of the points highlighted in the report include:

- Meat production hit a record 276 million tonnes (43
kilograms or 95 pounds per person) in 2006.

- Meat consumption is one of several factors driving rising
soybean demand. Rapid expansion of soybean plantations in South
America could displace 22 million hectares (54 million acres)
of tropical forest and savanna in the next 20 years.

- The rise in global seafood consumption comes as many fish
species become scarcer. In 2004, people ate 156 million tonnes
of seafood, the equivalent of three times as much seafood per
person than in 1950.

- While US carbon emissions continue to grow, the fastest
rise is occurring in Asia, particularly China and India.

Other analysts and think tanks have focused on different
trends they say mean less cause for alarm. For example, they
point out that while wood is being removed from forests on a
global scale, many parts of Europe and North America have
experienced reforestation in recent decades.

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