Resource extraction and consumption
The extraction and consumption of resources has an impact on the quality of life and well-being of both current and future generations. This includes oil and gas extraction, mining, fishing and forestry.
The lack of management of natural resources leads not only to environmental problems such as land degradation, soil erosion and pollution, but it can also create serious social and economic tensions. An example of this is known as the "resource curse" where countries rich in natural resources have seen conflict, corruption and persisting high levels of poverty due to the scramble for the country's wealth. Of the 3.5 billion people who live in countries rich in oil, gas and minerals, many of them live in poverty due to poor governance and the gains not being invested in local people and communities.
The cutting down of forests is now estimated to contribute to nearly 20 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere, making it the second highest cause of emissions after the energy sector. It is estimated that around half the world's forests have been destroyed and that if current accelerated rates continue, there will be less than 10 percent left by 2030. Despite efforts to fight deforestation, the world still loses an area of forest the size of Panama every year.
The biggest causes of deforestation are to provide land for agriculture, to graze cattle and logging. In 2008 the UN launched Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Program, or UN-REDD, The Programme will assess a wide range of pressing issues, including how best to counter the forces that are driving deforestation and how best to ensure that the needs of local and indigenous peoples are addressed in a post-2012 climate agreement that may include payments for standing forests.
Oil and gas industries
The world currently consumes around 85 billion barrels of oil per day, more than half of this by OECD countries. According to the most conservative estimates from the International Energy Agency that figure will rise to 113 million barrels by 2030. BP's Statistical Review of World Energy estimates that at current rates of consumption, the world's known oil reserves will be depleted within 40 years. However many scientists believe that the world's oil production has already peaked, or will do so in the next few years. This would have a crippling effect on oil-dependent economies. Oil is used not only for fuel but to make most plastics, power farming equipment, make pesticides and fertilizers, and produce many metal products, particularly aluminum.
Natural gas is said to be one of the cleaner fossil fuels, but it is composed mostly of methane which when combusted produces carbon dioxide and contributes to global warming. However, it produces only about half as much carbon dioxide as coal. Around 21 percent of the world's energy supply comes from natural gas.
The Natural Resource Management Index, developed by a consortium led by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, and including the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy (YCELP), the University of New Hampshire Water Systems Analysis Group, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Columbia University Tropical Agriculture Program. This is a composite index comprised of four indicators: Eco-Region Protection, Access to Improved Sanitation, Access to Improved Water and Child Mortality. Information for 2008 can be accessed using a world data mapping tool.
Studies and Initiatives
The Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) is a coalition of governments, companies, civil society groups, investors and international organisations working together to strengthen governance by improving transparency and accountability in the extractives sector.
Solar Action Alliance is a group of environmentalists who want to spread the word about the most clean, reliable, and abundant source of renewable energy: the sun.
- Towards Green Growth: Monitoring Progress OECD Indicators, Page 75
- 'The Devil's Excrement' By Jerry Useem