State of the Global Environment at a Glance
Today, the world’s environment is facing a serious crisis. Along with the mass consumption of resources and energy - mostly in the industrialized countries - the earth is under threat from a growing number of global-scale environmental problems, such as global warming. At the same time, developing countries are facing their own crises; such as accelerating deforestation and desertification, and the severe pollution that Japan also experienced in the past decades ;often against the backdrop of population explosion and rapid industrialization.
Japan needs to make an active contribution to solve these problems, by utilizing its accumulated experience and technological expertise and by reforming its social and economic activities to help lighten the burden on the world's environment.
■The Growing Global Threat and Awareness of Environmental Problems
Global warming is expected to cause a variety of major changes in the natural environment, such as climate changes that accelerate the thermal expansion of sea water, melting of land ice and rising of sea levels, destruction of ecosystems, food shortages, increased extreme weather events and various threats to human health. The main cause behind global warming is carbon dioxide emissions. Japan accounts for 5 percent of the world’s total CO2 emissions, the fourth-largest emitter in the world.
■Depletion of Energy Resources
There is serious concern that the world's limited energy resources will be exhausted in the near future. In order to preserve some of these limited energy resources for future generations, it is essential to use remaining energy reserves sparingly and to take up the important task of developing new energy resources and making sustainable use of renewable forms of energy.
※Note: The 15 EU countries are the member countries as of COP3 (Kyoto Protocol).
Source : Handbook of Energy & Economic Statistics in Japan
■Current State of Acid Deposition and Initiatives
In many areas of the world, including North America, Europe and China, acid deposition is reported to be impacting ecosystems, such as the acidification of wetlands and degradation of forests. To assess the current state of this problem, an international acid-deposition monitoring program has been implemented in North America and Europe, based on an international convention. A similar regional monitoring program called the Acid Deposition Monitoring Network in East Asia (EANET) is currently operating in East Asia, and Japan is also participating, and more international initiatives are required.
■Ozone Layer Depletion
The ozone layer is being destroyed almost all over the world except for the tropics. Ozone in high latitudes is depleted rapidly . The Antarctic ozone hole in 2000 recorded the largest scale ever observed.
■Current State of Desertification
In addition to natural phenomena such as drought, other factors including overgrazing, excessive cultivation, and accumulation of salt in agricultural land because of inappropriate irrigation lead to desertification. Socioeconomic factors such as poverty or increasing population in developing countries can explain some of these causes.
■Reduction of Biodiversity
Biodiversity is an inherently precious resource. It enriches the living environment of humans and helps people feel at ease. Many species of flora and fauna are becoming extinct today, not as a result of any natural process but rather due to human socio-economic activities. Species are disappearing from the face of the earth faster than at any time in the history of the planet.