Rio+20 opens: Pollution up, forests down
Thu, 21 Jun 2012 9:18a.m.
A UN conference on the environment has opened in Rio de Janeiro, where 193 countries are participating. The global body says it's the biggest meeting it has ever organised.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon got the so-called Rio+20 summit rolling by saying progress on environmental issues has been slow since Rio hosted the landmark Earth Summit in 1992.
But he says he's hopeful negotiators are within reach of an "historic agreement" on sustainable development issues, such as protections for oceans, helping poor nations use renewable energy and protecting forests.
Environmentalist groups complain that the summit's conclusions are weak and make virtually no advances over what governments promised two decades ago.
Since world leaders last gathered in Rio de Janeiro to talk about the state of the Earth, temperatures have climbed and disasters have mounted.
As diplomats discuss climate, sustainability and biodiversity, here is Earth by the numbers since 1992:
TEMPERATURES: The average annual global temperature has increased 0.32 degrees Celsius since 1992 based on 10-year running averages, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Every year since 1992 has been warmer than the year of the original Rio conference.
POLLUTION: Global levels of the chief heat-trapping gas, carbon dioxide, climbed 10 percent from nearly 358 parts per million in April 1992 to 394 ppm this past April, NOAA said.
DISASTERS: Since 1992, natural disasters have affected 4.4 billion people worldwide, killed 1.3 million people, and cost $2 trillion in damages, according to the United Nations. Earthquakes, storms, extreme temperatures and floods were the biggest killers.
FORESTS: Since 1990, the world's primary forest areas have decreased about 740 million acres (300 million hectares), according to the United Nations. That's an area larger than Argentina.
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