Global economic growth continues at expense of ecological systems.

AuthorAssadourian, Erik

In 2007, gross world product (GWP)--the global total of all finished goods and services--was expected to grow 5.4 percent to US$72.3 trillion (in 2007 dollars, purchasing power parity basis). This was less than earlier estimates due particularly to economic disruptions in the U.S. housing market and ripple effects in Europe, Japan, and other countries.

The U.S. economy, which accounts for 19 percent of GWP, was projected to grow 2.1 percent in 2007, nearly 1 percent slower than the previous year, largely because of the turmoil in the subprime mortgage sector and rising gasoline prices.

China's gross domestic product (GDP) grew an estimated 11.7 percent in 2007-but at a steep cost in politically destabilizing inequality and pollution: only 1 percent of China's 560 million urban residents breathe air that is considered safe by European Union standards, and air and water pollution have led to many episodes of social unrest.


The European Union economy now accounts for 21 percent of GWP and was expected to grow 3.2 percent in 2007. India's economy was expected to grow 9.1 percent in 2007, while sub-Saharan Africa was projected to grow 6.1 percent.

Per-capita GWP was expected to reach $10,956 in 2007, an increase over 2006 of 4.1 percent. Yet per-capita GWP does not reflect the vast disparities in per-capita GDP. In purchasing power parity terms, U.S. GDP per person is $44,974, for example, while in China the figure is $8,780 and in India $4,183.

Economic growth is using the world's renewable resources unsustainably and degrading farmland, fisheries, rivers, and forests. Society risks a significant weakening of the global economy if unsustainable resource use is not addressed. In particular, climate change could reduce economic growth by anywhere from 5 to 20 percent by 2100 if left...

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