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People walk along a street against wind beside a demolition site on a hazy day in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, Feb. 28, 2013. Beijing’s environmental authorities said on Thursday air quality in Beijing and nearby regions hit dangerous levels, Xinhua News Agency reported. (CHINA DAILY/REUTERS)
People walk along a street against wind beside a demolition site on a hazy day in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, Feb. 28, 2013. Beijing’s environmental authorities said on Thursday air quality in Beijing and nearby regions hit dangerous levels, Xinhua News Agency reported. (CHINA DAILY/REUTERS)

How is the earth faring on World Environment Day? Add to ...

Weren’t we trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Governments and industry say they are trying to curb emissions, but according to the World Meteorological Organization, the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached a record high in 2011.

The culprits are: carbon dioxide (now 140 per cent of the preindustrial level), methane (now 259 per cent of the preindustrial level) and nitrous oxide (now 120 per cent of the preindustrial level).

Canada, according to various government, industry and non-governmental organization sources, accounts for about 2 per cent of the world’s emissions.

Is it getting hot in here?

The global average temperature has gone up by 0.6 C during the 20th century, according to the World Meteorological Organization, which also noted that 2001 to 2010 was the warmest decade on record – and on every continent – since people began monitoring the mercury in 1850.

How much sea ice has melted?

Arctic sea ice spanned 7 to 9 million square kilometres when it was measured in the summer season up until the 1960s, but according to the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, by the end of summer last year, it had shrunk to a record low since satellite record-keeping began, of 3.41 million square kilometres.

Is Venice sinking?

Yes, according to scientists, and the city isn’t going to get a break as global sea levels continue to rise. According to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, sea levels were on average about 20 centimetres higher between 2001 and 2010 than they were in 1880. Water levels are rising at about 3.2 millimetres per year, which is double the 20th-century trend. And, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as the 21st century chugs along, sea levels are projected to swell by another 28 to 58 centimetres compared with those measured at the end of the 20th century.

What does climate change mean for my indulgences?

Traditional wine country in France, Italy, California and Chile could face production drops of up to 85 per cent by 2050, according to a study published last month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. On the other hand, a warmer climate could make northern regions hospitable to vineyards. Warmer weather could also cripple the ski and snowboard industry, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. A study published in the journal Tourism Management said of the 103 ski resorts in the U.S. northeast, more than half could be in trouble.

What is the most polluted city?

Nyala, Sudan, according to the World Bank’s World Development Indicators for 2013, which counted 200 micrograms per cubic metre as measured by the concentration of fine suspended particulate of fewer than 10 microns in diameter. Matter that tiny can burrow into the respiratory tract and cause serious negative health consequences.

In second and third place: Maroua, Cameroon, and Dhaka, Bangladesh.

But there is some good news: Air pollution has dropped around the world over the last 20 years to 41 micrograms per cubic metre from 78 micrograms. And in Canada, counts average 15 micrograms per cubic metre.

Who are the most prolific garbage producers?

Canadians toss more trash per capita than any other country in the developed world, according to the Conference Board of Canada, which issued its environmental report card earlier this year – 777 kilograms of municipal waste per capita for 2008 (the latest statistics available), which was above the average of 578 kg per capita among 17 peer countries.

Canadians also use nearly twice the average amount of freshwater of the other countries – only the United States uses more – and are the largest users of energy in the developed world, the report noted.

How many cars and trucks are there?

There were 1.069 billion cars, trucks and buses in operation worldwide in 2011, according to WardsAuto, the U.S.-based data gathering house on the global auto industry.

Canada accounts for 21.3 million of those vehicles.

In its annual collection of government-reported registration and historical vehicle-population trends, WardsAuto counted more than one billion vehicles for the first time in 2010, and the number is expected to keep growing.

According to a 2011 forecast by the International Transport Forum, an OECD intergovernmental think tank, the global vehicle population could reach 2.5 billion by 2050.

How many bicycles?

In 2011, there were an estimated 938,294,671 bicycles rolling around the planet, according to Jay Townley, bike industry analyst with the U.S.-based Gluskin Townley Group. The life of a bicycle is typically 10 years as it stays in the market and is ridden, he added.

China’s annual market consumption – defined as sales by manufacturers, brands and importers to retailers – for 2011 is 27.3 million bikes, according his firm’s estimates.

Canada, meanwhile, had annual market consumption in 2011 of 1.4 million bikes.

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