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Chapter Two: The State of the Environment

Latin America and the Caribbean

- Social and economic background
- Land and food
- Forests
- Biodiversity
- Freshwater
- Marine and coastal areas
- Atmosphere
- Urban areas
- Conclusions
- References

-- North America


Two major environmental issues stand out in the region. The first priority is to find solutions to the problems of the urban environment, which now houses nearly three-quarters of the region's population. The second priority is to find ways of promoting the sustainable use of tropical forests and biodiversity.

*  The income of the richest 20 per cent of the population is 19 times more than that of the poorest 20 per cent, compared to a figure of just 7 for the industrial countries.
*  The environmental costs of improved farm technologies have been very high. During the 1980s Central America increased production by 32 per cent but doubled its consumption of pesticides.
*  The natural forest cover continues to decrease in all countries. A total of 5.8 million hectares a year was lost during 1990-95, resulting in a 3 per cent total loss for the period.
*  Most forests in eastern and southern Amazonia are subjected to severe dry seasons each year, particularly during El Niño events. These forests are on the edge of the rainfall regime that is necessary for them to resist fire.
*  It is estimated that 1 244 vertebrate species are now threatened with extinction.
*  A large decrease in the marine fisheries catch is expected as a result of the 1997-98 El Niño.
*  Many countries have substantial potential for curbing carbon emissions, given the region's renewable energy sources and the potential of forest conservation and reforestation programmes to provide valuable carbon sinks.
*  In São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, air pollution is estimated to cause 4 000 premature deaths a year.


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