News / USA

Report: Cities, Middle Class to Play Greater Role in 2014

Brazil, with an 85 percent urban population, is making aggressive moves to implement public transport. This photo shows a typical traffic jam in Sao Paulo.
Brazil, with an 85 percent urban population, is making aggressive moves to implement public transport. This photo shows a typical traffic jam in Sao Paulo.
Rosanne Skirble
The middle class will play an increasingly important role in 2014, according to the World Resources Institute (WRI), which takes the pulse of the planet each year.

Global population is expected to top 8 billion by 2030, with five billion in the middle class, which grew from one billion in 1990 to three billion in 2010.   

WRI is a global research group that focuses on policies that protect the environment and its ability to sustain the world's growing population.

“Can we enjoy this growing prosperity and tackle sustainability at the same time?" asked WRI President Andrew Steer. "We believe the answer is yes, but some key decisions that will be made in 2014 will affect how we do it.”  

Steer calls 2014 the year of cities. Every day, he says, 270,000 people climb the economic ladder and move into cities.

  • Over the next two decades the number of city dwellers is expected to rise to 5 billion, putting pressure on transportation systems, energy and water use, and waste disposal. (Shankar S. Oldandsolo)
  • Smoke rises from the La Cygne Generating Station power plant in Kansas. Cities account for 70% of climate changing emissions from power plants, transportation and buildings.
  • Mexico City is among the most polluted cities in the world.  While cities account for 65 percent of global GDP,  they are faced with public health problems from dangerous pollution. 
  • Brazil, with an 85% urban population, is making aggressive moves to implement public transport. This photo shows a typical traffic jam in Sao Paulo.
  • Cars are seen in thick smog in Beijing on Jan. 31, 2013. Air pollution is killing up to 500,000 people a year in China according to the country’s former health minister.

  • Wind turbines of the Donghai Bridge Offshore Wind Farm are seen near Shanghai. While China is the world’s largest polluter, it is also the world’s largest producer of wind energy, and hopes to double its production over the next six years.
  • New high resolution maps show the world is losing 50 football fields a minute of forested land.  These forests were razed in southwest Cameroon for a palm oil plantation. (Center for Environment and Development Cameroon)
  • The Bonn Challenge is a global movement launched at a ministerial conference in Bonn in 2011 to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020. People work on a reforestation project in the Atlantic Forest region of Silva Jardim, Brazil.
  • Palm Oil production has increased by 400% over twenty years.  Consumers are increasing demands for traceable deforestation-free palm oil. Plantations could use degraded lands instead of taking over forested areas to plant the crop.
  • The United Nations will host a world summit on Climate change in September, 2014 to help advance a global climate change treaty. 
  • A billion voters in three of the world’s largest democracies – India, Brazil and Indonesia -  will have the final say on the future of a sustainable world as they choose new heads of state in 2014.

“Seventy-five million this year, 75 million next year, three-quarters of a billion this decade, three-quarters of a billion next decade,” he said.  

While cities drive the world economy, they also account for 70 percent of climate changing emissions. Dirty air is blamed for 1 million premature deaths. So Steer says cities are being re-designed to make them more livable.

Brazil, where 85 percent live in cities, is on the road to change.   

“Brazil now has a remarkable new law that says 3,000 cities in Brazil need to have mobility plans. What does that mean? You think about public transportation, how people are going to get on there, how they are going to get to work," Steer said. "It’s Brazil that introduced Curitiba Bus Rapid Transit. Now more than 12 million people travel on that every single day. Three hundred cities around the world growing hugely rapidly now have bus rapid transit.”

Report: Cities, Middle Class to Play Greater Role in 2014
Report: Cities, Middle Class to Play Greater Role in 2014 i
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Steer also predicts that, in the face of the loss of global forest cover at the rate of the equivalent of 50 football fields a minute, two billion hectares in the world could be transformed.  

That's the amount of land - two times the size of China - that has been degraded, yet is ripe for forest or farm restoration. World governments have promised to restore 150 million hectares by 2020. Steer says that it would be like closing 350 large coal fired power plants.

However China, the world’s largest polluter, has proposed adding 363 coal-fired power plants to its energy sector. Yet Steer notes that China is taking aggressive measures to reduce emissions, starting with $277 billion directed at air pollution.

“That’s now going to start being spent this year; a ban on new coal plants in three major metropolitan areas, tighter pollution standards that will make some of the planned coal plants less attractive and so they won’t be built," Steer said. "And last year 50 percent of all China’s new electricity was generated from renewable sources.”

Also in 2014, the United States is expected to release new rules that curb emissions from existing power plants, the United Nations will host a summit on climate change, nations will announce plans to reduce climate changing emissions, and negotiations will continue toward the goal of a global warming treaty by 2015.

Steer says the most crucial question the world must address this year is how to move to a low carbon future and help the economy.

You May Like

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs