New consumers: The influence of affluence on the environment


The National Academy of Sciences


Growing consumption can cause major environmental damage. This is becoming specially significant through the emergence of over 1 billion new consumers, people in 17 developing and three transition countries with an aggregate spending capacity, in purchasing power parity terms, to match that of the U.S. Two of their consumption activities have sizeable environmental impacts. First is a diet based strongly on meat, which, because it is increasingly raised in part on grain, puts pressure on limited irrigation water and international grain supplies. Second, these new consumers possess over one-fifth of the world's cars, a proportion that is rising rapidly. Global CO2 emissions from motor vehicles, of which cars make up 74%, increased during 1990–1997 by 26% and at a rate four times greater than the growth of CO2 emissions overall. It is in the self-interest of new consumer countries, and of the global community, to restrict the environmental impacts of consumption; this restriction is achievable through a number of policy initiatives.

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