In a new report presented on 12 July, the U.S.-based Worldwatch Institute confirms that the world is getting richer but also hotter and at the price of ecological degradation.

The "Vital Signs 2006-2007" report presented by the Worldwatch Institute on 12 July provides a wealth of information and data on global economic development and its implications on energy security, biodiversity, climate change and the environment.

The economic trends highlighted in the report show a healthy global economy with the gross world product reaching a record level of nearly 60 trillion dollars. In 2005, more steel and aluminium were produced than ever before and vehicle production reached a record 45.6 million units. The number of internet users grew to 1 billion in 2005.

These economic growth figures are, on the other hand, accompanied by less positive trends as regards sustainability: the average atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increased by 0.6 per cent in 2004 (the largest increase ever); 2005 was the warmest year ever recorded in history; 1 per cent of global forest area was lost between 2000 and 2005; the "ecological footprint" of the world economy has surpassed the earth's "ecological capacity": "If everyone consumed at the average level of high-income countries, the planet could sustainably support only 1.8 billion people, not today's population of 6.5 billion", says the report.

The report confirms the unsustainable trends already described in the UN's Millennium Ecosystem Assessment released in 2005. The EU's recent review of its Sustainable Development Strategy also pointed to the need to tackle unsustainable consumption and production patterns. On a positive note, the report highlights the impressive growth of solar, wind and biofuels production.

"The world is on the verge of an energy revolution", says Christopher Flavin, President of the Worldwatch Institute in the preface to the report.