Connect with us

Urbanization

Visualizing the Material Impact of Global Urbanization

Published

on

Material Impact Urbanization

Visualizing the Material Impact of Global Urbanization

Cities only cover 2% of the world’s land surface, but activities within their boundaries consume over 75% of the planet’s material resources.

With the expansion of urban areas, the world’s material consumption is expected to grow from 41.1 billion tonnes in 2010 to about 89 billion tonnes by 2050.

In today’s graphic, we use data from the UN International Resource Panel to visualize the material impact of global urbanization.

How Material Consumption is Calculated

Today, more than 4.3 billion people or 55% of the world’s population live in urban settings, and the number is expected to rise to 80% by 2050.

Every year, the world produces an immense amount of materials in order to supply the continuous construction of human-built environments.

To calculate how much we use to build our cities, the UN uses the Domestic Material Consumption (DMC), a measure of all raw materials extracted from the domestic territory per year, plus all physical imports, minus all physical exports.

Generally, the material consumption is highly uneven across the different world regions. In terms of material footprint, the world’s wealthiest countries consume 10 times as much as the poorest and twice the global average.

Based on the total urban DMC, Eastern Asia leads the world in material consumption, with China consuming more than half of the world’s aluminum and concrete.

Major Global Regions2010 Material Consumption (billion tonnes)2050P Material Consumption (billion tonnes)% total urban DMC change (2010-2050P)
Africa2.017.7792%
Southern Asia2.78.6223%
South-Eastern Asia2.05.6180%
Central and Western Asia1.94.7151%
Oceania1.12.6136%
Eastern Asia9.019.2113%
South and Central America6.511.171%
Europe8.310.425%
North America7.79.017%
World41.188.8116%

According to the UN, the bulk of urban growth will happen in the cities of the Global South, particularly in China, India, and Nigeria.

Consumption in Asia is set to increase as the continent hosts the majority of the world’s megacities—cities housing more than 10 million people.

However, the biggest jump in the next decades will happen in Africa. The continent is expected to double in population by 2050, with material consumption jumping from 2 billion tonnes to 17.7 billion tonnes per year.

A Resource-Efficient Future

Global urban DMC is already at a rate of 8–17 tonnes per capita per year.

With the world population expected to swell by almost two and a half billion people by 2050, new and existing cities must accommodate many of them.

This could exacerbate existing problems like pollution and carbon emissions, but it could equally be an opportunity to develop the low-carbon and resource-efficient cities of the future.

Click for Comments

Urbanization

Visualizing the World’s Largest Steel-Producing Countries

China has dominated global steel production the past few decades, but how did the country get here, and is its production growth over?

Published

on

cropped infographic of global steel production by country in 2022

The Largest Steel-Producing Countries: Visualized

Steel is a critical component of modern industry and economy, essential for the construction of buildings, automobiles, and many other appliances and infrastructure used in our daily lives.

This graphic uses data from the World Steel Association to visualize the world’s top steel-producing countries, and highlights China’s ascent to the top, as it now makes up more than half of the world’s steel production.

The State of Global Steel Production

Global steel production in 2022 reached 1,878 million tonnes, barely surpassing the pre-pandemic production of 1,875 million tonnes in 2019.

Country2022 Production (in million tonnes)Annual Production ChangeGlobal Share
🇨🇳 China1013.0-2.0%53.9%
🇮🇳 India124.85.3%6.6%
🇯🇵 Japan89.2-7.9%4.8%
🇺🇸 United States80.5-6.5%4.3%
🇷🇺 Russia71.5-5.8%3.8%
🇰🇷 South Korea65.9-6.9%3.5%
🇩🇪 Germany36.8-8.8%2.0%
🇹🇷 Türkiye35.1-15.0%1.9%
🇧🇷 Brazil34.0-6.5%1.8%
🇮🇷 Iran30.66.8%1.6%
🇮🇹 Italy21.6-13.0%1.1%
🇹🇼 Taiwan20.7-12.1%1.1%
🇻🇳 Vietnam20.0-15.0%1.1%
🇲🇽 Mexico18.2-1.9%1.0%
🇮🇩 Indonesia15.68.3%0.8%
Rest of World201.0-11.2%10.7%
World Total1878.5-3.9%100.0%

2022’s steel production marked a significant reduction compared to the post-pandemic rebound of 1,960 million tonnes in 2021, with a year-over-year decline of 4.2%–the largest drop since 2009, and prior to that, 1991.

This decline was spread across many of the world’s top steel producers, with only three of the top fifteen countries, India, Iran, and Indonesia, increasing their yearly production. Most of the other top steel-producing countries saw annual production declines of more than 5%, with Turkey, Italy, Taiwan, and Vietnam’s production all declining by double digits.

Even the world’s top steel-producing nation, China, experienced a modest 2% decline, which due to the country’s large production amounted to a decline of 19.8 million tonnes, more than many other nations produce in a year.

Despite India, the world’s second-largest steel producer, increasing its production by 5.3%, the country’s output still amounts to just over one-tenth of the steel produced by China.

China’s Meteoric Rise in Steel Production

Although China dominates the world’s steel production with more than a 54% share today, this hasn’t always been the case.

In 1967, the World Steel Association’s first recorded year of steel production figures, China only produced an estimated 14 million tonnes, making up barely 3% of global output. At that time, the U.S. and the USSR were competing as the world’s top steel producers at 115 and 102 million tonnes respectively, followed by Japan at 62 million tonnes.

Almost three decades later in 1996, China had successively overtaken Russia, the U.S., and Japan to become the top steel-producing nation with 101 million tonnes of steel produced that year.

The early 2000s marked a period of rapid growth for China, with consistent double-digit percentage increases in steel production each year.

The Recent Decline in China’s Steel Production

Since the early 2000s, China’s average annual growth in steel production has slowed to 3.4% over the last decade (2013-2022), a considerable decline compared to the previous decade’s (2003-2012) 15.2% average annual growth rate.

The past couple of years have seen China’s steel production decline, with 2021 and 2022 marking the first time the country’s production fell for two consecutive years in a row.

While it’s unlikely China will relinquish its position as the top steel-producing nation anytime soon, it remains to be seen whether this recent decline marks the beginning of a new trend or just a brief deviation from the country’s consistent production growth.

Continue Reading

Urbanization

Mapped: Air Pollution Levels Around the World in 2022

Exploring 2022 average air pollution levels around the world by PM2.5 concentration.

Published

on

Mapped: Air Pollution Levels Around the World

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution leads to 7 million premature deaths every year.

Out of the six common air pollutants, particulate matter measuring 2.5 microns or smaller in diameter, or PM2.5, is accepted as the most harmful to human health. This is due to its prevalence in the atmosphere and the broad range of adverse health effects associated with its exposure, such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases.

With that context in mind, this visualization uses IQAir’s World Air Quality Report to map out the 2022 average PM2.5 concentrations in select major cities around the globe, expressed in micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m³).

Understanding the WHO Air Pollution Guidelines

Did you know that in 2019, only 1% of the global population lived in places where WHO global air quality guidelines were met?

Designed to protect public health from the harmful effects of air pollution, the guidelines cover a range of air pollutants, including particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide.

The healthy limits for PM2.5 are set at an annual average of 0-5 μg/m³.

WHO Classification Annual Average PM2.5 Concentration (μg/m³)% of countries within classification, 2022*
WHO Air Quality Guideline0 - 5 9.9%
Interim Target 45.1 - 10 18.3%
Interim Target 310.1 - 15 19.8%
Interim Target 215.1 - 25 28.2%
Interim Target 125.1 - 359.9%
Exceeds Target Levels 35.1 - 50 7.6%
Exceeds Target Levels> 50 6.1%

*Percentages are calculated as a proportion of the 131 countries that had sufficient air quality data and were included in IQAir’s World Air Quality Report in 2022.

According to IQAir’s World Air Quality Report, only 13 countries or territories met the recommended concentration of PM2.5 in 2022. Among them were Australia, Finland, Puerto Rico, Iceland, Bermuda, and Guam.

Above this guideline, many countries fell within the four interim targets, while nearly 14% recorded air pollution levels that exceeded all target levels.

The Effects of Air Quality on Mortality

While it can be a little difficult to grasp what the above concentrations represent, thinking of them in terms of their effect on mortality can shed some light on their significance.

According to the WHO, non-accidental mortality rates multiply by 1.08 per 10 µg/m³ increase in PM2.5 concentration, but only up to 35 μg/m³. Above that, mortality growth rates may not be linear, resulting in many more deaths.

Here is an example to highlight what that means.

  • Say that, for a population living within the WHO PM2.5 guideline, the non-accidental mortality rate is arbitrarily set to 100 deaths for a given period.
  • If this area’s PM2.5 concentration goes up to 10 μg/m³, putting them at Interim Target 4, they would see 104 deaths in that same amount of time.
  • At Interim Target 3, where their PM2.5 concentration would be 15 μg/m³, they would see 108 deaths.
  • At Interim Target 2, they’d see 117.
  • Finally, at Interim Target 1, they’d see 126.

Beyond Interim Target 1 (above 35 μg/m³), deaths would potentially grow much faster. As of 2022, around 14% of countries report levels above this threshold, including Chad, India, Pakistan, Qatar, and Nigeria.

The State of Air Pollution Around the World

While many cities in North America and Europe have seen steady and relatively lower PM2.5 concentrations during the last few years, many cities (especially those in Asia) have been making strides in lowering their air pollution levels.

Nonetheless, many of them still record PM2.5 concentrations that are more than six times the WHO guideline.

City2022 annual average PM2.5 concentration (μg/m³)2018 annual average PM2.5 concentration (μg/m³)
🇪🇬 Cairo, Egypt47.4N/A
🇮🇳 Mumbai, India46.758.6
🇦🇪 Dubai, UAE43.755.3
🇮🇩 Jakarta, Indonesia36.245.3
🇳🇬 Lagos, Nigeria36.1N/A
🇨🇳 Beijing, China29.850.9
🇵🇪 Lima, Peru25.628
🇲🇽 Mexico City, Mexico22.119.7
🇨🇳 Guangzhou, China21.333.2
🇵🇭 Manila, Philippines14.6N/A
🇦🇷 Buenos Aires, Argentina14.212.4
🇸🇬 Singapore, Singapore 13.314.8
🇮🇹 Rome, Italy12.6N/A
🇰🇪 Nairobi, Kenya11.5N/A
🇷🇺 Moscow, Russia10.810.1
🇧🇷 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil10.6N/A
🇺🇸 Los Angeles, USA10.514.4
🇺🇸 New York, USA9.9N/A
🇬🇧 London, UK9.612
🇯🇵 Tokyo, Japan9.213.1
🇨🇦 Toronto, Canada8.57.8
🇨🇦 Vancouver, Canada7.6N/A
🇳🇴 Oslo, Norway6.98.2
🇿🇦 Cape Town, South Africa 6.7N/A
🇺🇸 Miami, USA 6.47.8
🇦🇺 Perth, Australia 4.9N/A
🇦🇺 Sydney, Australia3.17.6

Most parts of the world did not meet the annual WHO recommendation for clean and healthy air in 2022.

However, the cost of inaction toward cleaner air is very high. In addition to the millions of premature deaths each year, the global cost of health damages associated with air pollution currently sits at $8.1 trillion.

Unfortunately, things that are integral to our quality of life, such as industrial activities, transportation, energy production, and agricultural practices, are also the leading causes of air pollution around the world.

As such, a multi-faceted approach to lowering pollution is essential to protect lives, especially to benefit those already more vulnerable to poor air quality, such as kids and the elderly.

Continue Reading

Subscribe

Popular