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Introduction World
Globally, the 20th century was marked by: (a) two devastating world wars; (b) the Great Depression of the 1930s; (c) the end of vast colonial empires; (d) rapid advances in science and technology, from the first airplane flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina (US) to the landing on the moon; (e) the Cold War between the Western alliance and the Warsaw Pact nations; (f) a sharp rise in living standards in North America, Europe, and Japan; (g) increased concerns about the environment, including loss of forests, shortages of energy and water, the decline in biological diversity, and air pollution; (h) the onset of the AIDS epidemic; and (i) the ultimate emergence of the US as the only world superpower. The planet's population continues to explode: from 1 billion in 1820, to 2 billion in 1930, 3 billion in 1960, 4 billion in 1974, 5 billion in 1988, and 6 billion in 2000. For the 21st century, the continued exponential growth in science and technology raises both hopes (e.g., advances in medicine) and fears (e.g., development of even more lethal weapons of war).
Geography World
Map references:
Physical Map of the World, Political Map of the World, Standard Time Zones of the World
total: 510.072 million sq km
water: 361.132 million sq km
land: 148.94 million sq km
note: 70.8% of the world's surface is water, 29.2% is land
Area - comparative:
land area about 16 times the size of the US
Land boundaries:
the land boundaries in the world total 250,472 km (not counting shared boundaries twice); two nations, China and Russia, each border 14 other countries
note: 43 nations and other areas are landlocked, these include: Afghanistan, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Holy See (Vatican City), Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malawi, Mali, Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Niger, Paraguay, Rwanda, San Marino, Slovakia, Swaziland, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uzbekistan, West Bank, Zambia, Zimbabwe; two of these, Liechtenstein and Uzbekistan, are doubly landlocked
356,000 km
note: 98 nations and other entities are islands that border no other countries, they include: American Samoa, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Ashmore and Cartier Islands, The Bahamas, Bahrain, Baker Island, Barbados, Bassas da India, Bermuda, Bouvet Island, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cape Verde, Cayman Islands, Christmas Island, Clipperton Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Comoros, Cook Islands, Coral Sea Islands, Cuba, Cyprus, Dominica, Europa Island, Falkland Islands (Islas Malvinas), Faroe Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Glorioso Islands, Greenland, Grenada, Guam, Guernsey, Heard Island and McDonald Islands, Howland Island, Iceland, Jamaica, Jan Mayen, Japan, Jarvis Island, Jersey, Johnston Atoll, Juan de Nova Island, Kingman Reef, Kiribati, Madagascar, Maldives, Malta, Isle of Man, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mauritius, Mayotte, Federated States of Micronesia, Midway Islands, Montserrat, Nauru, Navassa Island, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, Norfolk Island, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Palmyra Atoll, Paracel Islands, Philippines, Pitcairn Islands, Puerto Rico, Reunion, Saint Helena, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Spratly Islands, Sri Lanka, Svalbard, Tokelau, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tromelin Island, Turks and Caicos Islands, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Virgin Islands, Wake Island, Wallis and Futuna, Taiwan
Maritime claims:
a variety of situations exist, but in general, most countries make the following claims measured from the mean low-tide baseline as described in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea: territorial sea - 12 nm, contiguous zone - 24 nm, and exclusive economic zone - 200 nm; additional zones provide for exploitation of continental shelf resources and an exclusive fishing zone; boundary situations with neighboring states prevent many countries from extending their fishing or economic zones to a full 200 nm
two large areas of polar climates separated by two rather narrow temperate zones form a wide equatorial band of tropical to subtropical climates
the greatest ocean depth is the Mariana Trench at 10,924 m in the Pacific Ocean
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Bentley Subglacial Trench -2,540 m
note: in the oceanic realm, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench is the lowest point, lying -10,924 m below the surface of the Pacific Ocean
highest point: Mount Everest 8,850 m (1999 est.)
Natural resources:
the rapid depletion of nonrenewable mineral resources, the depletion of forest areas and wetlands, the extinction of animal and plant species, and the deterioration in air and water quality (especially in Eastern Europe, the former USSR, and China) pose serious long-term problems that governments and peoples are only beginning to address
Land use:
arable land: 10.73%
permanent crops: 1%
other: 88.27% (2001)
Irrigated land:
2,714,320 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards:
large areas subject to severe weather (tropical cyclones), natural disasters (earthquakes, landslides, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions)
Environment - current issues:
large areas subject to overpopulation, industrial disasters, pollution (air, water, acid rain, toxic substances), loss of vegetation (overgrazing, deforestation, desertification), loss of wildlife, soil degradation, soil depletion, erosion
Geography - note:
the world is now thought to be about 4.55 billion years old, just about one-third of the 13-billion-year age estimated for the universe
People World
6,379,157,361 (July 2004 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 28.2% (male 925,276,767; female 875,567,830)
15-64 years: 64.5% (male 2,083,789,165; female 2,033,226,759)
65 years and over: 7.2% (male 203,286,504; female 257,705,851)
note: some countries do not maintain age structure information, thus a slight discrepancy exists between the total world population and the total for world age structure (2004 est.)
Population growth rate:
1.14% (2004 est.)
Birth rate:
20.24 births/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Death rate:
8.86 deaths/1,000 population (2004 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.03 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
total population: 1.01 male(s)/female (2004 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 50.31 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 52.17 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 48.33 deaths/1,000 live births (2004 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 64.05 years
male: 62.48 years
female: 65.7 years (2004 est.)
Total fertility rate:
2.62 children born/woman (2004 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
Christians 32.71% (of which Roman Catholics 17.28%, Protestants 5.61%, Orthodox 3.49%, Anglicans 1.31%), Muslims 19.67%, Hindus 13.28%, Buddhists 5.84%, Sikhs 0.38%, Jews 0.23%, other religions 13.05%, non-religious 12.43%, atheists 2.41% (2002 est.)
Chinese, Mandarin 14.37%, Hindi 6.02%, English 5.61%, Spanish 5.59%, Bengali 3.4%, Portuguese 2.63%, Russian 2.75%, Japanese 2.06%, German, Standard 1.64%, Korean 1.28%, French 1.27% (2000 est.)
note: percents are for "first language" speakers only
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 77%
male: 83%
female: 71% (1995 est.)
Government World
Administrative divisions:
268 nations, dependent areas, other, and miscellaneous entries
Legal system:
all members of the UN are parties to the statute that established the International Court of Justice (ICJ) or World Court
Economy World
Economy - overview:
Global output rose by 3.7% in 2003, led by China (9.1%), India (7.6%), and Russia (7.3%). The other 14 successor nations of the USSR and the other old Warsaw Pact nations again experienced widely divergent growth rates; the three Baltic nations continued as strong performers, in the 5%-7% range of growth. Growth results posted by the major industrial countries varied from a loss by Germany (-0.1%) to a strong gain by the United States (3.1%). The developing nations also varied in their growth results, with many countries facing population increases that erode gains in output. Externally, the nation-state, as a bedrock economic-political institution, is steadily losing control over international flows of people, goods, funds, and technology. Internally, the central government often finds its control over resources slipping as separatist regional movements - typically based on ethnicity - gain momentum, e.g., in many of the successor states of the former Soviet Union, in the former Yugoslavia, in India, in Iraq, in Indonesia, and in Canada. Externally, the central government is losing decision-making powers to international bodies. In Western Europe, governments face the difficult political problem of channeling resources away from welfare programs in order to increase investment and strengthen incentives to seek employment. The addition of 80 million people each year to an already overcrowded globe is exacerbating the problems of pollution, desertification, underemployment, epidemics, and famine. Because of their own internal problems and priorities, the industrialized countries devote insufficient resources to deal effectively with the poorer areas of the world, which, at least from the economic point of view, are becoming further marginalized. The introduction of the euro as the common currency of much of Western Europe in January 1999, while paving the way for an integrated economic powerhouse, poses economic risks because of varying levels of income and cultural and political differences among the participating nations. The terrorist attacks on the US on 11 September 2001 accentuate a further growing risk to global prosperity, illustrated, for example, by the reallocation of resources away from investment to anti-terrorist programs. The opening of war in March 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq added new uncertainties to global economic prospects. After the coalition victory, the complex political difficulties and the high economic cost of establishing domestic order in Iraq became major global problems that continue into 2004.
GWP (gross world product) - purchasing power parity - $51.48 trillion (2004 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
3.8% (2004 est.)
GDP - per capita:
purchasing power parity - $8,200 (2004 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 4%
industry: 32%
services: 64% (2004 est.)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: NA
highest 10%: NA
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
developed countries 1% to 4% typically; developing countries 5% to 60% typically; national inflation rates vary widely in individual cases, from declining prices in Japan to hyperinflation in several Third World countries (2003 est.)
Labor force:
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture NA, industry NA, services NA
Unemployment rate:
30% combined unemployment and underemployment in many non-industrialized countries; developed countries typically 4%-12% unemployment
dominated by the onrush of technology, especially in computers, robotics, telecommunications, and medicines and medical equipment; most of these advances take place in OECD nations; only a small portion of non-OECD countries have succeeded in rapidly adjusting to these technological forces; the accelerated development of new industrial (and agricultural) technology is complicating already grim environmental problems
Industrial production growth rate:
3% (2002 est.)
Electricity - production:
14.93 trillion kWh (2001 est.)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: NA
hydro: NA
other: NA (2001)
nuclear: NA
Electricity - consumption:
13.94 trillion kWh (2001 est.)
Oil - production:
75.34 million bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - consumption:
75.81 million bbl/day (2001 est.)
Oil - proved reserves:
1.025 trillion bbl (1 January 2002)
Natural gas - production:
2.578 trillion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
2.555 trillion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
712 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
697.5 billion cu m (2001 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
161.2 trillion cu m (1 January 2002)
$6.421 trillion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Exports - commodities:
the whole range of industrial and agricultural goods and services
Exports - partners:
US 16.4%, Germany 7.9%, UK 5.2%, France 5.1%, China 5%, Japan 4.6% (2003)
$6.531 trillion f.o.b. (2002 est.)
Imports - commodities:
the whole range of industrial and agricultural goods and services
Imports - partners:
US 9.9%, Germany 9.4%, China 7.9%, Japan 6.7%, France 4.7% (2003)
Debt - external:
$2 trillion for less developed countries (2002 est.)
Economic aid - recipient:
official development assistance (ODA) $50 billion
Communications World
Telephones - main lines in use:
843,923,500 (2003)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
Telephone system:
general assessment: NA
domestic: NA
international: NA
Radio broadcast stations:
AM NA, FM NA, shortwave NA
Television broadcast stations:
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
10,350 (2000 est.)
Internet users:
604,111,719 (2002 est.)
Transportation World
total: 1,115,205 km
broad gauge: 257,481 km
narrow gauge: 186,311 km (2003)
standard gauge: 671,413 km
total: NA km
paved: NA km
unpaved: NA km
Ports and harbors:
Chiba, Houston, Kawasaki, Kobe, Marseille, Mina' al Ahmadi (Kuwait), New Orleans, New York, Rotterdam, Yokohama
Military World
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
aggregate real expenditure on arms worldwide in 1999 remained at approximately the 1998 level, about three-quarters of a trillion dollars (1999 est.)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
roughly 2% of gross world product (1999 est.)
Transnational Issues World
Disputes - international:
stretching over 250,000 km, the world's 322 international land boundaries separate the 192 independent states and 70 dependencies, areas of special sovereignty, and other miscellaneous entities; ethnicity, culture, race, religion, and language have divided states into separate political entities as much as history, physical terrain, political fiat, or conquest, resulting in sometimes arbitrary and imposed boundaries; maritime states have claimed limits and have so far established over 130 maritime boundaries and joint development zones to allocate ocean resources and to provide for national security at sea; boundary, borderland/resource, and territorial disputes vary in intensity from managed or dormant to violent or militarized; most disputes over the alignment of political boundaries are confined to short segments and are today less common and less hostile than borderland, resource, and territorial disputes; undemarcated, indefinite, porous, and unmanaged boundaries, however, encourage illegal cross-border activities, uncontrolled migration, and confrontation; territorial disputes may evolve from historical and/or cultural claims, or they may be brought on by resource competition; ethnic clashes continue to be responsible for much of the territorial fragmentation around the world; disputes over islands at sea or in rivers frequently form the source of territorial and boundary conflict; other sources of contention include access to water and mineral (especially petroleum) resources, fisheries, and arable land; nonetheless, most nations cooperate to clarify their international boundaries and to resolve territorial and resource disputes peacefully; regional discord directly affects the sustenance and welfare of local populations, often leaving the world community to cope with resultant refugees, hunger, disease, impoverishment, deforestation, and desertification
Illicit drugs:
cocaine: worldwide, coca is grown on an estimated 173,450 hectares-almost exclusively in South America with 70% in Colombia; potential cocaine production during 2003 is estimated at 728 metric tons (or 835 metric tons of export quality cocaine); coca eradication programs continue in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru; 376 metric tons of export quality cocaine are documented to have been seized in 2003, and 26 metric tons disrupted (jettisoned or destroyed); consumption of export quality cocaine is estimated to have been 800 metric tons
opiates: cultivation of opium poppy occurred on an estimated 137,944 hectares in 2003-mostly in Southwest and Southeast Asia-with 44% in Afghanistan, potentially produced 3,775 metric tons of opium - which conceivably could be converted to the equivalent of 429 metric tons of pure heroin; opium eradication programs have been undertaken in Afghanistan, Burma, Colombia, Mexico, Pakistan, Thailand, and Vietnam

This page was last updated on 30 November, 2004