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Sound and independent information
on the environment


Page Last modified 17 Apr 2009, 05:15 PM
This section examines the agents and means by which Europe's environment is altered by focusing on the pressures induced human activities.

12 Population, production and consumption

Population density, 1989

Examines the complex and still poorly understood relationship between people, resources and development attempt to clarify the issues involved. The chapter concludes by stressing the importance of assessing the environment implications of long-term economic and development programmes

  • 12.8% of the world population are Europeans, a proportion which is decreasing because of lowered fertility in most European countries
  • adjusted living standards vary by a factor of more than four between Eastern and Western Europe
  • most Central and Eastern European countries rely food imports - Western European countries import much animal feed
    Coal Oil Gas Nuclear Hydro Others
World 1970 31.7 46.8 18.8 0.9 1.7 ­
1990 28.5 40.5 22.2 6.3 2.5 ­
Western Europe 1970 27.6 60.3 6.3 1.2 3.0 1.6
1990 19.3 44.0 16.6 14.4 3.0 2.7
Eastern Europe 1970 60.1 23.3 13.1 ­ 1.0 2.4
1990 48.4 24.2 20.1 4.5 1.1 1.6
Former USSR 1970 36.8 34.8 22.3 0.2 1.6 4.3
1990 21.0 30.0 42.0 4.0 1.6 1.3

World and European primary energy consumption 1970-90 (tonnes of oil equivalent, %)

13 Exploitation of natural resources

Explores the differences between renewable (water, forests and crops) and non-renewable (fossil fuels and metal ores) resources. International trade and the growing interdependence of nations have made the sustainable management of these resources a global issue. The chapter focuses on major developments in the use of resources in Europe and reviews the statistics used to monitor resource use.

  • Europe has 8% of worldwide renewable fresh-water resources but accounts for 15% of withdrawals
  • although Europe (excluding the former USSR) had 1.9 million hectares more forest and wooded land in 1990 than in 1981, atmospheric pollution and uncontrolled logging (Russian Federation) are causing forest loss and damage
  • Europe has depleted most of its high-grade mineral reserves and now relies mostly on imports, mainly from Africa

14 Emissions

Presents an overview of emissions to air and water in Europe: their physico-chemical characteristics, magnitude, pathways and sinks. The overview of atmospheric emissions of major pollutants in European countries is based on data reported to UNECE al where available, on Corinair 1990. The analysis of emissions to water is based on the limited quantitative information available and focuses on emissions from agriculture and wastewater. Sol examples illustrate the contribution of industry as a source of emissions to the aquatic environment. Existing emission inventories in European countries are examined; they highlight the need for an integrated means of collecting data on emission and waste to all media, and the need to harmonize emission inventory methodologies at the European level.

  • Europe accounts for between 20 and 30% of global human-induced emissions of CO2, SO2, VOCs and nitrogen oxides
  • in densely populated areas about half of the phosphorus discharged to surface water is related to sewage discharges
Sulphur dioxide emission trends

15 Waste

Analyses present trends in waste production in Europe, and assesses the potential threats to human health and the environment resulting from current waste management practices. Current patterns of transfrontier movements of hazardous waste across European countries are examined. The options to reduce waste and recycle materials through integrated; processes are presented for a number of waste streams. The assessment is based on up-to-date information from a joint OECD/Eurostat survey and state of the environment report The limited availability, quality and comparability of existing waste statistics highlight the importance of harmonizing was classification systems at the European level.

Composition of municipal waste, 1990

  • on average, Europeans produce 350 kg of municipal waste per capita per year
  • an increasing amount of industrial waste is considered hazardous
  • high production rates offset efforts towards waste minimization and recycling
  • European waste dumps cover between 1 200 and 1 700 km2, while there are 2 000 km2 of derelict industrial land

16 Noise and radiation

Reviews the main impacts of the important 'physical fields' in Europe - environmental noise, ionizing and non-ionizing radiation - and relates them to main sources. Noise data from international sources (OECD and WHO) are presented and analysed wherever possible, to give the overall situation in Europe and in individual countries. Non-ionizing radiation deals with electromagnetic fields and ultraviolet radiation. The main sources and effects of ionizing radiation - natural and artificial - in Europe are described.

  • in the highly industrialized countries of Europe more than 50% of the population is exposed to noise levels from traffic which exceed the level at which people become seriously annoyed during the daytime
  • about 113 million Europeans -17% of the population - are exposed to levels of noise that have serious negative impacts
  • overexposure to ultraviolet radiation is so far due mostly to lifestyle; there are indications of a 5% increase in W-B radiation in winter in the northern hemisphere
  • radon exposure is estimated to cause 10 000 cancer deaths a year in Europe

17 Chemicals and genetically modified organisms

The manufacture, marketing and use of chemicals result in the release of many compounds to the environment, often with undesirable effects on human health, welfare and ecosystems. The sources of these compounds are described, as are the impacts of selected chemicals of concern. The use of genetically modified organisms in EU countries is also examined, with their potential undesirable effects and the procedures in place to control their safe use

Field releases of GMOs notified in the EU in 1991-94

  • about 100 000 chemicals are marketed in the EU, and between 200 and 300 new ones appear each year
  • between 1991 and 1994, nearly 300 notifications of field releases of genetically modified organisms were made in the EU

18 Natural and technological hazards

Examines the characteristics and importance of accidents and natural hazards as causes of environmental impacts. Their causes and consequences in Europe are summarized, and the different types of damage that can be produced are identified. Examples are given of industrial accidents (Flixborough and Seveso, for example), transport accidents, marine accidents and nuclear accidents (as at Chernobyl). Natural hazards such as storms and floods, heatwaves, fires and droughts also impact the environment and are potentially exacerbated by human activities.

Caesium contamination around Tschernobyl after the accident

  • from a major industrial accidents reporting system, appears that the most accidents occurred in the petroleum industry, and that highly flammable gases and chlorine were the substances most often involve
  • tanker accidents contribute only about 10-15% of a the oil that reaches the sea as a result of human activity
  • precise knowledge of the full consequences of the Chernobyl nuclear accident is unlikely, but some unexpected effects have already emerged
  • natural hazards are having an increased impact on human settlements, probably because of the greater number of settlements and their increased vulnerable due to their uncontrolled extension into high risk areas.


Geographic coverage

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100