Of the planet’s roughly 6.9 billion people in 2010, 4.2 billion live in Asia. More than half of Asia’s population resides in China (Population Reference Bureau 2010). Considering what a large percentage of the Earth’s inhabitants are found there, changes in consumption by Asia as a whole (and China in particular) can have potentially enormous impacts.
Asia, like Africa, experienced rapid population growth from the mid-20th century through the early 21st century. Between 1961 and 2004, the population of China nearly doubled. As in Africa, this population boom necessitated an intensification of agricultural practices, particularly through increased fertilizer use. Fertilization with nitrogen increased from 0.54 Tg to 28 Tg a year nationwide (Xiong et al. 2008).
While Africa has experienced modest economic growth, many parts of Asia have grown astronomically, and consequently these regions have begun to exhibit a more “Western” lifestyle. The results of this change have manifested themselves in multiple ways. The most notable is that in 2009, China overtook the U.S. as the World’s biggest energy consumer, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA 2009). China consumed 2.252 billion tons of oil equivalent, 4% more than the U.S. However, the United States remains the world’s largest consumer of energy per capita.
Meat consumption in Asia is also on the rise. In Japan, meat production more than quadrupled between 1961 and 2005 (Xiong et al. 2008), and other nations experiencing economic growth are following the same trend.
In addition, between 2001 and 2006, emissions of ozone precursors in Asia increased by 44% (Cooper et al. 2010).