Land Area of the Globe
Total Land Area of the Globe:
148,940,000 square kilometers, think of 149 million.
Total area of the sea:
361,132,000 square kilometers, so more than twice as much as
Amount of land area covered by snow & ice: about
15,000,000 square km.
This leaves about 134,000,000 square km. In
hectares that is x 100 so 13,400,000,000 hectares of
theoretically habitable land – 13 billion.
A sq km is difficult to visualize. A hectare is
approx the size of a football field. The world is 13 billion
football fields. So in the year 0 we would have had about 4.5
hectares each, four & a half football pitches. Each.
Now we have land area for 7.4 billion of us.
Except for stacking up in high rises and places like Dubai which
build islands, land does not grow. And deserts have tended to
So now we have about .5 hectares each, half a
That is about 100 meters long x 50 wide.
One problem is you don’t want to get assigned the
half football pitch in the tundra. Nor in the Sahara desert.
In order to pass through the bottleneck (of
population growth), a global land ethic is urgently needed –
E.O. Wilson, The Future of Life prologue p
Data from the International Livestock Research
Institute in Kenya This states 1.4 billion cattle and 19.6
billion chickens worldwide.
That is, roughly, one beef or milk cattle head
per 5 people and 2.5 chickens per person.
may think you live on a planet, but really you live on a
cited from TIME magazine (16-Dec-2013).
Various indications suggest that about 40% of the non-ice global
land area is used for farming. The Time Magazine article is well
worth sourcing as a primer for information in this area. http://science.time.com/2013/12/16/the-triple-whopper-environmental-impact-of-global-meat-production/
FLYING: This is
contentious. Many people are aware that flying is polluting.
Almost no one is prepared to admit that their next flight is the
one than can be avoided.
If in doubt about this, search the web for
ways a passenger can cross the Atlantic from Europe to the
Americas without flying. There are possibilities. Apart from
‘top’ cruise ships which go irregularly there is not much else.
Allowing half an hour check in for a long
distance train – it can often be done in less – and two hours
for a flight, it is faster to fly distances above 500 miles.
London to Glasgow (about 350 miles) is 1 ½
by air plus 2 hrs check in + ½ hr get out = 4 hrs.
London to Glasgow train is 4 ¾ hrs + ½ hr
check in + ¼ hr get out = 5 ½ hrs.
TGV trains would do this faster. At 200 mph
the London to Glasgow train with a stop or two would take 2 hrs
+ ½ hr check in + ¼ hr depart = 2 ¾ hrs – beats the plane.
London to Rome is 1,150 miles.
London to Rome by air is 2 ¼ hours. Add 2
hrs + ½ hour = 4 ¾
London to Rome by train – average time 16
hrs + Fastest 14 hrs +. With longer international check in this
= about 18 hrs.
London to New York by air is about 7 ½ hrs
(faster west-east than east-west). Add 3 hrs check in and
arrival customs = 10 ½
London to New York at 200 mph by TGV train
would be 17 hrs, not bad and not an option. London to New York
by sea 3-5 days. The SS United States did the distance in 3 days
12 hrs, holding the record, this in the 1950s, the last decade
before flying became the norm for most people.
FLYING IS FAST – now for the big number.
the big number. 7% is the approx year on year increase in
passenger flights taken world wide.
In 2004, less than 2 billion person-flights
were taken. For 2018 the number is 3,970,000,000[ii]
In 1970 there were already 310,000,000
The website FlightRadar24 reported 202,157
flights in the air during the 24 hours of June 29, 2018. That
was a record.
There are many estimates of how many people
are in the air at any one time. Spike Aerospace, developer of a
new generation supersonic airplane – perhaps an unusual source,
suggest about 500,000 people at any one time and 6 million
people per day.
This would calculate into much less than
the 3.7 billion person-flights (see above).[iii]
The actual number of people flying is
probably more like ten million per day.
REGULATION of AIR TRAVEL:
These are two big numbers which are both
0. 0 is the amount
of tax worldwide on airline fuel – more accurately close to 0
and 0 in many places.
0 is, until some tame
attempt to regulate in 2016, the extent to which flying was a
factor in climate change talks.
In 2016 the International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO – a United Nations body) developed CORSIA
(Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International
The big number here really is the M (for
Murky) number. Whoever wrote the Wikipedia article on the
subject of airplane emissions, which is generally excellent,
became baffled in trying to relate the CORSIA agreement into any
kind of number – a satirical view of this would say that CORSIA
is a nice way of saying nothing very much has to be done for
quite some time and that when it does it won’t really change
The author of this BIG NUMBERS entry has
had the same difficulty. The CORSIA agreement can be found
online – there is not much that is comprehensible about it
except that weak emotion, vague hope.
In fact the basis of the agreement, or its
ideal, is to try to design a carbon offset system for the amount
of carbon put into the atmosphere by planes above the 2020
It is also possible to argue as the website
‘how stuff works’ does that a Boeing 747 full of 500 people can
achieve 100 miles per gallon per person which is a lot better
than a car that does, say, 40 miles per gallon.
The argument is based on the fact that a
Boeing 747 burns 5 gallons of fuel per mile. Divide this by 500
people on the plane and you get the 100 miles per gallon with
the plane flying at 550 miles per hour.
Boeing 747s are not the most economical of
planes. Recently a good deal is heard about the new generation
achieving fuel efficiencies. There is also data to suggest tht
these efficiencies are related to the inefficiency of early jet
engines. Exact data is hard to pin down. It would appear that
today’s planes are flying at about the same efficiency and the
propeller airplanes like the Constellation that achieved long
distances in the late 1950s.
Here is another low number. 2% was
considered the civil aircraft contribution to carbon emissions
This was cited in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
report, Aviation & the Global Atmosphere. Calculations from The
Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University have
suggested doubling this figure to 4%.
According to Wikipedia In Europe, the
average airline fuel consumption per passenger in 2017 was
69 miles per gallon (in US gallons, so slightly higher in UK
gallons). This was down 24% less from 2005.
Offset the increase in passenger miles
between 2005 and 2017 and one ends up with an increase of 16% in
emissions. But as the traffic grew by 60% to 1,643 billion
passenger kilometres, CO₂
emissions were up by 16% to 163 million tonnes for 99.8 g/km CO₂
Back to: Land Area of the
Globe -- Proposal --
World Population Figures
-- Flying --
READER -- PLEASE NOTE: This is a
work in progress, incomplete and not properly footnoted or
[i] Checked from flights, BA & Easyjet
Collection of Big Numbers is a work in progress.