The World Cup is down to four teams: Argentina, Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands. We’ve seen how these nations perform on the soccer field. But how do they perform in the fields of health and development?
The big loser in the semifinals of the World Cup is also lagging behind on the poverty ladder. Roughly 10 percent of Brazil’s population — 20 million people — live on less than $2 a day. In Argentina, the figure is below 2 percent. In Germany and the Netherlands, it’s basically zero. No wonder Brazilians were so upset that the government spent billions of dollars on soccer stadiums.
There’s a tie for first place here. The average German and Dutch citizen can expect to live to age 81. In Argentina, the number is 76. Bringing up the rear once again is Brazil, at 74. But all four nations are relatively close to the country with the highest life expectancy: Japan, at 83 years. And they’re decades ahead of the country with the lowest: Sierra Leone, at 45.
Who’s been hacking down the most trees? In terms of deforestation rate, the loser is Argentina, which has been clearing nearly 1 percent of its trees each year for the past decade. Next worst is Brazil, which has been felling about 1/2 of 1 percent of its forested land annually. But because Brazil has more forested land than the other three countries — 2 million square miles, including the Amazon — it’s the loser in terms of total trees chopped. Germany has been perfectly conserving its forested land for a decade — a zero percent change. And the Netherlands is actually slowly growing its forests.
Carbon Dioxide Emissions
Germany is the biggest polluter of the four by a wide margin: 745,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. Next is Brazil at 420,000. Argentina and the Netherlands are neck and neck, with Argentina emitting slightly less CO2 per year: 181,000 to 182,000. Just as they did in the World Cup semifinal, the Argentines have managed to edge out the Dutch.
Illustration by Leif Parsons for NPR.