The United Nations Environment Program released last week its fourth Global Environment Outlook and issued “(its) final wake-up call to the international community” to tackle environmental issues.
Among those threats are climate change, but also overfishing, air and water pollution and so on.
This was written 20 years after the first version, known as the Brundtland report, which described the tenets of sustainable development.
To give you a full insight of this dramatic situation, I propose you to read the interesting article on this report by James Kanter in the International Herald Tribune.
The human population is living far beyond its means and inflicting damage on the environment that could pass points of no return, according to a major report issued Thursday by the United Nations.
Climate change, the rate of extinction of species and the challenge of feeding a growing population are among the threats putting humanity at risk, the UN Environment Program said in its fourth Global Environmental Outlook since 1997.
“The human population is now so large that the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available at current consumption patterns,” Achim Steiner, the executive director of the program, said in a telephone interview. Efficient use of resources and reducing waste now are “among the greatest challenges at the beginning of 21st century,” he said.
The program described its report, which is prepared by 388 experts and scientists, as the broadest and deepest of those that the UN issues on the environment and called it “the final wake-up call to the international community.”
Over the past two decades the world population has increased by almost 34 percent to 6.7 billion from 5 billion; similarly, the financial wealth of the planet has soared by about a third.
(…)The report is being published two decades after a commission headed by the former Norwegian prime minister Gro Harlem Brundtland warned that the survival of humanity was at stake from unsustainable development.
Steiner said many of the problems identified by the Brundtland Commission were even more acute because not enough had been done to stop environmental degradation as flows of goods, services, people, technologies and workers had expanded, even to isolated populations.
He did, however, identify some reasons for hope that pointed toward better environmental stewardship.
He said West European governments had taken effective measures to reduce air pollutants, and he praised efforts in parts of Brazil to roll back deforestation in the Amazon. He said an international treaty to tackle the hole in the earth’s ozone layer had led to the phasing-out of release of 95 percent of ozone-damaging chemicals.
The report said that annual emissions of CO2 from fossil fuels have risen by about one-third since 1987 and that the threat from climate change now was so urgent that only very large cuts in greenhouse gases of 60 to 80 percent could stop irreversible change.
The effects of global warming, like the melting ice in the Arctic are “accelerating at a pace that goes beyond the scenarios and models we’ve been using,” Steiner said.
Climate change, however, was an issue that gained huge momentum over the past year, with governments, industries and citizens increasingly seeking solutions to the problem, Steiner said. The recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and to former Vice President Al Gore was a sign of widespread scientific consensus that climate change is under way, he said.
Steiner called for an accelerated effort on a far wider range of environmental issues to build the same sense of urgency as shown on climate change over the past year to address the worsening situations of biodiversity, land degradation, fisheries and freshwater.
From the UNEP :
- Press release : Planet’s Tougher Problems Persist, UN Report Warns ;
- Download the full report : the fourth Global Environment Outlook: environment for development (GEO-4) ;
- or the Summary for decision makers. (available in all the languages of the UN, including French )
Further reading :