UNEP's GEO-4 a Sobering Read

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 10/27/2007 06:20:00 PM
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The UN Environmental Program's just-released GEO-4 flagship report puts the state of the environment in blunt terms twenty years after the Brundtland report: There are no major issues raised in Our Common Future for which the foreseeable trends are favourable. Ouch. Once again, the most damning thing about these reports on the state of the environment--unless you're a fundamentalist growth lubber (or Bjorn Lomborg, for that matter)--is that they're likely correct in calling for immediate, concerted action. It's simple, really. No Earth = no political economy or pretty much anything else. The diagram above is UNEP's conceptual framework for understanding the links between the environment and development, human wellbeing and vulnerability to environmental change. Below is part of the press blurb for the report, which can be downloaded in its 572-page entirety. It's a sobering read, but undoubtedly an important one on the shared challenges we face (including those growth lubbers and Lomborg):

On climate change the report says the threat is now so urgent that large cuts in greenhouse gases by mid-century are needed. Negotiations are due to start in December on a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol, the international climate agreement which obligates countries to control anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Although it exempts all developing countries from emission reduction commitments, there is growing pressure for some rapidly-industrializing countries, now substantial emitters themselves, to agree to emission reductions.

GEO-4 also warns that we are living far beyond our means. The human population is now so large that "the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available... humanity's footprint [its environmental demand] is 21.9 hectares per person while the Earth's biological capacity is, on average, only 15.7 ha/person...".

And it says the well-being of billions of people in the developing world is at risk, because of a failure to remedy the relatively simple problems which have been successfully tackled elsewhere.

GEO-4 recalls the Brundtland Commission's statement that the world does not face separate crises - the "environmental crisis", "development crisis", and "energy crisis" are all one. This crisis includes not just climate change, extinction rates and hunger, but other problems driven by growing human numbers, the rising consumption of the rich and the desperation of the poor.

BTW, you can find the 1987 Brundtland Commission report mentioned several times in GEO-4 online that coined the widely-used definition of sustainable development as that which meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.