A recent UNEP report states that many of the major threats to the planet, such as climate change, the rate of extinction of species, and the challenge of feeding a growing population, remain unresolved and are putting humanity at risk. The Division of Early Warning and Assessment of the United Nations Environment Programme released this information and more in their “UN GEO4 report,” the Global Environmental Outlook 2007.
The 500 plus page report assesses the current state of the global atmosphere, land, water and biodiversity. The report also describes changes in these assessments since 1987, when the Bruntland Commission released its famous report Our Common Future. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “The international community’s response to the Brundtland Commission has in some cases been courageous and inspiring. But all too often it has been slow and at a pace and scale that fails to respond to or recognize the magnitude of the challenges facing the people and the environment of the planet”
GEO-4 is the most comprehensive UN report on the environment, prepared by about 390 experts and reviewed by more than 1,000 others across the world. It salutes the world’s progress in tackling some relatively straightforward problems, with the environment now much closer to mainstream politics everywhere. But despite these advances, there remain the harder-to-manage issues, the “persistent” problems, for which it sees little progress since Brundtland.
One of these problems is ecological overshoot. The GEO-4 warns that we are living far beyond our means, with a human population so large that “the amount of resources needed to sustain it exceeds what is available…” The report cites Ecological Footprint data and depicts Footprint and biocapacity graphics from WWF’s Living Planet Report 2006.
Failure to address these persistent problems, UNEP says, may undo all the achievements so far on the simpler issues, and may threaten humanity’s survival. On climate change the report says the threat is now so urgent that large cuts in greenhouse gases by mid-century are needed, and points to the climate talks in Bali this December as an avenue for global action. Despite these warnings, the report insists: “The objective is not to present a dark and gloomy scenario, but an urgent call for action.”