Reaching Tipping Point

Written By: - Date published: 7:35 am, June 8th, 2012 - 23 comments
Categories: climate change, Conservation, disaster, Environment, sustainability, water - Tags: , ,

Two major new reports out yesterday show the earth is headed for a tipping point: our consumption is unsustainable, and we’re degrading the environment.  Soon it will be beyond the point of return.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has a 5 yearly Global Environment Outlook report.  The fifth edition is out, in preparation for Rio+20.

It states that out of 90 environmental goals, significant progress has been made on just 4 of them: making petrol lead-free, tackling ozone layer depletion, increasing access to clean water and boosting research on marine pollution.

Another 40 goals show some progress, but many are stagnant, if not showing degradation.

Despite 700 international environmental agreements to prevent decline air pollution is causing 6 million deaths per year; the planet is on track to warm at least 3 degrees by 2100; we could be eating $50 billion more fish each year if we hadn’t unsustainably harvested them from the oceans; most river basins have drinking water that is below WHO standards; and, in the US alone crop yields are $14-$26 billion down due to air pollution and climate change.

Shortly after that was released Nature published a study showing that possibly by 2025 more than 50% of the earth’s land will be catering to human needs with cities and farms etc.  This is likely to cause a ‘planetary-scale critical transition’ for the biosphere – the part that supports life.  Rapid, possibly irreversible change for the worse.

UNEP says that population growth, unsustainable consumption in western and fast-industrialising nations, and environmentally destructive subsidies all need urgent action.  The phase out of $400bn annually of fossil fuel subsidies needs a finishing date, the over-fishing of our oceans needs regulation and corporations need to forced to calculate and publish their ecological footprint.

Rio+20 aims to halt the environmental decline, while raising living standards for the world’s poor.

Achim Steiner, Unep’s executive director says:

“GEO-5 reminds world leaders and nations meeting at Rio+20 why a decisive and defining transition towards a low-carbon, resource-efficient, job-generating ‘green economy’ is urgently needed.

“If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed, then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation.

“The moment has come to put away the paralysis of indecision, acknowledge the facts and face up to the common humanity that unites all peoples.

“Rio+20 is a moment to turn sustainable development from aspiration and patchy implementation into a genuine path to progress and prosperity for this and the next generations to come.”

Let’s hope his optimism is well-placed and the paralysis of indecision leading to disaster can be averted.

23 comments on “Reaching Tipping Point”

  1. infused 1

    It’s going to happen, so I don’t know why everyone keeps harping on about it. Things will only change when the damage is obvious and impacts everyday life.

  2. vto 2

    One thing I have noticed over the decades is that where the hippies are is where everyone else ends up later. Might sound madness to some but it appears to be the way. Examples – living in Coromandel, Raglan, Matakana or other places. organic foods. lightweight living. environmental concerns. sandals and headscarfs (ok, maybe not that one) …

    I suspect that everyone else will end up where the hippies have been re global warming and pollution etc in the future. Perhaps use this as a test for the importance of hippies.

    • Bill 2.2

      Hmm. Seeing as how the presence of hippies was written in the past tense (“where the hippies have been”), does that mean I can look forwards to a hippy free world?

      • weka 2.2.1

        You’d have to dispose of your own hippy tendancies first ;-p
        The past tense in this case shows that the hippies have already been where everyone else is now going. This suggests that they are always in our future. There is no escaping the hippies.

  3. This dose not bode well for Kiwi Saver. I wonder if the greeds and Labor will promises to close it down in a moment of unusual honesty?
    Oh and – increasing access to clean water – only increases C02 output so another fail.

  4. muzza 4

    Agenda 21 will sort it all out..

  5. jaymam 5

    Breaking news: – a Hockey Stick found in Australia’s climate.
    “1000 years of climate data confirms Australia’s warming”

    • Te Reo Putake 5.1

      Do try and keep up, jayman. That report got thrashed like Basil Fawlty’s car on another thread over the weekend.

      • jaymam 5.1.1

        Well, I don’t read all of the open threads.

        How about “global warming stunts black holes”?

        • lprent

          Bloody hell. How long before we see the argument that the naturally occurring cycles of the boom and bust universe cycling from big bang to big crunch are what is really changing the weather – making it colder as the neutrinos emitted from the event horizionz of galactic sized black holes passing hough the earth are cooling it down.

          Look! I have scientific papers on cosmology done by meteorologists to prove it… They have weather or climate in th title!!!!!!!

          And pleeezeee – no-one point this comment out to the potty peer and his minons of corporate welfare. I have no wish to be prominently featured in their lists of “skeptics” who don’t “believe” in climate alarmists…

          Actually my absurd theory makes more sense than Oscar’s attempts.

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