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.
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.