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The UNEP Global Environment Outlook 1997
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The United Nations Environment Programme is working on its 5th Global Environment Outlook, to be published in 2012.

The first four reports are from 1997, 2000, 2002, and 2007.

Below is a brief flashback to these reports, and our outlook

Next is a screenshot from the first report, with the striking belief in "dematerialization", and based upon the equally flawed "environmental Kuznets curve" that pretends environmental impact would go down with increasing wealth!

The first report's Executive Summaty states:

Looking to the Future 1

The first GEO Report concludes with a brief exploration, based on model analyses, of what we might expect in the future for a selected number of environmental issues. The results in this final chapter highlight the integrated nature of the environment and underscore the need for more systematic analysis of linkages between environment, social, economic, institutional, and cultural sectors and among different environmental issues, such as biodiversity, climate, land, and water. Preliminary results from the model analyses confirm trends revealed by the regional chapters. They indicate that, despite both declining global birth rates since 1965 and recent policy initiatives towards more efficient and cleaner resource use in some regions, the large increases in world population, expanding economies in industrializing countries, and wasteful consumption patterns particularly in developed countries of the world will continue to increase global resource and energy consumption, generate burgeoning wastes, and spawn environmental contamination and degradation. Pressures on remaining biodiversity and natural ecosystems will increase accordingly.

If no fundamental changes occur in the amount and type of energy used, global carbon dioxide emissions will increase, and the declining trends in acidifying sulphur and nitrogen concentrations may be reversed. In light of the apparent effects of human activity on climate, contingency plans to adapt to projected climate change will be required in the near future. These include the development of drought-resistant crops, increases in water use efficiency, the avoidance of ecosystem fragmentation, and an improvement of the adaptive capabilities in all regions.

With only moderate application of improved agricultural management and technology in developing regions, the demands of growing populations and the increasing burden of poverty may well lead to substantial expansion of agricultural activities into marginal lands at the expense of remaining wilderness and associated biodiversity. Although the models project adequate availability of water and food on a global basis, regional deficiencies could be aggravated in the near future. The combination of increased pressure on land by expanding urbanization and losses of productive land through degradation and unsustainable management practices may lead to shortages in arable land and water, impeding development in several regions. Global food trade can supplement these regional shortfalls, but will create dependencies and require importing countries to engage in other production activities to finance essential food imports.

In such a scenario, sharp regional differences will remain and poverty will be aggravated in several regions. If global economic gains are not accompanied more explicitly by investment in education, social development, and environmental protection, a move towards a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable future for all sectors of society will not be realized, and a new spate of urban and pollution-related health impacts may surface.

The chapter's brief exploration into alternative development scenarios illustrates that technology transfer can lead to significant changes in energy consumption, land use, and carbon dioxide emissions. Although the analysis presented is only a first attempt to explore the potential impact of alternative policies, it demonstrates that reductions of human pressures on the global environment are indeed technically feasible if the willingness to implement them globally is found.

We note:
GEO1 Executive Summary - The Way Ahead Next is a table showing the procedure to be followed for the next report
(source: GEO-5_Backgroundnote_150210f.pdf, p.11).  

  • human impact equation I = P x A x T .
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    Note: This is the 1997 edition of UNEP's Global Environment Outlook. If you are interested in more recent information, please see the 2000 and 2002 editions.
    United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
    Global Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

    Executive Summary

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    The Way Ahead

    World-wide, rapid and profound changes are occurring in many social, institutional, and economic systems. Continued impoverishment of large parts of the global population, increased disparities both within and among nations, and rapid globalization-particularly through developments in information technology, transport, and trade regimes-are observed. In many countries, there are trends towards decentralization of environment responsibilities from national to subnational authorities, an increasing role for the transnational corporations in environmental stewardship and policy development, and a move towards integrated environmental policies and management practices. Increased willingness by Governments to co-operate on a global basis is witnessed by the multitude of world summits in the last decade. The question arises, however, as to how this willingness is translated into concrete and effective actions. There is greater recognition and popular insistence that the wealth of nations and the well-being of individuals lie not just in economic capital, but in social and natural capital as well.

    Against this background of change, many fundamental global environmental trends are emerging from the diverse regional accounts of priority environmental concerns-global and regional, current and future-summarized in this report:

    The use of renewable resources-land, forest, fresh water, coastal areas, fisheries, and urban air-is beyond their natural regeneration capacity and therefore is unsustainable.

    Greenhouse gases are still being emitted at levels higher than the stabilization target internationally agreed upon under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

    Natural areas and the biodiversity they contain are diminishing due to the expansion of agricultural land and human settlements.

    The increasing, pervasive use and spread of chemicals to fuel economic development is causing major health risks, environmental contamination, and disposal problems.

    Global developments in the energy sector are unsustainable.

    Rapid, unplanned urbanization, particularly in coastal areas, is putting major stress on adjacent ecosystems.

    The complex and often little understood interactions among global biogeochemical cycles are leading to widespread acidification, climate variability, changes in the hydrological cycles, and the loss of biodiversity, biomass, and bioproductivity.

    There are also widespread social trends, intrinsically linked to the environment, that have negative feedback effects on environmental trends, notably:

    an increase in inequality, both among and within nations, in a world that is generally healthier and wealthier (See Figure 5.);

    a continuation, at least in the near future, of hunger and poverty despite the fact that globally enough food is available; and

    greater human health risks resulting from continued resource degradation and chemical pollution.

    Figure 5. Gross world product, 1950 - 94.

    Figure 5. Gross world product, 1950 - 94.

    If one were to distill four key priority areas that emerge from the GEO-1 Report for immediate, enhanced, and concerted action by the international community, energy, environmentally sound technologies, fresh water, and benchmark data are obvious choices. Many other urgent action areas are apparent in the report as well. But these four, although touching on different levels at which action should be taken, address key areas needing attention if the world is to reverse the negative environmental trends highlighted in the GEO Report. Economic cost-benefit analyses will need to be conducted in conjunction with concerted international action in these areas.

    Energy efficiency and renewable energy resources.

    Current patterns of energy use require drastic changes because of destructive impacts on land and natural resources, climate, air quality, rural and urban settlements, and human health and well-being. The need for ever higher levels of energy to fuel economic development in all regions of the world and the absence of significant world-wide advances in the development and application of alternative energy sources and increased energy efficiency will inevitably exacerbate environmental degradation. Alternative energy sources are being developed but need to be vigorously pursued and their application enhanced. Energy efficiency-that is, energy density per unit of production, whether industrial, domestic, or agricultural-still needs to be greatly improved, and emissions need to be reduced. Consideration should be given to declaring an Energy Decade, or decades, for that matter, until energy sustainability is reached.

    Appropriate and environmentally sound technologies world-wide.

    Appropriate technological improvements, which result in more effective use of natural resources, less waste, and fewer pollutant by-products, are required in all economic sectors-but particularly in industry, agriculture, transportation, and infrastructure development. Truly global availability and world-wide application of the best available and appropriate technology and production processes, including best traditional practices, has yet to be ensured through the exchange and dissemination of know-how, skills, and technology and through appropriate finance mechanisms. Despite years of deliberation, countries have yet to agree on how to reach consensus on international mechanisms to serve the vital interests of both developers of technologies and those countries that need access to them, as well as on international finance mechanisms.

    Global action on fresh water.

    Water will be the major impediment for further development in several regions. Not only is unsafe water having a negative impact on human and ecosystem health but also the scarcity of water, together with insufficient arable land, will increasingly pose a threat to food self-sufficiency in several regions, forcing a dependance on food trade. Greater efforts are needed to resolve issues related to land-based sources of pollution, non-point source runoff from agricultural and urban areas, protection of groundwater reserves, water pricing, the impact of development projects on ecosystems, and competing demands for water among different societal sectors, among rural and urban communities, and among riparian countries. Globally, a much stronger, more integrated, and extensive programme on water is required to address the green (food) and brown (health) fresh-water issues as well as traditional blue water issues.

    Benchmark data and integrated assessments

    . Assessments are required continually to guide rational and effective decision-making for environmental policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation at local, national, regional, and global levels. To improve the global capability for keeping the environment under continuous review, urgent action is required in the following fields:

    investment in new and better data collection, in the harmonization of national datasets, and in the acquisition of global datasets;

    increased understanding of the linkages among different environmental issues as well as of the interactions between environment and development;

    enhanced capabilities for integrated assessment and forecasting and the analysis of the environmental impact of alternative policy options;

    better translation of scientific results into a format readily usable by policy-makers and the general public; and

    the development of cost-effective, meaningful, and useful methods for monitoring environmental trends and policy impacts at local, national, regional, and global levels.

    Figure 6 illustrates the relationships among key actions, major environmental trends, and the ensuing overall improvements in environment and human health and well-being. To achieve advances in one or all of these key areas for action, a change in the "hearts and minds" of everyone will be required, along with a world-wide transition towards equity and resource efficiency. The necessary financial resources will have to be made available at national and international levels. Estimates have indicated that if 2-3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) could be devoted to environmental education, protection, and restoration, great strides could be made in halting the progress of major negative environmental trends. Implementing the pledges made at Rio to increase development aid to the equivalent of 0.7 per cent of industrial countries' GDP and to provide new additional funding is the prerequisite for initiating action to reverse global environmental degradation.

    Figure 6. The action cycle.

    Figure 6. The action cycle.

    Continue to chapter 1...

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    This copy has been reproduced for ecological, not-for-profit purposes only, 12 July 2010.