Latest UN Environment Report Describes a ‘Threatened Planet’

October 29, 2007

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) has released its latest detailed report, “Global Environment Outlook: environment for development (GEO-4),” which examines the state of the planet from a number of different aspects. The scientists who put the report together are concerned. They identified a number of “major threats,” including “climate change, the rate of extinction of species, and the challenge of feeding a growing population.”

GEO-4 is the latest in UNEP’s series of flagship reports. The first one, “Environment and Development, Our Common Future” [the Brundtland Commission], appeared 20 years ago. The reports assess the current state of the “global atmosphere, land, water and biodiversity.” The latest one describes the changes since 1987 and identifies priorities for action.

“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,” UNEP’s bulletin noted.

The report is not entirely negative. There has been progress “in tackling some relatively straightforward problems,” and environmental concerns are now “much closer to mainstream politics everywhere.” However, there remain “the harder-to-manage issues, the ‘persistent’ problems.” A look at these concerns led the GEO-4 report to state: “There are no major issues raised in Our Common Future for which the foreseeable trends are favorable.”

In addition the UNEP warns that “failure to address these persistent problems may undo all the achievements so far on the simpler issues, and may threaten humanity’s survival.” But it did add: “The objective is not to present a dark and gloomy scenario, but an urgent call for action.”

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, noted that 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.

“But, as GEO-4 points out, there continue to be ‘persistent’ and intractable problems unresolved and unaddressed. Past issues remain and new ones are emerging – from the rapid rise of oxygen ‘dead zones’ in the oceans to the resurgence of new and old diseases linked in part with environmental degradation. Meanwhile, institutions like UNEP, established to counter the root causes, remain under-resourced and weak,” Steiner continued.

The report makes clear that the world community “does not face separate crises – the ‘environmental crisis’, ‘development crisis’ and energy crisis’ are all one.”

Specifically, a phenomenon such as climate change is interconnected with “extinction rates and hunger.” Other problems are driven simply by the world’s increasing population – highlighted by the “rising consumption of the rich and the desperation of the poor.”

Copies of the GEO- 4 report are available for download at:; and on UNEP’s official distributor’s web site:; printed copies are also available through EarthPrint Limited, – P.O. Box 119, Stevenage, Hertfordshire SG1 TP, U.K., or by fax: + 1 38 7 88 -Tel: + 1 38 7 8 111 and e-mail:

Source: UNEP –

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