Issue Date: June 11, 2012
Little Progress In Saving The Planet
Unless the world starts making progress on an array of environmental challenges, Earth’s life-support functions may soon be irreversibly altered, says a United Nations report released on June 6.
The result could be abrupt and massive changes. For example, the report says, the planet could experience collapse of freshwater lake and estuary ecosystems because of increased fertilizer runoff or rapid melting of the Arctic ice sheet as a result of accelerated global warming.
Compiled by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and issued every five years, the “Global Environment Outlook” says the world has made little or no progress on many environmental problems. The challenges are as varied as stemming human-induced climate change, curbing the amount of plastic entering the ocean, and improving the ability of developing countries to manage industrial chemicals.
These findings “are unsurprisingly sobering and cause for profound concern,” says Achim Steiner, UNEP executive director.
Yet according to the report, several global successes show that people and governments can make a difference. These accomplishments include the virtual elimination of lead in gasoline and the phaseout of chemicals that deplete Earth’s protective stratospheric ozone layer.
The report suggests that governments can change troubling trends by adopting or strengthening environment-related policies, such as environmental monitoring, life-cycle analysis of products, restriction of subsidies for fossil fuels, and international cooperation to disseminate energy-saving technologies.
For some environmental challenges, including the sound management of chemicals and wastes, the report finds insufficient data to evaluate whether the world is making progress. For instance, the report highlights the fact that information about chemicals, including the hazards they pose, is often lacking.
- Chemical & Engineering News
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