Little Progress In Saving The Planet | June 11, 2012 Issue - Vol. 90 Issue 24 | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 90 Issue 24 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: June 11, 2012

Little Progress In Saving The Planet

Sustainability: Ecosystems face irreversible changes if people, governments don’t act, report says
Department: Government & Policy
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: sustainability, UNEP, nanomaterials, chemical management, marine plastics
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Carried by ocean currents, plastic debris, including fishing gear and trash, wash up on the shores of Maug Lagoon in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific.
Credit: Angelo Villagomez/Marine Photobank
Photo shows marine debris on the shores of the remote island of Maug, in the Northern Mariania Islands.
 
Carried by ocean currents, plastic debris, including fishing gear and trash, wash up on the shores of Maug Lagoon in the Northern Mariana Islands in the Pacific.
Credit: Angelo Villagomez/Marine Photobank

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.

 
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Comments
mary power giacoletti (June 11, 2012 8:11 PM)
In addition to a lack of information about chemicals is a lack of knowledge about the
extent of unnecessary wood-burning (fire pits, barbecues, fireplaces) and the very harmful effects that ensue. Cigarette smoke is clearly recognized as carcinogenic, but wood smoke, 12 times more so, is not.
Joona Ruusuvuori (August 2, 2012 3:26 AM)
Well, woodfires, yes, but what about when talking about production of their alternatives, like microwave ovens, or electric ovens.. In general there should be more concern about the production of things, how often in production much energy is wasted on something, that doesn't often reclaim the energy usage and that usually doesn't last long. I think pointing on to woodfires people make and such, instead of actions of corporations and banks and lack of care for nature, is a littlebit strange.

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