What are the underlying environmental issues facing the world today ?

The Global Environmental Outlook Report-4 on the state of the planet by the United Nations Environment Programme (www.unep.org/geo/), focuses on four groups global environmental issues:

  • Atmosphere
  • Land
  • Water
  • Biodiversity

The degradation of natural resources described in these conditions and trends threatens the livelihood of many people, especially the vulnerable and the poor. Human health is jeopardized by contaminated water supplies, urban air pollution and agro-chemical pollution. In fact, increasingly, human health and well-being is increasingly determined by environmental conditions. For example, GEO4 reports that:

As a result of these environmental conditions and trends, GEO3 concludes that:

  • In some cases, climate change is having severe effects on human health, food production, security and resource availability.
  • Extreme weather conditions are having an increasingly large impact on vulnerable human communities, particularly the world’s poor.
  • Both indoor and outdoor pollution is still causing many premature deaths.
  • Land degradation is decreasing agricultural productivity, resulting in lower incomes and reduced food security.
  • Decreasing supplies of safe water are jeopardizing human health and economic activity.
  • Drastic reductions of fish stocks are creating both economic losses and a loss of food supply.
  • Accelerating species extinction rates are threatening the loss of unique genetic pools, possible sources for future medical and agricultural advances.

Choices made today will determine how these threats will unfold in the future. Reversing such adverse environmental trends will be an immense challenge. Ecosystem services collapse is a distinct possibility if action is not taken. Finding solutions to these problems today is therefore urgent.

Source: GEO4, United Nations Environment Programme.