Report for Rio+20 shows world still increasing its ecological debts > Friends of Europe > Friends of Europe | Library | Paper   Leave a comment

 

 

“The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has published an interesting data collection of how the world has dealt with its ecological challenges since the first Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. Despite some progress in certain areas, overall the picture does not look rosy.

 

The publication entitled “Keeping Track of our Changing Environment: From Rio to Rio+20” is part of UNEP’s “Global Environmental Outlook-5” (GEO -5) series, the UN’s landmark report on the state and outlook of the global environment. The complete GEO-5 report will be launched in May 2012, one month before the Rio+20 in Brazil.

 

Although the authors of the report have carefully avoided providing any critical evaluation of the statistical data, anyone reading the 111-pages study can hardly conclude that global leaders have done a great job since they received a wake-up call about the world’s sustainability challenges twenty years ago.

 

Here are a few of the “gloomy” messages of the study:

World population has grown by 26% since 1992 (from 5.5 billion to 7 billion).

More people than ever live in megacities.

Global average meat consumption grew from 34 kg per person per year to 43 kg.

GDP has continued to increase but there are increasing doubts as to whether this has created more quality of life and more happiness.

The global use of natural resource materials increased by over 40% between 1992 and 2005, from about 42 to nearly 60 thousand million tonnes.

CO2 emissions increased by 36% between 1992 and 2008, from around 22 000 million to just over 30, 000 million tonnes.

The ten hottest years on record have all occurred since 1998.

Sea levels have been rising at an average rate of about 2.5 mm per year between 1992 and 2011.

Oceans are becoming more acidic: the ocean’s pH declined from 8.11 in 1992 to 8.06 in 2007.

Nearly all mountain glaciers around the world are retreating and getting thinner; and the speed with which this is happening is increasing.

Forest area has decreased by 300 million hectare since 1990, an area larger than Argentina.

Biodiversity is in serious decline and every year more species move closer to extinction.

The world has seen a huge increase in natural disasters.

Food production has continued to rise but only thanks to more use of fertilizer. It takes an average of seven to ten calories of input energy (i.e., mostly fossil fuels) to produce one calorie of food.

Irrigation has raised crop yields but also put pressure on freshwater availability

Since 1992, the proportion of fully exploited fish stocks increased by 13% and overexploited, depleted or recovering stocks increased by 33%, reaching 52% and 33%, respectively, of all fish stocks.

In 2010, 1,440 million people globally—that is 20% of the world population—are still suffering from “energy poverty.

 

And here are a few of the “good stories”:

Over the past 20 years, the Human Development Index has grown globally by 2.5% per year, climbing from 0.52 in 1990 to 0.62 in 2010, or 19% overall, showing substantial improvement in many aspects of human development but big inequalities still remain.

Women’s political influence is rising.

The value of internationally traded products has tripled between 1992 and 2009, from over US$ 9 to 28 million millions.

Although overall energy and material use continue to grow, there is a simultaneous general decline in emissions, energy and material use per unit of output (resource efficiency).

The consumption of ozone-depleting substances decreased by 93% from 1992 to 2009, and 98% since the Montreal Protocol’s was established in 1987.

Numerous multilateral environmental agreements were signed since 1992.

The private sector is increasingly adopting environmental management standards.

Land area used for organic farming is growing by nearly 13% per year.

Investment in sustainable energy has skyrocketed in recent years (although from very low starting levels).

The “global village” has developed rapidly as a result of new technologies and the Internet.

 

All in all, the UNEP study is an impressive work of data collection but it could have done with a little bit less spin and a bit more “hard” evaluation. But then again, maybe this document has a political function and the real meat can be expected in May of next year?

 

By Willy De Backer

Head of the Greening Europe Forum

via Report for Rio+20 shows world still increasing its ecological debts > Friends of Europe > Friends of Europe | Library | Paper.

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Posted November 10, 2011 by arnoneumann in Environment, Green, UN

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