Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4) Part III

Global Environment Outlook (GEO-4) Part III

Necessary policies and technology to reduce emissions are available, and much of this is economically viable, especially where increased energy security, reduced energy costs and fewer harmful effects of air pollution play together. This will mean improvements in energy efficiency and a transition to low-carbon and renewable resources (biofuels, solar, wind, geothermal). Other technological solutions can be CO2 capture and storage.

Recent studies show that measures to reduce emissions do not have to involve enormous costs, and that the total costs will make up a very small part of the global economy. On the other hand, long-term risks due to climate change suggest that we should approach the problem from a precautionary approach .

5: Land management

According to PETSINCLUDE, changes in the use of land have had both positive and negative effects on welfare and on the services that ecosystems can provide (water purification and more). A colossal increase in production within agriculture and forestry has resulted in more welfare and a safer livelihood for millions worldwide. In this field, the GEO-4 report addresses these topics, among others:

  • Since 1987, the annual loss of forest – deforestation – has been 73,000 km2. These areas have often been converted into agricultural land, urban areas or pastures.
  • Since 1987, the earth’s drive has become dramatically much more intense . In Asia, grain production has risen by 25%, in West Asia by 37% and in Latin America by 40%. Per hectare, 2.5 tonnes of food are now produced, compared with 1.8 in the 1980s.
  • Since 2006 – and for the first time in history – more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities. And the trend is rising.
  • The main reasons for the changes in land use and the increased intensity are more people, changing consumption patterns and technological, political and climate change.
  • Forest cover increased in North America and Europe during the four years covered by the report. In other words, the long-standing trend of deforestation has stopped here. But deforestation continued in the rainforest belt. Deforestation thus persists as a serious environmental problem.
  • Land degradation is a fundamental and persistent problem driven by unsustainable operations. Recent analyzes (satellite data) show that the most vulnerable areas are the tropical part of Africa south of the equator, Southeast Africa, Southeast Asia, southern China, southeastern Brazil and the Pampas in Argentina, and the temperate forests of Alaska, Canada. and Eastern Siberia.
  • Chemical pollution poses a great risk to health and the environment – even though we do not yet fully know how toxic the emissions are, or the limits of what is safe exposure. A “heritage” from formerly polluting cities (emission bombs) is found in many old industrialized countries. In Europe, there are more than 2 million such waste sites; 100,000 of them need cleanup.
  • Nutrient depletion in the soil is the most common factor inhibiting crops in large parts of the tropics, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The use of fertilizer or artificial fertilizer can increase yields up to 16 times. But many small farmers in poor countries lack the money to buy fertilizer. On the other hand, the widespread use of fertilizers in industrialized countries leads to soil nourishment (eutrophication) there.
  • Desertification – land degradation in arid areas – is most visible in poor countries where it affects the livelihoods of millions of people in certain areas. The income of the inhabitants of these areas is largely far below the rest of the world.

6: Water management

Climate change, overexploitation and deterioration of the state of aquatic ecosystems , and over-taxation of fish stocks, contribute to changing the overall aquatic environment. In this way, too, human welfare and the opportunities to achieve the Millennium Development Goals are affected.

The global water cycle is affected by climate change, and thus both humans and important water ecosystems are threatened. Warmer seawater and changes in surface currents change precipitation patterns, freshwater and marine plant and animal production.

Drought and famine are becoming more common and more serious and are leading to increased malnutrition, more waterborne diseases and ruined livelihoods. Minor rainfall and devastating drought have affected the Sahel since the 1970s. On the other hand, precipitation has increased in eastern parts of North and South America, Northern Europe and North and Central Asia. More stormy weather is worsening the security situation for people in low-lying coastal areas and islands that are exposed to rising sea levels. Ice and glaciers have melted strongly in the last 20 years. The ice cover and ice thickness in the polar region are also clearly reduced.

Freshwater: Freshwater resources and sustainable development are closely linked. Changes in the water cycle can prevent the millennium goals of clean water, health and food safety being reached. Available freshwater resources are becoming increasingly scarce as a result of overconsumption of both surface water and groundwater. The use of fresh water in agriculture, industry and energy production has risen markedly over the last 50 years. In many parts of the world, water consumption exceeds the annual, natural refill of new water.

Damming has undoubtedly been a huge advantage for agriculture, water supply and electricity production. The downside is that the fragmentation of river courses through dams, diversions and canals reduces agricultural and fish production and increases the salt content in the soil at estuaries.

Global Environment Outlook 3