Humanity is degrading the world’s natural capital far faster the planet can absorb the damage, the United Nations Environment Programme concluded last week, after reviewing decades of data in the most comprehensive environmental study the UN has ever undertaken.
“UNEP found the rate of damage to the natural environment was increasing globally, despite concerted efforts to persuade governments to take measures to improve the condition of vital natural resources, such as water, land, and the seas,” the Guardian reports. “The study is intended as an aid to the world’s efforts to combat climate change and other environmental threats, as it highlights the difficulties of improving the lives of people in developing countries and tackling global warming, while food resources come under continuing pressure.”
UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said developing countries have the tools to improve the environment for millions of people, but those tools are not being used. “If current trends continue, and the world fails to enact solutions that improve patterns of production and consumption, if we fail to use natural resources sustainably, then the state of the world’s environment will continue to decline,” he warned.
The study pointed to failures to reduce air pollution, reverse damage to marine ecosystems and degradation of agricultural lands, and cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“In rich countries, these problems have built up over decades and centuries while economic growth was pursued at the expense of the environment. Subsequent efforts to remedy the environment have met with partial success,” the Guardian’s Fiona Harvey writes. “In developing countries, the path of future development has more potential to change, which has encouraged international institutions to devise more sustainable growth pathways that are supposed both to alleviate poverty and preserve the environment.”
Meanwhile, a Bloomberg report focuses on the string of new temperature records that has had climate scientists and advocates raising alarms over the last couple of weeks.
“It’s been relentless,” the news agency notes. “In an age of rising temperatures, monthly heat records have become all too common. Still, a string of 12 of them is without precedent.”
But “perhaps even more remarkable is the magnitude of the new records. The extremes of recent months are such that we’re only four months into 2016 and already there’s a greater than 99% likelihood that this year will be the hottest on record.”
Worse still, “if recent trends are any indication,” writes reporter Tom Randall, “it won’t be long before this record-hot year looks cool, compared with what’s to come.” (h/t to InsideClimate News for pointing us to the UNEP study)