Damage to planet accelerating

13th June 2016

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Laura Garland

Environmental change is moving more quickly than previously thought, according to UNEP, which has called on governments to act now to reverse the damage.

The UN Environment Programme has published regional reports highlighting the environmental issues affecting each of the world’s six regions: pan-European, North America, Asia and Pacific, West Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa.

They reveal that, in almost all of them, population growth, rapid urbanisation, rising consumption, desertification, land degradation and climate change have combined to leave countries facing severe water scarcity. These worrying trends are making it increasingly hard for the world to feed itself, UNEP said.

‘If current trends continue and the world fails to enact solutions that improve current patterns of production and consumption, if we fail to use natural resources sustainably, the state of the world’s environment will continue to decline,’ said UNEP executive director Achim Steiner. ‘It is essential that we understand the pace of environmental change that is upon us and that we start to work with nature instead of against it to tackle the array of environmental threats that face us.’

The reports show that water contamination from human and industrial waste, including pharmaceutical and personal care products, is a major problem in the Asia and Pacific region, while in North America the coastal and marine environment is under increasing threat from nutrient loads, ocean acidification, sea level rise, and new forms of marine debris. Degraded land and spreading desertification are the most critical challenges in West Asia. About 500,000 m2 of land in Africa is being degraded due to soil erosion, salinisation, pollution and deforestation, while indoor air pollution in Africa is responsible for 600,000 premature deaths every year.

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