The United Nations' Global Environment Outlook Is Much More Than A Grim Warning

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On Wednesday, the sixth ever United Nations' Global Environment Outlook was released. Though the current outlook is grim, the UN report offers some hope by outlining the steps that need to be taken to address the problem. According to The Hill, the report was released with the intent to provide policymakers with the most up-to-date information on the state of environmental issues across the globe. This year, the results are daunting — and the solutions require a more drastic global response than ever.

Per CNN, over 250 scientists and environmental experts from over 70 countries contributed to the report, which surpasses 700 pages. In the report, the authors warned that a number of environmental crises are worsening, including air pollution, global warming, increased water scarcity, and the overall decreasing integrity of a number of ecosystems. In the opening statement of the report, the authors wrote:

The overall condition of the global environment has continued to deteriorate since the first edition of GEO, despite environmental policy efforts across all countries and regions... [environmental policies are being challenged by] unsustainable human activities globally have degraded the Earth’s ecosystems, endangering the ecological foundations of society. Urgent action at an unprecedented scale is necessary to arrest and reverse this situation, thereby protecting human and environmental health and maintaining the current and future integrity of global ecosystems.

At another point, the authors emphasized, "Current patterns of consumption, production and inequality are not sustainable, adding to other severe environmental pressures ... Projected population growth, urbanization trends and economic development will significantly increase demand for natural resources, such as food, energy and water, towards 2050."

This is certainly upsetting news, though it might not be surprising for most people. Regardless, the message sent within the report was a clear one: These scientists and experts suggest the world, collectively, is not doing enough to prevent the increasing rate of environmental devastation, and action needs to be taken immediately.

The silver lining is that the UN did offer solutions to the issue. However, these solutions require "transformative change and an integrative approach," the report stressed. These solutions are summarized in part:

[The solutions] are associated with achieving sustainable consumption and production patterns for energy, food and water in order to provide universal access to those resources, while preventing climate change, air pollution, land degradation, loss of biodiversity, water scarcity, and overexploitation and pollution of oceans. They include changes in lifestyle, consumption preferences and consumer behaviour on the one hand, and cleaner production processes, resource efficiency and decoupling, corporate responsibility and compliance on the other hand.

If you feel strongly about working toward these solutions, and are worried about the details in the report, there are a number of ways you can help. You can learn more about environmental legislation being considered, like the Green New Deal, and if you support that legislation, you can inform your local lawmakers. You can also support the students' climate march taking place on Friday, in which children across the globe skip school to demand that their countries make more aggressive moves toward combating climate change.