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TheStormyPetrel
30th Mar 2005, 22:28
The most comprehensive survey ever into the state of the planet concludes that human activities threaten the Earth's ability to sustain future generations.

The report says the way society obtains its resources has caused irreversible changes that are degrading the natural processes that support life on Earth.

This will compromise efforts to address hunger, poverty and improve healthcare.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was drawn up by 1,300 researchers from 95 nations over a period of four years.

This report is essentially an audit of nature's economy, and the audit shows we've driven most of the accounts into the red

Jonathan Lash, World Resources Institute

It reports that humans have changed most ecosystems beyond recognition in a dramatically short space of time.

The way society has sourced its food, fresh water, timber, fibre and fuel over the past 50 years has seriously degraded the environment, the assessment (MA) concludes.

And the current state of affairs is likely to be a road block to the Millennium Development Goals agreed to by world leaders at the United Nations in 2000, it says.

"Any progress achieved in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem 'services' on which humanity relies continue to be degraded," the report states.

"This report is essentially an audit of nature's economy, and the audit shows we've driven most of the accounts into the red," commented Jonathan Lash, the president of the World Resources Institute.

"If you drive the economy into the red, ultimately there are significant consequences for our capacity to achieve our dreams in terms of poverty reduction and prosperity."

Way forward

The MA is slightly different to all previous environmental reports in that it defines ecosystems in terms of the "services", or benefits, that people get from them - timber for building; clean air to breathe; fish for food; fibres to make clothes.

There will undoubtedly be gainsayers, as there are with the IPCC; but I put them in the same box as the flat-Earthers and the people who believe smoking doesn't cause cancer

Prof Sir John Lawton

The study finds the requirements of a burgeoning world population after WW II drove an unsustainable rush for these natural resources.

Although humanity has made considerable gains in the process - economies and food production have continued to grow - the way these successes have been achieved puts at risk global prosperity in the future.

"When we look at the drivers of change affecting ecosystems, we see that, across the board, the drivers are either staying steady or increasing in severity - habitat change, climate change, invasive species, overexploitation of resources; and pollution, such as nitrogen and phosphorus," said Dr William Reid, the director of the MA.

More land was converted to agriculture since 1945 than in the 18th and 19th Centuries combined. More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilisers - first made in 1913 - ever used on the planet were deployed after 1985.

The MA authors say the pressure for resources has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in the diversity of life on Earth, with some 10-30% of the mammal, bird and amphibian species currently threatened with extinction.

The report says only four ecosystem services have been enhanced in the last 50 years: increases in crop, livestock and aquaculture production, and increased carbon sequestration for global climate regulation (which has come from new forests planted in the Northern Hemisphere).

Two services - fisheries and fresh water - are said now to be well beyond levels that can sustain current, much less future, demands.

Global value

The assessment runs to 2,500 pages and is intended to inform global policy initiatives. In many ways, it mirrors the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which, by bringing together hundreds of scientists in a peer-reviewed process, has driven efforts to slow global warming.

MA - ASSESSMENT OVERVIEW

Humans have radically altered ecosystems in just 50 years
Changes have brought gains but at high ecosystem cost
Further unsustainable practices will threaten development goals
Workable solutions will require significant changes in policy
"The MA is a very powerful consensus about the unsustainable trajectory that most of the world's ecosystems are now on."

"There will undoubtedly be gainsayers, as there are with the IPCC; but I put them in the same box as the flat-Earthers and the people who believe smoking doesn't cause cancer," said Professor Sir John Lawton, former chief executive of the UK's Natural Environment Research Council.

The report is not all doom and gloom. Modelling of future scenarios suggests human societies can ease the strains being put on nature, while continuing to use them to raise living standards.

At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning

But it requires, says the MA, changes in consumption patterns, better education, new technologies and higher prices for exploiting ecosystems.

Some of the solutions go to old but as yet unfulfilled initiatives, such as the abolition of production subsidies which imbalance world trade and in agriculture are blamed for overloading land with fertilisers and pesticides as farmers chase high yields.

Newer solutions centre on putting a value on "externalities" that are currently deemed to be "free" - airlines do not pay for the carbon dioxide they put into the atmosphere; and the price of food does not reflect the cost of cleaning waterways that have been polluted by run-off of agrochemicals from the land.

PLANET UNDER PRESSURE

60% of world ecosystem services have been degraded
Of 24 evaluated ecosystems, 15 are being damaged
About 20% of corals were lost in just 20 years; 20% degraded
Nutrient pollution has led to eutrophication of waters and coastal dead zones
Species extinction is now 100-1,000 times above the normal background rate
In future, these areas could be constrained by markets that trade permits - as in Europe's newly established carbon emissions market.

Technology's role, the MA says, will be keenly felt in the field of renewable energies.

But the pace of change needs to quicken, the report warns. Angela Cropper, the co-chair of the MA assessment panel, added: "The range of current responses are not commensurate with the nature, the extent or the urgency of the situation that is at hand.

"In our scenarios, we see that with interventions that are strategic, targeted, and more fundamental in nature - we can realise some of the desired outcomes and they can have positive results for ecosystems, their services and human well-being."

The MA has cost some $20m to put together. It was funded by the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the World Bank and others.

From this website (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4391835.stm)

I guess we already know about many of the issues, but this seems to be a comprehensive study. The website includes graphs etc.

16 blades
30th Mar 2005, 23:02
More of the usual horsesh1t. I see that by saying
"There will undoubtedly be gainsayers, as there are with the IPCC; but I put them in the same box as the flat-Earthers and the people who believe smoking doesn't cause cancer," said Professor Sir John Lawton, former chief executive of the UK's Natural Environment Research Council.
this organisation is already using the typical lefty tactic of belittleing anyone who might hold these findings up to scrutiny. "If you don't beleive this then you are an idiot" - ALWAYS be suspicious of these tactics, so commonly used by those who wish to disinvite analysis and scrutiny.

We don't have to look far for the real reasoning behind this:
Newer solutions centre on putting a value on "externalities" that are currently deemed to be "free" - airlines do not pay for the carbon dioxide they put into the atmosphere; and the price of food does not reflect the cost of cleaning waterways that have been polluted by run-off of agrochemicals from the land.
In other words, simply yet another softening up exercise for an excuse to raise taxes.

Watch this space and in 5 years or so, come back to me and tell me that I was wrong......

16B

Blacksheep
31st Mar 2005, 03:50
Isn't it rather odd that all that is on earth today is said to have developed from something the scientists describe as a "Primordial Soup"? As a lad growing up on the north bank of the Tees, I used to play around a stream - Billingham Beck - that ran past the Billingham plant of Imperial Chemical Industries. Since environmentalism hadn't yet been invented, ICI dumped everything for which they could find no commercial use into the beck. By the time ICI had no commercial use for anything it was well down the chain, the worst kind of pollution imaginable. At the point where it discharged into the Tees, next to Newport Bridge, Billingham Beck was a strange mixture of turquoise, yellow, brown, black and a particularly interesting shade of electric green. The smell was even more 'interesting' In short, Bilingham Beck was pretty much like that primordial soup from which life on earth developed.

Today, most of ICI Billingham is extinct. The land on which it stood is fit only for building uranium enrichment plants or council estates. Even travellers refuse to park their caravans there. Through this post-industrial wasteland, Billingham Beck flows as it has done for centuries, clear and bright. Reeds wave gently in the breeze on its banks. Waterfowl catch minnows to feed their young. The shallows teem with tadpoles.

Perhaps they were right about life developing from primordial soup. Whatever. I don't believe that the damage is irreversible - Humanity is of far less importance to this planet than we like to imagine. Long after the human race takes its leave and passes into extinction, the planet wil continue, taken over perhaps by three-eyed frogs, four-legged water fowl and giant flesh-eating reeds.

tony draper
31st Mar 2005, 06:05
I miss the pit heaps,they used to feature large on the landscapes round here,in fact,what did they do with them? these were not puny little round barrows such as those prehistoric men down south used to build,these were huge buggas,they just seemed to disapear overnight.
I remember ICI Mr Blacskheep one used to take various noctious substances there on one's little ship in the sixties,the waters of the Tees were indeed a tad thick in those days, you had some good dockside pubs though.

:rolleyes: