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Eco Logic: The end is nigh unless... (Eco news)


Eco Logic: The end is nigh, unless...
Haaretz reported

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan is in Paris to address other government ministers on Thursday about "Making Green Growth Deliver." The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development convened the meeting following the publication of its damning "Environmental Outlook to 2050" report, analyzing the planet's long-term situation. The members of the OECD are, of course, the main consumers and major polluters of the earth's natural resources. The OECD report attempts to predict a baseline scenario - the environmental situation in 2050 in the absence of major changes in current patterns of economic and population growth. It estimates the financial, and other, costs of the failure to take steps in the face of increased damage to natural resources, and suggests appropriate action.

The baseline scenario for the next four decades is a gloomy one for the planet and its inhabitants. Economic activity is expected to increase by 400 percent, while energy demand will rise 80 percent; most of the latter will be met by fuels that increase pollution and quicken climate change. If no steps are taken to prevent climate change, it is estimated that the cost of the damage will be equivalent to 14 percent of the average world consumption per capita.

Biological diversity will continue to decline in the wake of increased consumption of resources such as forests and arable land. Some 13 percent of primordial forest will be lost, and with it the richest centers of such diversity. The cost of inaction against this trend is estimated as high as $5 trillion per year. This will be due to the loss of tourism and the vital services provided by plants and animals that are the source of food, climate control, raw materials for medicines and aid in the natural decomposition of pollutants.

The most serious health problem connected to environmental pollution will be the doubling of deaths from the rise in air pollution due to the burning of fossil fuels for heat and transportation. This is expected to reach 3.6 million deaths annually, mostly in the developing world, posing an even greater problem than that caused by impure drinking water. The water shortage will worsen, with close to 40 percent of the earth's inhabitants living in areas suffering from a severe lack of the resource.

The OECD report also reviews its actions in recent years to protect citizens from environmental pollution and to make more effective use of resources. But the rate of population and economic growth is such that pressure on the environment has not been reduced.

Proof of this may be found in statistics published this month by the European Union's Environment Agency. European citizens consume more than four times the resources used by Africans. EU consumption per capita has risen more than 10 percent over the past decade. Another interesting figure is that Europeans have increased their living space by 10 percent over the last 20 years, while the average number of persons in each household has declined from 2.8 to 2.4.

In order to have an effect on what is essentially a horrific baseline scenario, the OECD recommends the use of an abundance of policy tools. "If the baseline scenario is not changed, the continued erosion of natural resources is to be expected over the coming decades and after," the report notes. "What this means is the risk of irreversible changes threatening everything that has been achieved in two centuries of improvements in the quality of life worldwide."

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