UN: Huge changes in society needed to keep nature, Earth OK

  • In this Jan. 22 file photo, plastic bottles and other garbage floats in the Potpecko Lake near Priboj, in southwest Serbia. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Humans are making Earth a broken and increasingly unlivable planet through climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. So the world must make dramatic changes to society, economics and daily life, a new United Nations report says.

Unlike past U.N. reports that focused on one issue and avoided telling leaders actions to take, Thursday’s report combines three intertwined environment crises and tells the world what’s got to change. It calls for changing what governments tax, how nations value economic output, how power is generated, the way people get around, fish and farm, as well as what they eat.

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“Without nature’s help, we will not thrive or even survive,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “For too long, we have been waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature. The result is three interlinked environmental crises.”

Thus the 168-page report title is blunt: “Making Peace With Nature.”

“Our children and their children will inherit a world of extreme weather events, sea level rise, a drastic loss of plants and animals, food and water insecurity and increasing likelihood of future pandemics,” said report lead author Sir Robert Watson, who has chaired past UN science reports on climate change and biodiversity loss.

The report highlighted what report co-author Rachel Warren of the University of East Anglia called “a litany of frightening statistics that hasn’t really been brought together:”

• Earth is on the way to an additional 3.5 degrees warming from now, far more than the international agreed upon goals in the Paris accord.

• About 9 million people a year die from pollution.

• About 1 million of Earth’s 8 million species of plants and animals are threatened with extinction.

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• Up to 400 million tons of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other industrial waste are dumped into the world’s waters every year.

• More than 3 billion people are affected by land degradation, and only 15% of Earth’s wetlands remain intact.

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