Chapter Five: Outlook and Recommendations
- Outlook for the 21st century
New problems …
Since GEO-1 was published in 1997, further dimensions to the major environmental issues facing the planet have been recognized, and the situation differs from what it was even two years ago. New events or insights include the following:
- Emerging recognition of a global nitrogen problem, with some areas receiving nitrogen compounds in quantities that lead to unwanted ecosystem changes, such as excessive plant growth.
- More and larger forest fires, caused by a combination of unfavourable weather conditions and land use that made susceptible areas more prone to burning; both forests and the health of inhabitants have been threatened over areas of millions of hectares.
- An increased frequency and severity of natural disasters, now killing and injuring many millions of people every year, and causing severe economic losses.
- With 1998 the warmest year on record, climate change problems coupled with the most severe El Niño to date have caused major losses of life and economic damage.
- The economic and ecological importance of species invasions, an inevitable result of increasing globalization, appears to have become more significant.
- Declines in some countries in the quality of governance which have weakened capabilities to solve national and regional problems and to manage the environment.
- Declining government and media focus on urgent environmental issues as attention has been diverted by political and economic upheavals.
- New wars which, like all wars, threaten not only the environment of those directly involved but that of neighbouring states, and those downstream on major rivers.
- The environmental importance of refugees, who are forced to make unrestricted assaults on the natural environment for their survival.