UNEP — Year Book: Emerging Issues in Our Global Environment, 2013

February 19, 2013 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Protection of Species, Daily Email Recap

UNEP recently released its Year Book: Emerging Issues in Our Global Environment, 2013.

Bill Ryerson notes that, “”It contains startling statistics on the state of the planet with regard to such issues as climate change, chemical pollution, natural resource use, and poaching of elephants and rhinos.  The trend lines are mostly unfavorable.  As UNEP’s Executive Director, Achim Steiner, said in his presentation to the delegates, we are in danger of presiding over irreversible degradation of the environment.  The graphics on pages 9, 19, 21, 22, 37, 54, 57, 59, and 61 are particularly worth a look.  The Year Book acknowledges the environmental pressures brought about by growing human populations, but does not address how to reduce or stop population growth.

You can see the main website of the Year Book here: http://www.unep.org/yearbook/2013/

You can download the full report here (8MB PDF): http://www.unep.org/pdf/uyb_2013.pdf   

The executive summary is pasted below:

UNEP Year Book: Emerging Issues in Our Global Environment, 2013, Executive Summary

The 10th edition of the UNEP Year Book focuses on rapid change
in the Arctic and minimizing chemical risks. It also reports on the
spike in rhino and elephant poaching in Africa, growing urban
environmental challenges, and the accelerating momentum to
tackle short-lived climate pollutants. The UN Conference on
Sustainable Development (Rio+20), the biggest environmental
event of 2012, resulted in the strengthening of international
environmental governance, a process towards developing
sustainable development goals, and broad recognition of the
role of a green economy in supporting sustainable development
and eradicating poverty.

The world is warming, and with it the Arctic. Sea ice extent was at
a record low in 2012. In July, 97 per cent of the Greenland ice
sheet surface was melting. Climate change is emerging as a
major stressor on Arctic biodiversity. The habitats of unique flora
and fauna are being reduced – with ice-dependent Arctic marine
mammals especially at risk. A widely predicted northward shift
of some fish species has now been observed.

The impact of rapid change in the Arctic on the rest of the world
extends beyond the contribution of melting ice and snow to
global sea level rise. This region plays an important role in the
climate system and ocean circulation. It is also significant for
millions of migratory birds and mammals. Although much
depends on the rate of change, thawing of permafrost soils
could release large amounts of greenhouse gases, further
amplifying climate change.

Less sea ice will result in new opportunities for shipping and
resource exploration. The importance of the Arctic in supplying
the world with energy and minerals is expected to expand
greatly, triggering construction of roads, ports and new
settlements. It is vital to better understand the impacts and
potential risks of changes and to enhance the resilience of
people in the region as well as ecosystems. To avoid irreversible
damage to this fragile environment, a precautionary approach
to economic development is warranted. As climate change
dominates the current transformation of the Arctic environment,
curbing greenhouse gas emissions remains critical.

The volume of chemicals manufactured and used continues to
grow, with a shift in production from highly industrialized
countries towards developing countries and countries with
economies in transition. Yet we are falling behind with pre-market
testing of new chemicals, and not enough is known about many
chemicals already in commerce. A recent study showed that out of
95 000 industrial chemicals, adequate data on aquatic toxicity,
bioconcentration and persistence were publicly available for less
than 5 per cent. To make optimal decisions on minimizing chemical
risks and protecting health and the environment, governments,
industry and the public urgently need access to adequate
information. New testing and assessment technologies provide
promising opportunities in this regard.

Children, women, workers, the elderly and the poor are especially
vulnerable to some hazardous chemicals. Once chemicals are in
the environment, it can be very difficult to control or remove
them. They can be transported through air, water and soil and may
have adverse impacts on ecosystems and organisms including
bees, fish and amphibians – or their offspring. Emerging challenges
to the minimization of chemical risks include chemical mixtures,
low-dose exposures, the replacement of hazardous chemicals by
others with similar hazards, and nanotechnology.

Costs associated with the risks of chemicals are difficult to assess
– but recent studies point out that they can be very high. One
way to address inefficiencies that result when chemicals’ external
costs are not fully borne by those with responsibility for them is
to implement cost internalization mechanisms using economic

To reach the internationally agreed goal to produce and use
chemicals in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on
human health and the environment by 2020, increased efforts
are needed to strengthen sound chemicals management. Key
elements include reducing the production and use of toxic
substances, promoting safer alternatives, improving information
flow and transparency, building capacity for improved chemicals
management, and reducing illegal international traffic in

Looking at changes in the global environment based on the annual
indicator update in the Year Book, there have been a few success
stories. One is the phase-out of production of ozone depleting
substances under the Montreal Protocol, which is expected to lead
to recovery of the ozone layer in the coming decades. Another is the
uptake of renewable energy. Overall, however, the global
environment continues to show signs of degradation – from land
and water to biodiversity and the atmosphere.

Current World Population


Net Growth During Your Visit