UNEP’s Global Environmental Outlook

UNEP GEO5 LogoUNEP’s Fifth Global Environmental Assessment was released on June 6th. This flagship assessment report shows how far the world is from achieving sustainability but also shows the way forward. Jill Jäger (SERI) was a coordinating lead author of the chapter on “The Earth System Perspective”, which concludes that:
The Earth System is complex, with many interactions between and within subsystems, feedbacks and non-linearity. Humans, as an integral part of the Earth System, are changing it through their sheer numbers and their activities, although the impacts of these changes are not uniformly distributed, with some people and places more affected than others. As a result of the enormous complexity of the system as a whole, it is not possible to predict the outcomes of rapidly increasing human pressures on the Earth System, but it is clear that thresholds have been or are being reached, beyond which abrupt and irreversible changes occur. These changes will affect the basic life-support functions of the planet.

…it is necessary to adopt approaches that can deal better with the complexities and inherent uncertainties of the Earth System. Such approaches … must, however, be underpinned by sustained long-term monitoring and observation of all relevant aspects of the system, regular evaluation of progress, and adjustment of goals when observations indicate that this is necessary. At the same time, basic and applied research must continue to improve understanding of the Earth System and make this knowledge available in the search for solutions to persistent problems of unsustainability.

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