Scientists: Earth is Doomed

Scientists have issued a report that life on this planet will cease to exist unless we change our evil ways.

Report on Global Ecosystems Calls for Radical Changes (WaPo)

Many of the world’s ecosystems are in danger and might not support future generations unless radical measures are implemented to protect and revive them, according to the most comprehensive analysis ever conducted of how the world’s oceans, dry lands, forests and species interact and depend on one another. The new report collates research from many specific locales to create the first global snapshot of ecosystems. More than 1,300 authors from 95 countries participated in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, whose results are being made public today by the United Nations and by several private and public organizations. “Only by understanding the environment and how it works, can we make the necessary decisions to protect it,” said U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in a statement marking the report’s release. “Only by valuing all our precious natural and human resources, can we hope to build a sustainable future.”

The effort brought together governments, civil society groups, industry and indigenous people over a four-year period to examine the social, economic and environmental aspects of ecosystems. The report was assembled by the U.N. Environment Program and included scientists from many universities and organizations, including the World Bank. Jonathan Lash, president of the nonprofit World Resources Institute, which helped put together the report, said it “created for the first time a set of leading ecosystem indicators.”

Although food production is up, the report said, many other benefits that humans obtain from ecosystems are threatened, and some environmental changes can produce sudden, unexpected deteriorations in water quality, climate and health. “Human actions are depleting Earth’s natural capital, putting such strain on the environment that the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted,” the authors said. The report cites widespread and growing problems such as the collapse of fisheries in some parts of the world because of over-exploitation, the creation of “dead zones” around the mouths of some rivers because of nitrogen runoff from farms, and environmental degradation in some dry-land ecosystems.

Within countries, said Harold Mooney, a professor of environmental biology at Stanford University, separate government agencies were often assigned to protect forests, regulate water pollution and oversee economic development — even though changes in any one of those systems affected the others. “When you enhance one service, like food production, you can detract from another,” said Mooney, who co-chaired the panel that examined scientific data.

So, by enhancing food production, there is some possibility that it’ll have negative consequences in the distant future. Of course, if you don’t enhance food production, people will starve today. This is a risk I’m willing to take.

FILED UNDER: Science & Technology, United Nations
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Fersboo says:

    World to end! Women, children and minorities hardest hit!

    It is those damn freakin’ zeolots again. Or is it the tyrants this time James?

  2. Fersboo says:

    Yes I know, you don’t agree with the article, I’m just feeling like being an ass. It will wear off after Schiavo has been able to fulfill her “right to die”. No more being a troll after that, I promise.

  3. Brian J. says:

    But it’s people in underdeveloped nations today we’d sacrifice for the future generations of people from industrialized nations, ainna?

  4. NJvoter says:

    Oh Please!

    How serious can we be about anything that will happen 100 years in the future?

  5. Jack Tanner says:

    ‘Scientists have issued a report that life on this planet will cease to exist unless we change our evil ways.’

    stop me if you’ve heard this before.

  6. Waldo says:

    Well,

    We all knew it was going to end sometime so, we might as well enjoy the time left. I think I will go burn some more oil.

  7. zeno says:

    The Pentagon has listed and is studying the effects of global warming and environmental degradation as a national security threat. When 1300 scientists from 95 countries chime in with similar conclusions (Threat to life on the planet – I would call that a national security concern), I think it should be something that everyone should take seriously.

    I am politically conservative and extremely upset with the present adminstration’s lack of any leadership on environmental issues. The polarization of national security and environmental issues is extremely dangerous.

    I would like the adminsitration to answer to this question. How long will be at war for higly polluting hydrocarbon fuel rather than developing alternatives? We, the American people lose twice this way, environmentally and economically, yet the adminsitration doesn’t adresss this issue and the media never asks about it.

  8. PAUL MARKIEWICZ says:

    THE FOOTPRINT OF HUMAN KIND ON THIS PLANET IS GETTING LARGER AND LARGER. JUST AS WE NEED TO LIVE IN OUR MEANS ECONOMICALLY, WE NEED TO LIVE IN OUR MEANS ECOLOGICALY. THE SIGNS THAT OUR PLANET’S ECOSYSTEM ARE IN PERIL ARE ALL AROUND US. WE NEED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE LEGACY WE WILL BE LEAVING FOR OUR FUTURE GENERATIONS.

  9. Lewie Miller says:

    I wonder how many of those 1300 authors are driving SUV’s, have ever planted a tree, raised any grain crops or food animals or ever actually done anything to solve this problem other than tell everyone else what is wrong.

  10. do what now says:

    “So, by enhancing food production, there is some possibility that it’ll have negative consequences in the distant future. Of course, if you don’t enhance food production, people will starve today. This is a risk I’m willing to take.”

    Look! A dinosaur!

    The article (you really should take a look at it) says that there are currently ‘dead zones’ around the mouths of rivers due to nitrogen runoff. This is not ‘distant future’ speculation. The science behind the report is widely accepted. It points out current degradation, and offers reccomendations for how to reverse these trends without ‘starving people today’. Anyway… I give you a B- for hyperbole and a B+ for the ‘straw man’. You’ll make a fine pundit someday. I get a D- for trolling.

  11. zeno says:

    I wonder how many of those 1300 authors are driving SUV’s, have ever planted a tree, raised any grain crops or food animals or ever actually done anything to solve this problem other than tell everyone else what is wrong.
    Posted by Lewie Miller at March 30, 2005 11:15 Permalink

    Glib comment, but not very intelligent.

  12. oozy_98 says:

    I notice that a lot of posters/commenters have a less than honest answer to this problem of the future. Since they won’t be around to see the suffering of their diseased and dying descendants, I guess they feel it is OK to shrug, make light of,
    or rationalize continuing the American lifestyle.

  13. Zach says:

    Personally, I think I’d rather read the report and make my judgment based on that rather than scary headlines written by reporters and editors to sell copy and/or push a particular political agenda. It’s my understanding that more technologically advanced countries are actually better about conservation and reducing pollution than, say, third world countries are. Now, maybe I’m wrong on that, but it’ll take more than the WaPo’s say-so to convince me otherwise.

    Also, I’d like to point out that this is the first president I know of to direct federal funds to the development of a hydrogen fuel cell car. I honestly thought that was a third rail to even suggest something like that, but here we are in a second term.

  14. do what now says:

    “…other than tell everyone else what is wrong.”

    Well, they went to school, studied, and dedicated their careers to becoming scientists expert in evaluating data. They were asked to do their job, and they did. Whatever else they do is irrelevant. I wonder if you have political motivations for discrediting them?

  15. richard schapker says:

    Yes, you need that big SUV to keep from starving. In a smaller vehicle, you might not be able to reach the drive-through window at Burger King.

  16. flypay says:

    Earth is NOT doomed (in the next several million years anyway)…Only the people are “doomed”. Mother Earth will be fine. She’ll have every thing die off and start all over again. Quit your worrying. Besides, Social Security will be bankrupt well before then anyway!