World’s survival at risk: UN report

Achim Steiner, the program’s executive director, said the international community’s response to environmental issues was at times "courageous and inspiring", but all too often inadequate.

"The systematic destruction of the Earth’s natural and nature-based resources has reached a point where the economic viability of economies is being challenged and where the bill we hand to our children may prove impossible to pay," he said.

The report was critical of the lack of action by governments across the world in protecting the environment from being degraded.

The response to climate change was described as "woefully inadequate" but it was only one of several major problems that needed to be addressed effectively. "We appear to be living in an era in which the severity of environmental problems is increasing faster than our policy responses," the report said.

"To avoid the threat of catastrophic consequences, we need new policy approaches to change the direction and magnitude of drivers of environmental change."

The report was drafted and researched by almost 400 scientists, all experts in their fields, whose findings were subjected to review by another 1000 of their peers.

Scientists conducting the review, 157 of whom were nominated by 48 governments, were split into groups of expertise for each of the 10 chapters of the report. Other experts were selected from more than 50 research centres in 47 countries.

Marion Cheatle, of the program, said damage sustained to the environment was of fundamental economic concern, and if unchecked would affect growth.

The report assessed the impact on the environment since 1987. Climate change was identified as one of the most pressing problems but the condition of fresh water supplies, agricultural land and biodiversity were considered to be of equal concern.

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