A quarter of all premature deaths and diseases worldwide are due to man made pollution and environmental damage, the United Nations said on 13 March 2019 in a landmark report on the planet's parlous state in Nairobi. Deadly smog-including emissions, chemicals polluting drinking water, and the accelerating destruction of ecosystems crucial to the livelihoods of billions of people are driving a worldwide epidemic that hampers the global economy, it warned.
- The Global Environment Outlook (GEO) -- a report six years in the making compiled by 250 scientists from 70 nations -- depicts a growing chasm between rich and poor countries as rampant over consumption, pollution and food waste in the developed world leads to hunger, poverty and disease elsewhere.
- As greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise amid a preponderance of droughts, floods and superstorms made worse by climbing sea levels, there is a growing political consensus that climate change poses a future risk to billions.
- World leaders in 2015 came up with the Paris climate deal, which saw each nation promise action to cut emissions in a bid to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C (2.7 Fahrenheit). But the health impacts of pollution, deforestation and the mechanised food-chain are less well understood. Nor is there any international agreement for the environment close to covering what the Paris accord does for climate.
- It said that poor environmental conditions "cause approximately 25 percent of global disease and mortality" -- around 9 million deaths in 2015 alone.
- Lacking access to clean drinking supplies, 1.4 million people die each year from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and parasites linked to pathogen-riddled water and poor sanitation.
- Chemicals pumped into the seas cause "potentially multi-generational" adverse health effects, and land degradation through mega-farming and deforestation occurs in areas of Earth home to 3.2 billion people. The report says air pollution causes 6-7 million early deaths annually.
- And the way Earth is set, unchecked use of antibiotics in food production will see drug-resistant superbugs become the world's number one cause of premature death by mid-century.
- The report called for a root-and-branch detoxifying of human behaviour, while insisting that the situation is not unassailable.
- For instance food waste, which accounts for 9 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, could be slashed. The world currently throws away a third of all food produced. That figure is fuelled by 56 percent of food in richer nations going to waste.
- The report also called for a rapid drawdown in greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use to improve air and water quality. The GEO draws on hundreds of data sources to calculate the environmental impact on over a 100 diseases.
- Its unveiling at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi is likely to add to the debate over who bears the greatest responsibility for the damage already borne by Earth.