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.
  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. It said that poor environmental conditions "cause approximately 25 percent of global disease and mortality" -- around 9 million deaths in 2015 alone. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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
  7. 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. 
  8. The report called for a root-and-branch detoxifying of human behaviour, while insisting that the situation is not unassailable. 
  9. 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. 
  10. 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. 
  11. 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.