Environmental implications

Implications: Global
Implications: Africa
Implications: Asia and the Pacific
Implications: Europe
Implications: Latin America and the Caribbean
Implications: North America
Implications: West Asia
Implications: the Polar Regions

The foregoing section of this chapter presented stories of four possible futures. Elements of each can be observed in today’s world, as can the trends and drivers that could push the world in the direction of one or another of them. Which scenario — or which mixture of scenarios — prevails in reality is a matter partly of contingency and partly of choice.

This section illustrates what the four scenarios can tell us about the consequences of policy and management for the environment over the next three decades. The pressures exerted on the environment, the changes in its state and the impacts on people differ from one scenario to the next. When interpreting the results it should be remembered that not all natural and human systems operate on the same time scale: both feature fast, medium and slow processes. Hence some of the effects of our actions emerge only slowly and much of what will happen in the next 30 years has already been determined. Decisions made over the next 30 years will have significant impacts and implications that reach far beyond this period.

Quantitative material is included to help illustrate the trends that would be expected under each scenario. The quantitative results presented here as charts and diagrams have been derived, in consultation with regional experts, using a range of analytical tools. The results underline the magnitude of the challenges we face in developing environmentally relevant policies for the future. The emphasis is on general trends and the proportional differences under different scenarios, rather than on the precise levels of impacts. More details of the analytical tools used and the variables presented are provided in the technical annex to this chapter.

Certain environmental implications only make sense when viewed at the global scale. It is important to remember, however, that the origins of these global effects are often local, national or regional. The initial global perspective of environmental implications presented below also provides a backdrop for the more detailed examination of the environmental outlook that follows for each region. A box in each regional section outlines a fictitious, but plausible, region-specific ‘event’ and examines how the event might play out under the four scenarios. Also summarized is the impact that different policy approaches have on the possible outcomes of the event.