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Where the environment is concerned, the entire GEO project is about trying to understand the future consequences of our actions today. Let’s start where governments start – with the scientists. After all, they are the experts!

Nobel laureate, Joshua Lederberg, believes the third world war has already begun – between humans and microbes! Epidemics now spread fast around the world, with one million people a day crossing borders. GEO calls this a ‘low probability / high consequence’ emerging issue. In other words, when new epidemics break out, like AIDS, the consequences are devastating. Like war itself, prevention is always the best course.

When poverty over-rides everything else, people forget about the environment.
Ayub Osman, Kenya
click picture to enlarge
Hassan al Saleh, Oman

In preparing GEO-2000, more than 200 environmental experts from 50 countries were asked to identify environmental issues that they expect to be on the national and inter- national agendas of governments in the early decades of the 21st century. These are some of the issues with the percent- age of scientists that mentioned them:

Climate change 51%
Freshwater scarcity 29%
Deforestation/ desertification 28%
Freshwater pollution 28%
Poor governance 27%
Loss of biodiversity 23%
Population growth and movements 22%
Changing social values 21%
Contamination from waste disposal 20%
Air pollution 20%
Soil deterioration 18%
Chemical pollution 16%
Urbanisation 16%
Ozone depletion 15%
Energy consumption 15%
Emerging diseases 14%
Natural resource depletion 11%
Food insecurity 11%
Industrial emissions 10%
Natural disasters 7%
War & conflict 7%
Invasive species 6%
Genetically modified organisms 6%
Ocean flip-flop 5%

You thought global warming would just warm up the planet, right? Wrong! If the Arctic ice caps melt, it could very well produce another ice age in northwest Europe. This would happen because cold water flowing south from the Arctic would slow, and possibly halt, the warm Gulf Stream current which now allows people in Scotland to grow palm trees along the coast. If that current is cut off and only cold water reaches Britain’s coasts, land temperatures would plummet, there could be permafrost in Europe, and the River Rhine would freeze over. Crop yields would suffer; the transport network could close down for several months a year, and life in northern Europe as we know it could all but disappear.

web site editor: webmaster@grida.no Last update: March 2000