Human Activities Harming Global Environment, Threatening Health, Causing Premature Deaths Worldwide; Actions Must Be Scaled Up Quickly, U.N. Report Says

CNN: The ‘ecological foundations of society’ are in peril, a massive U.N. report warns
“Human activities are degrading the global environment at a pace that could endanger the ‘ecological foundations of society’ and human health, according to a landmark United Nations report released Wednesday. The authors say that with unprecedented action on a global scale — including drastically cutting carbon emissions, improving water management, and reducing pollution — humans can achieve a future with less poverty and hunger while preserving the environment. But our window for action is closing fast…” (Kann, 3/13).

Thomson Reuters Foundation: U.N. warns of millions of premature deaths by 2050 due to environmental damage
“…Seen as the most comprehensive and rigorous assessment on the state of the environment, the U.N.’s Global Environment Outlook said human health was in ‘dire straits’ due to unsustainable development and poor environmental protection. Air pollution from vehicles and industry as well as burning fuels such as wood, coal, and kerosene for cooking, heating, and lighting was resulting in around 7 million deaths annually, said the report — costing around $5 trillion in welfare losses. Water quality has worsened due to increased organic and chemical pollutants such as plastic, pathogens, heavy metals, and pesticides. Almost 1.5 million people die annually due to diseases related to drinking pathogen-polluted water, it said…” (Bhalla, 3/13).

U.N. News: Humanity ‘at a crossroads’ as damage to planet poses growing risk to health, U.N. environment agency warns
“…Unless environmental protections are drastically scaled up, the report says, there could be millions of premature deaths by the middle of this century, with pollutants in freshwater systems becoming a major cause of death by 2050. … On a more optimistic note, the report makes clear that the science, technology, and financing exists to move towards a more sustainable global economy, and ensure that the worst-case scenario is avoided, but political leaders, together with much of the public and private sector, is still wedded to outdated, polluting models of production and development…” (3/13).

Washington Post: Millions could die prematurely without ‘unprecedented’ action to clean air and water, a new U.N. report warns
“…Whether political leaders and policymakers will decide to heed the warnings is another question. President Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris agreement on climate change, and his nominee to replace Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Knight Craft, is on record as saying she believes ‘both sides’ of the climate change debate” (Tamkin, 3/13).

Additional coverage of the U.N. report is available from the Associated Press, Deutsche Welle, The Hill, USA TODAY, and Xinhua News (2).

The KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report summarized news and information on global health policy from hundreds of sources, from May 2009 through December 2020. All summaries are archived and available via search.

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