The United Nations released a report Thursday on the health of the planet that proposes a radical shift in the way humanity thinks about it.
The report, “Making Peace with Nature,” spans 168 pages and distils the latest science on climate change and humankind’s “war” on the planet. It also argues that humans must now learn to value the fundamental “natural capital” of geology, soil, air and water — and urgently amid our pursuit of wealth and security.
“For too long, we have been waging a senseless and suicidal war on nature,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a news briefing Thursday presenting the report. “The result is three interlinked environmental crises: climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution that threaten our viability as a species.”
“We are destroying the planet, placing our health and prosperity at risk,” said Inger Andersen, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which released the report.
The world is far from meeting its agreed objectives to protect the planet. Species and ecosystems are vanishing faster than ever, despite long-standing global commitments to protect them. While the ozone layer is slowly being restored, humanity has fallen off track to limit global warming as envisioned in the landmark Paris Agreement, the report says.
“At the current rate, warming will reach 1.5°C by around 2040 and possibly earlier. Taken together, current national policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions put the world on a pathway to warming of at least three °C by 2100,” it reads.
Humans are already paying a bitter price, and not only in the form of the increasingly extreme weather. According to the report, a quarter of the world’s disease burden now stems from environment-related risks, including diseases that emerge from increasing proximity to wildlife — such as Covid-19, thought to have originated with bats — and exposure to our toxic waste; pollution causes some 9 million premature deaths every year, according to the report.