NAIROBI – The world could see millions of premature deaths by 2050 if efforts to protect the planet are not stepped up, the United Nations warned in a report presented on Wednesday.
People in Africa, Asia and the Middle East would be the most at risk, the UN Environment agency said in its Global Environment Outlook report compiled by 250 scientists and experts from over 70 countries which was presented in Nairobi, Kenya.
“Damage to the planet is so dire that people’s health will be increasingly threatened unless urgent action is taken,” a UN statement said of the report’s findings.
“Either we drastically scale up environmental protections, or cities and regions in Asia, the Middle East and Africa could see millions of premature deaths by mid-century,” the UN said in a statement.
Air pollution is the cause of between 6-7 million premature deaths every year, a trend that the UN expected to continue.
According to the report, “pollutants in our freshwater systems will see anti-microbial resistance become the number one cause of death by 2015 and endocrine disruptors impact male and female fertility, as well as child neurodevelopment.”
Measures to take in order to mitigate the effects of climate change would cost about $22 trillion, although “the combined health benefits from reduced air pollution could amount to an additional $54 trillion,” the report said.
The experts said the development of joint policies was more effective than the efforts of individuals.
The report recommended consuming less meat, reducing food waste in both developing and developed countries, measures that would cut the production of food needed to feed the world’s 9-10 billion population by 2050 in half.
About 33 percent of all food gets wasted, according to the report.
The experts also recommended investing in the development of rural areas to curb migration to cities, where over 70 percent of the world’s population is expected to live by 2050.
Some 8 million tons of plastic make their way into the oceans every year, an issue that has captivated the world’s attention in recent years, but for which there is no global agreement.
The publication of the sixth GEO report coincided with the UN Environment Assembly, a high-level world forum with ministers and officials from over 193 countries in attendance.
The sixth GEO report was presented at the UN Environment Assembly in Nairobi by the acting executive director of UN Environment and the president of the assembly, Siim Kiisler.