The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) just released their first environmental outlook since 2008, and to use their words, things look “grim”. The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction paints a very dark picture for the human race if it does not change its emissions-heavy, resource guzzling ways. The OECD now joins the International Energy Agency in the not so subtle task of alerting world leaders that their inability to reach consensus on this growing issue could put the entire human race in jeopardy much earlier than previously thought.
Among the catastrophic changes to the status quo by 2050, OECD predicts an 80% increase in energy demand, an addition of an estimated 2 billion people, pollution rated deaths doubling to reach 3.6 million per year, a 10% decline in global biodiversity, a 13% decrease in the amount of mature forests, a 55% increase in global water demand, a 50% increase in carbon emissions thanks to continued reliance on fossil fuels, and an estimated 40% of the global population will be living in river basins under severe water stress. The report also details a bleak outlook for the world’s oceans as the fishing industry is not reeled in and the runoff from chemical fertilizers causes oxygen levels to decrease making parts of the ocean uninhabitable.
“Greener sources of growth can help governments today as they tackle these pressing challenges. Greening agriculture, water and energy supply and manufacturing will be critical by 2050 to meet the needs of over 9 billion people.” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría.
The report paints a dire picture of the cost of our current way of life and speaks harshly to global leaders about getting serious about making civilization more sustainable. “As countries struggle with the immediate challenges of stretched public finances and high unemployment, they must not neglect the longer term. Action needs to be taken now to prevent irreversible damage to the environment,” the report says. “Delay in alleviating these environmental pressures will impose significant costs, undermine growth and development and run the risk of irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes further into the future.”
“To avert the grim future painted by the Environmental Outlook to 2050, the report recommends a cocktail of policy solutions,” OECD says in their release announcement. “Using environmental taxes and emissions trading schemes to make pollution more costly than greener alternatives; valuing and pricing natural assets and ecosystem services like clean air, water and biodiversity for their true worth; removing environmentally harmful subsidies to fossil fuels or wasteful irrigation schemes; and encouraging green innovation by making polluting production and consumption modes more expensive while providing public support for basic R&D.”
Perhaps throwing this monster of a report on top of a stack already high with severe warnings will help world leaders come to a real consensus in Rio this June.