Comprehensive assessment of world’s ecosystems released; be very afraid

The largest and most comprehensive assessment of the world’s ecosystems ever undertaken was released today, and the results constitute a “stark warning” that “the ability of the planet’s ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted,” according to the 45-member board of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. The study was written by 1,360 experts from 95 countries, including government officials, scientists, members of civil-society groups and indigenous tribes, and industry representatives, under the rubric of the U.N. Environment Program, using widely agreed-upon scientific evidence. It warns of rapid decline in biodiversity and freshwater availability, and says the likelihood of disease outbreaks (a la SARS), “dead zones” in coastal waters, and destructive climate shifts will rise sharply in the coming 50 years. It recommends means of slowing some of the damage — developing markets for freshwater, improving forestry practices, removing some agricultural subsidies — but stresses that none of those means are yet being applied.