Scientific consensus is a rare thing. But the experts agree almost unanimously on one thing - humankind is changing the Earth's natural environment, and quickly.

As an expanding global population spreads ever further around the globe, habitats are being destroyed to make room for mushrooming towns and cities, all the while consuming more and more oil and other fossil fuels.

In many ways humans have never had it so good: average global life expectancy has shot up by almost 20 years in the past half-century, most countries are getting richer by the day and medical science has beaten scores of previously fatal or debilitating conditions.

And yet there are increasing fears that this human-dominated phase of the Earth's long history is not sustainable. A trawl through statistics compiled by the United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP, can make for depressing reading.

Species are becoming extinct at a speed around 100 times faster than would happen naturally. Almost half the world's original forests - the habitat which supports around two-thirds of the wildlife - has disappeared in the past three decades.

Other UN data shows arable land being eaten by deserts around 30 times faster than ever before seen and the disappearance of almost a third of all coral reefs, while air pollution is thought to kill 50,000 annually in the United States.

Most seriously of all, the climate appears to be changing.

The billion of tons of carbon dioxide pumped into the earth's atmosphere annually, along with other so-called greenhouse gases, is causing the Earth to heat up, virtually all environmental scientists agree.

The findings of a major climate international change conference published in January reiterated warnings that average global temperatures are expected to rise between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.

Such a change would have "a wide range of impacts on the natural world and human society," the panel of 200-plus experts from 30 countries cautioned.

Environmental campaigners - joined by increasing numbers of politicians - want urgent action.

"The way in which the main trends are panning out at the moment means that we really should be very alarmed as a global community," says Tony Juniper, director of green group Friends of the Earth.

"We still have time to do something about these things, but time is now extremely short. There is an increasingly confident assessment about the likelihood of the consequences of global climate change, and the time scales that we have to deal with it."

The international response has been mixed. The 1997 Kyoto protocol committed industrialized nations to cut their combined greenhouse gas emissions below 1990 levels by 2008-12, but was undermined after the United States, the biggest global polluter, declined to ratify the deal.

Washington opposes Kyoto's methods rather than its aims. During his State of the Union Address in February, President George W. Bush acknowledged something needs to be done, calling for his country's to cure its "addiction" to oil.

But whatever the consensus on diagnosis, there is little agreement on action, something the UNEP warns must change.

To tackle global warming, it warns, "only a fundamental change in lifestyle and economy, with a significant moderation in the consumption of resources, can bring any hope of a solution."

What do you think?

Name

E-mail address

Your location

Comment

Comment Policy

All fields are required

Name: Rushdha
Location: Male, Maldives

I agree completely with Graham [seven comments below] -- humanity is still in denial

We have proven it by centuries of not taking the blame for our actions and still we do it. Human greed has done this to the world. It is absurd to imagine that the environmental degradation can be reversed. It can't but it can be minimized. The impact that our actions caused can be minimized. It's just a matter of trying. Or willingness.

Name: Arghyadeep Dey
Location: Agartala, India

This is a century where we have to change our minds, our views and our way of thinking. This is the time when we have to do something about Mother Nature.

If we don't do this now, we can never do it -- this is the last chance to save our generation and our future. We should do something.

Name: Enwere Chima Paschal
Location: Nigeria

Our environment is littered with different kinds of household wastes, in urban streets and gutters. This contaminates our streams, causes pollution, diseases, health problems that affect us.

Name: Virginia Chao
Location: Taipei, Taiwan

The pace of life pace in the 21st century is too fast and we human beings' desires are unlimited. And the poor Earth has to release its natural resources to satisfy our selfish wishes. Hence, it is getting drained day after day.

Although most of us cannot go back to the old days, we still can slow our pace of living, long for fewer desires, try to be frugal and enjoy living a more simple life. In this way, it will do some good to our beloved Earth.

Name: G. F. Edwards
Location: Rosebud, Melbourne, Australia

I am nearly 82. Forty years ago you could fly over the country with a splendid view for photography. Now the atmospheric pollution is so bad that the scenery below is almost obscured in detail and photography is inrffective.

Any extraterrestrial being arriving and circling planet Earth for the first time, and being unfamiliar with our atmosphere, would report back that planet Earth is on fire, and so it is! How do you get rid of the pollution which is already there and how do you remove the biggest single factors of religious bigotry and associated population explosion?

Name: Mohammed Iqbal
Location: Lakshadweep, India

Bad thoughts and deeds by man have corrupted everything, climate is no exception. So-called world leaders of all hues should change their policies to be sustainable with natural resources and laws.

These men are blinded with greed for power and possessions, it is the extravagance of few and the not the needs of millions that is playing havoc with nature.

Name: Greg Taylor
Location: Minnesota, U.S.

Such apocalyptic language. Why is it that there is no possibility for a warmer earth to be a better place? Longer growing seasons. More CO2 for vegetation. A bit of sea rise easily handled by dykes and levees. Why always a catastrophe?

And please, all of you who are so filled with certainty, first answer direct questions about earlier times when the Earth was much warmer and please don't ever say "warmer than I've ever seen."

That only shows your lack of respect for the geological length of time we should be referencing. Finally, should we really spend a trillion dollars to reduce CO2 with no assurances that it will make any difference, or are there other areas where it might be better spent?

Name: Graham Tuson
Location: U.K.

Of course the environment is in peril. But we are too. The environment includes us. It is not something separate. Modern industrial societies have been developed on the back of cheap hydrocarbons. There are no realistic alternative sources of energy that can replace the cheap abundance of hydrocarbons, not renewables, not bioethanol, not nuclear fusion.

These may all play a part in softening the blow -- but the reality is a low energy future or we burn....Humanity is still in denial.

Name: Paola
Location: Milan, Italy

I just feel under a U.S. dictatorship and if we die in two generations it will be just because of this third world country (the real one), this cancer eating our planet out.

I hope that we Europeans will be able to re-educate our once loved children. I think the solution will be a fund to help US people, to teach them how to write and read, to give them something decent to eat, some decent public hospitals, take them outside their country to live with people and try to understand them...we should concentrate in helping US people (kept blind with hamburgers and SUVs) so that they can re-start thinking and help us to save our world.

Name: Arghyadeep Dey
Location: Agartala, India

Here we stand in the midst of our fortune, in which we all know that our continued behavior will abruptly bring an end to our life as well as our generation. Now we have to think about what we do, what we know and what we think. Remeber that opportunity comes only once.

Name: Amna
Location: Lahore, Pakistan

We only have one life, and we only get one chance so we should try our best to save our environment. There many people who want to sit under the shady trees but we have to be the ones who are planting those trees, so lets join hands for a better future for all of us.

Name: Dedsetmad
Location: Geelong, Victoria, Australia

Looking around me I see the portents of man's extinction in the nearer future than most are prepared to consider. We may witness man's final whimper.

Name: Raj Doctor
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

I have come to realize that the environment is not in peril. Nature has all the forces to take care of itself and to maintain the same amount of energy to sustain itself.

But human beings are at peril, and they live in the fear that ultimately destroying the environment is going to destroy them. The fact is and remains that human beings are the root cause of their own catastrophe, and will not stop until they perish, along with them making many living organisms also perish.

Name: Mohammed Iqbal
Location: India

The status quo in every walk of life is likely to continue because it suits the powerful. It is like local money lender lending money for interest and taking it back with muscle power. Does he ever wish his borrowers getting economically as sound as him?

There is every tool to keep the poor poorer, especially the media. The media, which is run by rich people and which is the most powerful tool in keeping the global status quo, is not likely to come with real solutions to the world's problems.

Name: Olu Adewunmi
Location: United Kingdom

I would like the whole world to persuade the British government to grant amnesty to illegal immigrants living in Britain. They are being made to work like slaves by business owners who exploit them and also pay them peanuts.

They are the ones who actually give credence to the economy of the country by doing odd jobs and paying tax and National Insurance, which they are definitely not going to get back as tax returns unless they are granted amnesty.

There are lots of people who are holed up, who can't go back home as they have nothing to fall back on. It is a gross violation of human rights in my view.

Name: Moussa
Location: U.S.

I think that the U.S. should ratify Kyoto along with other nations. I also think a plan should be designed for developing nations that are creating a large amount of greenhouse gases such a China or India.

Name: Kim Aglioti
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

The thought of what our once beautiful planet will be reduced to if people worldwide do NOT get involved and ensure they recycle everything possible, petition against obnoxious factory emissions, water and air pollution, litter etc, etc, scares the living hell out of me and it also saddens me because in reality not enough people seem to even give a damn!!!

There's strength in unity and everyone, regardless of age, should become more environmentally conscious. We cannot wait for government leaders or political figures to do anything constructive because quite frankly they're no good at it. Their primary concern is money, more money and power!!!

The fast decline of the Earth and all her beauty is bottom of the agenda. In a perfect world, we would breathe fresh clean air, drink good clean (chemical/aluminum free) water and the sky would be a REAL blue, acid rain would be no more, animals would roam freely and people would care about how the animals they eat were treated before they were killed, people would genuinely care about every living creature, plant and creation.

We would live in a GREAT place if people started to give a damn again!!!

Name: Blaine H.
Location: London, Ontario, Canada

The issue now is global climate change. Personally, I believe it is an issue of overpopulation than an issue of global warming.

Human life has taken on the breeding habits of rabbits. If we do not change the senseless procreation on a mass account the situation will only perpetuate itself.

As of right now, the environment is a growing issue which we are forced to deal with, but let's try to fight the root problem. We can try to find a place on this Earth for all of us but unfortunately some of us will start having to live in trees and eating insects and not worry about our HD LCD big TV screens. Thanks to Marc B. of Toronto (comment below)-- we can't do this with all of our money and guns. Beautiful.

Name: Laurent
Location: Cebu, Philippines

Many aren't aware, but there were more greenhouse gases during the dinosaur era then we have now. Even if we did cut these gases out by 100%, global warming will still occur because climate changes radically every 800,000 years. These changes may not sustain humankind anymore than they sustained the great lizards.

Name: Zenaida I.
Location: San Diego, California, U.S.

Here's the solution -- all humans should turn vegetarian/vegan!!!

And I mean in every sense of the word because a true V/V would not only stop consuming precious life but also be involved in recycling, conserving and regenerating life, and using sparsely, naturally produced fuels (such as biomass) for energy use/mobility.

That's it. Following that lifestyle will solve all issues of deforestation, water/air/land pollution, extinction of species, greenhouse gas emissions, most diseases etc.

I encourage EVERY person, especially those reading this, to seriously consider this action because it is the simplest and most efficient way in addition to changing the entire mindset of an entire generation all at once.

Name: Marc B.
Location: Toronto, Canada

Plant life has survived 3 billion years of unimaginable cataclysms, meteor strikes, mass devestation. The answer is staring you right in the face -- return to a nature-based society and valuation system where everyone gets a share based on the effort they put in, a share based on real value, not bars of gold that are completely useless to our survival.

Humans are but walking plants and trees. ~ Julius Caesar.

Shame on us for forgetting. Either we take control of this situation and fix the health of this planet with the very plants that ensure the survival of all life, or the earth will take care of the biggest threat to the survival of life -- us. Not like we can fight nature with all the money and guns we have.

Name: Pablo Garcia Gonzalez
Location: Mexico

It is necessary and urgent to make the changes to clean the environment -- we all know this, only the governments don't know and don't want to change.

Name: Annebeth Riles Broad
Location: New Zealand

Life is fragile, we must cradle life gently, in our hands. If we destroy our natural environment, we will die.

Name: Grimdol Ida
Location: Edinburgh, Scotland, U.K.

I think that all on Earth recognize that we are heading for tremendous problems ahead. What can we do about it? There is much, but we must raise our minds to solar harnessing and this will give to us fuels for the future.

Light harnessing holds the key to future fuel supplies and this must be investigated by our scientists. Light can be and is absorbed into dark elements and it can be stored for release as power but as yet we do not have the knowledge. Light is compatible to all on Earth and this is where the answers lie.

Name: Michael Bailey
Location: Indonesia

Why are Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand not suing the Indonesian government for refusing to stop plantation burning, which is affecting air quality seriously, adding to global warming?

Name: Sean Parks
Location: Gore Bay, New Zealand

Well first of all, I am a 16-year-old exchange student from the United States. I really do not like the way the US government is handling the issue of global warming. To me, I am not scared of what they are going to do, but what they are not going to do. The Kyoto protocol should be more than a mere 25% reduction (in emissions). It should be a hell of a lot more.

There is a solution though to the power demand - solar power and wind power. Clean, free, power.

I agree that we, the people of the world, have a responsibility to strongly influence our government. I think it is time that we set aside our ridiculous differences and focus on how we are going to survive and help the endangered wildlife survive.

Name: Len
Location: Canada

Today, more then ever, our lakes and streams are inundated with the fallout from acid rain. As a life-long fisherman, both commercial and sport, I have noticed a sharp decline in most species of salt water and fresh water fish.

One thing that could help is by having children take part in stream reconstruction, putting natural barriers in brooks and streams to create eddies -- this raises the oxygen content thus promoting growth in marine life.

Children of all ages can help clean debris from the water course, and it gets them out of the class, it works well.

Name: Lisa Gunnell
Location: Wichita Falls, Texas

We must educate and empower women in poor countries and we must introduce simple technologies that reduce deforestation and erosion of arable land. Solar ovens have proven useful, as an example. Drilling wells for irrigation and drinking water also help, but some of this water should be devoted to trees for erosion control, sustained yield harvesting and cleansing the air of greenhouse gases.

We must also remember that Nature abhors a dominant species and will control its numbers through disease and violence among members of that species. We may well solve the problem by killing ourselves off. I only hope we don't take everything else with us.

Name: Wm von Brethorst
Location: Ennis, Montana, U.S.

The people are just like an alcoholic in that we have to admit there is a problem before a correction can be made.

The issue is that, though the population in general may admit the severity of the situation, if our leaders do not, mainly due to manipulation by capital interests and the belief that doing so will change our "American way of life," then for the most part we are doomed.

Only regulation in concert with private actions will ever change the fundamental view and better use the meager resources of our small planet.

Name: John Campbell
Location: Ontario, Canada

Now that the big oil companies are quietly buying up all the alternative fuel producers, it's just a matter of time before oil is phased out.

It's far too late to prevent the collapse of our planet, though. David Suzuki pointed this out over 20 years ago -- it was already too late then.

Name: Les Sinnock
Location: Connecticut, U.S.

Everyone is right here except the guy who believes the world is just fine because the Bible says so. Wake up folks. The real problem here is people. Too many of them in fact.

Everyone wants to carry on their family name and procreate. It seems that our parents and others have programmed the masses to believe that they too must have babies to somehow complete themselves. I feel this is a very selfish attitude today given that the world population is out of control and only getting worse.

With the world's population as it is today, we have no hope of sustaining ourselves. Pollution, deforestation, energy demands, water shortages, temperature increases, all can be blamed on our burgeoning population.

We have become cockroaches. We are an infestation like a virus or a plague, we are out of control. No amount of wars and pestilence is going to bring our population back down. The one thing that will wipe us out in the end is our lack of self control. We are a greedy selfish race that only wants more.

Name: Sonja Craythorne
Location: Miami, Florida

I am disappointed in and outraged by my country's apathy toward resource use. We are a selfish, all-consuming nation who has lost sight of the real values of life.

The media should team up with all the scientific and environmental organizations to constantly bring knowledge into homes around the world about resource consumption, overpopulation and the changes forecasted in the earth's atmosphere and land.

The media spends so much time on J-Lo, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, etc, which no one cares about. Turn that energy to something more worthwhile. The media can help save the world it they decide to do so.

Name: Craig Cocks
Location: South Australia. Australia

We are yet to realize that the party is over - we have squandered our resources . Time to take stock - reassess our priorities.

Name: Roberta Ward Smiley
Location: Tilaran, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

We are beginning a project here in Costa Rica. The foundation that we have started is called the La Reserva Forest Foundation. It will be involved in the regeneration of tropical, indigenous forests.

This will not be tree farming but an attempt to regenerate native forests without thought of monetary return. We will pay landowners $300 per hectare, per year to devote their denuded or forested lands to the regeneration of natural forests to help fight global warming by carbon absorption and also help increase habitats for all the life that is trapped in small forest "islands" enabling them to move and have more range.

One fact, that has been proven, scientifically, is that the young trees are more efficient at carbon absorption than mature trees. We have proven, here on our 40 hectare private reserve that the forests CAN be regenerated in 8 years time, and we are seeing a great increase in the wildlife here.

Thanks to Al Gore's new book, "An Inconvenient Truth," we find a worldwide audience now, willing to do something about the dire state of world, and start helping our Mother Earth to heal. It's all up to us!!

Name: Joseph Lalicata
Location: Liverpool, U.K.

If the permafrost is melting and people won't give up their lifestyles then were asking for trouble. The signs are all there but governments seem more concerned with being popular than taking unpopular actions.

So ultimately, the outlook is bleak. Its seems people don't really want to think about it, it's too much to even contemplate. It's easier to ignore and hope it is all a mistake and it will go away. Some mistake.

Name: John Musisi
Location: Kampala, Uganda

Since the creation of Adam and Eve, man has been the biggest threat to himself and everything that lives. Clearly, if we don't apply the brakes now, there is going to be a heavy price to pay for our folly.

Take, for example, my country -- Uganda. First, in a stupid attempt to double generation of hydro-power, a new dam was constructed parallel to an already existing one by dividing the water flowing in (outflow from the lake) to run the turbines into two. Now the lake (Lake Victoria, or Nyanza) is fast drying up (three meters below the normal level) due to too much water loss.

Secondly, the heavy tropical forests all around the lake have been given to so-called "investors" to turn into agricultural land. These forests were useful in a number of ways:

a)They reduce soil erosion into the lake.
b)They facilitate the rain-making process.
c) They conserve underground water, because of their dense foliage which covers the land from the hot tropical sun.
d) They serve as filters for the rain water and sewage that flows into the lake from the surrounding towns and cities.

Another concern is the way we use the water from the lake. Over a million households draw water from the lake through the National Water and Sewerage Corporation. However, 90% of that water (about 200 million liters a day) doesn't go back into the lake because of lack of sewerage network/grid, which would recycle the water back into the lake.

With Uganda's rapidly-growing population (at 3.4% annually) coupled with all the other misadventures we are undertaking, one can be sure the world's second-largest freshwater lake will be no more in the next 40 years -- at best.

Name: Ali Abdallah
Location: Nyeri, Kenya

I think the environment is in great danger due to human activities, mostly deforestation in hilly areas as a result of over-population and the search for land for animal pastures and farming.

I think sustainable measures should be taken by every government to reduce the escalating destruction of the environment.

Name: Joseph Lalicata
Location: Staten Island, New York, U.S.

Is the environment in peril? This is a loaded question.

Time and time again we have established that our environment is in peril. The real question should be, "What can you do to save the environment?"

We all have answers including myself, the problem is no one will listen. If you create a section on CNN, who knows maybe you'll solve something, I know I have.

Name: Patrick Chiekwe
Location: Port Harcourt, Nigeria

I am concerned about the Niger Delta area of Nigeria. The multinational oil and gas companies have had deaf ears to environmental degradation and environmental racisim as result of their activities.

I wish to appeal to them to see to take Nigeria as a living place -- where they also live. Gas flaring should be reduced as soon as possible.

Name: Jessica
Location: Port Harcourt, Nigeria

The environment in Nigeria is a nightmare. But it's a lot worse in the oil producing areas.

Yes, we all ask for development which supposedly comes hand in hand with the establishment of multinational oil companies, but what do we get in return?

An already messed up environment getting a whole lot worse, leaving its poverty-stricken inhabitants worse off than they were in the first place.

Yet they rake in billions of dollars from the same area. It's truly saddening.

Name: Tom Ackerson
Location: Long Island, New York, U.S.

I agree with most of the above and have felt this way since Earth Day,1969.

One big issue that has been overlooked or ignored is the quality and quantity of breathable AIR.

Most of the oxygen-producing plants are the phytoplankton in our oceans. As the oceans warm up and become more polluted, the plankton decreases -- note the brown tides, coral decay, etc.

Furthermore, there is an increasing incidence of asthma and other breathing-related illnesses. For those of you who think that our planet will always have sufficient air for all life forms, think again.

The diminishing oxygen production can very easily escalate into a "catastrophic event," so that minor worries like the oceans rising another seven to 10 meters, and flooding the island I live on, will be of no consequence if the air becomes completely unbreathable.

This is a situation that will happen if we do not immediately change most of our easy lifestyle, and could happen much sooner and faster than most people realize. I realize that this major issue will probably be looked at as another environmental scare tactic, similar to the ones written about in the 1970s about global warming.

Name: Howard Martin
Location: Toronto, Canada

I have never believed in the end times, but the more I read about global warming the more I fear my kids will live in a world much different than ours.

Name: Nancy M.
Location: New York state, U.S.

Everyone has a lot to say and I do believe the "alarmists" are correct. It seems overwhelming to look at but I also agree that we as individuals must take responsibility and be part of a solution, not part of the problem, as some have suggested.

But can someone offer some hope? Some individual accountability? What can I do to help? I can't afford a hybrid car. Any and all suggestions would be refreshing rather than more languishing in the peril we face.

Name: Tina Borelan
Location: Seattle, Washington, U.S.

I would like to know which politician I should be hounding on this matter. I am disqusted at the manner the United States has handled this matter, considering we produce 25% of the world's CO2!

Name: Bobby
Location: North Carolina, U.S.

The environment is not in peril. We can certainly make it a worst place to live. But, if you are a Christian, you know that according to the Bible this planet will last at least one thousand and seven more years after the Rapture. So, can we destroy the Earth, not even if we wanted to. Again, we can make it a terrible place to live, but destroy it, I don't think so.

Name: Samar Shera
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

We now live in a world where we have to travel far and wide to experience a touch of unspoiled nature. Yet, everyone seems to be quick at assigning blame. "It's the big corporations". "It's the Western world". "It's the government".

No actually, it's everyone of us as INDIVIDUALS. They simply supply what we demand -- a modern world. A world where things happen at the touch of a button and the sight of skyscrapers is more common that of trees.

So what have we done as individuals to save the environment? Altered our thirst for modernity? No. Developed compulsive recycling disorders? Definitely not. Demanded environmentally friendly modes of transport? God forbid.

This planet is not equipped to deal with our thirst for modernity. We have shown utter disregard towards Mother Nature and now she's doing the same. Perhaps she's also showing us how arrogant we are -- this planet was never ours to destroy, just to respect -- and we couldn't even do that much.

Name: Suzanne
Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The environment has been in peril for quite a long time and we have been feeling the effect for a while too. Governments need to take responsibility for their actions, ie the greenhouse effect. We need to get more energy-efficient with solar, wind power sources.

Name: Shane Shubotham
Location: Bedford, U.K.

You only have to look at recent events around the world to see, we are all suffering already.

And yet we still get in our cars and consume, we won't change until it's too late -- that's human nature.

More Comment