Last week, the United Nations released a report predicting dire consequences over the next 50 years from the damage done to the world's natural environment by humankind. According to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment study "shows how human activities are causing environmental damage on a massive scale throughout the world, and how biodiversity—the very basis for life on Earth—is declining at an alarming rate."
Findings in the report, an assessment of the state of the world's natural environment, were culled from 1,360 experts in 95 countries. Its authors state that over the last half century, humans have polluted or overexploited two thirds of the ecological systems on which life depends, increasing the chances of unprecedented and abrupt ecological collapses.
The report quantifies some of the potential economic costs of failing to remediate growing environmental problems. Klaus Toepfer, head of the UN Environment Programme, urged that world leaders take note of the study accordingly. "Ecosystems and the services they provide are financially significant and…to degrade and damage them is tantamount to economic suicide," he said.
"Governments should recognize that natural services have costs," added A.H. Zakri, co-chair of the report. "Protection of natural services is unlikely to be a priority for those who see them as free and limitless."