A UN report that first launched in 2016 warning about the threat of zoonotic diseases – four years before COVID – has released its 2022 edition sounding the alarm bell about three ‘critical environmental issues’ that need addressed urgently.
The new Frontiers Report published today by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) exposes the devastating consequences urban noise pollution, wildfires, and what it calls phenological mismatches: severe jolts to the ‘life-cycle stages in natural systems’, are having on humanity and nature.
“The Frontiers Report identifies and offers solutions to three environmental issues that merit attention and action from governments and the public at large,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Urban noise pollution, wildfires and phenological shifts – the three topics of this Frontiers report – are issues that highlight the urgent need to address the triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss.”
Causing more than 12,000 premature deaths in the EU annually, and hitting the very young and elderly the hardest, urban noise pollution is a global killer the report says policymakers and communities need to respond to with a raft of measures, including the roll out of fast and effective green space programmes.
As well as actions to combat noise pollution, the report tackles the ever worsening incidence of wildfires, which between 2002 and 2016 lay waste to an area the size of the EU. And these wildfires are predicted to intensify and become more common. To stop this happening UNEP wants a ramping up of investments that can support measures effective in reducing the risk of wildfires, a shift to management approaches that embed practices developed over centuries by traditional and indigenous communities, and improvements in sensing and satellite technologies that can improve early warning system capabilities.
In terms of runaway climate change and the phenological mismatches causing natural systems to implode, and leading to crops and vital commercial marine species becoming disconnected from the rhythms that sustain them, the Frontiers Report calls for a concerted international push to strengthen ‘biological diversity’ and ‘above all’ actions that limit the ‘rate of warming’ through the reduction of CO2 emissions.
When a report which previously warned of the types of zoonotic diseases that subsequently put the world in a state of lockdown for the best part of two years, now speaks of the ‘triple planetary crisis of climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss’ the public must demand that policymakers and business leaders pay a good deal more than lip service to it.
The full Frontiers Report: Noise, Blazes and Mismatches: Emerging Issues of Environmental Concern, can be downloaded here.