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Scientists collaborate to assess health of global environment

For the first time, a group of scientists has accomplished the daunting task of evaluating the status of all of the ecosystems on Earth, and the outlook is troubling.

Commissioned by the United Nations in 2001, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment program will issue its primary report on March 30 during press conferences in London, Washington, D.C., Tokyo, Beijing, New Delhi, Brasilia, Cairo, Nairobi and Rome. More than 2,000 scientists from 95 countries participated in the assessment and concluded that the environmental benefits that human societies depend on and take for granted--basic necessities such as food, clean air, potable water and fuel--are rapidly being degraded.

"[The assessment] examines the state of the global environment, but it's more than that," said Harold A. Mooney, the Paul S. Achilles Professor of Environmental Biology at Stanford University and co-chair of the assessment's science oversight panel. "It relates goods and services that ecosystems provide to human well-being. And surprisingly enough, that's never been done before."

Mooney will participate in the March 30 press conference in Washington, D.C., which will focus on the implications for the United States and international business institutions.

Funded by the Global Environment Facility, the United Nations Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the World Bank and others, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment program also will evaluate future scenarios and give governments and institutions direction that Mooney described as a consensus of the scientific community and a synthesis of all available information.

Cause for concern

"If you look at all the indicators of human well-being, globally averaged we're doing pretty well," Mooney said. "But in the last 50 years, we've changed the structure of the world's ecosystems at a faster rate than any time in history."

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Source:Stanford University


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