OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction

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Overview

Humanity has witnessed unprecedented growth and prosperity in the past decades, with the size of the world economy more than tripling and population increasing by over 3 billion people since 1970. This growth, however, has been accompanied by environmental pollution and natural resource depletion. The current growth model and the mismanagement of natural assets could ultimately undermine human development.

The OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050 asks “What will the next four decades bring?” Based on joint modelling by the OECD and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL), it looks forward to the year 2050 to find out what demographic and economic trends might mean for the environment if the world does not adopt more ambitious green policies. It also looks at what policies could change that picture for the better.

This Outlook focuses on four areas: climate change, biodiversity, freshwater and health impacts of pollution. These four key environmental challenges were identified by the previous Environmental Outlook to 2030 (OECD, 2008) as “Red Light” issues requiring urgent attention. Based on model projections, this edition of the Environmental Outlook paints a possible picture of what the environment might look like in 2050. It focuses on four areas which were identified by the previous edition of the Outlook as needing urgent attention: climate change, biodiversity, water, and health and environment.

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