The Global 2000 Report

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The Global 2000 Report


Released in July 1980, this landmark study warned of grave consequences for humanity if changes were not made in environmental policy around the globe. Prepared over a three year period by the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) in cooperation with the U.S. Department of State and other federal agencies, this was the first comprehensive and integrated report by the United States or any other government projecting long-term environmental, resource, and population trends. It was the subject of extensive publicity, attention, and debate, influencing political leaders and policy makers the world over.

In announcing release of the report, CEQ warned that "U.S. Government projections show that unless the nations of the world act quickly and decisively to change current policies, life for most of the world's people will be more difficult and more precarious in the year 2000."

Specifically, the study states that "If present trends continue, the world in 2000 will be more crowded, more polluted, less stable ecologically, and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now...For hundreds of millions of the desperately poor, the outlook for food and other necessities of life will be no better. For many, it will be worse."

Among the report's findings and conclusions were the following:

  • The world will add almost 100 million people a year to its population, which will grow from 4.5 billion in 1980 to 6 billion in 2000;
  • Billions of tons and millions of acres of cropland are being lost each year to erosion and development, and desertification is claiming an area the size of Maine each year;
  • The planet's genetic resource base is being severely depleted, and between 500,000 and 2 million plant and animal species--15 to 20 percent of all species on the earth--could be extinguished by the year 2000;
  • Periodic and severe water shortages will be accompanied by a doubling of the demand for water from 1971 levels; increased burning of coal and other fossil fuels will cause acid rain-induced damage to lakes, crops, forests, and buildings, and could lead to catastrophic climate change (global warming) "that could have highly disruptive effects on world agriculture."
  • Depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer by industrial chemicals (chlorofluorocarbons ) could cause serious damage to food crops and human health.

The report noted the ongoing worldwide efforts to protect and replant forests, conserve energy, promote family planning and birth control programs, prevent soil erosion and desertification, and find alternatives to the present reliance on toxic pesticides and nonrenewable, polluting energy sources such as petroleum and coal. But the study emphasized that "Encouraging as these developments are, they are far from adequate to meet the global challenges projected in this study. Vigorous, determined new initiatives are needed if worsening poverty and human suffering, environmental degradation , and international tension and conflicts are to be prevented."

Some skeptics criticized the report's pessimistic tone and dire warnings as exaggerated and overblown, and its recommendations later were largely ignored by the Reagan and Bush administrations. However, it is now apparent that its major points were not only well founded but may turn out to be far too conservative, rather than radical and alarmist.

See also Deforestation; Drought; Energy conservation; Environmental policy; Gene pool; Greenhouse effect; Ozone layer depletion; Pollution control; Population growth; Sustainable agriculture; Water allocation

[Lewis G. Regenstein ]


RESOURCES

BOOKS

Council on Environmental Quality. The Global 2000 Report to the President. 3 vols. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1980.