Emerging Environmental Issues

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Emerging environmental issues are issues that may someday be of concern but that have not yet been generally recognized. A review of such issues that have occurred over the last 50 years reveals that many of them have erupted rather suddenly (e.g., stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain). However, some issues were recognized long ago by the scientific community (e.g., land degradation, overconsumption of freshwater), but for economic or other reasons governments have refused to act.

The authors of this study were commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program and the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment to carry out a global survey of emerging environmental issues, using the responses received to questionnaires that were sent to scientists, managers, and policy makers around the world. It had been hoped that a short list of priority issues could be identified but the number of issues was very long. However, the issues could be divided into four major classes:

In a subsequent study, the authors applied the lessons learned in the global study to an examination of emerging environmental issues in the province of Ontario, Canada.

*Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

+Mestor Associates Ltd., Russell, Ontario, Canada.

Corresponding author address: Ted Munn, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3E8, Canada.

Emerging environmental issues are issues that may someday be of concern but that have not yet been generally recognized. A review of such issues that have occurred over the last 50 years reveals that many of them have erupted rather suddenly (e.g., stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain). However, some issues were recognized long ago by the scientific community (e.g., land degradation, overconsumption of freshwater), but for economic or other reasons governments have refused to act.

The authors of this study were commissioned by the United Nations Environment Program and the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment to carry out a global survey of emerging environmental issues, using the responses received to questionnaires that were sent to scientists, managers, and policy makers around the world. It had been hoped that a short list of priority issues could be identified but the number of issues was very long. However, the issues could be divided into four major classes:

In a subsequent study, the authors applied the lessons learned in the global study to an examination of emerging environmental issues in the province of Ontario, Canada.

*Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

+Mestor Associates Ltd., Russell, Ontario, Canada.

Corresponding author address: Ted Munn, Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON M5S 3E8, Canada.
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