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Assessment of global megatrends – an update

Global megatrend 10: Increasing environmental pollution load

Zusammenfassender Überblick über die Zunahme der globalen Umweltverschmutzung, nicht zuletzt durch die Praktiken der industriellen Landwirtschaft.

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Autoren

The present chapter was authored by Tobias Lung with contributions from John van Aardenne, Michael Asquith, Thomas Henrichs, Frank Wugt Larsen, Anke Lükewille, Anita Pirc Velkavrh and Teresa Ribeiro.

© European Environment Agency, 2014
Reproduction is authorised, provided the source is acknowledged, save where otherwise stated.

Abstract

Across the world, ecosystems are today exposed to critical levels of pollution in increasingly complex mixtures. Human activities (such as energy generation and agriculture), global population growth and changing consumption patterns are the key drivers behind this growing environmental burden.
Historic trends and business-as-usual projections suggest that in the coming decades pollution may reduce in some regions but could increase markedly in others. For example, emissions to air of nitrogen oxides, sulphur and tropospheric ozone are projected to decrease in Europe and North America but may increase significantly in Asia. The trends in Asia could, however, impact other world regions — including Europe — via long-range transport of pollutants.
Nutrient effluents from agriculture and wastewater into the soil and oceans are projected to increase in most world regions, driven in part by the demand for increased agricultural production. The increasing complexity of chemical mixtures released into the environment is also a concern globally.
There is clear evidence of the detrimental effects of pollution on the natural environment, ecosystem services and biodiversity, for example through processes such as eutrophication and acidification. The number of marine dead zones due to eutrophication has increased markedly in recent years. Modelling suggests that, depending on crop type, between 3 % and 12 % of annual crop production is lost due to elevated ozone levels. Moreover, these rates may increase, particularly in Asia.

Assessment of global megatrends 2014 2014 update Chp 10