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GEO-3: GLOBAL ENVIRONMENT OUTLOOK  
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Food and water fears

The scenarios also have important implications for the provision of basic needs that are related to the broader environmental impacts. While global climate change affects the availability of freshwater, growing populations and increased economic activity, particularly in agriculture, lead to increased demand for freshwater in most scenarios. Similarly, more people live in areas experiencing water stress in all scenarios (see charts). Under the Markets First and Security First scenarios, the area affected by severe water stress increases in Meso-America and the Caribbean, while it remains constant in South America. Nevertheless when population growth is factored in, numbers of people living in areas with severe water stress increase by a factor of two to three. The number of people living in areas with severe water stress is also on the rise under the Policy First and Sustainability First scenarios, despite total water withdrawals staying roughly at current levels. In Policy First circumstances, reforms in the pricing of water and shifts in subsidies, and technological improvements have a positive effect on addressing demands.

Population living in areas with severe water stress: Latin America and the Caribbean (%)

When more than 40 per cent of the renewable water resources of a river basin are being withdrawn for human use the river basin is considered to be under severe water stress.

Source: WaterGAP 2.1 (see technical annex)

Key to charts
Number of people living in areas with severe water stress: Latin America and the Caribbean (million persons)

All the pie charts show total region impacts. The top left pie shows the current situation, the relative size of the others reflects the magnitude of impacts by 2032 under the four scenarios. In Latin America about a quarter of the total population - more than 100 million people - are estimated to live in water stressed areas, mostly in Mexico, Argentina and countries along the Western coastline of the continent.

Source: WaterGAP 2.1 (see technical annex)

Similarly, the size of, and ability to meet, demands for food in the different scenarios reflects a combination of shifts in supply and demand, which can be influenced by social, environmental and economic policies. Average incomes rise in all regions, contributing to a drop in the percentage of the population that is hungry. In the Markets First scenario, the relatively high inequality in Latin America today is moderated somewhat as regional patterns converge towards those of the industrialized regions. Nevertheless, the benefits of growth and narrowing income distribution are not enough to offset the growth in population and total numbers rise. In the Policy First scenario, a combination of relatively high growth and comparatively equitable income distributions leads to a sharp drop in the percentage hungry, as well as in the total. In the Security First scenario, diverging income distributions lead to a worsening in both the percentage and the total who are hungry in the region as a whole. In the Sustainability First scenario, greater equity both between and within countries is reflected in rapid economic growth and narrowing income distributions, leading to a strong decline in both the percentage and the total who are hungry (see charts).

Population living with hunger: Latin America and the Caribbean (%)

Rise in average incomes and improvement in equity are key factors in reducing hunger in Policy First and Sustainability First scenarios.

Source: PoleStar (see technical annex)

Population living with hunger: Latin America and the Caribbean (million persons)

All the pie charts show total region impacts. The top left pie shows the current situation, the relative size of the others reflects the magnitude of impacts by 2032 under the four scenarios.

Source: PoleStar (see technical annex)


Imagine ... effects on Latin America and the Caribbean of a profound world recession

A profound economic recession starts in the industrialized world and soon spreads around the world, destabilizing most of the leading developing economies. The flow of capital between the developed and developing countries changes direction as international investors move financial assets back home or to wealthier countries. Local capital is moved towards more attractive and safe destinations. Serious fiscal and trade deficits force governments to implement restrictive policies to reduce expenses and imports while encouraging more exports. Environmental budgets are among the first to be cut and exploitation of natural raw materials is intensified to boost export earnings, though with little effect on employment. Social expenditures are also cut drastically.

In the case of ...

Markets First
  • Public and private sector expenditures are cut and funds reallocated among sectors to favour exports. Overall production is significantly reduced. Treasury officials neglect issues that they regard as low priority, not least environmental and social programmes, and those relating to compliance with environmental law.
  • Adverse social effects include increases in poverty and inequality and a rising flood of migrants.
  • Virtually uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources runs to extremes. The Amazon Basin and other rainforest areas are ruthlessly exploited and invaded by migrants from depressed areas. New desertification hotspots appear and numbers of people in areas under water stress expand. Fishing and aquaculture thrive, heedless of environmental impacts.
Policy First
  • New policies boost production of exports and import substitutes and raise the region's competitiveness.
  • International agreements on environment and labour standards among countries of the region are consolidated.
  • Although the recession harms all sectors of the economy and sets back environmental and social progress - especially in leastdeveloped countries - the region is well-placed to overcome the crisis.
Security First
  • Impacts of recession are most keenly felt in mega-cities. Unprecedented levels of unemployment prompt migration from relatively urbanized sectors of cities to the outskirts and to sites exposed to landslides, floods and other risks. People grow increasingly vulnerable to outbreaks of infectious diseases.
  • Domestic and industrial solid waste overload becomes a major environmental hazard.
  • In rural areas, poverty and loss of environmental quality create a vicious spiral. Land degradation intensifies and desertification hotspots increase.
Sustainability First
  • The events and aftermath of 11 September 2001, joined to the outcomes of the Johannesburg Summit, spark awareness of antipoverty and pro-environment imperatives and governments commit themselves to change. By 2010, the world and the region are both firmly set on a path towards sustainability.

The lessons
Pressure to produce exports is best directed onto activities that are founded on sustainable production practices. Impacts of recession on employment can be lessened, health problems can be minimized and the tide of economic and environmental migrants can be stemmed without resorting to destructive or exploitative practices. Even so, it may sometimes take negative impacts caused by overexploitation of natural resources to create the awareness that production systems relying on them for raw materials need to be improved along more sustainable lines.