Note: This is the 1997 edition of UNEP's Global Environment Outlook. If you are interested in more recent information, please see the 2000 and 2002 editions.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Global  Environment Outlook-1 - The Web version

Chapter 4: Looking to the Future

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Forces Driving Change

The primary driving forces of future developments considered in the models and analysis throughout this chapter are mainly related to population growth and the economy. These two forces in turn generate demand for food, water, energy, and so on.

Population Growth

The dynamics of human populations are sufficiently well understood to estimate fairly precisely the expected development over the next two to three decades. (See Figure 4.3.)

More than 86 million people are now added to the world each year, and world population is likely to increase at this rate until 2015. The projected growth in world population of 4.7 billion by the middle of the next century, with 95 per cent of the increase in developing countries, produces a total global population of just over 10 billion (Raskin et al.,1996). In other words, despite a decline in birth rates in many countries, large increases in population appear to be inevitable in the near future.

The geographical distribution of populations has also changed: notably, various economic, technological, and social factors have resulted in increasing urbanization (see Figure 4.4.) and an associated concentration of populations. This trend will probably continue.

The quality of human life is as important for the future as the absolute numbers of people, and health is one important quality aspect. Two indicators widely used are life expectancy at birth and disability-adjusted life years. These are determined by a complex pattern of social and economic changes, ranging from income distribution and literacy to access to safe water, sanitation, and medical services. In the past, correlations have been observed between such patterns and a general indicator of economic welfare such as gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

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