outlook for sustainability by 2050
about sustainability in the 21st century have prompted comprehensive
global studies that look at present worldwide trends and
provide forecasts, scenarios and visions for the future,
with the aim of clarifying paths to a truly sustainable
development, anticipating future problems, providing guidance
for long-term planning and encouraging action at all levels.
following are overviews of three important global studies,
the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Road
and Living Planet Report 2006 that
are directly relevant to the objectives
of Maryland 2050:
Ecosystem Assessment (MA)
Text adapted from: Millennium Ecosystem Assessment.
2005. Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis. Island
Press, Washington, DC. (Full
report, PDF 15 MB)
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) is an international
work program launched by the United Nations in 2001 and
designed to meet the needs of decision makers and the public
for scientific information concerning the consequences of
ecosystem change for human well-being and options for responding
to those changes. The global assessment was launched in
March 2005 with the input and review of over 1,300 authors
from 95 countries; a truly comprehensive and highly authoritative
assessment of the state of the planet. The MA synthesizes
information from the scientific literature, datasets, and
scientific models, and includes knowledge held by the private
sector, practitioners, local communities and indigenous
peoples. The MA has helped build individual and institutional
capacity to undertake integrated ecosystem assessments,
identify priorities for action and act on the findings.
It will help to meet assessment needs of Multilateral Environmental
Agreements, as well as needs of other users in governments,
private sector and civil society.
MA focuses on ecosystem services, how changes in ecosystem
services* have affected human
well-being** and how ecosystem
changes may affect people in future decades. Both ecosystem
services and human well-being are affected by drivers of
change, such as globalization, technological developments,
land use change, population growth, climate change and others.
The trends of these drivers may vary significantly by 2050
depending on how the world moves forward in the next decades.
To account for this array of possibilities, the MA contemplates
four global scenarios of the world in 2050. The scenarios
explored two global development paths, one in which the
world becomes increasingly globalized and the other in which
it becomes increasingly regionalized; as well as two different
approaches to ecosystem management, one in which actions
are reactive and most problems are addressed only after
they become obvious and the other in which ecosystem management
is proactive and policies deliberately seek to maintain
ecosystem services for the long term. The global outcomes
for ecosystem changes and human well-being are significantly
different under each of the four scenarios.
services. Ecosystem services are the benefits people
obtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning services
such as food and water; regulating services such as regulation
of floods, drought, land degradation, and disease; supporting
services such as soil formation and nutrient cycling;
and cultural services such as recreational, spiritual,
religious and other nonmaterial benefits.
**Human well-being. Human well-being has multiple
constituents, including basic material for a good life,
freedom of choice and action, health, good social relations,
and security. Well-being is at the opposite end of a continuum
from poverty, which has been defined as a ‘‘pronounced
deprivation in well-being.’’ The constituents
of well-being, as experienced and perceived by people,
are situation-dependent, reflecting local geography, culture,
and ecological circumstances.
MA presents four key findings:
Over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems
more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period
of time in human history, largely to meet rapidly growing
demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber, and fuel.
This has resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible
loss in the diversity of life on Earth.
The changes that have been made to ecosystems have contributed
to substantial net gains in human well-being and economic
development, but these gains have been achieved at growing
costs in the form of the degradation of many ecosystem
services, increased risks of nonlinear changes, and the
exacerbation of poverty for some groups of people. These
problems, unless addressed, will substantially diminish
the benefits that future generations obtain from ecosystems.
The degradation of ecosystem services could grow significantly
worse during the first half of this century and is a barrier
to achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystems
while meeting increasing demands for their services can
be partially met under some scenarios that the MA has
considered, but these involve significant changes in policies,
institutions, and practices that are not currently under
way. Many options exist to conserve or enhance specific
ecosystem services in ways that reduce negative trade-offs
or that provide positive synergies with other ecosystem
MEA. 2005. p.1
Given the multitude of factors contemplated by the MA, a
summary of current trends is not attempted here. For the
best snapshot view of the current global trends of ecosystem
services, we recommend looking at Table 1, page
7, and Figure 13, page 16 of the
MA Synthesis report. Table 2.1. on pages 42-45
provides a more detailed view of Table 1. Please
browse the PDF document to get to those tables.
The global trend for the different topics covered by Maryland
2050 is given in the issue summaries.
Projections by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment for 2050:
Since the MA explored 4 different scenarios: Global
Orchestration (Globalized and Reactive), Order
from Strength (Regionalized and Reactive), Adapting
Mosaic (Regionalized and Proactive) and Technogarden
(Globalized and Proactive) there are 4 different sets of
projected outcomes for the state of the world’s ecosystem
services and human well-being by 2050 . Descriptions of
each scenario are found on pages 71-73
of the MA Synthesis Report - the assumptions of each scenario
are specified on Table 5.1, page 76 and
the outcomes are summarized in Table 5.2.
Overall, Maryland and the world would seem to benefit more
from the scenarios “Adapting Mosaic”
and “Technogarden”, less so form “Global
Orchestration” and least of all by “Order
and additional resources:
ROAD TO 2050
report by the World Bank underlines the main challenges
that the world must face to achieve a wealthier and more
equitable planet by 2050. These challenges are natural
resource management, better governance, socially sustainable
development, agricultural productivity, and climate change.
All of these must be addressed to successfully accomplish
such a vision. “The Road to 2050” deliberately
sets an optimistic scenario of a wealthier and more equitable
world, and highlights the key policy fields where action
must be taken to ensure such a goal, including areas not
covered in detail by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment,
such as governance and social policy.
world in 2050 is projected to show big demographic and economic
changes as compared to the world today. Human population
is likely to increase by 50% from 6 billion today to 9 billion
in 2050, with most of the increase occurring in developing
countries. In terms of the economy, if a projected GDP yearly
growth of 3.3% in developing countries and 2% in industrial
countries is realized, the total size of the global economy
would increase almost four-fold from $35 trillion today
to $135 trillion in 2050. 60% of that GDP will remain in
industrial countries according to those projections. The
combination of a larger economy and a larger population
will make the challenges more pressing.
terms of Natural Resource Management, the
report highlights the role that natural resources play in
development, and the need for improved management at all
levels, especially in low-income countries where development
is more dependent on these resources. It also emphasizes
the need for accounting the natural resources component
in measures of wealth and development, for instance, incorporating
measures of ecosystem services.
importance of good governance as a factor
in development is underlined, indicating that improvements
are necessary both in developing and in industrial countries,
in the public and private sectors, and very importantly,
in the international arena. Attacking the problem of corruption
is a central aspect of good governance.
sustainable development is referred to as the active
inclusion of social concerns, community participation and
community empowerment in the development agenda. Addressing
violent conflict in different countries is an important
part of this component.
with a larger and wealthier population, the increase in
demand for food is an enormous challenge, so agricultural
productivity needs to be increased. The report
calls for major worldwide cooperation and targeted investments
in agricultural research and development that look for intensification,
efficiency and environmental stewardship.
change is considered as a major threat for world
stability and a growing constraint for an economic growth
based on unchecked energy consumption. Therefore, the report
highlights the need to pursue energy efficiency at all levels
in order to minimize emissions, while understanding that
some climate change is inevitable and thus adaptation strategies
need to be crafted as well.
Reference: The Road to 2050. Sustainable
Development for the 21st Century. 2006. The World Bank.
Living Planet Report 2006
recently released its “Living
Planet Report 2006”, a periodical report
on the state of the world’s ecosystems as measured
by the Living Planet Index and the global Ecological
Footprint. The Living Planet Index measures trends
in the Earth’s biological diversity, tracking populations
of 1,313 species of fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds,
and mammals from around the world. The products are separate
indices for terrestrial, marine, and freshwater species,
and an aggregated average index, which is a proxy for
monitoring the health of ecosystems. Between 1970 and
2003, the index fell by about 30%, suggesting
that the degradation of natural ecosystems is at an unprecedented
rate in history
Ecological Footprint is a measure of the area of biologically
productive land and water needed by an average citizen
to sustain his/her lifestyle, in terms of provision
of ecological resources and services – food, fiber
and timber, land on which to build, and land to absorb
carbon dioxide (CO2) released by burning fossil fuels.
Since the late 1980s, WWF points out that humanity has
been in overshoot – the Ecological Footprint has
exceeded the Earth’s biocapacity – as of 2003
by about 25%. Effectively, the Earth’s regenerative
capacity is no longer able to keep up with societal demand.
into the future are grim, suggesting that both biodiversity
and human well-being are threatened in the coming decades,
and the likelihood of ecosystem collapses is increasingly
likely. WWF points out that change towards sustainability
by 2050 is possible, but depends to a great extent on
actions and policies carried out today.
Planet Report 2006. WWF, Global Footprint
Network, Zoological Society of London. 2006.
(3 November 2006)
FOR MARYLAND 2050
The importance of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment for
the Maryland 2050 project cannot be overstated. It is an
assessment of the current state of knowledge concerning
the consequences of ecosystem changes for human well-being,
and very useful to guide decisions on complex issues, the
sort of which are being discussed by MD 2050. The scenarios
might be used as a starting framework to think about plausible
futures for the state. The MA also sheds light on the areas
of consensus within the scientific community, as well as
those where uncertainty is the norm and more research and
information is necessary.
MA intends to be policy relevant yet not policy prescriptive,
and it identifies response options that could be adopted
at local, national, or global scales to improve ecosystem
management and thereby contribute to human well-being, poverty
alleviation, and development and sustainability goals. The
MA provides tools for planning and management, as well as
foresight concerning the consequences of decisions affecting
ecosystems. When thinking about environmental policies that
will help have a better Maryland by 2050, the MA is a reference
point to look at their effectiveness, limitations, interactions
addition to its distinct focus on ecosystems and human well-being,
the MA includes another pioneering aspect that distinguishes
it from past ‘global’ assessments. It is being
conducted as a ‘multi-scale’ assessment at local
community, watershed, national and regional scales, as well
at the global scale. The sub-global
assessments will directly meet the needs of decision-makers
at the scale at which they are undertaken, strengthen the
global findings with on-the-ground reality, and strengthen
the local findings with global perspectives, data, and models.
As of March, 2005 there were 33 official and associated
sub-global assessments, most of which will have reports
available in 2006. Although Maryland 2050 is not one of
these assessments, their experience is invaluable in guiding
“Road to 2050” report, although much simpler
in content, is a good complement to the Millennium Ecosystem
Assessment when looking at Maryland 2050, because it underscores
the set of goals that the world ought to look at according
to the World Bank in order to achieve sustainable development
by the middle of this century. Those goals, placed into
the Maryland context, can certainly feed the discussion
about the future of the State.
The Living Planet Report 2006 is relevant for Maryland
2050 because it reminds Marylanders of their responsibility
towards the rest of the world in terms of sustainability,
both in terms of ensuring the health of species and ecosystems
and of reducing the impact of consumption and economic
activity on the earth's bio capacity, given that the United
States has one of the highest ecological footprints per
capita in the world.