The number of extreme events, such as hurricanes and famine, affecting at least one million people will increase over the next 45 years if a certain scenario of world development plays out. Demand for water will increase enormously — between 30% and 85% — especially in Africa and Asia, by the year 2050. But human health may improve as public health measures advance vaccine development and lessen the impact of epidemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS. These are just a few of the many findings of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) published in a 4-volume set by Island Press and released today.
The MA looks ahead 50 years from the year 2000 to paint four alternate pictures, or scenarios, of life on earth. Current estimates of 3 billion more people and a quadrupling of the world economy by 2050 show that our consumption of biological and physical resources will skyrocket putting much more pressure on ecosystems. But the scenarios demonstrate that the condition of ecosystems in the future could be significantly worse or better than in the present – depending on policy choices. For example, wise use of environmental technology, investing in education and health, and reducing poverty can reduce pressure on ecosystems.