World Environment Day, commemorated each year on 5 June, is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.
New editions of our maps and atlases reveal unequivocally how climate extremes are changing the face of the planet forever.
“We can literally see environmental disasters unfolding before our eyes. We have a real fear that in the near future famous geographical features will disappear forever.” Consultant Editor-in-Chief, Mick Ashworth.
• The Aral Sea in Central Asia has shrunk by 75% since 1967.
But, it’s not all doom and gloom:
• The Dead Sea is 25m lower (more than five double decker buses stacked on top of one another) than it was 50 years ago.
• Sections of the Rio Grande, Yellow, Colorado and Tigris rivers are now drying out each summer. At some times of year the rivers don’t even reach the sea.
• Computer models suggest that the Arctic could be ice-free in late summer by the latter part of this century.
• Many Pacific Islands such as Kiribati, Tokelau and Vanuatu are under serious threat from rising sea levels.
• 13 % of the world’s land surface (19 million sq km) is now within over 107,000 designated Protected Areas worldwide.
• The world’s wind power capacity increased by more than 20% between 2004 and 2005.
• Large areas of the Mesopotamian Marshlands in Iraq – one of the world’s great wetlands – that were drained by Saddam Hussein’s regime are now being re-flooded to their former state.
• A dam has been built to stop water flowing out of the rapidly shrinking Northern Aral Sea causing levels to rise. The fishing industry is reviving, diets have improved and people are healthier.
• In 2007, 22 new sites were added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List of outstanding cultural and natural sites, including the Sydney Opera House and the Old Town of Corfu, bringing the total to 851.