U.N.: Environmental Damage Threatens Life on Earth

The international community must respond more quickly to climate change, species extinction, dwindling supplies of fresh water and other threats to the planet, the U.N. Environment Program warned Thursday.

The U.N. agency said in a report that nations still fail to recognize the seriousness of environmental threats to the planet.

Prepared by 390 experts over five years, the report reviews progress made since a similar one in 1987.

The global response in the two decades since "has in some cases been courageous and inspiring," UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said before the report's release in London. "But all too often it has been slow and at a pace and scale that fails to respond to or recognize the magnitude of the challenges facing the people and the environment of the planet."

• Click here to go to the U.N.'s page introducing the report.

Climate change is a global priority that demands political leadership, but there has been "a remarkable lack of urgency" in the response, which the report characterized as "woefully inadequate."

The report outlined other global problems, including declining fish stocks and the loss of fertile land through degradation.

Human activity has reached an unsustainable level, outstripping available resources, the report said.

But it also found progress in some areas since the 1987 report.

"Over the past 20 years, the international community has cut, by 95 percent, the production of ozone-layer damaging chemicals," Steiner said.

There has also been the creation of "a greenhouse-gas emission reduction treaty along with innovative carbon trading and carbon offset markets."

The British branch of environmental group Friends of the Earth welcomed the report, calling it an "important call for global political leadership in a fast degrading world."

The group's campaign director, Mark Childs, said "it is now clearer than ever that we need concerted international political action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt the loss of wildlife and ecosystems."