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U.N. Warns That Mother Earth Is Near the Edge, as Rio+20 Approaches

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Irreversible damage to the planet is imminent if humans do not curb population, urbanization and consumption, the United Nations warned in a report released two weeks before the Rio+20 environmental summit in Brazil.

More than 50,000 are expected at the meeting, which will run from June 20 to 22. The goal is for governments, companies, environmentalists and lobbying groups to gather and lay out goals for food security, water, energy and other core themes.

In assessing 90 of the world’s top environmental goals and objectives, the UN found that “significant progress had only been made in four,” the international body said in a statement. “These are eliminating the production and use of substances that deplete the ozone layer, removal of lead from fuel, increasing access to improved water supplies and boosting research to reduce pollution of the marine environment.”

This and other information is contained in the fifth edition of the Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-5), launched on the eve of the Rio+20 Summit.

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Climate change, fish stocks and desertification and drought were among the 24 areas that showed “little or no progress," the U.N. said, while “Further deterioration was posted for eight goals including the state of the world’s coral reefs while no assessment was made of 14 other goals due to a lack of data.”

"If current trends continue, if current patterns of production and consumption of natural resources prevail and cannot be reversed and 'decoupled', then governments will preside over unprecedented levels of damage and degradation,” said UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner in a statement.

Disaster could be averted, he said, but only if we act now, and decisively.

"The moment has come to put away the paralysis of indecision, acknowledge the facts and face up to the common humanity that unites all peoples,” he said. “Rio+20 is a moment to turn sustainable development from aspiration and patchy implementation into a genuine path to progress and prosperity for this and the next generations to come.”