Wrongheaded in Rio

Tens of thousands of people will soon gather in Rio de Janeiro for the UN's Earth Summit. Unfortunately, "Rio+20" is likely to be a wasted opportunity that fails to address the key environmental threats facing the world's poor.

COPENHAGEN – Tens of thousands of people will soon gather in Rio de Janeiro for the United Nations Earth Summit. The participants, ranging from weary politicians to enthusiastic campaigners, are supposed to reignite global concern for the environment. Unfortunately, the summit is likely to be a wasted opportunity.

The UN is showcasing the alluring promise of a “green economy,” focused on tackling global warming. In fact, the summit is striking at the wrong target, neglecting the much greater environmental concerns of the vast majority of the world.

Global warming is by no means our main environmental threat. Even if we assumed – unreasonably – that it caused all deaths from floods, droughts, heat waves, and storms, this total would amount to just 0.06% of all deaths in developing countries. In comparison, 13% of all Third World deaths result from water and air pollution.

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