GTFS: Global Trends and Future Scenarios Index

North American Environmental Outlook to 2030


Executive Summary

This report summarizes recent research concerning the major forces and underlying trends that are likely to shape the environment of North America in 2030. The intention of this report is not to present a prediction of the future. Rather, it is to consider the possibilities that the future might hold in light of the environmental and social stresses facing North America and the world at this time.

The report has been produced in response to a request by the Council of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC). It complements the CEC’s 2008 report, The North American Mosaic (CEC 2008), which focused on recent environmental trends and divided issues by subject or medium—air and atmosphere, biodiversity and ecosystems, pollutants, and water. This allows for the telling of a coherent story for each issue, but can hide the interconnections among issues. This report takes a more systems approach, following a Driver-Pressure-State-Impact-Response model. Thus, it follows more directly from the discussion paper prepared for the June 2008 conference, North America 2030: An Environmental Outlook, hosted by the CEC’s Joint Public Advisory Committee (Stratos Inc. and IISD 2008), upon which it expands. Together, these and other initiatives are intended to assist the CEC in the consideration and development of its work program by highlighting possible areas for cooperative action to support environmental mitigation, adaptation and innovation strategies across all three countries.

Several factors restrict the scope of this report. First, as a review, it is necessarily limited to available work to-date. Second, because it takes a North American perspective, the choice was to focus primarily, although not exclusively, on cases where consistent and comparable information is available for Canada, Mexico, and the United States. This precluded using some country-specific data, which provide greater within-country detail and may differ from similar data presented in international data sets. Third, there are numerous aspects of the environment for which historic data are available, but for which there has been no effort to make forward-looking projections. Fourth, each of these restrictions is exacerbated by the desire to include quantitative information as much as possible. Finally, most studies, including those explored here, have tended not to consider in detail the possibility of dramatic, albeit imaginable, surprises that would alter their projections significantly.