These pages contains some information on emerging environmental issues that may pose challenges to South Africa over the next five to ten years.
Emerging environmental issues are issues that may someday be of concern but that have not yet been generally recognized. A review of such issues that have occurred over the last 50 years reveals that many of them have erupted rather suddenly (e.g., stratospheric ozone depletion, acid rain). However, some issues were recognized long ago by the scientific community (e.g., land degradation, overconsumption of freshwater), but for economic or other reasons governments have refused to act.
By providing information on possible future issues, as well as by promoting future-oriented thinking in South Africa's environmental management and protection efforts, we will enhance our ability to take proactive efforts to protect public health and environmental quality or to be better prepared to effectively address environmental challenges that may arise in the future.
Tremendous benefits can be derived from early efforts to prevent the occurrence – or at least to minimize the adverse impacts – of future problems, as well as to take advantage of future opportunities.