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Welcome to the Environment Portal
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Introduction

A biophysical environment is a biotic and abiotic surrounding of an organism or population, and consequently includes the factors that have an influence in their survival, development, and evolution. A biophysical environment can vary in scale from microscopic to global in extent. It can also be subdivided according to its attributes. Examples include the marine environment, the atmospheric environment and the terrestrial environment. The number of biophysical environments is countless, given that each living organism has its own environment.

The term environment can refer to a singular global environment in relation to humanity, or a local biophysical environment, e.g. the UK's Environment Agency.

Selected article

Global mean surface temperature anomaly 1850 to 2006 relative to 1961–1990
Global warming is the increase in the average temperature of Earth's near-surface air and oceans since the mid-20th century and its projected continuation. According to the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global surface temperature increased 0.74 ± 0.18 °C (1.33 ± 0.32 °F) during the 20th century. Most of the observed temperature increase since the middle of the 20th century has been caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, which result from human activity such as the burning of fossil fuel and deforestation.

Climate model projections summarized in the latest IPCC report indicate that the global surface temperature is likely to rise a further 1.1 to 6.4 °C (2.0 to 11.5 °F) during the 21st century. An increase in global temperature will cause sea levels to rise and will change the amount and pattern of precipitation, probably including expansion of subtropical deserts. Warming is expected to be strongest in the Arctic and would be associated with continuing retreat of glaciers, permafrost and sea ice. Other likely effects include changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, species extinctions, and changes in agricultural yields.

Did you know...

  • ... that each year in 22,500 cemeteries across the United States approximately 30 million board feet (70,000 m³) of hardwoods are buried as caskets?

Current events

Selected biography

Gro Brundtland
Gro Harlem Brundtland (born April 20, 1939) is a Norwegian politician, diplomat, and physician, and an international leader in sustainable development and public health. She is a former Prime Minister of Norway, and has served as the Director General of the World Health Organization. She now serves as a Special Envoy on Climate Change for the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

She is most famous for chairing the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), widely referred to as the Brundtland Commission, developing the broad political concept of sustainable development in the course of extensive public hearings that were distinguished by their inclusiveness and published its report Our Common Future in April 1987. The Brundtland Commission provided the momentum for the 1992 Earth Summit/UNCED, that was headed by Maurice Strong, who had been a prominent member of the Brundtland Commission. The Brundtland Commission also provided momentum for Agenda 21.

Selected image

a bison skull pile, ca 1870.
Credit: Great Plains Restoration Council
A pile of bison skulls (circa 1870).
The North American bison were hunted almost to extinction in the 19th century and were reduced to very small numbers by the mid-1880s.

Selected organization

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is a scientific intergovernmental body tasked to evaluate the risk of climate change caused by human activity. The panel was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), two organizations of the United Nations. The IPCC shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President of the United States Al Gore.

One of the main activities of the IPCC is to publish special reports on topics where it supports the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is essentially the document behind the Kyoto Protocol. It bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific literature. The IPCC is only open to member states of the WMO and UNEP.

The stated aims of the IPCC are to assess scientific information relevant to:

  1. Human-induced climate change,
  2. The impacts of human-induced climate change,
  3. Options for adaptation and mitigation.

The IPCC does not carry out research, nor does it monitor climate or related phenomena. A main activity of the IPCC is publishing special reports on topics relevant to the implementation of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international treaty that acknowledges the possibility of harmful climate change; implementation of the UNFCCC led eventually to the Kyoto Protocol. The IPCC bases its assessment mainly on peer reviewed and published scientific literature. The IPCC is only open to member states of the WMO and UNEP.

IPCC reports are widely cited in almost any debate related to climate change. National and international responses to climate change generally regard the UN climate panel as authoritative. The summary reports (i.e. Summary for Policymakers), which draw the most media attention, include review by participating governments in addition to scientific review.

Selected quote

Elizabeth I of England
The use of sea and air is common to all; neither can a title to the ocean belong to any people or private persons, forasmuch as neither nature nor public use and custom permit any possession therof.

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