上述發表在《科學》期刊的論文，是由「地球系統治理（Earth System Governance, ESG)」研究群的32位治理專家聯合撰寫。論文指出，人類可能正在踰越所謂的「臨界點」，意即跨越了「地球的限度」（planetary boundaries）而越來越接近崩潰點 （points of no return）。專家舉例說，天災急遽增加、食物及水資源安全出問題、生物多樣性流失及氣候變遷等，僅僅只是一部分證據而已。
該論文名為《導航「人類世」：改善地球系統治理》（Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance），研究團隊在其中寫到，「科學評估顯示，人類活動已造成多個地球次系統的變動，其變動程度已超過了50萬年來自然變動的範圍」。
他們認為，應該讓G20的前20大經濟體扮演更強的角色，在聯合國新設一個「永續發展理事會」 （UN Sustainable Development Council），更完善地統整聯合國體系內的永續發展議題。他們也主張現行的聯合國環境規劃署（UNEP）應提升為聯合國正式機構，賦予更大的職權、充足無虞的經費，以促進國際環境法規與標準的制定和執行。
專家也建議更仰賴條件多數決（qualified majority voting）來改善決策速度。「按目前的國際協商程序，若沒有等到締約國全部達成共識，沒辦法採取任何行動。這種模式必須要改變。」論文作者之一、亞利桑那大學法學院國際關係教授阿巴特（Kenneth Abbott）如此表示。
另一分報告《OECD 2050世界環境展望：不作為的後果》（OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction）也支持了上述論點。這份報告提出對未來40年社會經濟趨勢的最新情境預測，並指出四個主要方面的關切：氣候變遷、生物多樣性、水資源以及環境污染對衛生的衝擊。
- 2050年，全球的能源需求將會增加80%，大部分來自於新興經濟體，且其中85%是基於對石化燃料的依賴。這將導致全球溫室氣體排放量增加50%並惡化空氣污染。北美的能源需求預計會增加15%， OECD歐洲會員國則增加28%、日本增加2.5%，墨西哥則增加112%。
- 城市空氣污染預計在2050年前變成全球最主要的環境致死因子，比水污染和衛生設施缺乏還嚴重。暴露於懸浮微粒而導致呼吸機並所造成的早逝人口 會增加，可能比現在的數量多出一倍；現在這個數目是全球每年3600萬人，大部分發生於中國和印度。因為老化及都市化的人口， OECD國家可能因地面臭氧在西元2050年前 出現更多的早逝人口，僅次於印度。
- 全球水資源需求將增加約55%，來自於製造業需求成長（+400%）、火力發電廠（140%）及民生需求（+130%）。這些需求彼此競爭，將使農業用水產生危機。 現今，全球人口有40%以上雖然居住在河流流域卻飽受嚴重缺水之苦，OECD報告預計，這樣的人口會增加到23億人，特別集中在北非洲、南非洲與中南美洲。
A fundamental overhaul of global environmental governance is needed now to avoid dangerous "tipping points" in the Earth system, 32 social scientists and researchers from around the world conclude in a new paper published Friday in the journal "Science."
These conclusions are reinforced by a new 40-year-outlook report just issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, OECD, whose 34 members include the world's largest economies.
Sharp increases in natural disasters, food and water security problems, biodiversity loss and climate change are just part of the evidence that humanity may be crossing planetary boundaries and approaching points of no return, called tipping points, write 32 leading governance experts from the Earth System Governance research alliance in their "Science" article.
To reduce the risk of global environmental disaster, they say a "constitutional moment" in world politics is required, comparable in scale and importance to the reform of international governance that followed World War II.
Lead author Frank Biermann, of Free University Amsterdam and Lund University, Sweden, said, "Societies must change course to steer away from critical tipping points in the Earth system that could lead to rapid and irreversible change. Incremental change is no longer sufficient to bring about societal change at the level and with the speed needed to stop Earth system transformation."
"Structural change in global governance is needed, both inside and outside the UN system and involving both public and private actors," said Biermann, who also is chair of the scientific steering committee of the Earth System Governance Project.
The paper is a key contribution of the science community to the 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20 slated from June 20-22 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This gathering follows up on the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992.
"Science assessments indicate that human activities are moving several of Earth's sub-systems outside the range of natural variability typical for the previous 500,000 years," wrote the authors in the opening of their article, "Navigating the Anthropocene: Improving Earth System Governance."
The research group argues for the creation of a UN Sustainable Development Council to better integrate sustainable development concerns across the UN system, with a strong role for the 20 largest economies, the G20. They supports upgrading the UN Environment Programme to a full-fledged UN agency, a status that would give it greater authority, more secure funding, and facilitate the creation and enforcement of international regulations and standards.
Stronger consultative rights for representatives of civil society in global governance are needed, based on mechanisms that balance differences in influence and resources among civil society representatives, these experts recommend.
To improve the speed of decision-making in international negotiations, the authors called for stronger reliance on qualified majority voting.
"There has to be a change in international negotiating procedures from the current situation, in which no action can be taken unless consensus is reached among all participating governments," said contributing author Kenneth Abbott, a professor of international relations in Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.
The authors also called for governments "to close remaining regulatory gaps at the global level," including the treatment of emerging technologies.
"A great deal of attention has been given to issues such as climate change, yet nanotechnology and other emerging technologies, which may bring significant benefits, also carry potential risks for sustainable development," warned Abbott.
The research group also argues for increased financial support for poorer nations, writing, "More substantial financial resources could be made available through novel financial mechanisms, such as global emissions markets or air transportation levies for sustainability purposes."
"Working to make the world economy more green and to create an effective institutional framework for sustainable development will be the two main focal points at this summer's United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, “Abbott said. " This article was written to bring urgency to those discussions and to outline specific building blocks for a more effective and sustainable Earth system governance system."
These conclusions are supported by the "OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050: The Consequences of Inaction" presents the latest projections of socio-economic trends over the next four decades, and their implications for four key areas of concern: climate change, biodiversity, water and the health impacts of environmental pollution.
Despite the recent recession, the global economy is projected to nearly quadruple to 2050. Rising living standards will be accompanied by ever growing demands for energy, food and natural resources - and more pollution.
"Greener sources of growth can help governments today as they tackle these pressing challenges. Greening agriculture, water and energy supply and manufacturing will be critical by 2050 to meet the needs of over nine billion people," said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria.
"The costs of inaction could be colossal, both in economic and human terms," the OECD warned.
Without new policies, the OECD report warns:
- World energy demand in 2050 will be 80 percent higher, with most of the growth to come from emerging economies and still 85 percent reliant on fossil fuel-based energy. This could lead to a 50 percent increase in greenhouse gas emissions globally and worsening air pollution. Energy demand for North America is projected to increase about +15 percent, for OECD Europe +28 percent, for Japan +2.5, and for Mexico +112 percent.
- Urban air pollution is set to become the top environmental cause of mortality worldwide by 2050, ahead of dirty water and lack of sanitation. The number of premature deaths from exposure to particulate air pollutants leading to respiratory failure could double from current levels to 3.6 million every year globally, with most occurring in China and India. Because of their ageing and urbanized populations, OECD countries are likely to have a high rate of premature death from ground-level ozone in 2050, second only to India.
- On land, global biodiversity is projected to decline by a further 10 percent, with significant losses in Asia, Europe and Southern Africa. Areas of mature forests are projected to shrink by 13 percent. About one-third of biodiversity in rivers and lakes worldwide has already been lost, and further losses are projected to 2050.
- Global water demand will increase by some 55 percent, due to growing demand from manufacturing (+400 percent), thermal power plants (+140 percent) and domestic use (+130 percent). These competing demands will put water use by farmers at risk. The OECD report projects that 2.3 billion more people than today - over 40 percent of the global population - will be living in river basins under severe water stress, especially in North and South Africa, and South and Central Asia.