1 million species threatened with extinction across the world because of humans

May 6 2019, 2:46 pm

A landmark new Global Assessment report by the United Nations is bringing to light the alarming decline of species, ecosystems, and genetic diversity in our world today.

The situation is more dire than ever and will require all hands on deck if we wish to sustain the planet we call home.

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The world’s wildlife population has fallen by 60% in the last four decades, and some of the world’s most precious and fascinating wild animals are at risk of extinction if the current state of Planet Earth doesn’t change. Even the beloved giraffe, once taken for granted as a safari staple, may soon be classified as endangered.

Conducted by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), the May 6 Global Assessment is the most comprehensive report of its kind and the first to include indigenous and local knowledge as well as scientific studies.

With data compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries, plus input from another 310 contributing authors, the report highlights the relationship between economic development and its impact on nature, assessing the changes that have occurred over the past five decades.

The Report states nature’s decline to be “unprecedented,” as species extinction rates are “accelerating.”

There are 1,000,000 species that are currently threatened with extinction. This is more than ever before in human history.

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

The Report underscores that the current global response is insufficient to preserve nature as we know it: “transformative change” is required.

“The report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” he said. “Through ‘transformative change,’ nature can still be conserved, restored, and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”

“The member States of IPBES Plenary have now acknowledged that, by its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but also that such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good.”

The report provides a ranking of the five direct drivers of nature’s decline, in descending order:

  1. Changes in land and sea use
  2. Direct exploitation of organisms
  3. Climate change
  4. Pollution
  5. Invasive alien species

The report’s findings include:

  • Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions. On average these trends have been less severe or avoided in areas held or managed by Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.
  • More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production.
  • The value of agricultural crop production has increased by about 300% since 1970, raw timber harvest has risen by 45% and approximately 60 billion tons of renewable and nonrenewable resources are now extracted globally every year – having nearly doubled since 1980.
  • Land degradation has reduced the productivity of 23% of the global land surface, up to US$577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss and 100-300 million people are at increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
  • In 2015, 33% of marine fish stocks were being harvested at unsustainable levels; 60% were maximally sustainably fished, with just 7% harvested at levels lower than what can be sustainably fished.
  • Urban areas have more than doubled since 1992.
  • Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s waters, and fertilizers entering coastal ecosystems have produced more than 400 ocean ‘dead zones’, totalling more than 245,000 km2 – a combined area greater than that of the United Kingdom.
  • Negative trends in nature will continue to 2050 and beyond in all of the policy scenarios explored in the Report, except those that include transformative change – due to the projected impacts of increasing land-use change, exploitation of organisms and climate change, although with significant differences between regions.

The situation is dire, but hope is not lost.

The report presents a range of solutions to sustain our planet, which will require contribution and collaboration across sectors such as agriculture, forestry, marine systems, freshwater systems, urban areas, energy, finance, and many others.

Through the “transformative change” outlined, the world’s population can come today to build a globally sustainable economy.

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