“It will likely take millions of years for the Earth to recover from the biodiversity crisis….
“On Monday [6 May 2019], the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a summary of an upcoming 1,500-page report on the state of biodiversity on Earth. The report has 145 authors from 50 countries, and it sums up about 15,000 scientific papers on the threats against life in the age of humans. (The report itself has not yet been released. On Monday, the UN released a 40-page summary of its findings for policymakers and the media.)
“The report’s findings are stark. It finds that species of all kinds — mammals, birds, amphibians, insects, plants, marine life, terrestrial life — are disappearing at a rate “tens to hundreds times higher than the average over the last 10 million years” due to human activity.
“In all, it warns, as many as 1 million species are now at risk of extinction if we don’t act to save them; that number includes 40 percent of all amphibian species, 33 percent of corals, and around 10 percent of insects. It amounts to a biodiversity crisis that spans the globe and threatens every ecosystem. The results echo much of what we already know: Life on Earth is in peril.
Why do we have this biodiversity crisis?
“The new report breaks it down into five main factors, but the presence of humanity looms over them all. And you’ll see that while the biodiversity crisis is related to, and fueled by, the climate crisis, it’s also distinct from it.
- Changes in land and sea use. The area of the world that’s been unaltered and untouched by humans is shrinking all the time. And when it shrinks, so does room for nature. A third of the world’s land, the report finds, is currently reserved for agriculture or livestock. Around 100 million hectares (a hectare is 10,000 square meters, or about 2.47 acres) of tropical forest disappeared between 1980 and 2000.
- Direct exploitation of organisms. We’re talking about hunting and poaching here.
- Climate change, which increases hardships for species in so many ways, from the polar bears in the Arctic losing ice to hunt upon to the fact that when ocean waters warm, they cannot hold as much oxygen or sustain as much life.
- Pollution. Think about the huge amount of plastic that enters the ocean every year.
- Invasive alien species. Due to a globalized world, species from one continent can move to another, where they don’t have natural predators, and dominate the environment.
“To solve the biodiversity crisis, it’s going to take more than the actions of individuals, the report indicates.
“It’s going to take countries deciding to set aside more room for nature, in the form of protected areas. It’s going to take lessening the load of plastic pollution on our seas. It’s going to take addressing climate change and its various inputs. It’s going to take policies that more strongly police the import of invasive species. It means protecting indigenous communities, who use their land in a more sustainable way. It’s going to take innovation: How can we feed the increasing number of humans in the world, without converting more forests to farmlands?
“In short, it’s a monumental task. As it stands, the report states “goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability cannot be met by current trajectories.” If anything, the problems are accelerating.
“In 2020, the UN is convening a global conference in China to set new decade-long goals to preserve biodiversity.”
Read the full story by Brian Resnick….