Friday 23 August 2019

Loss of plants and animals at crisis point

Forest (stock photo)
Forest (stock photo)

The Earth's life-support systems are reaching a crisis point for humanity, with up to one million species facing extinction due to human activity, a UN study will reportedly warn.

According to The Guardian, a leaked draft of the 1,800-page report says unless urgent action is taken, current and future generations will be under threat from the loss of plants and animals on which humanity depends for food, pollination, clean water and a stable climate.

The global assessment on the state of nature - the first such report since 2005 and the most comprehensive of its kind - will lay out a number of scenarios for the future based on decisions taken by governments and policymakers over the coming years.

Robert Watson, chairman of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), told the paper: "There is no question we are losing biodiversity at a truly unsustainable rate that will affect human well-being both for current and future generations.

"We are in trouble if we don't act, but there are a range of actions that can be taken to protect nature and meet human goals for health and development."

The final wording of the report, which has been in development for three years and has involved 400 experts, is being finalised in Paris ahead of the release of a detailed summary for policymakers tomorrow.

It is expected to look at the causes of the destruction of nature, such as the conversion of forests, wetlands and other wild landscapes through man-made activity, and will reportedly warn the world is facing a sixth wave of extinctions.

Three-quarters of the world's land surface has been altered, according to the leaked report.

The authors hope the study will put the issue firmly in the spotlight, suggesting biodiversity loss threatens humanity just as much as climate change.

"Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come," said Mr Watson.

"Policies, efforts and actions - at every level - will only succeed, however, when based on the best knowledge and evidence. This is what the IPBES global assessment provides."

Watson said the authors have learned from attribution science - a field which has transformed the debate on the climate crisis, by showing how much more likely hurricanes, droughts and floods have become as a result of global heating.

The goal is to persuade an audience beyond the usual green NGOs and government departments. "We need to appeal not just to environment ministers, but to those in charge of agriculture, transport and energy because they are the ones responsible for the drivers of biodiversity loss," said Mr Watson.

A focus will be to move away from protection of individual species and regions, and to look at systemic drivers of change - including consumption and trade.

The political environment is changing due to overwhelming scientific evidence and increasing public concern about the inter-related crises of nature and climate, which have prompted students to strike from school and led to protests by Extinction Rebellion activists in more than a dozen countries.

© Press Association

Sunday Independent

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