Rapid extinction threatens one million species warns UN report

One million of the world’s eight million species are under threat of extinction by humans warns scientists in a landmark UN-backed report released on Monday.

This is the largest review of the state of nature of the planet, which compiled three years of systematic reviews from 15,000 scientific and government sources.

The report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a UN committee, was written by 145 expert authors from 50 countries.

In a media release IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson, said that from this wide research the picture is painfully clear.

“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,” said Sir Watson.

With population growth and increased consumption, human activity is threatening the planet’s biodiversity.

Professor Sandra Díaz (Argentina) chaired the assessment, said that “humanity’s most important life-supporting ‘safety net’” is reaching breaking point.  

“The diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems, as well as many fundamental contributions we derive from nature, are declining fast, although we still have the means to ensure a sustainable future for people and the planet,” said Professor Díaz.

The report found that over 40% of amphibian species are threatened. Almost 33% of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine life are also under the threat of extinction.

The report identifies five factors that are driving this change in nature. In descending order, the culprits are changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; pollution; and invasive alien species.

IPBES also illustrates sustainability actions that can be utilised by sectors including agriculture, energy, marine systems, forestry, freshwater systems, urban areas and many more.

A key element the report identifies to ensure effective future policies is building a sustainable economy instead of the “limited paradigm of economic growth.”

In 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that we have just 12 years to avoid a climate change catastrophe.

Director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, Andrew Norton, told the BBC that financial incentives that damage biodiversity needs to change.

“Crucially, governments must end the destructive subsidies, including for fossil fuels and industrial fishing and agriculture,” said Mr. Norton.

With the Australian Federal Election next week on May 18, environment policy continues to be a pressing issue. You can read an ABC overview of political party’s climate change policies here.

Caring for Creation is one of the key issues the Moderator Uniting Church in Australia Synod of NSW and the ACT, Rev. Simon Hansford, has called on the community to think deeply about as we head to the polls. Watch his message below.

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Melissa Stewart




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