An ecological emergencyEthical News News & Features
The world’s leading scientists are warning that ‘transformative changes’ are needed to restore and protect the world’s natural ecosystems, and that the current global response to the biodiversity crisis is insufficient.
In its final report on the state of nature adopted today, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) – biodiversity’s equivalent of the IPCC climate panel – warned that the current rate of global nature decline is unprecedented in human history.
The evidence is ‘irrefutable’
According to the scientists, 1 million species are currently threatened with extinction and nature loss is accelerating, with likely serious impacts on people around the world.
‘The scientific evidence is irrefutable: we are facing an ecological emergency, and the risks of climate change and nature loss for humanity are serious. Governments can no longer turn a blind eye, and this report must prompt our leaders into urgent and courageous political action
‘Healthy ecosystems are the foundation of our societies, our economies, our food production, our health – and yet, we are destroying them at an alarming rate. With our lifestyles and levels of consumptions, we are robbing future generations of their livelihoods, and they will hold us to account for our failure to act.”
Director of the WWF European policy office
A human extinction crisis
The 1,800-page scientific study is the first comprehensive snapshot of the state of the world’s biodiversity since 2005, with evidence provided by 400 of the world’s leading experts from across 50 countries.
It paints an alarming picture of species extinctions, wildlife population declines, habitat loss and depletion of ecosystem services crucial for our sustenance and economic development.
‘We are facing a human extinction crisis. The IPBES assessment is another stark reminder that the time to act is now. We must work together to pushback against the fossil fuel industry fuelling the climate crisis and for long lasting and meaningful change.
‘Time is tight but working together across the globe, we can do it. As 1.6 million school strikers on the streets in March have shown, rising to such a major emergency unleashes a powerful sense of common purpose. Right now our collective futures depends on us being able to seize this moment and work together to pushback against the fossil fuel industry fuelling the climate crisis and for long lasting and meaningful change.’
Global communications director at 350.org
Human impact on nature
As per the findings of the IPBES report, human actions have significantly altered nature across the globe.
Three-quarters of the land-based environment and about 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered.
More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are now devoted to crop or livestock production. Around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, many within decades. This is more than ever before in human history.
Climate change and nature loss
The report also offers a comprehensive study of the interlinkage between climate change and nature loss. Among the major contributors of ecosystem changes, human-driven climate change is identified among the key drivers exacerbating the impact of other drivers on nature and human wellbeing.
Greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, raising average global temperatures by at least 0.7 degrees Celsius while the global average sea level has risen by 16 to 21 centimetres since 1900. These changes have contributed to widespread impacts in many aspects of biodiversity including species distributions.
‘It’s absolutely vital that we urgently change the way we use the land and oceans to end this war against nature. We must stop destroying crucial habitats like the rainforests in order to grow more soya and palm oil. Forests everywhere need to grow back so that wildlife can thrive and the climate stabilise. We must eat less meat, which takes up most agricultural land at the expense of nature. And we must stop treating our oceans like a waste dump while also exploiting their resources to the point of collapse.
‘The UK government urgently needs to play its part by restoring our peatlands, planting millions of trees, providing ocean sanctuaries around our coast and supporting a shift from meat and dairy to healthy, plant-based meals.’
Greenpeace UK’s executive director
Politicians must act now
The IPBES report comes ahead of a crucial EU Leaders Summit on the Future of Europe on 09 May in Sibiu (Romania), and just two weeks before the EU elections – two occasions for decisively putting Europe on a firm path to a sustainable future, in which human activities respect the Earth’s ecological boundaries.
The EU has a critical role to play in shaping the global response to the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change, and citizens agree.
In today’s Eurobarometer on the attitudes of Europeans towards biodiversity, an overwhelming 96% of respondents emphasised that we have a responsibility to look after nature, and almost half said the EU should restore nature and biodiversity.
‘In Sibiu, EU leaders must summon the political will to set Europe on a path towards a sustainable future where nature is protected for the benefit of both people and planet. Halting and reversing biodiversity loss must be a top priority on the political agenda of the next Commission, and the EU must take the lead globally in bringing about a New Deal for Nature and People by 2020. Urgent actions must also been taken domestically, by fully protecting and restoring nature in Europe, making the EU climate neutral by 2040, reforming its agricultural and financial systems, and reducing the footprint of EU consumption in third countries’, concludes Ester Asin, director of the WWF European Policy Office.