PARIS: Up to one million species face extinction due to human influence, according to a draft UN report obtained by AFP that painstakingly catalogues how humanity has undermined the natural resources upon which its very survival depends.

The accelerating loss of clean air, drinkable water, CO2-absorbing forests, pollinating insects, protein-rich fish and storm-blocking mangroves — to name but a few of the dwindling services rendered by Nature — poses no less of a threat than climate change, says the report, set to be unveiled on May 6.

Indeed, biodiversity loss and global warming are closely linked, according to the 44-page Summary for Policy Makers, which distills a 1,800-page UN assessment of scientific literature on the state of Nature.

Delegates from 130 nations meeting in Paris from April 29 will vet the executive summary of the report

Delegates from 130 nations meeting in Paris from April 29 will vet the executive summary line-by-line. Wording may change, but figures lifted from the underlying report cannot be altered.

“We need to recognise that climate change and loss of Nature are equally important, not just for the environment, but as development and economic issues as well,” Robert Watson, chair of the UN-mandated body that compiled the report, told AFP, without divulging its findings.

“The way we produce our food and energy is undermining the regulating services that we get from Nature,” he said, adding that only “transformative change” can stem the damage.

Deforestation and agriculture, including livestock production, account for about a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions, and have wreaked havoc on natural ecosystems as well.

'Mass extinction event'

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report warns of “an imminent rapid acceleration in the global rate of species extinction.”

The pace of loss “is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years,” it notes.

“Half-a-million to a million species are projected to be threatened with extinction, many within decades.” Many experts think a so-called “mass extinction event” — only the sixth in the last half-billion years — is already under way.

The most recent event saw the end of the Cretaceous period some 66 million years ago, when a 10-kilometre-wide asteroid strike wiped out most life forms.

Scientists estimate that Earth is today home to some eight million distinct species, a majority of them insects.

A quarter of catalogued animal and plant species are already being crowded, eaten or poisoned out of existence.

The drop in sheer numbers is even more dramatic, with wild mammal biomass — their collective weight — down by 82 per cent.

Humans and livestock account for more than 95 per cent of mammal biomass.

Population growth

“If we’re going to have a sustainable planet that provides services to communities around the world, we need to change this trajectory in the next 10 years, just as we need to do that with climate,” noted WWF chief scientist Rebecca Shaw, formerly a member of the UN scientific bodies for both climate and biodiversity.

The direct causes of species loss, in order of importance, are shrinking habitat and land-use change, hunting for food or illicit trade in body parts, climate change, pollution, and alien species such as rats, mosquitoes and snakes that hitch rides on ships or planes, the report finds.

“There are also two big indirect drivers of biodiversity loss and climate change — the number of people in the world and their growing ability to consume,” said Watson.

Once seen as primarily a future threat to animal and plant life, the disruptive impact of global warming has accelerated.

Shifts in the distribution of species, for example, will likely double if average temperature go up a notch from 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit) to 2C.

So far, the global thermometer has risen 1C compared with mid-19th century levels.

The 2015 Paris Agreement enjoins nations to cap the rise to “well below” 2C. But a landmark UN climate report in October said that would still be enough to boost the intensity and frequency of deadly heatwaves, droughts, floods and storms.

Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2019

Opinion

Back to governance

Back to governance

While PDM has continued efforts to mount political pressure, it has been unable to force a crisis to challenge the PTI government.
Inequality virus
25 Jan 2021

Inequality virus

An Oxfam report calls for radical changes to the economic system.

Editorial

Updated 25 Jan 2021

Where the buck stops

The rights to due process and security of person are accorded to every individual in this country.
25 Jan 2021

PPP’s plan?

THE PDM faces a fresh crisis as the PPP takes a conspicuously soft position on the long march. While the PDM talks ...
25 Jan 2021

Forward guidance

THE State Bank has taken the unusual step of issuing a forward guidance in its latest monetary policy statement to...
Updated 24 Jan 2021

Delayed olive branch

THE PTI government has finally mustered up sufficient political prudence to extend an olive branch to the opposition...
24 Jan 2021

Bureaucracy reform

WHILE the intention behind the endeavour may be lauded, the civil service reform package unveiled by the government...
24 Jan 2021

Minority rights

ON Thursday, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to safeguard religious sites around the world,...