In a landmark report on the devastating impact of modern civilization and relentless economic growth on the environment, scientists have warned that up to one million plant and animal species are at risk of extinction.
The report, which is known as the Global Assessment, found that a million of the earth’s estimated plant, animal and insect species were at imminent risk of extinction, many within decades. Mankind’s activities are now posing a threat to the earth’s life support systems on which humanity itself depends.
The study was produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which groups 130 countries.
A summary of the report was part of a 40-minute presentation to government ministers at the G7 meeting in Metz, France.
In an impassioned appeal to governments, scientists have accused vested economic interests of blocking vital reforms in energy, farming, and mining, which are desperately needed to save the planet’s ecosystems.
“If we want to leave a world for our children and grandchildren that has not been destroyed by human activity, we need to act now. If we do not act now, many of the million threatened species will become as extinct as the dodo on this tie,” said Robert Watson, who chaired the study, at a news conference in Paris.
The Global Assessment found that industrial farming and fishing were driving the crisis, which was also being severely exasperated by climate change brought about by the burning of fossil fuels.
It is the largest, most comprehensive study of its kind and represents an emerging body of research that the world must embrace another form of economics if it is to avert the spiralling effects of climate change, pollution, and habitat destruction.
The report is based on 15,000 scientific papers and was compiled over three years and identifies the risks from the disappearance of insects as vital pollinators and the destruction of coral reefs, which are vital for fish populations.
40% of all amphibian species and third of all marine mammals are on the threatened list, while 10% of insects could be lost.
The findings will add pressure on governments to try and agree to action to protect wildlife at a major conference on biodiversity due to take place in Beijing next year. The summit will attempt to set targets to limit biodiversity loss over the coming decades, amid an understanding among policymakers that the climate crisis and threatened extinctions are interconnected.
The Economic Case for Biodiversity
In response to the Global Assessment, the British government has commissioned a professor at Cambridge University, Sir Partha Dasgupta, to write a report championing the economic case for biodiversity, which is due to be published before the summit in China.
Dasgupta will calculate the economic benefits of vibrant ecosystems, such as forest that absorb carbon and insect colonies that pollinate crops as well as the costs of neglecting our ecosystems.
“It will be like the Stern report. That was a very powerful tool in the argument for action against climate change,” said Pașca-Palmer, referring to the 2006 study by British economist Nicholas Stern that argued that global warming was the great market failure in human history.
But environmental groups said the UK needs actions and not more reports even within its own territory. Friends of the Earth released figures of threatened UK species, including the skylark, whose numbers are down 40% in the last 50 years and the red squirrel, down 66% in 20 years.
“For too long, the UK government has failed to reverse nature decline not just within its own borders but also internationally. We need a commitment from ministers for a huge nature boost – it’s not enough to simply maintain what little we have left.” Friends of the Earth’s nature campaigner, Sandra Bell, told the Guardian.
Conservation groups also called on the government to integrate the loss of biodiversity into trade and overseas development policy, such as banning the import of crops, which are farmed on illegally cleared land.