One million animal and plant species are under threat of extinction because of human activities, according to a new UN report.
The 1,800-page report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), which took around 450 scientists three years to compile, drew on 15,000 reference materials to assess the global state of nature. Officials are now putting together a 39-page summary, incorporating key messages from the full report, which will be issued to policymakers over the six months.
The full study says that human need for increasing amounts of energy and food are driving the decline – the speed of which is unprecedented – and while the trends can be halted, this will take ‘transformative change’ in how humans treat the planet.
The report is a damning indictment of how humanity has treated planet Earth, and lays bare some of the consequences of human behavior. It says that while humans have negatively impacted Earth throughout history, it is in the last 50 years that the damage has been consolidated.
In this time, the global population has doubled, the global economy has quadrupled, with international trade skyrocketing, and the impact of feeding and providing energy and resource to people has been devastating.
Urban areas have doubled since 1992, 100 million hectares of tropical forest were lost between 1980 and 2000 – mainly replaced by cattle ranching and palm oil plantations, and wetlands plummeted by 87 percent between 1700 and 2000.
Waste is also a problem, with plastic pollution increasing 10 times since 1980, and 300-400 million tonnes of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other waste dumped into global waters annually.
The impact of this is that animals and plant species are being killed at faster than ever before rates – with the assessment saying that around 25 percent of animals, insects, and plants are now under threat.
‘Unprecedented decline in biodiversity’
“We have documented a really unprecedented decline in biodiversity and nature, this is completely different than anything we’ve seen in human history in terms of the rate of decline and the scale of the threat,” said the University of Minnesota’s Dr. Kate Brauman, a co-ordinating lead author of the assessment.
“When we laid it all out together I was just shocked to see how extreme the declines are in terms of species and in terms of the contributions that nature is providing to people.”
When it comes to what steps individuals can take to lessen their impact, she added: “We know that the way people eat today is often unhealthy for them and for the planet. We can become healthier as individuals by eating more diverse diets, with more vegetables, and we can also make the planet healthier by growing that food in more sustainable ways.”