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Are Species close to extinction?

This Monday the world were hit not only by usual political end economical news but also by huge ecological piece – shocking UN report on species and human future. 

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reveled a landmark new report in Paris on May,6, warning that nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history – and the rate of species extinctions is accelerating, with grave impacts on people around the world. Due to the human impact on the environment, about a million species of animals and plants were on the verge of extinction. 

“Our report focuses on how quickly we lose biodiversity and to what extent we are able to preserve it in the future. If we want our children to leave the world, not destroyed by man, we must act immediately, ”said Professor Sir Bob Watson, chairman of IPBES.

Since 1970, the world’s population has doubled, the global economy has quadrupled, and international trade tenfold. In order to feed, clothe and energize this rapidly growing world, forests are being cut down faster and faster, especially in tropical areas.

The report of 1,800 pages, at a conference in Paris, presented its short 40-page version. The report assesses how much humanity today depends on the state of natural systems in various areas – in the supply of food, fresh water, in the absorption of greenhouse gases, whose increasing emissions contribute to the warming of the atmosphere.

Compiled by 145 expert authors from 50 countries over the past three years, with inputs from another 310 contributing authors, the Report assesses changes over the past five decades, providing a comprehensive picture of the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature. It also offers a range of possible scenarios for the coming decades.

Based on the systematic review of about 15,000 scientific and government sources, the Report also draws (for the first time ever at this scale) on indigenous and local knowledge, particularly addressing issues relevant to Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities.

The report contains many dramatic details on how humankind has destroyed natural ecosystems over the past 50 years, as well as an assessment of what is likely to happen in the coming decades if urgent measures are not taken.

According to scientists the extinction of biological species continues at an accelerating pace, the reasons are

– the development and change of global agriculture and land use. Emergency measures are needed at the political level to prevent a global environmental catastrophe.

Between 1980 and 2000, 100 million hectares of tropical forests were lost, mainly due to clearing forests in South America for grazing, and in Southeast Asia – for plantations of oil palm trees.

Urbanization is accelerating around the world – the area of cities has doubled since 1992.

According to the authors of the report, about 25% of the animal and plant species of the planet are currently under threat of destruction.

Global trends in the field of insect ecology remain unknown, but cases of mass death of bees and other insects in different parts of the world are well known.

“We have documented a truly unprecedented process of reducing biodiversity and the degradation of natural systems; this process is completely different than anything we have previously seen in the history of mankind, in terms of the pace of change and the scale of the threat, ”says Dr. Kate Brauman, a biologist at the University of Minnesota and one of the leading authors of the report.

“When we summarized all these data, I was amazed at how extreme these changes are for many species.”

Soil degradation rates around the world have never been this high. This led to a decrease in the productivity of 23% of the entire land surface on Earth.

Our immoderate appetites lead to the formation of mountains of garbage. Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since the 1980s.

Every year we dump 300-400 million tons of waste with a high content of heavy metals, toxic substances and other reagents into the world ocean.

WHAT IS THE REASON FOR THIS CRISIS

The authors of the report indicate that a number of factors are behind these processes, but their main driving force is the change in the attitude of man towards the use of the earth.

This means replacing the meadows with fields for growing crops, replacing natural virgin forests with plantations or clearing them for grain and other crops.

Since 1980, more than half of the growth in agricultural production in the world has been achieved through deforestation. There is a similar story with marine land.

According to 2014 data, only 3% of the world’s oceans is outside the sphere of human activities.

In 2015, 33% of the world’s fish stocks were exploited without thinking about the future.

Over the past 150 years, the area of coral reefs has almost halved.

“Land use has now become the main driver of the biodiversity crisis; 70% of agricultural production is related to livestock and meat production, ”says Jan Laurens, a French ecologist.

NUMBER OF SPECIES DROP

Risk of species extinction: Approximately 25% of species are endangered in most of the animal and plant groups studied.

Natural ecosystems: they declined by 47% on average relative to the earliest parameters recorded by science.

Biomass and species abundance: The global biomass of wild mammals has decreased by 82%. The numbers of vertebrate species have declined rapidly since 1970.

Indigenous Habitats: 72% of indicators indicate a continuing deterioration of the natural environment in which they live.

WHAT COMES WITH THE FUTURE?

It all depends on what measures the world will take. The authors of the report consider a number of possible scenarios for the further development of events in the terrestrial biosphere.

Almost all of them point to the continuation of the bleak trends until 2050 and beyond.

Only one group of scenarios that do not lead to an environmental catastrophe is based on a decisive change in all the economic activities of mankind. Environmentalists call such changes transformational.

“We have radically reformatted life on the planet. One thing is clear: this can no longer continue, ”said Eduardo Brondizio, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University, commenting on the results of a large-scale study.

The report does not contain recommendations that should be followed by one or another country. Instead, it contains indications of possible measures.

WHAT TO DO?

One of the main ideas of the report is the proposal to abandon the concept of unrestrained and endless economic growth. It involves stopping the use of the concept of GDP as the main parameter of economic well-being, and instead apply more general approaches that are based on measuring the quality of life and the long-term consequences of the development of economic activity.

Scientists point out that traditional notions of a high standard of living are based on an increase in consumption at all levels. This must be changed.

Similarly, governments will have to change the policy of financial incentives for economic activities that are detrimental to biological diversity.

“The most important thing is that governments stop applying subsidies to the extractive industries, as well as fisheries and agriculture,” said Andrew Norton, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development.

“Such a policy is at the heart of the brutal exploitation of the biosphere, on whose health the existence of billions of men, women and children depends now and in the future,” emphasizes Norton.

Protected areas on land and in the oceans should grow rapidly, and scientists believe that they should be allocated a third of the existing land.

“We need to guarantee biodiversity in half of the planet by 2050, with an intermediate goal of 30% by 2030”, notes Jonathan Bailey, a member of the National Geographic Society.

DANGER TO US THREATENS MORE THAN DANGER OF CLIMATE CHANGE?

Global climate change is a crucial fundamental factor that contributes to the destruction of the biosphere. Since 1980, greenhouse gas emissions have doubled, and the average temperature throughout the planet has increased by 0.7 degrees Celsius.

This has a huge impact on some species, limiting their habitats and putting them at risk of extinction. The report indicates that if the average temperature rises by 2 degrees Celsius, 5% of all existing species will be at risk of destruction, caused by climate change on the planet; this figure will increase to 16% if the atmosphere warms up by 4 degrees.

“However, climate change is in third place on the list of factors that threaten biological diversity,” says Professor John Spicer from the University of Plymouth. “In the first and second places are the use of land and water for economic purposes and the direct exploitation of natural resources.”

WHAT CAN EACH PERSON do?

The idea of transformational change applies not only to governments or local authorities. Individuals can also contribute to its implementation.

“We know that the structure of the habitual diet of many people harms their health and the health of the entire planet,” says Kate Brauman. “We can eat less meat and more vegetables, we can introduce methods for sustainable agricultural development, including livestock and crop production.”

The authors of the report also indicate that political determination to change the situation will become of paramount importance.

“For society as a whole, it may be beneficial to invest not in coal mining, but in the use of renewable energy sources,” says Dr. Rinku Roy Chowdhury of Clark University in Massachusetts.

“How to achieve this? By democratic actions, by voting, by political protests, ”he concludes.

Actions must be taken on many levels, starting from personal, local, going to state and global levels. All effort are priceless, a;; help is needed to stop this accelerating pace of changes.