Science

United Nations: 1M species threatened as global extinction rates speed up

United Nations: 1M species threatened as global extinction rates speed up”

The report says the approximately one million animal and plant species that are now threatened with extinction is more than ever before in human history. The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever.

A massive new United Nations assessment reports that humans are transforming the Earth so much that 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction.

Experts from some 50 countries compiled it over the past three years and assessed changes over the past five decades.

"Ecosystems, species, wild populations, local varieties and breeds of domesticated plants and animals are shrinking, deteriorating or vanishing", said Josef Settele, co-chair of the group responsible for the new report. The picture was less clear for insect species, but a tentative estimate suggests 10% are at risk of extinction.

"While more food, energy and materials than ever before are now being supplied to people in most places, this is increasingly at the expense of nature's ability to provide such contributions in the future", says the report.

"'We have reconfigured dramatically life on the planet, ' report co-chairman Eduardo Brondizio of Indiana University said at a press conference. But our safety net is stretched nearly to breaking point", Díaz said. The report states that "the global goals for conserving and sustainably using nature and achieving sustainability can not be met by current trajectories, and goals for 2030 and beyond may only be achieved through transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors".

Perhaps the most hard part to swallow is the sheer enormity of the number one million - the number of species who face extinction. "This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world". It focused on the state of nature, ecosystems and the ways human civilizations interact with the natural world, as well as tracking progress on key global initiatives like the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition, 23 percent of land areas have seen a reduction in productivity due to land degradation and 40 percent of the world's population not having access to clean drinking water, the report says. "Humans are estimated to have caused an observed warming of approximately 1.0°C by 2017 relative to pre-industrial levels, with average temperatures over the past 30 years rising by 0.2°C per decade".

Watson said the situation is dire, but that it's "not too late to make a difference".

The world's forests and oceans suck almost 6.2 billion tons (5.6 billion metric tons) of heat-trapping carbon dioxide out of the air each year, the report said.

"Nature can be conserved, restored and used sustainably while simultaneously meeting other global societal goals through urgent and concerted efforts fostering transformative change", the report continues, adding that "by its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good". "By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganisation across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values".



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