UN Report: “We are eroding the foundations of our economies and livelihoods.”

The United Nations has handed down its Global Assessment study, which underlines the five main drivers behind the ‘unprecedented’ loss of the Earth’s biodiversity.

The report marked the first climate impact study to be undertaken by the United Nations since 2005, and paints a bleak portrait of the world’s ecosystems if ‘business as usual’ is to carry on. “Current efforts to conserve the earth’s resources will likely fail without radical action, UN biodiversity experts said on Monday,” according to the report.

The five main drivers behind the loss of biodiversity were identified in the report as changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasion of alien species.

“The overwhelming evidence of the Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” Sir Robert Watson, Chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) said at the presentation of the report in Paris.

He continued, “The health of our ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

Key Findings from the Report

  • One million plant and animal species are at risk of becoming extinct within decades;

  • Marine pollution has increased tenfold;

  • Three-quarters of the Earth’s land, two-thirds of the oceans and 85% of crucial wetlands have been severely altered or lost;

  • 300 to 400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents and toxic materials are dumped into the ocean each year;

  • Creation of oceanic dead zones greater than the size of the United Kingdom;

  • 45%: increase in raw timber production since 1970;

  • 15%: increase in global per capita consumption of materials since 1980;

The Global Assessment report came together over the past three years with the help of 145 expert authors from fifty countries. Fifty years of changes were mapped by the authors, as well as the relationship between economic development and their environmental impacts, and some predictions for the future.

“The report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” Watson said.

“Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably - this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”

Sir Robert Watson's call echoes that of David Attenborough's recent comments which we reported last week, following the airing of his latest documentary.

“It may sound frightening,” Attenborough said, “but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our species.”

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