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We’ve put a million species on brink – and our own survival too


Under threat: The Bornean Orangutan is among the most critically endangered animals in the world
Under threat: The Bornean Orangutan is among the most critically endangered animals in the world

People are putting nature in more trouble now than at any other time in human history, with extinction looming over one million species of plants and animals, said scientists.

But it’s not too late to fix the problem, according to the United Nations’ first comprehensive report on biodiversity.

“We have reconfigured dramatically life on the planet,” report co-chairman Eduardo Brondizio of Indiana University said at a press conference.

Species loss is accelerating to a rate tens or hundreds of times faster than in the past, the report said.

More than half-a-million species on land “have insufficient habitat for long-term survival” and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored. The oceans are not any better off.

About three-quarters of Earth’s land and two-thirds of its oceans and 85pc of its wetlands have been severely altered or lost, making it harder for species to survive.

Conservation scientists convened in Paris to issue the report, which ran to over 1,000 pages. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) included more than 450 researchers who used 15,000 scientific and government reports. The report’s summary had to be approved by representatives of all 109 nations. The report highlighted five ways people are reducing biodiversity:

:: Turning forests, grasslands and other areas into farms and cities;

:: Overfishing the oceans;

:: Permitting climate change by burning fossil fuels;

:: Polluting land and water;

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:: Allowing invasive species to crowd out native plants and animals.

Some nations hit harder by the losses, like small island countries, wanted more in the report.

Others, such as the US, were cautious in the language they sought, but agreed “we’re in trouble”, said Rebecca Shaw, chief scientist for the World Wildlife Fund, who observed the final negotiations. “This is the strongest call we’ve seen for reversing the trends on the loss of nature,” she said.

Robert Watson, a British scientist who headed the report, said: “We are indeed threatening the potential food security, water security, human health and social fabric” of humanity.

Irish environmentalists said the public must ratchet up pressure on the Government and big business to tackle climate change.

Green Party senator Grace O’Sullivan told the Irish Independent: “Ireland isn’t living up to its commitments to the Paris Agreement, in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, which is causing global warming.

“We’re not even at the races, we’re so far behind, and this is bad for the environment, for nature, for biodiversity, for humanity, for our own public health, for our pocket.”

Oisin Coughlan, director of Friends of the Earth Ireland, said: “We already know we face a climate crisis.

“This report makes clear our unsustainable economic model has plunged the other natural systems of the planet into crisis too.

“And it brings home that humanity does not thrive apart from nature. We are a part of nature.”

Irish Independent


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