Human activity threatens up to one million animal and plant species with extinction, a major new report sponsored by the UN has found.
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The brief 40-page “summary for policymakers”, published in Paris on Monday, “is perhaps the most powerful indictment of how humans have treated their only home”, says the BBC.
CNN says the “landmark report” paints “a bleak picture of a planet ravaged by an ever-growing human population, whose insatiable consumption is destroying the natural world”.
Experts from 50 countries who met in the French capital last week have warned a “mass extinction event” – similar to the one which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago but precipitated by human activities – is already underway.
Around 25% of all animals and plants are now at risk, with more than a million species now facing extinction within decades, a rate of destruction tens to hundreds of times higher than the average over the past 10 million years.
Meanwhile the productivity of the land surface of the Earth has been reduced by 23%, as increased demands for food from a growing global human population has led to the replacement of natural wilderness and forests with intensive farming. At sea, only 3% of the world’s oceans were described as free from human pressure in 2014, while 33% of fish stocks were harvested at unsustainable levels in 2015.
The conversion of forests and grasslands into farms was identified as the biggest threat to wildlife, followed by excessive exploitation of animals and plants by overfishing, hunting and logging.
Climate change, despite gaining so much attention, is only the third biggest threat, with pollution and the spread of invasive species ranked fourth and fifth.
At the same time, the amount of waste we produce each year has skyrocketed. Plastic pollution has increased ten-fold since 1980.
Only a wide-ranging transformation of the global economic and financial system could pull ecosystems that are vital to the future of human communities worldwide back from the brink of collapse, the report concluded.
Endorsed by 130 countries including the US, Russia and China “the study is a cornerstone of an emerging body of research that suggests the world may need to embrace a new ‘post-growth’ form of economics if it is to avert the existential risks posed by the mutually-reinforcing consequences of pollution, habitat destruction and carbon emissions”, says Reuters.
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