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Nature is at death’s door: UN report

May 07, 2019 06:00 AM

COURTESY MIRROR MAY 7

Nature is at death’s door: UN report
IPBES study outlines that at least one million species face the risk of extinction now, many within the next few decades
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A landmark UN report on the state of Nature released Monday shows how humanity has wreaked havoc on the environment, undercutting Earth’s essential life-support systems.


A Summary for Policymakers approved by 132 nations and the underlying 1,800-page scientific report lays bare a planet ravaged by rampant consumption and pollution, where a million species are at risk of extinction.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report, the first of its kind in 15 years, predicts a harrowing future for plants and animals. One million species face the risk of extinction — many within decades.

Species are going extinct up to several hundred times quicker than during the last 10 million years, and half a million plants and animals currently have “insufficient habitat for long term survival”. This mass extinction will have a direct and lasting impact on human life, the report warns.

Crop production has surged 300 per cent since 1970, meaning one third of all land is now used to make food — an industry that uses 75 per cent of all fresh water on Earth.

At least one quarter of all man-made emissions come from agriculture, the vast majority from meat production; half of all new agricultural land is taken from forests. There is currently less than 70 per cent of the forest cover Earth had before the Industrial Revolution.

Experts found that 93 per cent of marine fish stocks are either overfished or fished to the limit of sustainability; one third of all fishing worldwide is said to be illegal or unreported.

In total, we extract around 60 billion tonnes of natural resources from the Earth every year — a rise of 80 percent in a matter of decades.

We dump up to 400 million tonnes of heavy metals, toxic sludge and other waste into oceans and rivers each year. There are roughly 17,000 mines operating worldwide, and at least 6,500 oil and gas installations, kept viable by $345 billion in fossil fuel subsidies.

The underlying report, compiled from more than 15,000 academic papers and research publications, estimates that 75 per cent of land, 40 per cent of oceans and 50 per cent of rivers “manifest severe impacts of degradation” from human activity.

Our plastic production has increased 10-fold since 1990 and the use of fertilisers has doubled in just 13 years.

The IPBES summary said that five per cent of Earth’s species are at risk of extinction if the temperature rises just 2C — still within the targets of the Paris climate deal.

 
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