Degraded Planet: UN report warns of irreversible, anthropogenic species die-off, with grave consequences for humanity

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Published: March 28, 2018 3:31:40 AM

IPBES warns that in the next three decades, the entire Asia-Pacific fish could vanish, while more than half of African bird and mammal species will go extinct by the turn of the century; 90% of the Asia-Pacific coral reefs will have suffered severe to near-total degradation by 2050.

degraded planet, UN report, climate changeMuch of the discourse on humanity?s impact on nature focuses on anthropogenic climate change and its costs to humans. (Reuters)

Much of the discourse on humanity’s impact on nature focuses on anthropogenic climate change and its costs to humans. Humanity’s impact on other life-forms is commonly known, but very infrequently acknowledged. Against such a backdrop, the findings of a study by the UN’s Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) are a sobering and important reminder. IPBES warns that in the next three decades, the entire Asia-Pacific fish could vanish, while more than half of African bird and mammal species will go extinct by the turn of the century; 90% of the Asia-Pacific coral reefs will have suffered severe to near-total degradation by 2050.

Unsustainable exploitation of nature and other anthropogenic factors, including climate change, are causing the worst biodiversity crisis in the history of the planet—a recent study showed that France’s population of farm-birds is collapsing, thanks to overuse of pesticides, even as, with the death of the last male Northern White rhinoceros last week, the species now faces assured extinction. The ongoing mass extinction is the planet’s sixth, but the first one brought about by mankind’s pressure on the planet’s resources, and the perhaps the most accelerated—two species of vertebrates have gone extinct every year on an average over the past century. Species population in the Americas, already smaller by 31% since the arrival of European colonisers, will have shrunk by 40% by 2050.

Increasing waste and pollution, land degradation (as much as 500,000 sq km of land in Africa has already become degraded), loss of acreage and diversity of forests, rise in invasive aliens, agricultural intensification, extreme weather events are creating “unprecedented threats” for biodiversity. Eroded biodiversity doesn’t only mean a loss of the richness of life on Earth, it will also have significant impact on livelihoods, food security, and, consequently, productivity of humans. Given this mass species-loss, though irreversible, can be slowed down, governments of the 129 member-nations of the IPBES need to focus on arriving at a Paris-like accord. Else, the effects of climate change get compounded.

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