IPBES reports on massive species extinction - humans eradicate nature from earth

Nature is not feeling well and this should know gradually everyone by now. The new report of the "Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biological Diversity and Ecosystem Services" (IPBES) could not be more frightening. The current massive loss of biodiversity poses an acute threat to human livelihoods. In the last 500 million years, life on Earth has been almost wiped out five times. The causes were phenomena such as climate change, an extreme ice age, volcanic eruptions and the meteorite that hit the Gulf of Mexico 65 million years ago, eradicating dinosaurs and a number of other species. These events are referred to as the five major mass deaths, and there is every indication that a sixth massive extinction is imminent now. The sadest fact: It is caused by humans.

"Climate change is not the most important precursor of biodiversity loss if one compares it with the changes brought about since 1970 by the impact on land and sea use, as well as the impacts of extraction, but we clearly see how climate change is becoming more relevant in recent years and how it will be from now until 2030", says Sandra Díaz, who is an Argentinean scientist and ecologist at the National University of Córdoba, and main author of the Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services report alongside Josef Settele from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) in Halle and Brazilian anthropologist Eduardo Brondízio.  

Species extinction is more than just an environmental issue

In the report you find facts like: Of the estimated eight million animal and plant species worldwide, around one million are threatened with extinction. The extent of species extinction has never been greater in the history of mankind than today - and the extinction rate continues to rise. Three-quarters of the natural areas on the continents, and two-thirds in the oceans have already been significantly changed by humans - tendency rising.

Plastic waste pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, and, according to the report, vast quantities of heavy metals, toxins and other waste materials from factories are discharged into water.

The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and cyclones as well as forest fires, floods and droughts have increased in the last 50 years. The average sea level increased between 16 and 21 centimeters since 1900, at a rate of three millimeters per year in the last 20 years.

The loss of biodiversity is not just an environmental issue, but also influences development, the economy, political stability and social aspects such as refugee flows. The authors of the report say that it is not yet too late for countermeasures, "but only if we start immediately at all local to global levels". Fundamental changes in technology, economy and society, including paradigms, goals and values, are needed.

In most rural habitats, the number of naturally occurring species has dwindled by at least 20 percent, mostly since 1900, according to another of the report's key messages. More than 40 percent of amphibian species, almost 33 percent of reef-forming corals and more than a third of all marine mammal species are threatened. 47 percent of terrestrial mammals are threatened, and 23 percent of the birds at risk of extinction may already have changed their distribution.

The diversity of farm animals is also dwindling: more than 9 percent of the domesticated mammal breeds used as meat suppliers or work animals will be extinct by 2016. 

Only 2 degrees of increasing temperature mean 5 percent of global extinction

If there is an increase of 2 degrees Celsius in the global temperature, 5 percent of the world’s species would be at risk of extinction, and this percentage would reach 16 percent in a scenario of a 4.3-degrees Celsius warming. Following the current trend of greenhouse gas emissions, climate models predict between 3.2 and 5.9 degrees Celsius warming above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, if the Paris Agreement will be ignored furthermore.

According to IPBES, Coral reefs are particularly vulnerable and they are expected to reduce in size to 10-30 percent of current sizes with a 1.5-degree warming.

Similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, this paper intends to create an internationally accepted level on the situation and possible solutions. Participating researchers hope to give a new impetus to species protection and to initiate a change towards sustainable development. 

DM