Science

One million species, or a quarter of all that are left, are now under threat of extinction

One million species, or a quar...
A quarter of the world’s species are under threat of extinction. This tarsier appears to think he could be one of them.
A quarter of the world’s species are under threat of extinction. This tarsier appears to think he could be one of them.
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A quarter of the world’s species are under threat of extinction. This tarsier appears to think he could be one of them.
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A quarter of the world’s species are under threat of extinction. This tarsier appears to think he could be one of them.

Earth stands to lose a massive 25 percent of its biodiversity, warned UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay as she launched a Global Assessment study to more than 130 government delegations in Paris. "No one will be able to claim that they did not know," she said.

The study featured the work of more than 400 experts across at least 50 countries, coordinated by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in Bonn, Germany. It focused on the state of nature, ecosystems and the ways human civilizations interact with the natural world, as well as tracking progress on key international initiatives like the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The study looks into what it describes as the five main factors driving "unprecedented biodiversity and ecosystem change over the last 50 years" – changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and the invasion of alien species.

The outlook is bleak, in a depressingly routine fashion. Around one million species, representing a quarter of all remaining species on the planet, "already face extinction, many within decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss." Domesticated animals aren't necessarily safe either. By 2016, 559 of the 6,190 different breeds of animals used for food and agriculture had already gone extinct, and about a thousand more are under threat.

And even though the rate of species extinction is already currently tens to hundreds of times faster than it's averaged over the last 10 million years, it will continue to accelerate should our current practices continue.

Wild relatives of domesticated animals and crops are at risk – a threat to long-term food security – and while the report card on pollution is mixed, many types of pollution are increasing, and marine plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, affecting at least 267 species. Humanity has "significantly altered" 75 percent of the Earth's land surface, and 66 percent of the ocean area is "experiencing increasing cumulative impacts."

"While more food, energy and materials than ever before are now being supplied to people in most places, this is increasingly at the expense of nature's ability to provide such contributions in the future," says the report. "The biosphere, upon which humanity as a whole depends … is declining faster than at any time in human history."

"Nature can be conserved, restored and used sustainably while simultaneously meeting other global societal goals through urgent and concerted efforts fostering transformative change," the report continues, adding that "by its very nature, transformative change can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good."

You can read the 39-page summary for policymakers here.

Source: UN News

17 comments
Nik
The Earth is presently in the same conditions as last existed during the Permian extinction, 270 million years ago, with regard to global average temperature and CO2, so its not surprising that the extinction rate is beginning to match that. Fiddling with the trivial amount of anthropogenic CO2 will do nothing to change that, because the reasons are primarily extraterrestrial. Unless someone can find a control to turn up the suns activity to warm the planet, and therefore increase CO2, matters will only get worse. The Earth is not ''HOT'' if it was, greenhouses would be unnecessary. They are not! What should be happening, is the re-greening of desert areas, a lot of which were produced by human activity, removal of 'prairie farming' for more ecological friendly and sustainable systems, that are beneficial to all life, but THAT would affect profits, so wont happen, until the system collapses, into desert, as has happened worldwide already.
Dalong
Years ago I read an article about a colony of mice living in a self-contained biosphere. At first all was well. Eventually though, the population got too big and the biosphere couldn`t support them all and the mice went crazy and killed each other off.
ChipDry
Did the UN put enough guilt into you yet? If they can induce enough panic, you won't mind paying more and more taxes for Climate Hoax. Because that's what all of this comes down to: more and more of your money paid to them.
knemchak
More than 99 percent of all species, amounting to over five billion species, that ever lived on Earth are estimated to have died out. Estimates on the number of Earth's current species range from 10 million to 14 million, of which about 1.2 million have been documented and over 86 percent have not yet been described.
Robert in Vancouver
The UN is looking for another money generating scam with this extinction report. How can anyone take the UN seriously? They said: - Canadians are sufferring from food insecurity. - the UK doesn't protect human rights. - most life on earth would end by 2015 due to global warming. And they appointed Saudi Arabia to the UN womans rights council.
Rock13
Very dramatic and frightening...until you realize that most of the creatures that ever existed on earth are now extinct.
CopaGuy
The sky is falling. The sky is falling. I'm sick of this apocalyptic garbage. Not to mention that the UN has Zero credibility in my book.
Infragreen
Sometimes I find very insightful comments on articles on this website. This article is not one of them.
amazed W1
Agree with Rock 13 that it is frightening, but don't forget we are one of the species that might well become extinct, with many of the others that we are driving to the brink. The justifiable complaint is that the UN although commissioning studies like this simply does not have the courage to address the real problem, the gross over-population of humans whose growth has not slowed down and if anything is picking up. Malthus's observation, that given no control on population a species will run out of its resources, has been studied in miniature as Dalong suggests and comes to the same conclusion. The UN needs look no further than land ruination caused by the need to increase food production, water shortages that underly one of the most insoluble situations in the Mid East, and the finding that rare earth metals are sufficiently rare for the concept of batteries for electrical storage on a large scale is fundamentally flawed. Also of course increasing pollution of all kinds goes hand in hand with increasing populations. We tinker with solutions to the symptoms but turn blind eyes to the underlying illness, and do it at our descendants peril.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Industrial carbon dioxide, at 100 ppm, represents about 1% of the total greenhouse effect. Maybe this is enough to "flip" the climate, as Carl Sagan suggested. If this is true, the 4% due to industrial water would likely be enough, with the carbon dioxide minimized. The mean global temperature without water is about freezing. In an ice age, the air is very dry and most of the heat escapes from the equatorial desserts into space. In a warm era, the desserts shrink and the radiation is blocked by water vapor.