A UN report suggests the main cause behind this is the rapidly growing human population. "We should act now to avoid a dire future," scientists warn.
Recent UN reports show that one million out of the eight million animal species are currently endangered. This rapid decline in the number of animals per species is thanks to the ever-growing human population! On Monday, scientists warned that this has been the most comprehensive assessment of global nature loss ever. The landmark report gives the world a clear and honest picture of a planet ravaged by an ever-growing human population, whose insatiable consumption is destroying the natural world. The global rate of species extinction "is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years," according to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPEBS), a UN committee, whose report was written by 145 experts from 50 countries. The world is on its way to witnessing the sixth mass extinction in history and this time, natural causes are not responsible for it.
The main causes of this mass extinction are pollution, shrinking habitats, exploitation of natural resources, and climate change. Even climate change is being caused because of man. The world is heating up faster than it should, the ice caps are melting at a rapid pace and this process of climate change is only being rushed by human behavior and efforts. These causes are threatening more than 40% of amphibians, 33% of coral reefs, and over a third of all marine mammals with extinction, as per the reports.
"The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever," said Sir Robert Watson, IPBES chair, adding that "transformative change" is needed to save the planet. The report comes six months after the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)warned that the world has less than 12 years to avoid catastrophic levels of global warming. The authors of the report are hoping that this will thrust loss of nature into the global spotlight. It needs to encourage people to start making an effort to save the planet.
Humans are not just the main culprits of climate change but also of biodiversity damage. Human activities are responsible for altering 75 percent of Earth's land and 66 percent of marine ecosystems since pre-industrial times. The report sheds light on the disastrous effects the growth of the human population and its increased demands have had. The population of the world has doubled in the last 50 years. Over these years, the gross domestic product per person has increased by four times. More than a third of the world's land and 75 percent of freshwater supplies are used for crop or livestock production, the report notes.
Just as with climate change, humans are the main culprits of biodiversity damage, altering 75% of Earth's land and 66% of marine ecosystems since pre-industrial times, according to the report.
The report emphasizes the disastrous impact of population growth and rising demand. It notes that the world's population has more than doubled (from 3.7 to 7.6 billion) in the last 50 years, and gross domestic product per person is four times higher. More than a third of the world's land and 75% of freshwater supplies are used for crop or livestock production, it noted.
"[There is] very little of the planet left that has not been significantly altered by us," Sandra Diaz, co-author of the report and professor of ecology at the University of Córdoba, told CNN. "We need to act as stewards for life on Earth". Diaz suggests that countries in the Global North are to be particularly held responsible for the damage caused to nature. The main reason behind this is their 'unsustainable' levels of consumption, especially when it comes to fishing and logging. The report further states that marine plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, with an average of 300-400 million tons of waste dumped into the world's waters annually.
Despite all the damage that has already been caused, "it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global," said Watson, adding that this would require an overhaul of economic systems and a shift in political and social mindsets. According to Diaz, the governments need to implement drastic changes in order to avoid a "dire future" in 10-20 years when their "food and climate security [is] in jeopardy."
Climate change has already started playing its role by contributing to biodiversity loss by triggering more extreme weather events. The rising sea levels will only add to the damage in the coming decades. According to the report, it is possible to improve sustainability in farming by planning landscapes so that they provide food while also supporting the species that live there. It also suggests that we reduce food waste and reform supply chains. The report further recommends effective fishing quotas, designated protected areas and reducing the pollution that runs off from the land into the sea.
Guenter Mitlacher, director of international biodiversity policy at the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), said, "Ours is the first generation with the tools to see how the Earth has been changed by people at our own peril. We're also the last generation with the opportunity to influence the course of many of those changes. Now is the time to act, not halfheartedly and incrementally but drastically and boldly."