LIFE

1 million species risk extinction due to humans: draft UN report

A view of the Vohibola forest, one of the last primary forests in eastern Madagascar, where illegal logging is rampant.AFPAFP

A view of the Vohibola forest, one of the last primary forests in eastern Madagascar, where illegal logging is rampant.AFPAFP  

The document, to be unveiled on May 6, urges policymakers to make big changes

Up to one million species face extinction due to human influence, according to a draft UN report that painstakingly catalogues how humanity has undermined the natural resources upon which its very survival depends.

The accelerating loss of clean air, drinkable water, forests, pollinating insects, protein-rich fish and storm-blocking mangroves — to name but a few of the dwindling services rendered by Nature — poses no less of a threat than climate change, says the report, set to be unveiled on May 6.

Indeed, biodiversity loss and global warming are closely linked, according to the 44-page summary for policymakers, which distils a 1,800-page UN assessment of scientific literature on the state of Nature.

Delegates from 130 nations meeting in Paris from April 29 will vet the executive summary line-by-line. Wording may change, but figures lifted from the underlying report cannot be altered.

“We need to recognise that climate change and loss of Nature are equally important, not just for the environment, but as development and economic issues as well,” said Robert Watson, chair of the UN-mandated body that compiled the report.

Unsustainable methods

“The way we produce our food and energy is undermining the regulating services that we get from Nature,” he said, adding that only “transformative change” can stem the damage.

The report warns of “an imminent rapid acceleration in the global rate of species extinction”.

The pace of loss “is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years,” it notes. “Half-a-million to a million species are projected to be threatened with extinction, many within decades.”

“If we’re going to have a sustainable planet that provides services to communities around the world, we need to change this trajectory in the next ten years, just as we need to do that with climate,” noted WWF chief scientist Rebecca Shaw, formerly a member of the UN scientific bodies for both climate and biodiversity.

The direct causes of species loss, in order of importance, are shrinking habitat and land-use change, hunting for food or illicit trade in wildlife body parts, climate change and pollution, the report finds.

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