Over One Million Plants and Animals Could Soon Be Extinct

More than 1 million species at risk of extinction because of humans, UN warns

Six months after the United Nations announced the world has less than 12 years to act on climate change, the agency is warning an estimated 1 million species are threatened with extinction thanks to human consumption.

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That’s according to a new UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report, considered the most comprehensive assessment of global nature loss to date and written by 145 experts from 50 countries.

The systematic review of nearly 15,000 scientific and government sources details a projected threat of extinction for more than 40% of the world’s amphibians, 33% of coral reefs, more than a third of all marine mammals and potentially 10% of insects.

Researchers also found three-quarters of the land-based environment and 66% of marine environment have been “significantly altered by human actions” since pre-industrial times and plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, with “300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other wastes from industrial facilities are dumped annually into the world’s water.”

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The main drivers of species loss, according to the report, include human-led alteration of land and sea, direct human exploitation of organisms, global warming, pollution and invasive alien species.

Our current rate of species extinction, the IPBES stated, “is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years.”

“The essential, interconnected web of life on Earth is getting smaller and increasingly frayed,” German professor Josef Settele, who co-chaired the assessment, said in a statement. “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world.”

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Only “transformative change” across economic, social, political and technological dimensions may help overcome the problem.

In the report summary, experts suggest humans can improve sustainability in farming, reduce food waste, reduce pollution from land to sea and establish species exploitation quotas.

Jane Goodall

More about the report at ipbes.net.

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