Credit: Norbert Reimer / Creative Commons

Environmental emergency: major assessment reveals humanity entering danger zone as 1 million species risk extinction

Humanity faces a global environmental emergency – that’s the stark warning issued today by the world’s top nature scientists and representatives from 132 governments as they publish the damning results of a three-year assessment into the health of our planet’s ecosystems. The report reveals the alarming extent of global biodiversity breakdown with up to one million species set to disappear within a few decades.

The ‘Global assessment report’ – the most comprehensive study of the planet’s life-support systems ever carried out proves the world is experiencing a ‘sixth mass extinction event’ – as a result of human behaviour.

The 1800-page overview of nature collapse, carried out by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), contains analysis of how changing use of land impacts nature, from forests being cleared to grow soy for livestock feed to wetlands being dredged and polluted.

Environmentalists hope this new report will put more political attention on the fact that humanity faces twin nature and climate crises. They say governments should urgently consider their findings alongside those released last October by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which said that far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society” are essential to keep the world under 1.5 degrees of global warming.

The IPBES report comes amid growing global public concern about both climate and nature breakdown, with school strikes and Extinction Rebellion protests around the world calling on governments to both stop climate emissions and defend nature. It also comes just a few weeks before the European elections, with recent polls showing that the environment is a key priority for 82% of voters.

Robert Watson, the chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), said:

“The loss of species, ecosystems and genetic diversity is already a global and generational threat to human well-being. Protecting the invaluable contributions of nature to people will be the defining challenge of decades to come. Policies, efforts and actions – at every level – will only succeed, however, when based on the best knowledge and evidence. This is what the IPBES Global Assessment provides.”

The last global biodiversity assessment on this scale was carried out 14 years ago in 2005 known as the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. It assessed the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the scientific basis for action needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those ecosystems and their contribution to human well-being.

Sergiy Moroz from the European Environmental Bureau said:

This assessment unequivocally shows that nature is in steep decline and that the global rate of species loss has accelerated rapidly as a direct result of how we live threatening our own survival. Human well-being today and in the future will be fundamentally affected if action is not taken now to improve societies so people and nature thrive together. Let us be clear: we are all dependent on plants and insects for food, clean water and a stable climate.”

Moroz added that the report should be an “important wake up call to EU leaders as they gather at the Sibiu Summit this week to discuss the future of the EU”, urging them to priortise “finding solutions to the dual threat of biodiversity loss and climate change” which should be “at the heart of the European project.”

The IPBES report will be a key piece of scientific evidence for policymakers around the world as it sets out recommendations to decision makers based on future scenarios that depend on the decisions they may or may not take. In 2020, world leaders will take key decisions on the future direction of the Paris Agreement, the Sustainable Development Goals, and a new global framework for biodiversity and nature until 2030.