UN Report Documents "Accelerating" Rate of Extinctions

UN Report Documents "Accelerating" Rate of Extinctions

On May 6, the United Nations Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) released a report documenting the global decline in nature. The IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services is a comprehensive report that builds on a similar assessment last completed in 2005. The report was compiled over the past three years with 145 authors from 50 countries and assesses over 15,000 scientific and government sources. In particular, the report focuses on changes seen in the last five decades to evaluate the relationship between economic development pathways and their impacts on nature.

The major findings of the report suggest that around 1 million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, many within decades, which is more than ever before in human history. It also suggests that the average abundance of native species in land-based habitats has fallen by at least 20 percent since 1900. The Report’s authors suggest that the five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest global impacts are (in descending order): (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species. The comprehensive report suggests that current actions for conservation and sustainable use will not impact the trends, and that “transformative changes across economic, social, political, and technological factors” will be required. Included within the summary for policy makers are examples of tools and practices that could be implemented to improve sustainability.

“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES Chair, Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

“The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” he said. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably – this is also key to meeting most other global goals. By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic, and social factors, including paradigms, goals, and values.”

The Summary for Policy Makers of the Global Assessment is now available online, along with additional video and media resources. The full six-chapter Report (expected to exceed 1,500 pages) will be available later in the year.

May 15, 2019