1 Million Animal And Plant Species Are At Risk Of Extinction, U.N. Report Says
Up to 1 million of the estimated 8 million plant and animal species on Earth are at risk of extinction — many of them within decades — according to scientists and researchers who produced a sweeping U.N. report on how humanity’s burgeoning growth is putting the world’s biodiversity at perilous risk.
Insect pollinators are unfortunately an excellent example of the problems caused by human activities. There’s a newly coined phrase for insect declines — the ‘windshield effect’ — owing to the fact that if you drove your car at dusk 30 years ago, you would need to clean the windshield frequently, but that’s no longer the case today.
Here’s a short selection of some of the report’s notable findings:
-75% of land environment and some 66% of the marine environment have been significantly altered by human actions.
-More than a third of the world’s land surface and nearly 75% of freshwater resources are used for crops or livestock.
-Up to $577 billion in annual global crops are at risk from pollinator loss.
-Between 100 million and 300 million people now face increased risk of floods and hurricanes because of loss of coastal habitats and protection.
-Since 1992, the world’s urban areas have more than doubled.
-Plastic pollution has increased tenfold since 1980, and from 300-400 million tons of heavy metals, solvents, toxic sludge and other industrial waste are dumped into the world’s water systems.
The report found patterns of “telecoupling,” the phenomenon of resources being extracted and made into goods in one part of the world “to satisfy the needs of distant consumers in other regions.” That pattern makes it more complicated to avoid damage to nature through the usual avenues of governance and accountability.
The goal, the report’s authors say, was not only to take stock of a worsening predicament but to give policymakers “the tools they need to make better choices for people and nature.”
The assessment highlights dire predictions for habitats and native species in South America and parts of Asia. But the NWF’s O’Mara warns that the U.S. also has much to lose — especially if biodiversity is viewed as someone else’s problem. “This is a problem here at home,” O’Mara says. “About one-third of all species right now in the U.S. are at heightened risk of potential extinction in the next couple of decades.” Echoing what environmental experts said in Europe as the IPBES released its report, O’Mara says it is not too late to act.
What can we do? For a better conservation of pollinator habitats, check out the Conservation Guides for your region on the Pollinator Conservation Resource Center: https://xerces.org/pollinator-resource-center/