Huge change is needed across the world in order to protect our way of life, otherwise one million species could disappear from the face of the earth, a new international report warns.
The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services global assessment reveals nature is declining at rates previously unseen in human history.
“The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever,” IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson said on Monday.
“We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
Sir Robert says it’s not too late to make a difference, but transformative change is needed now.
“We mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganisation across technological, economic and social factors, including paradigms, goals and values.”
Global sustainability goals for 2030 will not be met otherwise, the authors say.
The sobering report comes after three years of work from 145 expert authors, building on a 2005 study and assessing global changes over the past 50 years.
The report finds that around one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction, more than ever before in human history.
Of the world’s estimated 5.9 million land based species, more than 500,000 have insufficient habitat for long-term survival.
The report, which is based on 15,000 scientific and government sources, says the biggest drivers of environmental destruction are changes in land and sea use, exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and invasive species.
Some of the sobering figures include that plastic pollution has increased ten-fold since 1980 and up to 400 million tonnes of industrial waste are dumped in the world’s waters every year.
There are 400 ocean “dead zones” caused by fertilisers entering coastal ecosystems – a combined area larger than the UK.
The report notes that 60 billion tonnes of resources are extracted every year, nearly double the amount in 1980.
In Australia three native species have become extinct in the last decade and scientists say 17 more could be wiped out in the next 20 years.
The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Basha Stasak wants the federal government to implement a goal to protect 30 per cent of earth’s land and waters by 2030.
“The global assessment is clear – there are limits to the destructive human activity nature can withstand. We are not just pushing those limits, we are breaking them at unprecedented rates,” she said.
“Our next federal government must strongly argue for a global deal that has clear measurable targets and obligations that halt the extinction, ensure species populations recover and protect critical ecosystems.”
The IPBES is an independent intergovernmental body established in 2012 by 94 governments that operates under the auspices of the United Nations.