United Nations: One million species at risk of extinction because of humans

A frightening United Nations report due for release next month outlines the risk of extinction for up to one million species and names humans as the top cause of the coming devastation and our own demise.

The world is racing against time as climate change becomes an even greater threat to our very survival.

The United Nations is already working toward protecting international waters from exploitation to prevent further damage to already vulnerable ecosystems and marine populations. And scientists are warning world leaders that we must protect between 30 percent and 50 percent of the planet as soon as possible in order to save it.

And a new report from the international organization makes it clear why there is such urgency to act, because it warns up to one million species on Earth are in danger of becoming extinct, a scenario that would also put humans on the endangered list.

According to Agence France Presse (AFP):

The accelerating loss of clean air, drinkable water, CO2-absorbing forests, pollinating insects, protein-rich fish and storm-blocking mangroves — to name but a few of the dwindling services rendered by Nature — poses no less of a threat than climate change, says the report, set to be unveiled May 6.

“We need to recognize that climate change and loss of Nature are equally important, not just for the environment, but as development and economic issues as well,” Robert Watson, chair of the UN-mandated body that compiled the report, told the news organization. “The way we produce our food and energy is undermining the regulating services that we get from Nature.”

Indeed, by ignoring climate change, we are ignoring the fact that our own food, water and oxygen resources depend upon other species and natural forces that are being threatened.

For instance, bees are an important pollinator for plants that produce food for billions of humans all around the globe. If the bees die, billions of humans could die as well.

The threat to coral reefs risks choking the oceans with algae that will reduce oxygen levels and kill fish on a scale that will threaten human populations even more.

The fossil fuel industry is poisoning our fresh water systems for profit and extreme drought due to hotter temperatures is drying up water resources as well.

In fact, there is so much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today that planting more trees is not enough to save us.

AFP reports that a mass extinction may be imminent.

The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report warns of “an imminent rapid acceleration in the global rate of species extinction.”

The pace of loss “is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years,” it notes.

“Half-a-million to a million species are projected to be threatened with extinction, many within decades.”

Former United Nations scientist Rebecca Shaw explained that humans have ten years to change this devastating trajectory before it becomes irreversible.

“If we’re going to have a sustainable planet that provides services to communities around the world, we need to change this trajectory in the next ten years, just as we need to do that with climate,” she said. “There are also two big indirect drivers of biodiversity loss and climate change — the number of people in the world and their growing ability to consume.”

As stewards of the Earth, it is our responsibility to change the outcome we are headed toward. The impact of climate change and human exploitation on our planet is not something anyone can hide from. At some point, everyone will suffer regardless of how rich or poor they are. We are the only ones with the capability to transform the world so there is a future for our children and grandchildren and generations beyond. We can no longer afford to be selfish for profit. We can no longer afford to ignore the problem and we can no longer afford to pretend it doesn’t exist. We either unite to save the Earth or we watch it die, and humanity’s future with it.

Featured Image: Wikimedia

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Stephen D. Foster Jr.

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