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New UN Report Details Unprecedented Decline in Biodiversity

A new report released by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) gives a harrowing summary of the challenges to sustaining the Earth’s biodiversity. The most comprehensive assessment of its kind, this report estimates that one million species are threatened with extinction due to five factors (listed in descending order of impact):

1) Changes in land and sea use;
2) Direct exploitation of organisms;
3) Climate change;
4) Pollution;
5) Invasive alien species

The report comprehensively describes the threats to biodiversity, the drastic scope of the problem, its implications, and potential policy solutions.

The report distinguishes itself from past works by making a direct connection between biodiversity and human wellbeing. While land-use change and resource exploitation have been the underpinnings of the modern global economy, they are causing losses of biodiversity that will be increasing harmful to society. The predicted loss of species diversity would result in a significant reduction of necessary ecosystem services such as the regulation of air and water quality, pollination and dispersal of seeds, and regulation of hazards and extreme events, among others. On the world’s current trajectory, biodiversity loss will make goals related to poverty, hunger, health, and water far more difficult to achieve.

The report’s authors prescribe a transformational change to current conceptions of economic growth. While Gross Domestic Product may be rising globally, the loss of biodiversity associated with this growth puts a cap on how long we can benefit from the exploitation of nature. As species go extinct, human wellbeing is diminished. Therefore, the report recommends that world governments shift emphasis to achieving improved long-term quality of human life, including biodiversity conservation.

More information can be found on IPBES’ website.

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