1. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warns of an imminent rapid acceleration in the global rate of species extinction. Half to one million species face extinction, many within decades due to human influence. The pace of loss is already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years. Many experts think a so-called mass extinction event, only the sixth in the last half-billion years, is already on the way. Scientists estimate that Earth is today home to some eight million distinct species, a majority of them insects.  A quarter of catalogued animal and plant species are already being crowded, eaten or poisoned out of existence. A dramatic die-off of pollinating insects, especially bees, threatens essential crops valued at half-a-trillion dollars annually. The direct causes of species loss, in order of importance, are shrinking habitat and land-use change, hunting for food or illicit trade in body parts, climate change, pollution, and alien species such as rats, mosquitoes and snakes that hitch rides on ships or planes. 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.
  2. Three-quarters of land surfaces, 40 per cent of the marine environment, and 50 per cent of inland waterways across the globe have been severely altered. A area of tropical forest five times the size of England has been destroyed since 2014, mainly to service the global demand for beef, biofuels, soy beans and palm oil.
  3. A third of ocean fish stocks are in decline, and the rest, barring a few, are harvested at the very edge of sustainability.
  4. Nearly half of land and marine ecosystems have been profoundly compromised by human interference in the last 50 years.

Bottom Line

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.

- Many of the areas where nature’s contribution to human wellbeing will be most severely compromised are home to indigenous peoples and the world’s poorest communities that are also vulnerable to climate change.

- More than two billion people rely on wood fuel for energy, four billion rely on natural medicines, and more than 75 per cent of global food crops require animal pollination.

- Subsidies to fisheries, industrial agriculture, livestock raising, forestry, mining and the production of biofuel or fossil fuel energy encourage waste, inefficiency and over-consumption.

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