A new report from a UN committee finds that approximately one million species face extinction in the coming decades specifically due to human activity.
This would amount to roughly 12.5% of Earth’s eight million species if the mass extinction the report warns about comes to fruition.
The report, which was compiled by the Intergovernmental Science Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) — a UN committee consisting of 145 scientific experts representing 50 different countries — specifically warned that more than 40% of amphibian species, and nearly a third of reef-forming coral species as well as a third of marine animals could go extinct in the next few decades as a result of human activity.
Some of the most destructive human activity described in the report includes overfishing, human development of land and sea resources, pollution, and global warming. Much of this human activity has also brought in invasive species harmful to animals in their native habitats. According to the report, there has been a 70% increase in invasive alien species by country over the last 49 years.
“The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson stated. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”
“[I]t is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” Watson continued. “Through ‘transformative change’, nature can still be conserved, restored and used sustainably … By transformative change, we mean a fundamental, system-wide reorganization across technological, economic and social factors.”
This is in line with what a separate UN entity already wrote for the 2019 Global Sustainable Development Report. In 2018, a team of researchers from Finland wrote that the current economic order would have to be drastically altered in order to prioritize conservation of resources over consumption if the planet’s species are to have a chance of having a livable world next century.
Marine life has been particularly threatened by human activity since the start of the 21st century. The threat of mass extinction of saltwater fish has been known since at least 2006, when a team of scientists from five different countries estimated that all of Earth’s saltwater marine life could go extinct by 2048.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.