By Sarah Bates
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New report calls for ‘transformative changes’ to halt mass extinction

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Issue 2653
Afghan villager Ali Mohammed searches for the remains of his animals killed during recent floods
Afghan villager Ali Mohammed searches for the remains of his animals killed during recent floods (Pic: Stefanie Glinski/IRIN)

A landmark report released on Monday shows how over one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction, many within decades.

It examines how human activity caused destruction of natural ecosystems, and how climate breakdown threatens species extinction and the lives of ordinary people.

Its findings are chilling.

More than 40 percent of amphibians are at risk of extinction, alongside a third of marine mammals and at least ten percent of insects.

Plastic pollution in the seas has increased tenfold since 1980, and fertilisers washed into coastal seas have created “dead zones” covering a total area bigger than Britain.

Written by 145 authors for the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (Ipbes), it’s the first report of this scope.

“We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide” said Ipbes chair Robert Watson.

“It is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” he said.


Earth has entered the sixth period of “mass extinction”—where rates of species extinction are vastly elevated.

It’s already having huge impacts on the world around us—native species in most major land habitats has fallen by at least 20 percent, mostly since 1900.

A central factor is habitat loss—caused by climate change and human intervention. For instance, the report says that around half a million land based species don’t have enough habitat to survive long term.

Food production is at risk. The decline of pollinators such as bees puts important crops at risk and soil degradation has reduced the productivity of 23 percent of land.

The report details how human intervention has destroyed the complex food webs between animal and plant species and wrecked natural habitats.

“The diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems, as well as many fundamental contributions we derive from nature, are declining fast, although we still have the means to ensure a sustainable future for people and the planet,” said author Sandra Diaz.


Ipbes ranked the five direct drivers on change in nature. Changes in land and sea use came top, followed by direct exploitations of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species.

Three quarters of land globally has been significantly altered by humans, and two thirds of the marine environment has been changed.

Forests have been destroyed to make way for livestock and crops, alongside intensive farming methods which dangerously erode soil quality.

The report calls for “transformative changes across economic, social, political and technological factors”.

It said the research identified “a key element of more sustainable future policies is the evolution of global financial and economic systems to build a global sustainable economy”.

Watson said that this change “can expect opposition from those with interests vested in the status quo, but also that such opposition can be overcome for the broader public good”.

Ipbes authors are hoping to add to growing pressure on politicians to act on ecological and climate chaos.

Can the world go carbon free?
Can the world go carbon free?
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The last year has seen a renewed climate movement, witn 1.5 million school students striking worldwide and Extinction Rebellion (XR) staging stunts, big protests and occupations.

Lorna Greenwood, XR spokesperson, said, “The natural world is collapsing because of how we live and we will go on with it unless we act now.

“It may mean hard choices but the rewards are enormous. Within our lifetime we could see nature restored and our children’s future secured. The alternative is not an option. We have no choice but to rebel until our world is healed,” she said.

Those with “vested interests” that Ibpes mentions include fossil fuel fatcats, airport corporations, shipping magnates—and the politicians who support them.

They will resist any attempt to challenge the status quo that allows them to create profit—no matter what consequence for animal and plant species.

It will take a bigger movement involving millions to create a sustainable socialist society that can work in the interests of ordinary people and for the protection of the planet.

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