The world's leading biodiversity and climate experts are calling for action to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss together in a report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on Thursday.
The report Tackling Biodiversity and Climate Crises Together and Their Combined Social Impacts is a product of a four-day virtual workshop, which said that unprecedented changes in climate and biodiversity, driven by human activities, have combined and increasingly threaten nature, human lives, livelihoods and well-being around the world.
"Biodiversity loss and climate change are both driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other. Neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together," the report said.
Increasing energy consumption, overexploitation of natural resources and unprecedented transformation of land, freshwater and seascapes over the past 150 years have paralleled technological advances and supported better living standards for many, according to the report, which also cautioned that this has also led to climate changes and the accelerating decline of biological diversity worldwide, both negatively impacting many aspects of a good quality of life.
Despite the fact that a sustainable society needs both stabilized climate and healthy ecosystems, 77% of land and 87% of the areas of the ocean have been modified by the direct effects of human activities.
"These changes are associated with the loss of 83% of wild mammal biomass and half that of plants. Livestock and humans now account for nearly 96% of all mammal biomass on earth and more species are threatened with extinction than ever before in human history," the report warned.
The anthropogenic release of greenhouse gases from fossil fuel combustion, industry, agriculture, forestry and other land use, now overall exceeding 55 gigatonnes, continues to rise and has already led to global warming above 1°C relative to pre-industrial times, the report revealed.
- Sustainable future requires transformative change
Nature offers effective ways to help mitigate climate change, but these solutions can only be effective by building on ambitious reductions in all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions with an integrated climate change and biodiversity agenda, the experts contributing to the report concurred.
The report recommended stopping the loss and degradation of carbon and species-rich ecosystems on land and in the ocean, increasing sustainable agricultural and forestry practices, eliminating subsidies that support local and national activities harmful to biodiversity, ensuring that conservation programs and policies are multifunctional, and enhancing better-targeting conservation actions.
"Human-caused climate change is increasingly threatening nature and its contributions to people, including its ability to help mitigate climate change. The warmer the world gets, the less food, drinking water and other key contributions nature can make to our lives, in many regions," Hans-Otto Portner, co-chair of the Scientific Steering Committee, was quoted as saying.
He said that a sustainable global future for people and nature is still achievable but it requires transformative change with rapid and far-reaching actions of a type never before attempted.
"Solving some of the strong and apparently unavoidable trade-offs between climate and biodiversity will entail a profound collective shift of individual and shared values concerning nature such as moving away from the conception of economic progress based solely on GDP growth, to one that balances human development with multiple values of nature for a good quality of life, while not overshooting biophysical and social limits," he said.
Chair of IPBES, Ana Maria Hernandez Salgar, said although land and ocean are already doing a lot in absorbing 50% of CO2 from human emissions, nature is unable to do everything.
"Transformative change in all parts of society and our economy is needed to stabilize our climate, stop biodiversity loss and chart a path to the sustainable future we want. This will also require us to address both crises together, in complementary ways," she underlined.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya