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One in eight species threatened with extinction because of humans, report finds

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May 6, 2019

Endgames and apocalypses are old standards in genre entertainment, which may be why cataclysmic climate news often fails to come across as a dire threat. Today, however, the UN’s Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released a devastating report that showed humankind is threatening to wipe out one in eight species on Earth.

The report, from 145 scientists hailing from 50 countries, assessed humanity’s impact on the environment and found that one million of Earth’s eight million species are being threatened with extinction thanks to humans, according to CNN. Blaming habitat loss, climate change, and pollution (all stemming from or exacerbated by human consumption of natural resources), the report finds that the global rate of extinction is “higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years” — by an exponential scale.

"[There is] very little of the planet left that has not been significantly altered by us," said Sandra Diaz, report co-author and University of Córdoba professor. "We need to act as stewards for life on Earth." As more roads are paved, cities are expanded, and land cleared to make room for crops, 75 percent of the land and 66 percent of aquatic areas have been altered by the rapidly-growing human population. That kind of impact means that the animal life — like more than 40 percent of amphibians, 30 percent of coral reefs, and 33 percent of all marine mammals — are headed towards extinction.

"The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever," said IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson. Last November’s Fourth National Climate Assessment said about as much, warning that human impact on the climate — thanks to the same factors impacting wildlife — are becoming unavoidably dangerous. And yet, there is still hope. But things have to change, dramatically and immediately.

"Ours is the first generation with the tools to see how the Earth has been changed by people at our own peril,” Guenter Mitlacher, the World Wildlife Fund’s director of international biodiversity policy at the said. “We're also the last generation with the opportunity to influence the course of many of those changes.” That means shifting economic systems and social mindsets (by focusing on farming techniques and fishing quotas, among other tactics), according to Watson, and restoring the ecosystems which humankind has damaged, according to Rachel Warren, professor of global change and environmental biology at the University of East Anglia.

The year 2020 will see two global summits focused on climate and environmental issues where new goals will be set regarding the crisis by those governments that have signed the 2015 Paris Agreement.

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