Human-caused mass extinction could wipe out one million species

The 'coming mass extinction' is being exacerbated by over-consumption, pollution, and habit destruction.


A million species are in danger from a coming mass extinction and it’s our fault.

A new draft UN report released this week shows in detail how humans’ destructive behavior has “undermined natural resources upon which its very survival depends.” The pace of loss suggests that “half-a-million to a million species are projected to be threatened with extinction, many within decades.”

The report states:

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…

The full assessment was a three-year project and product of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). 150 experts from 50 countries as well as another 250 contributors worked to pull it all together.

The draft report summarizes:

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, the report finds.

The report specifically warns of “an imminent rapid acceleration in the global rate of species extinction,” with the pace of loss “already tens to hundreds of times higher than it has been, on average, over the last 10 million years.”

“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,” says IPBES chair Robert Watson.

Deforestation and agriculture, including livestock production, alone account for a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. Additionally, human activity has already “severely altered” 40 percent of the marine environment, 50 percent of inland waterways, and three-quarters of the planet’s land.

Additionally, the report details the global inequality that is being affected by climate change. Many of the areas that are being compromised are home to indigenous peoples and the world’s poorest communities.

“We need to recognise that climate change and loss of Nature are equally important, not just for the environment, but as development and economic issues as well,” adds Watson.

Before the full report is released, delegates from 130 nations will meet in Paris on April 29 and will vet the executive summary line by line. Although this may alter some of the wording in the report, specific figures cannot be altered.


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Ruth Milka started as an intern for NationofChange in 2015. Known for her thoughtful and thorough approach, Ruth is committed to shedding light on the intersection of environmental issues and their impact on human communities. Her reporting consistently highlights the urgency of environmental challenges while emphasizing the human stories at the heart of these issues. Ruth’s work is driven by a passion for truth and a dedication to informing the public about critical global matters concerning the environment and human rights.