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  • How to Avoid the Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction

How to Avoid the Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction

Feb 22 2020 Read 9041 Times

Planet Earth is in grave danger of suffering what scientists have termed its “sixth mass extinction event” and the loss of over one million animal species within the next few decades, according to the latest projections. In order to avoid that worst-case scenario, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity has drafted a 20-point plan aimed at safeguarding the world we live in.

Among other measures, the draft agreement highlights reduction of plastic pollution, curbing ecosystem imbalances caused by an excess of certain nutrients in bodies of water and introducing initiatives to limit the harmful influence of invasive species. It also hopes to make the current trade in flora and fauna 100% legal and sustainable, as well as involve indigenous peoples in all major decisions regarding the territories in which they live.

A myriad concerns

In May of last year, a team of scientists from around the world published a damning report of the current state of our environment. According to their calculations, the destruction of the natural world is taking place at a rate up to hundreds of times faster than the average for the last 10 million years. Human activity – and in particular, the Industrial Revolution which began around 250 years ago – is the chief culprit.

One of the more damning projections is the loss of more than one million species of animal. This is predicted to occur due to a number of different factors, including mass deforestation, dwindling pollination of plants due to both falling numbers of pollinators and threatened pollinated flora, bleaching of coral reefs and rising sea temperatures. In order to counteract these diverse threats, urgent action must be taken.

A 20-point plan

In response, the UN has drafted its 20-point proposal and countries from all over the globe are expected to ratify it at an upcoming summit in Kunming, China, in October. A similar document was signed 10 years ago in Aichi, Japan, but unfortunately the majority of targets laid out in that missive were not adhered to. Environmentalists will be hoping for greater success this time around.

The plan sets out a baseline target of safeguarding 30% of the planet’s land and oceans by 2030. In particular, those commitments focus on reducing plastic pollution by 50% and reining in the damage caused to rivers, lakes and seas through petroleum-based substances in the environment, excess nutrients caused by agricultural run-off and other sources of contamination.

A step in the right direction

The announcement has been hailed by campaigners as an encouraging sign. “If adopted, this target could achieve what our children have been calling on governments to do – listen to the science,” remarked Enric Sala, a leading expert on the subject who works for National Geographic and has published numerous books and papers about the state of the planet.

“If we are to stay below 1.5°C (2.7°F), prevent the extinction of one million species and the collapse of our life support system, we need to protect our intact wilderness, and ensure at least 30% of our land and oceans are protected by 2030,” he continued, before warning that much work was still to be done. “But this is the floor, not the ceiling. Now every government on Earth must get behind this bold mission and drive through a global agreement for nature this year.”

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